Abel Tasman is a National Park located at the north end of the South Island, New Zealand. It is named after Abel Tasman, who in 1642 became the first European explorer to sight New Zealand.
Although being the smallest, Abel Tasman is one of New Zealand’s most beautiful and popular areas, covering 225 square kilometres of lush native forest interlaced with walking tracks and bordered by golden beaches and sandy estuaries fringed by clear turquoise waters, and crystal clear streams that tumble down mossy valleys to join the ocean.
The park is in one of the sunniest places in the country, so it is a good place to visit at any time of the year. Its most notable features are the golden sandy beaches, the rich estuaries, the fascinating sculptured rocky coast (mainly granite but with a scattering of limestone and marble), and the world-famous Abel Tasman Coast Track.
The small settlements of Marahau and Wainui Bay are the entrance and exit points to the park, and can be reached by road from either the town of Motueka or Takaka. From those points, there are no roads to vehicles, and access is either on foot or by boat, which makes the northern reaches of the park more remote and peacefully beautiful.
The scenery is enhanced with the marine wildlife. You can have a face-to-face encounter with fur seals swimming in the blue waters or resting on the rocks along the coast of the park, countless seabirds, penguins, and maybe dolphins and Orcas during the months of November and December. Fur seals can easily be found particularly on the more remote granite headlands of Separation Point, Tonga Island and Pinnacle Island.
The three largest islands in the park, Tonga, Adele and Fisherman, are home to many native plants and animal species, which are no longer found on the nearby mainland. There is a large seal breeding colony at Tonga Island, which is not suitable for public access, and boats or kayaks can not approach closer than 20 metres.
Abel Tasman Wonders and Attractions
1 – Split Apple Rock
Interesting rock formations are abundant in Abel Tasman National Park, but none is weirder than the Split Apple Rock, a unique giant boulder split in two pieces so cleanly as if something or someone had hit it with an ax. Maori legend says that it was the result of a fight between two brothers.It is indeed intriguing , so it is one of the top wonders of the park.
It surfaces out of the turquoise Tasman Bay on Towers Bay, between Marahau and Kaiteriteri at the beginning of Abel Tasman National Park. Many visitors take a kayak to explore Split Apple Rock at close range but the rock is clearly visible from the beautiful sandy beach. At the beach is possible to explore a big sea cave as well.
2 – Anapai Bay
Besides the beauty of the beach itself, with golden sands and turquoise seas, Anapai Bay (“good cave” bay) also features some unusual rock formations along the shoreline, including a rock stack that resembles a Moa from Easter Island looking at the sea. Don’t be tricked by the photos, these rocks are really huge, and actually a person could stand up under the stone arch you can see in the photo below.
3 – Tonga Arches
Tonga Arches or Arch Point is a set of unique granite rock formations sculptured by the sea into several openings and arches through the cliff. In high tides, it is possible to pass through and explore the arches by kayak, and you can walk through them in low tides.
4 – Kiwi Rock – Watering Cove
Watering Cove is home to an intriguing coastal landform called Kiwi Rock. The soft material of Kiwi Rock has been sculpted by the wind and water into the shape of a kiwi bird. Kiwi is a cute flightless bird that is the national symbol of New Zealand. It has hair rather than feathers and a long snout like appendage.
5 – Cave at Watering Cove
Another point of interesting you may find exploring Watering Cove is one of the many sea caves Abel Tasman features. This one is big enough to take beautiful photographs from inside it.
6 – Archway – Anchorage Bay
At Anchorage Bay, there is an interesting rock archway with the shape of a lock, covered by several trees on its top. It is possible to see glow-worms in the cave at night. Many of the names carved into the rocks are from sailors who were here more than a century ago.
7 – Frenchman’s Bay Lagoon
There are a number of excellent tidal lagoons along the Abel Tasman coastline, like Torrent Bay Lagoon, Falls River, Bark Bay and Awaroa Inlet), but the stunning Frenchman’s Bay captures the sight with a calm tidal lagoon of clear blue water especially beautiful viewed from above on a viewpoint along the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. There is also a track to the bay at the top of the ridge after you’ve climbed up from the swing bridge on the Coastal Track. The Frenchman’s Bay Lagoon can only be explored by boat or kayak 2 hours either side of high tide, because there is insufficient water in the lagoon outside these times.