Abel Tasman National Park is a must-see when visiting the South Island. There’s plenty of ways to experience it including hikes, boat tours, kayaking, or some combination of the three. We chose a two-day kayak tour with an overnight camp on the beach. It was an incredible experience that we highly recommend!
*Tip: Book your tour with Abel Tasman Kayaks. Their guided tours run anywhere from a half-day to five days, so there’s literally something for everyone. We chose the Two Day Classic and felt it was the perfect amount of time.
We drove the RV to Abel Tasman Kayak’s base, where we started our adventure. We were permitted to leave the RV in their lot overnight. Our guide’s name was Hamish, and I sincerely hope you have the privilege of having him on your tour. From start to finish, he was incredibly knowledgeable, professional, and entertaining. He helped us waterproof all our belongings and load the gear into a boat hooked to a tractor that would take us down to the water and put us in.
*Tip: Feel safe to bring your nice camera — you are provided a Pelican Case that is very securely waterproof. Also, on top of your swimsuit, you may want to wear long pants and/or sleeves; the wind can get a bit chilly out on the points. Finally, bring a hat, sunglasses, and SUNSCREEN. Be especially mindful of your ears, neck and hands, as those will be most exposed on the kayak.
After a 20-minute boat ride, we were dropped off at Awaroa Bay, about 12 kilometers north, as the crow flies. The kayaks were waiting for us on the beach. Following a safety brief and paddle demonstration, we packed the kayaks with gear, and the seven of us set out south, back to base.
*Tip: Here’s a great map of the Abel Tasman National Park showing the bays, points, hiking trails, beaches, and other landmarks.
The first day, we kayaked about four hours, stopping for a picnic lunch near Reef point. Hamish and the Abel Tasman Kayak team proved to be quite the chefs, as all the meals were delicious and definitely more involved than anything I typically have while camping. Tea, coffee, and hot chocolate were always on hand.
Just before lunch, we paddled the kayaks through Shag Cove, a tiny inlet just inside Shag Harbour, only accessible during high tide. My favorite spot on the trip, Shag Cove felt like a hidden sanctuary of crystal clear water where everything became quiet and peaceful; we could hear multitudes of birds and other wildlife and saw several seals sunning themselves on the surrounding rocks. It was truly a magical place.
We arrived at Mosquito Beach (the name is misleading!) around 5 p.m. where we pulled the kayaks up and made camp for the night. We cooked dinner, Hamish told us campfire stories of the Maori Tribes native to New Zealand, and before bed, we checked out caves nearby that housed hundreds of glow worms (so cool!).
*Tip: Even in November, nights are COLD. Bring lots of layers to sleep in! Don’t forget socks, a towel, and dry shoes.
In the morning, we ate breakfast, packed up the campsite, got in the kayaks, and headed back out to sea. The second day, we spent about five hours on the water, again stopping for lunch at Te Pukatea Bay and taking a mini-hike up to Pitt Head: a nice way to stretch our legs and a gorgeous view, besides.
We continued down the coast, checking out some cool coves and caves, even linking the kayaks together and doing some sailing for a while, until we arrived at Sandy Bay about 3 p.m. A van picked us up and drove us back to base, where hot showers and clean towels and clothes awaited us.
In total, we kayaked close to 30 kilometers. The cost of the trip was 450 NZD, a bit more expensive than some of the other two-day options, but we chose it because it included all the camping equipment and food. We had a phenomenal experience; the vistas were impeccable and kayaking was the perfect way to experience them!
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Travel on, Beaches 🙂