Abel Tasman National Park Boat Tour: Our Top Highlight in New Zealand

Seals in Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

Seals in Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

The Split Apple Rock is the landmark of the Abel Tasman National Park. A split granite rock in the middle of the sea that looks like an apple cut in half. The fascinating thing about it: it remains in this position like a rock in the surf.

Split Apple Rock, Abel Tasman National Park, New ZealandSplit Apple Rock, Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

The boat tour takes us past numerous bays, one more beautiful than the other. At some of them we make a short stop as fellow passengers get on and off the boat. This way we can see the beaches from a different perspective, which we appreciate very much.

Medlands Beach, Abel Tasman National Park, South Island New Zealand

Anchorage Bay, Abel Tasman National Park New Zealand

Apple Tree Bay, Abel Tasman National Park, New ZealandCoast of the Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

The feeling of freedom, the wind around the ears and the sun's rays on the face – a wonderful feeling. In addition, there are the fantastic views of the secluded beaches, the forests, the granite rocks, the seals and the turquoise waters.

All this together makes our experience aboard the Abel Tasman Sea Shuttle catamaran unforgettable. For the first time we have the feeling to have really arrived in New Zealand.

Medlands Beach, Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

Boundary Bay, Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

Boundary Bay, Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

Our conclusion to the boat tour

The boat trip was definitely a highlight of our New Zealand tour. We love it anyway to be on the water. But in such a beautiful environment like the Abel Tasman National Park it was even more fun to do so. The weather played along and we enjoyed this beautiful coastal paradise.

What we liked most was that this area was very different from anything we have seen in New Zealand so far. There was an exuberant vacation atmosphere on our catamaran.

The boat trip was really great, but unfortunately the time went by way too fast. So on our next visit, we would choose either the Full Park Scenic Cruise by Abel Tasman Sea Shuttle*, a roughly three-hour trip for NZD 79 per person (as of September 2019) or a combined boat tour and hike if the weather cooperates.

>> Tip: Compare all Abel Tasman National Park boat tours on GetYourGuide* and find the one that suits you best. Look closely at the services, because there are boat tours, as well as combined tours incl. Hike.

Thanks to GetYourGuide's cancellation policy you remain flexible. Many tours can be cancelled free of charge up to 24 hours before the tour is to take place.

Unfortunately the prices for the boat tours are quite overpriced in our opinion. Another disadvantage is that the Abel Tasman National Park is very popular. Accordingly, the boats are very busy.

Tips for ticket purchase and boat tour

Tip #1: If you prefer a specific tour and departure time, you should book the ticket in advance, especially during peak season (e.g. via GetYourGuide* or directly via the provider). There are many operators, but the water cabs are very small and the choice of departure times is limited. In the low season there are less people, but the choice of departure times is limited.

Tip #2: Some tours include the transfer from and to Nelson. Of course, to take advantage of this offer, you also need to book the ticket in advance and organize the transfer.

Tip #3: Before departure you have to check in at the appropriate ticket offices. At Abel Tasman Seashuttle it was 30 minutes before departure. Afterwards we could wait on the beach for our boat. The ticket office in Kaiteriteri is centrally located next to the wharf restaurant (GPS coordinates: -41.037085, 173.017102). In Marahau these are located in different places.

Tip #4: If you decide to take a catamaran, it is worth to wait early at the pier to get a great place in the fresh air. The places on the deck are limited.

Tip #5: If you want to get off at Torrent Bay, be prepared that you might have to wade through the water to get to the shore. Depending on the time of day the water can reach up to the knees.

A side trip to the famous Abel Tasman Coast Track

The following day we feel like we can't leave this region without having done at least a part of the famous Abel Tasman Coast Track.

Since it's not as hot as the day before, we head to Marahau, where the start of the 60 kilometer trail is located. Our destination is the free Abel Tasman Carpark near the Tourist Info Marahau (GPS coordinates: -40.996888, 173.005020).

After a long search we find a free place and then follow the numerous hikers. So we can't miss the entrance of the Abel Tasman Coast Track.

Then finally the time has come and we set off on this famous hiking trail we have heard so much about.

A narrow hiking trail and countless tourists

But unfortunately we have to realize relatively fast that the hike does not appeal to us very much. This section of the Abel Tasman Coast Track is really very crowded. We encounter countless tourists and have to constantly dodge the oncoming people on the narrow road.

In addition, everyone greets each other in passing. What was great at the beginning, gets on our nerves after 100 "Hi's" and "Hello's.

On this section we see mostly the forest and only rarely beaches or the sea, which is quite monotonous. Every now and then a turnoff leads to a bay. A welcome change. The beaches are beautiful and not very crowded. We would love to jump into the water, but unfortunately the weather is not cooperating.

Abel Tasman National Park beachTinline Bay Abel Tasman National Park

On the way we observe numerous birds, it chirps everywhere from the trees and on the ground.

Stilt walkers in the Abel Tasman National Park

Crested quail with little chicks

Our conclusion about the Abel Tasman Coast Track

If you decide to do the Abel Tasman Coast Track, we would definitely recommend a combination of a boat trip and a hike. So you have the possibility to discover another stage of the track, which probably has more to offer than the start of the track.

In our opinion, you can skip the first stage and admire it from the water instead. Because from this perspective it is fabulous.

The next time we travel to New Zealand, we will do another leg of the Abel Tasman Coast Track, hoping that it won't feel like a mass hike. Who knows, maybe our judgement will be different afterwards. After all, there are numerous reports from other travelers who were totally enthusiastic about the Abel Tasman Coast Track.

Tips for your hike on the Abel Tasman Coast Track

Tip #1: At some places along the track you have to cross sandy bays. This is only possible at low tide and during a certain period of time before and after. As the tides and currents in the Abel Tasman National Park are very pronounced, it is essential to check the tides before you start your hike.

Sometimes it is possible to walk around a bay, but this takes more time and should be taken into account when planning the trip. Alternative routes do not exist everywhere. At Awaroa Inlet, for example, there is no way to cross the bay at high tide. Torrent Bay, on the other hand, is supposedly worth the detour because of the great view even at low tide.

Tip #2: Do not cross the larger sandy bays at Awaroa and Torrent Bay barefoot. There are shells you could hurt yourself on. Appropriate footwear is required, flip flops are also discouraged.

Tip #3: Warnings for the Coast Track are published on the website of the Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai. Here you can see when the fire risk is high or when a part of the track is closed.

What is the best time to visit Abel Tasman National Park??

In Abel Tasman National Park you can enjoy a mild climate and many hours of sunshine. It is one of the sunniest areas in all of New Zealand. In summer the temperatures range from 13 to 22 degrees, in spring and autumn the temperatures range from 7 to 18 degrees and in winter from 3 to 13 degrees.

The precipitation is distributed relatively evenly over the whole year. This means that even in summer you can expect about 6 rainy days per month. In the hilly hinterland, average temperatures drop and rainfall increases.

The Abel Tasman National Park is very popular with vacationers thanks to its beautiful natural scenery, wonderful wildlife and pleasant climate. The park is very busy in the summer months, especially during the New Zealand school vacations from mid-December to the end of January.

Allegedly there will be less tourists in the park after Easter. If you decide to visit in the low season, you don't have to miss the beautiful green vegetation. Because the majority of the trees in the Abel Tasman National Park are evergreen and can be admired all year round.

More information about the New Zealand climate you can find in our article: Best time to travel New Zealand.

Where to stay around Abel Tasman National Park?

If you want to start early in the morning, you should choose an accommodation in Kaiteriteri* or Marahau*. Both villages are located right next to the Abel Tasman National Park. Here you will find accommodations with beautiful views and inviting pools, where you will feel like on vacation. However, the choice of hotels, motels and vacation rentals in the two places is limited. Early booking is definitely advisable. Especially in the summer months many of the accommodations are booked months in advance.

>> Tip: On www.booking.com* you will find a large selection of hotels and vacation rentals that you can cancel up to 24 hours before the first night – free of charge and very uncomplicated! We have been booking our accommodations for many years on the online platform www.booking.com*. So far we have only positive experiences.

Motueka* is the biggest town near the national park and is also a good place for an overnight stay. From here you can reach Kaiteriteri in only 15 minutes by rental car and Marahau in about 20 minutes.

However, we spent the night in Nelson*, where there is an even wider choice of accommodation, supermarkets and restaurants. The Abel Tasman National Park can easily be visited as a day trip from Nelson. The driving time to Kaiteriteri is about 1 hour 10 minutes. It takes about 1 hour 20 minutes to get to Marahau.

Finally, we are of course very interested in your experiences: How did you like the Abel Tasman Coast Track? Which section can you recommend to us all?

>> Reading tip: Do you like to discover new destinations in Europe?? Our personal travel tip: Madeira! The diverse volcanic island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean has a lot to offer. For inspiration, check out our articles Hiking Madeira: The 5 most spectacular hikes on the island, Madeira Sightseeing: The most beautiful places on the island and Madeira insider tips: Dreamlike places off the beaten track.

Note Abel Tasman National Park hotel tips& Tours

This blog post contains our hotel and tour recommendations in the form of so-called advertising links, which are marked with a *. If you like our posts and would like to support us, we would be very happy if you book one or the other hotel or tour via these links. For every successful booking we receive a small commission. This does not change the price of the hotel or the boat trip (you pay exactly the same as if you book the hotel directly on booking.com or the tour on getyourguide.com and then book). We thank you very much for your support!

Our travels and hotels are all self paid. We report about our travel experiences and mention which providers we have used and whether we can recommend them to you or not. This should serve as a guide for you when planning your trip. It is very important to us to report honestly and authentically about our experiences.

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