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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)

    Tui in February

    I combined Kauri with Tui and it was the perfect blend to see both Islands in New Zealand. My Tui experience was terrific. It certainly was an active adventure!
    Andrea King Review Image
    – Connecticut, United States
    Tui, March 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4983 reviews)

    Great trip! Wonderful guides!

    We loved our Rimu adventure! Tia and Tess were fabulous guides. Always cheerful and wonderful ambassadors for their country. The trip was a great mix of touring and challenging mountain experiences.
    Carl Helmetag Review Image
    – Rhode Island, United States
    Rimu, February 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4983 reviews)

    Experience of a Lifetime!

    Active Adventures was an incredible trip. We had two excellent and knowledgeable guides that were a real team and complemented themselves very well--plus the meals they prepared were awesome. They REALLY made our trip special! There were so many new activities for me that I had never done before that I can't even pick a favorite--I loved them all. New Zealand is a beautiful country, and your well thought out itinerary certainly allowed us to see and experience it in unique ways--hiking, cycling, kayaking, wine tasting, etc. Celebrating my 66th birthday with champagne and fresh strawberries after hiking up Searly Tarn trail was a birthday I will truly never forget! Thank you Active Adventures!
    Stephanie Nelsen Review Image
    – Michigan, United States
    Rimu, November 2016
  •   4.64 out of 5 (from 565 reviews)

    Amazing Adventure!

    I just got home from the Winter Rimu trip throughout South Island of New Zealand. To say it was simply "amazing" does not accurately describe the trip. The views, adventures, service and guides were extraordinary. The trip was worth every penny. Even when snowstorms came or other inclement weather hit, there was always a backup plan that allowed us to keep experiencing the awesome culture, people, mountains, lakes and glaciers of New Zealand. I was very impressed with Active Adventures and can not wait to plan my next trip through Active Adventures!
    Elizabeth Derck Review Image
    – Tennessee, United States
    Winter Rimu, August 2016
  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1887 reviews)

    Graduation gift of a lifetime

    As a recent college graduate, the one thing I wanted to do was travel. I was completely unfamiliar with New Zealand, and my parents wanted to ensure I was safe and could know where I was going each day. Active Adventures was a great way to have the time of my life while being safe. Our group ranged in activity levels, but Andy and Jo made sure we all were comfortable while encouraging us every step of the way. From my initial call with the Active team, to booking, and eventually the trip, I did not have a single problem and had the experience of a lifetime! Thanks Mom and Dad, and thank you Active Adventures!
    Sara Elwell Review Image
    – Pennsylvania, United States
    Tui, February 2017

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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.

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