Kayak Abel Tasman – Exploring NZ’s South Island NP from the Sea!

Abel Tasman National Park is named after the Dutch explorer who first sighted the north west coast of the South Island of New Zealand in 1642.
The Maoris who took up occupation about 400 years prior, defended their right fiercely and four of Tasman’s men lost their lives attempting to go ashore for water.
The now named Golden Bay (just to the north of Abel Tasman NP) was thus originally named Murderers Bay 🙁

Drawing of Golden Bay as seen by Abel Tasman in 1642

Golden Bay as seen and drawn by Isaack Gilsemans in 1642 who sailed aboard Tasman’s two ship expedition the Heemskerck and the Zeehaen (in the background) – Maoris in their canoe (waka) (in the foreground).

Kayaking the Abel Tasman NP

A.M. Day 1 – Water Taxi to Onetahuti Bay

Kayaks lined up ready to go out on our sea adventure

Abel Tasman Kayaks buzzing as everyone prepares for their sea adventure

When we arrived at 8.30am Abel Tasman Kayaks was abuzz with a variety of parties preparing for their individually chosen adventure –
Some were heading out on

  • fully catered/all camping gear supplied – guided expeditions of various lengths
  • some were hiring kayaks to be literally plopped in the Bay to get paddling from there –
  • some were doing a mixture of walking some days and kayaking others
  • But we selected the 2 day Park Start where a water taxi transports you (and your kayak and camping equipment) up the coast so you can paddle (unaccompanied) just the one way – which more significantly means you have the prevailing NW wind pushing you from behind on the last leg 🙂
2 kayaks ready to go on the trailer

The two kayaks ready and loaded for us and another couple, who also selected the independent kayak option – the 2 day ‘Park Start’ expedition

The various groups quickly dissipated and we headed off down to the bay for our personal safety briefing and introductory lesson on how to make a mix of paddling moves!

Water taxi ride up along the Abel Tasman coastline

Kayaks lie across the back of the water taxi as we zap off up the coast

Here’s the link if you can’t see this 6 sec movie!

Abel Tasman coastline as seen from the water taxi

With our kayaks and gear loaded onto the water taxi we whizzed away up past a myriad of beautiful sandy bays perforating the headlands – all waiting to be explored on our homeward journey.

Kayak Abel Tasman NP Map

We were dropped off in the very top bay on this map – and made our way back down the coast to Marahau (the very bottom bay), with an overnight camp along the way.

P.M.Day 1 – Onetahuti Beach to our Overnight Camp

The skipper of the water taxi dropped our kayaks down onto the sand, with our camping equipment, food and water supplies and waved farewell, leaving us to paddle the 20km (or so – what with all the weaving in and out of Bays and skirting rocky islands to spy on fur seals) back to Marahau.

Onetahuti Beach where the water taxi dropped us and our kayaks

Beach drop-off – Tonga Island in the background

We loaded our gear into the watertight holds, slipped on our kayak ‘skirts’, adjusted our life jackets and hopped into our new watery home as our toes gave a final push off through the grainy sand –
We glided out onto the glassy blue sea –
We were away… heading for Tonga Island.

View from the kayak as we approached Tonga Island

Circumnavigating Tonga Island – our first ‘port of call’

Cormorants were preening themselves on the rocks…

Cormorants preening themselves on Tonga Island

While fur seals twirled and twisted in the water – Making them a treat to watch – but tricky to catch on the camera!

Fur seal playing hide and seek in the waves around Tonga Island

After a glorious day of paddling through clear turquoise waters

Turquoise blue waters

With beautiful birds (and their families) for company…

Oyster catchers and seagulls in the Bay off Abel Tasman NP

We made landfall at Mosquito Bay – not the most romantic name – but is a Bay only accessible by sea; hikers and trampers walking the Abel Tasman track cut across Foul Point and this peninsular further inland, meaning it is only kayakers who get the opportunity to camp here.

We set up our tent with this view.

laying on the beach enjoying the view

After all that paddling – time to relax!

Then lay back on the sand to watch the mesmerising evening entertainment of the tide slowly but surely inching its way towards our feet until the moment came that we could float our kayak up over the inundated long sandy beach (exposed at low tide) rather than have to carry it’s dead weight up to above the high water mark for the night!

Pulling the kayak in to dry land for the night at Mosquito Bay in the Abel Tasman NP

Sunrise at Mosquito Bay, Abel Tasman NP

I have to concede there are times it’s great to have a partner who is an early morning riser!

Sun rising over the sea reflected in the water

Who’d want to be sleeping when there’s this happening outside the tent flaps?

I was unexpectedly joyful to be disturbed enough to have me staggering out onto the cool damp sand in the dawn light, where with super sleepy eyes I reached the water’s edge to find this happening…

If you can’t see this glorious sunrise in action – Click here

The sun and my body came gently alive in unison – building in strength, vibrancy and vitality…

Abel Tasman sunrise at Mosquito Bay NZ

Until, with the sun shining brightly above the horizon, we meandered back up across the untouched sand to pack up camp.

Kayak pulled up on the beach at Mosquito Bay and the first rays of sunshine hitting it

With still only our footprints making marks below the last high water mark…

Putting our campting gear together on the beach ready for loading into the kayak

… we watched the lapping water engulf and dissolve all traces of them, until once more the water was high enough to make re-launching our kayak a breeze 🙂

Kayak Abel Tasman National Park, NZ

Day 2 Red Sky in the Morning…

With camping gear all safely stowed once more ‘below decks’ in the spacious holds, we again felt the sand squish between our toes as we pushed off and hopped in to paddle back out to sea crossing Bark Bay and circumnavigating Pinnacle Island.

Fur seal basking in the sun

Where this fur seal was peacefully soaking up the early morning sun

Coming back in off the open sea we explored Sandfly Bay Lagoon (only accessible two hours either side of high tide)

Sandfly Bay Lagoon as it goes up the Falls River

And paddled up the Falls River to the swing bridge that takes hikers/trampers along the Abel Tasman track – with all of our equipment laying in our bow we effortlessly slipped silently beneath.

Swing Bridge with a hiker crossing it in the Abel Tasman NP

We also ventured into Frenchman’s Bay, but as we came back out into the open sea, a squall hit making rounding North Head, crossing Torrent Bay and circumnavigating Pitt Head, a little more interesting!

Can you see the choppy waters above? If not click here:

We had a somewhat sodden lunch at the beautiful Te Pukatea Bay!

Then with the wind strongly behind us we got virtually blown down to Adele Island, without having to make a paddle stroke.

Kayaking with the sea breeze behind us

Crossing Sandy Bay, which was now low tide again, meant we were greeted by a row of tractors out to recover all the kayaks onto trailers and get paddlers and equipment safely back onto dry land.

Can you see the video of the tractor on the beach?
If not Click here:

Tractor wheels spraying up sea water as it tows a trailer full of kayaks in

The Abel Tasman Kayak crew were there – gratefully with a trailer that had space in the back for us too!

Journalling our Kayaking Adventure

It was the most marvellous two days –
We would have loved it to have been longer but there was a ‘cyclone’ coming in and there were to be no kayaks out on the water at all the next day.

Kayak Abel Tasman - Pictorial Sketch Journal of my 2 day Abel Tasman Kayak adventure

Above is an extract from my concertina paged travel journal that I keep when on the road –
More from where that came from to be posted soon!

Have you been on a Kayak adventure?
And if not, why not?!

The best bit is you don’t have to carry all that heavy camping gear
It glides through the water with you.

Do share and tell in the comments below –
I love hearing from you 😀

13 thoughts on “Kayak Abel Tasman – Exploring NZ’s South Island NP from the Sea!

  1. Kayaking is so much fun (especially when my boyfriend is paddling and I’m taking pictures!). The scenery and water at Abel Tasman National Park looks stunning! I’m putting it on my list!

    • The joy of paddling in a double kayak is being able to take the time out while the other does all the work haha!!
      And no better place scenically than the Abel Tasman 🙂

    • I have to confess I never thought I’d take to kayaking like I have!! It was initially my husband’s idea… But now it is me that initiates it 😉 Sooooo much easier than hiking as you don’t have to carry all the gear hehe!!
      But this beautiful National Park can of course be seen from the Abel Tasman Track, with just a few paddles in the water, rather than on it 🙂

  2. I like kayaking and the Abel Tasman coastline looks glorious. I’m not sure I could handle that MUCH kayaking, though, without some serious muscle aches the next morning! A question: in your film of the sunrise (beautiful), the insects were almost drowning out the sound of the waves. Did the insects bother you at all?

    • We paddled a bit – Pulled into a sandy bay for a swim… Paddled a bit – floated watching the fur seals… Paddled a bit – admired the cormorants or the oyster catchers feeding on the shell fish on the rocks… Had the wind push us along for a bit so sat back as the rocks and bays drifted past… so, no – we didn’t experience any muscle pains 🙂
      I’ve just had to listen to that clip again as I hadn’t even noticed the cicadas buzzing in the trees haha – Cicadas in this part of the world are just a background noise you obviously cancel out after a while – a bit like city dwellers not hearing city noises, I guess!
      I did get bitten by sand-flies though and wished after the event that I’d sprayed my legs better as they did itch for quite a few days… Lesson learnt!

  3. kayaking is so much fun and the beautiful scenery around it makes it even more exciting. Loved your pictures Linda!!

  4. Sandy Bay lagoon looked divine. But your windy stretch Te Pukatea Bay would have put the you know what’s up me – lily livered that I am! The scenery looks amazing and kayaking is such fun – I guess you are pretty experienced due to where you live. For us, putting the kayaks on the trailer to take them out is always a bit of a reason not to, but we’re getting there and doing more.

    • “Lily Livered” my foot – you who goes off cycling for miles here in Oz, and across Europe 😉
      Yes – I confess – as the wind got up, it did put the wind up me a little too… but the kayaks of course that they use are soooooooo stable – You have to simply hand over faith to the equipment (These were wise words my son imparted on me as I went off zip-lining in Canada – Trust the equipment he said – and then enjoy the ride – which I have to say worked a treat!!)
      But I agree – the putting of kayaks onto a trailer does take the fun out of it a little, she says, having just come back from across the Bay and tied ours up in the mangroves below the house. ready for next time 😉

  5. Hello it’s me again! I love kayaking, but I’m a gin and tonic kind of kayaking girl – not too choppy, not to wild, just right and I’m up for it. BTW I’ve been seeing your gorgeous products around the SWA tourism shops and I’m always inspired by your ingenuity. Thank you so much as well for supporting my blog – I really do appreciate it xx

    • I love the image of you kayaking with a gin and tonic in hand!!
      I have to agree that my favourite kayaking is when there is little or no wind so the paddling is gentle ~
      And round our way, when the tide is high (like at Full Moon) so we can float silently through the underwater forest of mangrove roots seeing turtle heads bob up for air and kingfishers dart through the canopy 🙂

      Thrilled to hear you’re spotting my Journey Jottings Map Journals around the traps in SW WA ~
      Great to know people far and wide will be keeping that holiday smile on their face, forever, with my help!!

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