Abel Tasman Coast Track
Tasman, New Zealand
Distance: 25 miles(40 km)
Time: 3-5 days
Surface: Beaches, Forest Trails
An officially designated “Great Walk,” the Abel Tasman Coast Track runs through the Abel Tasman National Park – New Zealand’s smallest national park, and named for the Dutch seafarer who was the first European to visit the country in 1642 – in the northwest corner of New Zealand’s South Island. It is a well-formed path that is easy to navigate, with a good number of benches, revealing glorious white sand beaches – probably the most lingering memory for those who walk it and one reason why it is now one of the nation’s most popular walks with more than 200,000 visitors annually.
And it’s all wonderfully civilized. As you walk the beaches along the western side of Tasman Bay, with views out to the Marlborough Sounds, water taxis are never far away to pick up your backpack and take it to your next accommodation. And when you are not on a beach with an intoxicating name like Apple Tree Bay or on the squeaky sands of Anchorage Bay, you will be walking through regenerating podocarp forests. The crossing of the inlet at Torrent Bay alone is enough to make you a fan of this trail, with its beach cabins so perfect that you’ll want to put a deposit on them. Beyond the bay the trail climbs through forests of pine and across a swing bridge over Falls River, the park’s largest river.
More stunning bays follow with Medlands Bay and Bark Bay and another inlet, if the tides allow, before walkers climb to the trail’s highest point, a scant 442 feet (135 in) up a hill that doesn’t even have a name, then down again to the historic granite mine of Tonga Quarry. Then it’s still more beaches – Onetahuti, Awaroa, Waiharakeke Bay, and Goat Bay. So much sand, so little time.