Greetings Internet stranger and welcome to an Abel Tasman Tour! Regular readers of this blog are aware that I am from New York City. This is about as far away from New Zealand as it is possible to get. I mean this both in a literal and a figurative sense. A New Yorker’s idea of nature is having a picnic in Central Park. A New Zealander’s idea of nature is spending three days tramping about on an Abel Tasman tour, never speaking to another living soul. Perhaps a wandering kiwi or two, but that’s it.
Join me for 24 hours on an Abel Tasman tour and I’ll show you how a dyed-in-the-wool urbanite can learn to take a walk on the wild side.
Abel Tasman Tour
What to Pack and Where to Stay?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
New Zealand is hot in the summer, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, if you’re not from Australia, New Zealand, or the UK, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. NZ electrical outlets don’t work with American or non-UK European plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
And if you’re looking for places to stay in Nelson as a base for your Abel Tasman tour, you can find lots of great deals if you just click here. There’s tons of options, so I’m sure you can find a place to stay whether you have the budget of Lord Nelson or the budget or Nelson from The Simpsons.
Abel Tasman Tour
Morning: Explore Nature
There are hardcore Tramp Heads who will stay for several nights in Abel Tasman just so they can walk around the entire park and get the full measure of its beauty. Some properties have several locations around the park. That way you can go for an all-day hike without being encumbered by duffel bags, and the hotel will transfer your bags to the next overnight lodging for you.
But I’m not so hardcore as all that. I assume you aren’t either, Internet Stranger, or why would you be reading this humble blog instead out going out and cycling the circumference of the globe? But we are certainly capable of going on a one day hike/beach trip for your Abel Tasman tour. (I recommend using the nearby city of Nelson as your home base.
There’s enough to do and see on an Abel Tasman tour to last for several days. But I’ll get you started with…
approximately top 5: Abel tasman tour
1) Cruise from kaiteriteri
I explored New Zealand on a tour through Intrepid Travel. I recommend this tour because it allowed me to see as much of the country as possible, even though I only had two weeks. Plus I don’t know how to drive. Our trusty guide, who I am pretending is named Russell, booked a cruise + walking excursion through a company called Wilsons. (You can book with them directly even if you’re not traveling with Intrepid.)
We had the option to do a four-hour walk or a two-hour walk around Abel Tasman. You need to decide in advance which one you want because there are different boats that take you on each walk. I didn’t fly all the way around the world to NOT see everything that the national park had to offer. That’s why I chose the four hour tour, and so did almost everyone else in the group.
One woman, who was not sure she was up to a four hour walk, initially picked the two hour walk. However, when she realized that she was the only one, she changed her mind as we were approaching the boats. She charged out into the water and ran to the boat that the rest of us were on, getting half of her body soaked in the process. (The tour company allowed her to change her mind, probably because they were terrified of her.)
2) Marvel at the wildlife
I’ve never seen anything like the flora of Abel Tasman. Giant ferns and twisted trees cavorted with glee at every bend and turn. I felt like I had driven a DeLorean back into the time of the dinosaurs. I felt myself thinking less like a human and more like a lizard at every step. Slowly my hands began to shrivel, and I commenced to screech and swivel my head from side to side, looking for a small animal to crush in my mighty jaws! So this is what it felt like to be a dinosaur…
At this point on the hike we were on our own, but on the cruise, the pleasant guides who worked for Wilsons tried to prepare me for what it would be like to walk through Abel Tasman National Park. When I told them I was from New York City, they said they couldn’t imagine what it would be like to live so far from nature. Joke’s on you, Kiwis! We have many parks in New York, and some of them even have more than one tree!
3) Appreciate the path
It is literally impossible to get lost when tramping through Abel Tasman. There is only one path, and there are signs everywhere. I say this as someone who has been lost on six continents. (The only reason I haven’t been lost on seven continents is because I’ve never been to Antarctica.) The path is fairly smooth, but the tramp is long and there are some uneven points. Please bring comfortable walking shoes. This is not the time to be all “Carrie Bradshaw Goes to New Zealand”.
Also, mind the adorable avian amigos who may attempt to join you on your walk. New Zealand is truly a birder’s paradise. But be gentle with these fine feathered friends. Kicking birds is frowned upon in New Zealand.
4) Torrent Bay
All of the information I could find on Abel Tasman National Park says to bring plenty of water with you when you go on your hike. That way you won’t shrivel up into a raisin and never been seen from again. But a word of caution about drinking too much water. There aren’t really any potties in between the beginning of this walk and a village at Torrent Bay. There’s no place to obey the call of nature behind a polite bush either. So by the time we arrived at Torrent Bay, everyone in my group was ready to make a mad dash to the facilities.
Be warned that the locals of Torrent Bay are very friendly. And in fact, the people of Torrent Bay have excellent reason to be of good cheer. Ordinarily, you aren’t allowed to live in a national park. But since the Torrent Bay village has been around since the 1920s, and Abel Tasman was only made a national park in the 1940s, the residents were grandfathered in. I don’t even want to know how much those houses are worth now. Also I probably wouldn’t understand even if you told me because New Zealand dollars confuse me.
5) halfway pool and falls river
The Halfway Pool and Falls River are the two most famous and least imaginatively named bodies of water on this trail. The Halfway Pool is a name that could possibly apply to any pool in the world. After all, any pool is halfway between one thing and another thing. But not every pool looks like something off the set of The Land Before Time, so don’t dismiss the Halfway Pool just because it has a vague name.
I assume Falls River is given this name because so many people feel like they are going to fall into the river as they walk across it. Look at that horrifyingly narrow bridge! I can promise you that you sway side to side like a sheep about to tip over as you cross it. Then there’s always some joker who thinks it’s funny to deliberately push the bridge or jump up and down on it. I hope your wife leaves you for your better-looking brother, you boorish clown!
Abel Tasman Tour
Afternoon: Relax on Anchorage Beach
After your four hour walk, your reward is getting a few hours to rest and relax on stunning Anchorage Beach. (Don’t worry, there are also bathrooms here.) The boat will pick you up to take you back to Kaiteriteri from here. You can’t possibly miss the boat when it arrives because a whole bunch of people from your morning boat will rush up to greet it. (This time probably no one will get soaked from the waist down because they changed their mind about which boat they wanted.) So you’ll have plenty of time to contemplate…
three fun facts: anchorage beach
1 Why is it famous?
Well, don’t take my word for it, take Lonely Planet’s. They refer to Anchorage as one of New Zealand’s top 10 unforgettable beaches. That’s more impressive than it sounds, considering New Zealand is basically all beaches and sheep. But as someone who’s been to Anchorage Bay, let me tell you about its golden sands.
I have never seen sand this color in my life. It is as golden as a perfectly toasted bagel with neither lox nor cream cheese on top. It is as golden as Rapunzel’s hair before Eugene cut it off and turned it brown. (Spoiler Alert for Tangled!) It’s as golden as that egg the goose laid before being brutally murdered. They should call it Midas Beach, that’s how gold it is. (I can keep these gold similes going all day folks.)
2) Are there any downsides?
Anchorage Beach is probably the busiest beach in Abel Tasman National Park. So as much as I wanted to find a quiet spot to read my murder mystery, I had to settle for digging into Josephine Tey while a group of giggling girls in bikinis incompetently kept tossing a ball near my toes. (The sand was as golden as their hair, but unlike their hair, the sand comes by its color naturally.)
The other tourists on the beach were not my only fair companions, however. I was also accompanied by “friendly” seagulls. By friendly, I mean that they wanted to be friends, and they wished for me to demonstrate this friendship by sharing my lunch. I politely declined.
3) Can you buy food there?
To my knowledge, you cannot buy snacks at Anchorage Beach, so come prepared with lunch. Fortunately New Zealand snacks are delightful creations, the likes of which I would never be able to find back home in New York. I became obsessed with a brand of chocolate called Whittaker’s and their variety of flavors.
Whittaker’s is most famous for its peanut slab, but I was intrigued by this bar of L & P white chocolate. (L & P is a lemon soda from New Zealand.) The chocolate was citrus flavored, but it also appeared to contain pop rocks that made the chocolate fizz like soda in my mouth. This is a food trend that I hope catches on in the US.
Abel Tasman Tour
Evening: Dinner at The Vic Mac’s
Once you’re done sunning yourself on the world’s goldest sand, it’s time to head back to Nelson for dinner. The best thing about traveling with a small group of strangers is that you never have to be lonely. The worst thing is that you generally have to eat where they want to eat, and their taste in food is never as good as yours. So I was a bit apprehensive when my traveling companions wanted to go to a brewpub called The Vic Mac’s for dinner.
Fortunately the food was tasty, as was the beer. (One of my companions didn’t like her gin and tonic, but I don’t know why you’d order a G&T at a brewpub anyway.) My fish and chips was made with monkfish, and it was lighter than many a fish and chips I’ve had. Also it gave me an excuse to say “fush and chups” in my best New Zealand accent, to the delight of no one.
After my fried fish, it’s time for some balls of dough. These donut holes were served warm with a creamy orange dipping sauce. I had never tried dipping donut holes into anything before, much less citrus. But the citrus gave a bright tangy quality to the heavy dough balls. Also it felt like I was putting my own frosting on the donuts. I couldn’t decide whether or not it was fair to make me do all that work on my dessert when I’d already put so much effort into hiding and bird kicking. But who says life is fair?
That’s a Perfect 24 Hours on an Abel Tasman Tour
What would you do with 24 hours on an Abel Tasman tour? Should you order a gin and tonic at a brewpub? And can the human foot move fast enough to kick a wild bird? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours on an Abel Tasman tour. If you have more time after your Abel Tasman tour, and you want to add 24 hours in Nelson, click here!