A ROAD TRIP THROUGH THE MARLBOROUGH SOUNDS, NEW ZEALAND (Happy Waitangi Day)
**** PART 1 ****
THE ULTIMATE DAY HIKE IN ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK, NEW ZEALAND
The entire Abel Tasman National Park Coastal Track takes anywhere from three to five days to complete, but what if I told you that you could see some of the park’s best beaches, tracts of exotic forest and viewpoints on a day hike. Would you be interested? Would a set of free steak knives sweeten the deal? I know, it sounds like a scam, but the good news is that it is completely possible (and free, except for petrol and maybe a lost hubcap or two). Join me as I enter one of New Zealand’s most scenic regions for the ultimate* day hike in Abel Tasman National Park.
ARRIVING AT TOTARANUI
After a gruelling 11 hour drive (broken up by a few hours of freedom camping near Motueka), we arrived at the Totaranui Beach Camping Ground. The sun was shining, the sea gently lapped on the golden sands and native New Zealand birds wandered the grounds. This is one of the most accessible beaches in Abel Tasman National Park and is worth a visit even if you’re not up for a hike. There’s a large campsite here ($13 per person) and apparently it gets pretty full over summer. We soon headed off on the short walk to Anapai Bay, which my research had told me was one of the best beaches in the region.
TOTARANUI TO ANAPAI BAY
Walking time: 45 minutes – 1 hour
The short hike to Anapai Bay takes you through some nice sections of native New Zealand bush. It’s a fairly easy operation — the track winds up and over a headland and is mostly shaded. There are some tree-obstructed views back towards Totaranui but Anapai Bay is mostly hidden until the end.
Emerging from the depths of the forest to find an almost deserted beach is one of the highlights of any Abel Tasman National Park hike. Anapai Bay is (from what I’ve read) one of the best beaches in the area and it definitely deserves the hype. It almost looked like a tropical beach in Thailand, even though we visited in late April (nearing the end of autumn). We didn’t swim but we did see a family in the water and they didn’t seem to be shivering.
Anapai Bay is actually two distinct beaches. The second is a small, sheltered cove where small seals sometimes play. We saw a group of them, which I initially mistook for dolphins, jumping out of the water on the way back to Totaranui.
ANAPAI BAY TO MUTTON COVE
Walking time: 1 hour (ish)
The hike from Anapai Bay to Mutton Cove again winds up and over a headland. I got pretty excited on this section as the track stayed close to the cliffs and I was sure an amazing view would open up around every corner. It didn’t end up happening though as the trees concealed the views below. I’m sure conservationists would disagree, but surely they could cut a few of them down. There is eventually a decent view of Mutton Cove from above but the light was all wrong — one of the many first world problems travel bloggers face.
Mutton Cove is a good place to have a rest and eat some lunch. We saw a few people setting up camp for the night too and it would make for a more secluded alternative to Totaranui. From Goat Bay we had planned to keep walking to Separation Point but we ran out of time.
TOTARANUI TO GOAT BAY
Walking time: 30 – 45 minutes
We got to Totaranui quite late on day one so we camped in our car for a night and completed the hike the next morning. The final stretch was the most spectacular. Skinner Point looks over both Totaranui Beach and Goat Bay and provides the elevated views that everyone looks for while hiking in Abel Tasman National Park. It’s an incredible view — if you only have the time (or the fitness) for a very short walk then this is the one for you.
The track then continues down to Goat Bay, a stunning white sand beach surrounded by wild green forest. It’s one of the best beaches that I’ve seen in New Zealand and it capped off our hike perfectly. We walked along almost the full length of the beach and then headed back to Totaranui. We probably should have continued a little further — I’ve heard there are good views as you walk towards Waiharakeke Bay.
On the drive back to civilization (Totaranui to Takaka) make sure to stop at Wainui Falls. It’s a long way from the coastal track but is still in the national park and it’s pretty awesome. Be careful though — I saw one guy slip on the wet rocks and I’m sure some cameras have been damaged by spray from the falls.
THE ULTIMATE* DAY HIKE IN ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK
- How long does it take? The hike that we did takes around six hours, but you’ll probably want to leave more time for relaxing, swimming and eating. It can easily be done as a day hike but it’s a good idea to spend a night at Totaranui if you have the time. If you want to go further you could continue on from Mutton Cove to Separation Point or from Goat Bay to Waiharakeke Bay (or all the way to Arawoa Bay).
- What’s up with the water taxis? Water taxis don’t go further north than Totaranui, so the only way to reach Anapai Bay (and beyond) is on foot, unless you know someone who owns a boat of course. Water taxis can take you around most of the park though and using one would make sense if doing a different section of the track.
- Why start at Totaranui and not Marahau? Those are the two main access points for hikes along the coastal track. We chose Totaranui because it looked nicer and we were going to Golden Bay anyway. The day hikes from Marahau seem to require water taxi transfers as the sections close to the car park don’t look particularly interesting. I read reports that said that part of the track was one of the dullest while the areas close to Totaranui are some of the best. For us it was an easy decision.
- Why go to Golden Bay? There are heaps of things to do in Golden Bay and Takaka is a good town to base yourself in if you aren’t keen on camping. The nearby Te Waikoropupū Springs contain some of the clearest water in the world and are well worth a visit. There are also some great beaches in Golden Bay if you’re looking for something a little more developed.
**** PART 2 ****
The road from Queenstown to Glenorchy is one of the most scenic in New Zealand. Bob’s Cove, roughly 14 km outside of Queenstown, is one of the best places to stop along the way. The undoubted highlight of hiking at Bob’s Cove is the incredible viewpoint overlooking Lake Wakatipu.
First you’ll pass by an idyllic beach (I can’t wait to visit it in summer), an historic lime kiln and a forest filled with chirping birds. You’ll soon come to a turnoff for a 15 minute loop track. This leads up a steep hill to the viewpoint, which is a pretty amazing spot on a sunny day. That view alone makes this one of the best short hikes near Queenstown, but there is heaps more to see.
I continued on to the 12 Mile Delta car park, which is about an hour past the main viewpoint. There were more awesome views to be found on the way but if you’re in a rush you could call it a day after seeing that trademark Bob’s Cove view. It took me just under three hours to hike from Bob’s Cove to 12 Mile Delta (return). It’ll only take an hour to hike to the main viewpoint and back, and it’s mostly flat (the last hill is quite steep though).
The turnoff to Moke Lake is also located along the road to Glenorchy. The tarmac soon gives way to gravel, at which point you’ll see a sign claiming the road is only suitable for 4WD in winter and spring. No one, including myself, heeded the warning.
The road was mostly fine (very frosty though) and I soon made it to the shores of Moke Lake. It was completely still, allowing the surrounding mountains to reflect in the chilly water. Hiking around Moke Lake is a simple task. It’s mostly flat and easy to follow, but make sure to wear decent shoes as it gets muddy in places. I did manage to take a wrong turn at one point, ending up on a little peninsula thing. The views from most parts of the track were stunning and you’ll likely get some space to enjoy them as this hike isn’t as popular as others in the area.
I did this hike in around an hour and a half but the sign said it takes two – three hours (I was in a rush).
I hiked around Lake Hayes on the same day as Moke Lake and Bob’s Cove, so I was wilting a little by that point. Thankfully it was the easiest of these four hikes near Queenstown — it’s very flat and the track is in great condition. You’ll see more locals jogging or walking their dogs than hiking, and most people only do a section of it. It’s worth walking right around though. On a calm day it’s like one massive mirror, reflecting mountains in every direction. It’s a really beautiful place, especially after recent snow.
It took me two hours to hike around Lake Hayes. If you don’t have that long but want to see the best views, head to the recreational ground, drive right to the end then walk a short distance around the lake.
There are lots of other easy hikes near Queenstown, but these are definitely some of the best. They won’t take up too much of your day and they’ll get you into the midst of some incredible scenery.
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**** PART 1 **** Written by Jon Algie on May 9th 2017. Find here a litle description about her personality:
"I like to travel and I have no imagination when it comes to naming websites. I've been travelling the world for two and a half years before that I was an English teacher in Asia. I've travelled overland from Mexico to Patagonia, explored most of Southeast Asia and recently spent a few months wandering around northern India."
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**** PART 2 **** Written by Jon Algie on July 13rd 2017.
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