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New Zealand – Abel Tasman National Park

Life on the waves

sunny 29 °C
View Round The World on dbgomes's travel map.

New Zealand’s smallest national park is big on beauty! This little chunk of land sticking up into the tasman sea gets lots of sunshine and after a few days of driving in the rain, we were glad to see the weather forecast showing a spell of sunny weather. There are two main options for seeing the national park – trekking or kayaking. We chose the water bound option.

We got to Wellington at a decent time for the ferry crossing south to Picton and had time to relax and watch a movie while queuing for the crossing. The weather had been clearing up and we had beautiful views of the crossing. We were welcomed to the south island with impressive views through the channels leading to Picton. The mountains just rise up from the water and we had nice weather to go out on the deck and watch the mountains go by as we arrived at the south island.


That afternoon we drove along the coast as far as Richmond where we stayed for the night. We initially intended to do the Abel Tasman trek. The Abel Tasman national park, although the smallest in the country, is also the busiest, the stunning coastline making it picture perfect. As we´d wet our appetite for kayaking recently, we were keen to give it another go and the ´freedom kayaking´ option suited us perfectly, so we sorted out our reservations for the following day and just explored some of the bay for the remainder of the day. We found a lovely beach to have our lunch by and just take in the sunshine and the scenery on a midweek day while enjoying not being at work!


We´d been told about a reserve on Ruby Bay that had $6 campsites so we headed there for the night. It was a beautiful spot right on the beach and the cold showers weren’t too bad.


The following day we went to the kayak company and were issued with our tents and camping supplies and we packed these into our kayaks along with our food and clothes for the next 3 days. We then had a brief tuition with another 3 blokes who were renting for the day. Dan and I managed to push out through the waves without a hitch and were feeling pretty confident. We turned around and saw that everyone had made it past the breakers but the guy in the single kayak unsteadied himself somehow and flipped over. Not a good way to start, I certainly didn’t fancy doing the same! After the instructor was confident we knew what we were doing we were let loose on the open ocean.

Low tide called for transport assistance for the kayaks and water taxis

Dan making the final adjustments

On the water!

We had a map of the coastline and the islands and had a lot to explore. There were a few islands along the way which we circled around. One had an amazing sand bar. The tide movements change the water level over 3 meters so sandbanks formed and the rock formations were very impressive.


After a few hours of leisurely exploring we had to take on the mad mile. This was a stretch where the headland juts out into the ocean making for rougher waters. I will comment that the whole area we were kayaking in was in the large Nelsons bay so somewhat protected already. We definitely noticed a difference in the waters and the mad mile was tough work. We were relatively lucky that we had a helpful south easterly behind us.


Along the mad mile we pulled into a pretty and secluded cove for a break and some lunch. Unfortunately we´d forgot to get lunch out of the fridge and had to settle for fruit and muesli bars which was fine although Dan was suddenly ready to eat our 3 days worth of supplies and somewhat worried about the smallish rations, which I found quite funny.


We had decided to set up camp at Mosquito Bay which is one of the quieter campgrounds away from the walking track and set in a very picturesque bay. It took a bit of negotiating around the almost invisible sandbar which changed the island on the bay into part of the mainland. This island, we claimed as our own little island!


We managed to set up camp in a good little spot and get some dinner going early in the hope of avoiding the mosquitoes. Unfortunately, there was to be no avoiding them.


The next day we didn’t have to be anywhere or set up camp so after a bit of a sleep in we went in search of the seals to the north. The winds were not in our favour for heading north but at least they would help us return to camp. After a tough paddle around another headland, we made it into the calm wasters of Tonga island. Fortunately for our tired arms, that’s just where a few of the fur seals were resting so we got to sit back and enjoy the wildlife for a bit.


We had been told that more seals hide out on the north side of the island so we decided to venture back into the rough seas to circle around and see. Moving around into the direct winds we went into very difficult choppy waters, but we were so lucky as there was a seal playing around in the water pruning itself. We got a few pictures but it wasn’t easy taking turns fighting against the waves trying to hold the kayak in position while the other took photos.


Navigating around the rest of the island became much easier with the waves behind us and we had a few more seal sightings.


We still had plenty of time to explore some other areas. After stopping for fresh water to take back to the camp we negotiated our way into a river which took us to a swing bridge that crosses the river.


We had to go to the river late in the day to time it with high tide. Our paddle through the river was lovely and calm and negotiating our way back out again was fine until we had to get back into the ocean. The sea was breaking over a now covered sandbank and we had to carefully time when we would try to negotiate our way across it through the waves. Making our way back to camp was just as difficult as we fought to get around the headland. By the time we got back we were spent and happily called it a night early on.

The tide movements were crazy here with the two shots showing high and low tides of our island


Our final day on the ocean was much calmer and we had a great sunny day to slowly make our way back. We repacked the tent and all our gear and headed out. Wed not done a good job of packing and had a rather lopsided kayak, but it was hardly a chore to pull into another oasis to reshuffle a few items.

Last view of our island


We also find the time to stop for lunch and a nice swim, it was a lovely relaxing day. We ended the day messing around in the surf and catching some good waves in, our shoulders were pretty sore by this point by we’d had another amazing adventure!

Tanya – This is possibly one of the most memorable activities of our holiday to date. It was great to set out on our own and explore in a different way from the water. We got a decent bit of exercise too which we haven’t had in a long time! I won’t be forgetting this experience for a long time.

Daniel – We have had some pretty bad weather up to now, but we happily endured that in order to be rewarded with some cracking few days of sunshine when we needed it most. A beautiful part of the country and i think we made the right choice to see it from the water! Mental note - Next time remember to pack more supplies... I was considering waking up in the dead of the night and eating our stash of food!

Posted by dbgomes 16:10 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand round_the_world

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Hi Tanya and Dan, I keep looking at the things you are getting up to and am constantly amazed and jealous but so happy for you both. Can’t wait to see you in a couple of weeks Tanya Phone me when you get a chance. Love Dad

by Joe Radford

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