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Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park was formed after local conservationist Perrine Moncrieff, from nearby Nelson, became concerned at the prospect of logging along the beautiful coast. She campaigned to have 15,000 hectares of crown land made into a national park. A petition presented to the New Zealand Government suggested Abel Tasman's name for the park, which was opened in 1942 on the 300th anniversary of his visit.

Abel Tasman national park

How the Abel Tasman Region Was Discovered

For at least 500 years Maori lived along the Abel Tasman coast, gathering food from the sea, estuaries and forests, and growing kumara (Maori sweet potato) on suitable sites. Most occupation was seasonal but some sites in Awaroa estuary were permanent. On 18 December 1642, explorer Abel Tasman anchored his two ships near Wainui in Mohua (Golden Bay), the first European to visit Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand). He immediately lost four crew in a skirmish with the local Maori, the Ngati Tumatakokiri tribe, and needless to say he high-tailed (if you can do that in a sailing ship) his way out of there.

The Ngati Tumatakokiri were conquered around 1800 and the conquerors in turn were invaded in the 1820s. The modern Maori, Te Ati Awa and Ngati Rarua, trace their ancestry back to this latter invasion.

Frenchman Dumont d'Urville followed in January 1827, exploring the area between Marahau and Torrent Bay. Permanent European settlement began around 1855. The settlers logged forests, built ships, quarried granite and fired the hillsides to create pasture. For a time there was prosperity but soon the easy timber was gone and gorse and bracken invaded the hills.

Natural History of Abel Tasman Park

Flora of Abel Tasman National Park

The park is built mostly of granite; it colours the beaches and streambeds and gives rise to characteristically infertile soils. Despite this infertility, the damp gullies just above sea level support rich forest. Although many trees were removed during the milling era, a lush understorey of trees and shrubs, tree ferns, kiekie and supplejack remains, and the gullies lead the regeneration process.

Black beech is the natural cover of the dry ridges and headlands close to the sea, with hard beech further back where more moisture is available. Kanuka occurs where there have been windfalls or a history of fires. Manuka occurs where repeated burning has degraded the soil.

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Birds and Fauna of Abel Tasman

D'Urville found South Island kokako in the forests around Torrent Bay; these and several other native bird species have since disappeared. Bellbirds, fantails, pigeons and tui are now the main forest birds. Around the beaches, estuaries and wetlands, pukeko and weka are common.

A range of wading birds stalk the estuaries for fish and shellfish. Offshore, gannets, shags and terns can be seen diving for food. Little blue penguins feed at sea during the day and return to burrows on the park's islands at night.

Little is known about the park's freshwater fish. However, many of the park's waterways are slightly acidic and stained a tea colour by tannin leached from the soil - features known to be unfavourable to introduced trout, which compete with and prey upon native fish.

Unmodified estuaries are an integral feature of the Abel Tasman Coast. Twice a day with the tides, nutrients pour in from the sea to nourish the estuary's many fish, snails, worms, and crabs. These, in turn, are food for coastal birds. Being sandy, (rather than muddy), the park's estuaries are easily explored around low tide.

Areas inundated by only the highest tides carry salt marsh vegetation, rushes, glasswort and sea primrose. Between the tides creatures like periwinkles, tubeworms, Neptune's necklace and pink algae have adapted to regular exposure to sun and wind and sea.
New Zealand fur seals are found along the coast of the park, particularly on the more remote granite headlands of Separation Point and Tonga Island. Their numbers are increasing rapidly and they have recently started breeding there.

In 1993, Tonga Island Marine Reserve was created along part of the Abel Tasman coast where it is hoped the marine environment will be restored to its natural state.

Abel Tasman Kayaking

What to do in Abel Tasman National Park

Kayaking in Abel Tasman

The park is well known for having many exquisite sea kayaking locations with sheltered coves, clear water and white sands and there are now at least six sea kayaking operators in the area that offer rental or guided tours. Mountain biking is also starting to take off in the park as popularity and demand grows for multi-purpose tracks. 

Hike the Abel Tasman Coastal Track

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is another of New Zealand’s Great Walks and extends for 54.4kms (33 miles). What makes this hike unique is that you must time your hike to coincide with tidal crossings where you can only cross a few hours either side of low tide – many funny stories (and some a bit more serious) emerge of hikers that don’t heed these warnings! This beautiful tracks takes an average of 3 to 5 days to complete and can be hiked from either end. To find out more, read on about the Abel Tasman Coastal Track!

 

Trip Reviews

  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1887 reviews)

    Unbelievable weather!

    Our guides really made the trip! Katie and Eve were fantastic, and the South Island was so beautiful. I can't recommend the Tui trip enough.
    Katrina Linder Review Image
    – Pennsylvania, United States
    Tui, November 2017
  •   4.38 out of 5 (from 1211 reviews)

    Excellent way to see New Zealand

    My husband and I went on the Kauri trip in November 2017. This trip had been on our bucket list for a while and we decided to go with Active Adventures as they were offering the type of travel and activities we wanted to do in New Zealand. Our two awesome guides, Andy (encyclopedia of knowledge) and Jo (excellent cook) made us feel at home and have shown us the beautiful country of NZ while ensuring everyone had fun. We had an amazing time on the North Island and I highly recommend this trip if you enjoy outdoor activities.
    Claire Barrette-Remy Review Image
    – Ontario, Canada
    Kauri, December 2017
  •   4.38 out of 5 (from 1211 reviews)

    Smorgasbord.

    A great way to explore the North Island and get a taste of different activities.
    Ineke van Hasselt Review Image
    – British Columbia, Canada
    Kauri, May 2017
  •   4.68 out of 5 (from 244 reviews)

    Great trip

    My experience with Active Adventures in NZ was so fun! The guides were really nice and perfect to play games with. Steve was also really nice and funny. I had such a fantastic time and I'm glad I got to go with Active Adventures.
    Marissa Schimpf Review Image
    – California, United States
    Kea, January 2017
  •   4.64 out of 5 (from 565 reviews)

    I wasn't ready for the trip to end!

    I don't even know where to begin...so let's start at the beginning. I spent the last year dreaming about going to New Zealand, trying to talk just one friend into going with me, and finally, with some encouragement from family, booking this trip as a first time solo traveler. And let me be clear- that was the best decision I could have made! I enjoyed every single minute of my trip and wouldn't change the experience of traveling solo for anything. From the moment I met Gary and Mel, I knew that I had made the right decision. They were welcoming, to all, from the moment they met us. Right away I knew I had nothing to worry about, and worry I did prior to the start of the trip. I could not have asked for a better group of travel mates; it was as if you had hand-picked who should be on the trip together. They were amazing! The experiences on the trip would not have been nearly as amazing if it wasn't for these awesome people with whom I had the good fortune to travel.
    Gary and Mel were kind, patient, and so easy to be around. They answered every question a novice like myself asked, without ever making me feel like an idiot. Gary was witty, kept us going, and a super safe driver! ( I am not a big fan of mountain roads with cliffs on the edge that lead to instant death and not once did I fear for my life.) Mel's cooking...holy smokes was it good; so much so that the pounds I was so sure I would lose on the trip didn't happen. She has even inspired me to try to cook a couple of her dishes this winter. She made it look so easy, even with the varied diets of the group. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I had chatting with both Gary and Mel wherever we were: on the bus, hiking, eating or playing cards. They brought us all together.
    Now, for the adventures! Every day was different from the day prior. I saw and experienced so many new things that I can't stop talking about it. I loved the really challenging hikes (Sealy Tarns and Alex Knob) and the slower paced treks through the rain forest and valleys. The night sky at Mt. Aspiring Hut is indescribable! While we were unable to go on the second overnight hike due to weather, Gary and Mel didn't miss a beat. We were so busy and had so much fun, even in the rain, that you would never have known that we were doing almost 3 days of alternate activities. Major kudos to them for this! I could keep going on how much I enjoyed every aspect of my trip. This was the first vacation I have been on where I didn't want it to end and it truly was the trip of a lifetime. I can't wait to book my next trip with Active Adventures!
    Melissa Munno Review Image
    – California, United States
    Winter Rimu, August 2016

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Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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