The next stop on our road trip was the coastal Abel Tasman national park. Despite being the countries smallest National park, it is extremely popular and home to the 51km Coastal Track, one New Zealand’s series of Great Walks.
As well as being popular with walkers, the parks secluded coastline also makes it an ideal location for sea-kayaking. We thought this sounded like a great idea, and decided to hire kayaks for a full day from Abel Tasman Kayaks.
Arriving early into their site in Marahau, we were given our equipment as well as a detailed safety briefing. Our guide made it clear that sea-kayaking can be dangerous, and that conditions on the water can change quickly. Fortunately for us it was another very calm day, and we were told it was unlikely we would face any challenging conditions.
After a short on water assessment, which we passed with flying colours, we were on our way out into the bay.
Despite having reservations of sharing a tandem kayak with Rachael, after some bad previous experiences, I was immediately impressed by her paddling effort. However I was still glad to be in the back seat and therefore in control of the rudder!
With winds expected to pick up later in the day, we decided to take advantage of the calm conditions, leaving the coastline behind and paddling out into the bay where we found fisherman Island and Adele Island.
After dodging water taxis and other boats we finally made it out to the islands, passing between them before continuing around to the exposed eastern side. Heading to the north of Adele island, we found a seal colony including several pups, and watched as they swam and lazed about on the rocks
We returned back across the bay to Observation Beach, and after exiting the kayak surprisingly smoothly, we dragged it ashore for a well-earned rest. Already soaked from the kayaking, we went for a quick swim before enjoying some lunch on the beach.
Back in the kayak we continued north, hugging the coastline to take a closer look at some of the other beautiful white sand beaches along this section of the park. After turning back just before the ominously named Mad Mile section of the coastline, we found some cool caves to explore near Sidwell Bay.
By early afternoon the wind had picked up just as expected, and as we paddled back to Marahau we enjoyed a strong tailwind, with this being very welcome as we began to tire.
After arriving into Marahauwe we were taken back to base by minibus, where we were pleased to find some warm showers. After changing into dry clothes, we strolled along the beachfront to a nearby ice cream stand.
The following day we decided to drive further west, taking the meandering highway over Takaka Hill, while admiring the surrounding views over the National Park.
This took us to the relaxed town of Pakaka, where we found a small high street lined with bakeries, cafes and quirky clothes stores. Located just outside of the town are the Te Waikoropupu springs, the largest freshwater springs in New Zealand, and home to the clearest water ever measured outside of Antarctica.
We followed the short boardwalk along the edge of the springs, admiring the beautiful clear water.
We continued west, finally reaching the end of the road at Farewell Spit. The narrow spit is located at the most northerly point of the South Island and stretches 25km out into the sea.
The spit is an important nature reserve and public access is therefore restricted to the first 4km. This however still includes plenty of walking trails, and we decided to complete the Spit Track circuit, a 6km walk which initially took us across the fields of Puponga Farm Park.
After following the trail through a woods and climbing over dunes, we arrived at the vast and exposed Ocean Beach. It felt like the sort of place that is always windy, and we had to find shelter behind one of the dunes to enjoy our lunch.
We wandered along the steep rolling sands of the beach before reaching the 4WD track that crosses the spit.
The spit is very narrow and it didn’t take long before we emerged onto the southern facing inner beach, which is completely sheltered from the fierce ocean waves. This section of the walk was far more relaxing and we wandered slowly along the narrow pebbled beach to complete the walk.
With this being the end of the line, we began our return journey back inland to where we would be camping for the night. We made one final stop at the quaint Mussel Inn, finding a spot on the rustic wooden Veranda and sampling some of the great drinks produced in the adjacent brewery.