Abel Tasman National Park Circuit

11-17 August 2023

Our party of four left Christchurch at 10am for a leisurely drive to Marahau, where we stayed at the Barn Backpackers, and enjoyed a pleasant pre-tramp meal at Kaiteriteri.

We were up bright and early to a very frosty morning. The 41.1km Inland Track begins on the Abel Tasman Coast Track at Tinline Bay, climbing steadily away from the coast, then more steeply through regenerating forest. Patches of snow still littered the ground from a big southerly storm two days earlier. At our brief lunch stop at the Holyoake Shelter, as for every other hut and view-point on the track, a portly weka or two popped out to scrounge a feed. We continued on to Castle Rock Hut which is perched near granite outcrops, and came across a herd of feral goats, but fortunately, no other trampers. We were pleased with our decision not to carry tents as the two huts on this inland track are not bookable, so we were trusting to luck.

Next was a 6-hour day from Castle Rock Hut, with a climb up to Moa Park Shelter, and then a long, steady descent down the Evans Ridge through Dracophyllum and beech forest to Awapoto Hut. Peter was keen to ‘bag’ Wainui Hut, which is off the main track and required approximately a 300m descent into the Wainui Valley, with a very steep uphill climb, to join the Inland Track further up the valley. Helen joined Peter on this diversion, while Diane and Raymond continued on the main track. We enjoyed having the hut to ourselves and the views of Awaroa Inlet before the rain and wind arrived. Rain continued through the night. The inland huts were in good condition, and it didn’t take long for the wood burners to drive out the winter chill.

An early departure from Awapoto Hut

Day three shone bright and clear, although a cold westerly breeze was blowing. On the other side of Takaka Valley, snow showers were falling on the peaks of Kahurangi National Park. The track was at times steep but gave stunning views of Wainui Inlet, and had outstanding patches of old-growth forest on the descent to Pigeon Saddle on the Totaranui Road. From the road, the track continued for about 30 minutes in bush before emerging onto farmland. The final section followed farm tracks, past Gibbs Hill, before zig zagging down through regenerating scrub to finally reach Whariwharangi Bay. The historic farm homestead, built around 1896, has been restored and now serves as a DOC hut. Raymond was keen to visit Separation Point as a side trip in the late afternoon, being mindful that the next day we needed to reach Awaroa Inlet by mid-afternoon to coincide with low tide. So, while Diane cranked up the wood burner and ‘enjoyed’ a cold shower, Raymond, Peter, and Helen set off on the 6km return trip to the lighthouse, getting great views of Golden Bay, Farewell Spit and the Wakamarama Range. That evening, we finished off a very pleasant day with another game of Yahtzee.

Wainui Inlet from near Gibbs Hill

Wharewharangi Hut

Tuesday started out fine, but by the time we reached Totaranui, rain arrived and raincoats were required, but it was not unpleasant. The Coastal Track fluctuated from coastal views, patches of podocarp forest and golden beaches—all beautiful. At the Awaroa Inlet, it was a very low tide, and Awaroa Hut was visible on the far side of the inlet. At the start of the crossing, we met four other trampers, who seemed a bit dubious about crossing the inlet. However, the crossing was very straightforward, and we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and evening at the Awaroa Hut. This was the first time we had the company of other trampers, so it was good to share stories and converse with some international visitors.

Day 5 was our longest day—a cooler day with showers. Fortunately, being down on the coast and leeward side of the park, we missed the worst of the weather. This was an easy walk along the coastal track and beaches reaching Bark Bay for lunch. To our delight, near the Bark Bay campsite, we found a lemon tree covered in ripe fruit! We continued on to Torrent Bay where we were able to bypass the high-tide track and cross the estuary at low tide. From there it was a short climb over a low saddle, then an easy saunter along the beach to Anchorage Hut—a stunning location!

Thursday was the last day of the trip.  From the track there were beautiful views of the coastline, Adele and Fishermans islands and the snow-covered Richmond Range, before we turned inland, through patches of lush forest, then retraced our steps of 5 days ago from Tinline Bay to arrive back at Marahau, late morning. Then we were home-bound with a compulsory stop at a Motueka Bakery for coffee and cake. The added attraction of going tramping is to enjoy the café fare afterwards!

Early morning, Torrent Bay from Anchorage access track

This was a wonderful trip with great company. Thanks go to Raymond for the logistics and planning required to ensure the trip was so successful. Completing this six-day 105km trip in late winter is definitely recommended, in the absence of large summer hordes and no wasps!

Participants: Raymond Ford, (leader and photographer) Diane Mellish, Peter Umbers, Helen Binnie [HB].