Kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park

I spent my only full day in the Nelson area at Abel Tasman National Park, kayaking on the pristine turquoise waters and admiring the golden sandy beaches. I would not have traded this day for anything, it was perfect!

Since I was staying in Nelson, about an hour away from the park, I was able to catch a shuttle early in the morning that would drop me off at the Sea Kayak Company as it continued on its way to drop off trampers and campers for Abel Tasman. Our kayak guide met us at the shop before we got on another bus to transport us down to the marina. I’m not sure if “marina” is the right word. Because of the very dramatic tides experienced in this region it is impossible to dock any boats at low tide. Luckily it’s a large farming region, so they have lots of tractors that they can pull the boats into the water with. Not kidding, they literally drive down a boat ramp and tow the boats out until the water is deep enough to drop them in. This was probably the most bizarre thing I have witnessed on this trip so far!

DSC00008So anyway we all get in the boat while on dry land and then get towed in the boat out into the water. Our skipper then just left the tractor in the water while we drove away on the boat—apparently some guy was going to swim out and get it later. The boat shuttle took us to our starting point, which was Onetahuti Beach in the Tonga Island Marine Reserve.

After slathering up with tons of sunscreen and getting our gear together, we started off towards Tonga Island to check out the seal colony and hundreds of birds that lived out there. We saw two little baby seals, and when they cried out to their mums they sounded like velociraptors. Adorable! Also, frightening.


A baby!
A baby!

We headed south after circling the island, and on our way back towards the shore WE SAW A PENGUIN!!! He was a little blue penguin just swimming out on his own. So cute! Although I didn’t see a single penguin in Antarctica I’m making up for it now.


We had lunch at Bark Bay, which was a main hub for people taking water taxis to get to the hiking trails and to do only half-day kayak trips. The lunch provided by the Sea Kayak Co. was delicious and perfectly hit the spot. Soon as we were done and had reapplied sunscreen we were back out in the kayaks! This time, half of our group stayed behind on the beach to get picked up by a water taxi or to walk one of the tracks to our endpoint, Anchorage.

Bark Bay lunch spot.
Bark Bay lunch spot.

With only three people now—myself, a Belgian guy and our guide—we became much more adventurous, weaving in an out of the rocky shoreline and seeing how small of an opening we could get through. Definitely felt like a pro! We paddled into a shallow cove to watch some stingrays zoom underneath us and then paddled out to Pinnacle Island to see more birds and one or two seals. With only the three of us it was a relaxing afternoon, and before heading to the beach to catch our water taxi we jumped out and had a swim in the clear water.

To end a perfect day we made it back to the Sea Kayak Co. base, took some hot showers and then hung out until the shuttle came to bring me back to Nelson. I would definitely back here and camp for entire week at one of those beautiful golden beaches. Or maybe do one of their five-day kayaking trips! It was THAT great!


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