The Abel Tasman National Park

With our overnight trip to Abel Tasman came one of our biggest mistakes yet: why, oh why, did we not spend more time there?! We could easily have spent a week tramping and kayaking all over the stunning national park, but until we got there we hadn’t quite realised just how easy it would be to fall in love with the place. And fall we did, pretty hard.

The coastline of Abel Tasman

The Abel Tasman National Park is a land of superlatives situated on the Northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island. Miles of golden beaches and stony coves sculpted by the waves are on the whole unreachable by road, and in fact many can only be reached by the sea. So that’s exactly what we did – setting out in the early morning on a kayaking trip from Marahau in the southernmost part of the park.

Ooh the synchronicity

Expertly guided by the lovely Josh (a Dutch guy who fell in love with the place 13 years ago and never left – sensible man) and accompanied by some honeymooning Germans, a giggly Irish woman and Cara the Texan, our little group zipped around the shoreline like a bunch of zippy things, pausing only occasionally when I forgot to paddle (the view was too distracting). On the whole, with Nick steering to my excellent shouted instructions (errrr –  a bit more the other way… no, that way… I mean the other way) we were a synchronised paddling machine, honest. We even navigated our way into a couple of teeny caves, reverse beeping noises included.

After a filling picnic lunch in the picturesque Watering Cove we struck off on our own path to our accommodation for the night.

Watering Cove - a fine picnic spot

Having thought we had an afternoon’s walking ahead of us we were slightly surprised to discover that our hostel was merely over the next ridge – at max 30 mins trek away – but this quickly became an advantage when we spied the storm clouds gathering at our heels. What had been a bright sunny day very quickly descended into an incredibly dark and dramatic afternoon, and from the DOC tramping hut in Anchorage bay we were lucky enough to watch one of the biggest electrical storms that Abel Tasman has had in the last 20 years from the safety of Under Cover.

A sky of two halves

After a rather exciting few hours of sitting around doing nothing but watch the rain lash around us we were able to make a break for it and got very wet heading over to our hostel on a dinghy. We spent the evening in our most unique hostel yet – a boat moored in Anchorage Bay called ‘AquaPackers’.

Aquapackers - our hostel for the night

After Nick had taken a dip in the cold sea (apparently he didn’t realise it was such a long way down from the roof of the boat) a BBQ on deck warmed the cockles ahead of an evening swapping stories around the outdoor fire.

The stories included an interesting tale about how the boat had once sunk off Auckland harbour (oh how we chuckled) and also a few tips of how to depose of our royal family from the be-scarved resident French guys.

Post-storm sunset from the boat deck

An early cup of tea on deck and some mercifully bright sunshine (a far cry from the storm of the previous day) set us up nicely for our tramp the next day.

Nice spot for a cup of tea

Stopping now and again for a dip in the water (Nick got nice and cold in Cleopatra’s pool – ooh er),

Enjoying Cleopatra's Pools

and for a beach picnic surrounded by Oyster Catchers, we meandered our way up the coastline to Bark’s Bay. In time to have a relaxing sunbathe before our scheduled water taxi at 3.45, we sat back and enjoyed the view around us. What a place.

Swing bridge along the way

Our experience didn’t end there. Halfway through our water taxi ride back to Marahau our skipper suddenly stopped the boat and announced a ‘treat’, which incredibly turned out to be a huge pod of dolphins surrounding our boat. Without meaning to be cheesy I can honestly say that I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Well actually I did and I did both. The dolphins, well-fed and playful after feasting on a huge shoal of fish that had followed an influx of smelt into the bay, gave us an incredible performance of leaps, dives, tail smashing, calling out and generally swimming around. It really doesn’t take all that much for nature to impress me, but I think that this moment  so utterly, utterly delighted me that it will be hard to compare to anything else, for a long time. That these dolphins seemed to leap for pure pleasure, for the fun of just leaping in the air, just completely blew me away. It was hard to believe what we were seeing but at the same time it was great to believe it. I feel like I’m rambling now.. . I could talk about the dolphins for a long, long time and never quite get it right, so I’ll stop now. In a word… brilliant.