Think you need to go to Bali to kayak through turquoise seas? Think Fiji is the best place to find yourself on an uninhabited island? Think that Australia is the only place in Oceania with beautiful golden beaches? If you answered yes, you’d be wrong.
You can find all of these things on the north end of the South Island of New Zealand, in the Abel Tasman National Park. Named after some Dutch dude from the 17th century, this is a paradise that many travelers miss if they’re on a tight schedule in New Zealand. And what a pity that would be! I would put this on any must do list when it comes to NZ.
Where else could you kayak next to the nesting ground of seals?
Or have a beach picnic on an island without a single man-made thing on it?
Or have a barefoot hike through an island that’s a sanctuary to dozens of species of birds?
We did all this via the Soul Food Tour with Abel Tasman Kayaks, a really great outfit with top-of-the-line equipment and awesome guides. If you only have a day, I’d recommend this to anyone. You also have the option to get out there and do it yourself, if you’d prefer. But I’d really suggest you spend a couple of nights here, either camping at one of the many campsites along the way, or staying in one of the huts if you don’t want to lug camping gear around while you hike and kayak along the stunning coastline.
What: The Abel Tasman National Park
Where: North End of the South Island (Closest Town is Nelson)
When: Summertime is the Best; December – March
Cost: Varies; guided day tours average about $150. One day rental (unguided) is about $50/day. Campsites are usually around $15/day.
Recommendations: Book ahead during the summer! This is a popular thing to do for Kiwis and European hiking enthusiasts, and campsites will fill up in the peak summer months. Nelson is also a really lovely little town, so give yourself a day or two to explore there as well.