The Abel Tasman Great Walk is one of the 9 Great Walks that take you through beautiful scenery while on a multi day trek in New Zealand. If you enjoy hiking through lush forest, sandy beaches, and waking up in your sleeping bag to the sound of crashing waves, then this hike is for you. Seriously.
We made it down to the South Island to hike the Abel Tasman in early March, nearing the end of the high season. There was still a considerable amount of tourists, but at least we managed to take pictures without dozens of tourists lurking in the background.
The nice thing about the Great Walks of New Zealand (there are nine in total) is that the New Zealand government has done an excellent job of making them super easy to plan and prepare for. Each Great Walk is set among some of the most beautiful scenery in New Zealand, and vary in distance from 32 km to 78 km (the Whanganui Great Walk is actually 145 km in total distance, but is done by kayak or canoe).
There are a number of campsites along each of the walks, and some are set in really spectacular scenery. This is one campsite we passed on the Abel Tasman trail.
We hiked the Abel Tasman in four days, and stayed at three huts along the way.
An important thing to keep in mind when hiking the Abel Tasman are the tidal crossings. On the morning of the third day, we had to rise at 5:30 am in order to cross! It was dark, everyone was wearing headlamps, and because there was still 30 cm or so of water we were wading barefoot. It was cold! We watched the sunrise while having breakfast on the other side and it was well worth it.
One of the things I wish I would’ve done differently on our trip to New Zealand was bring camping gear. We had debated bringing it, but since Southeast Asia was part of our plans right after New Zealand, we figured it wouldn’t be worth it to lug all of our equipment with us for a full year. Although now that I look back on it, camping would have saved us A LOT of money. In a future post I’ll be writing about just how much we spent during our travels in New Zealand.
The Campsite vs Hut Debate
There are more than a few advantages to camping on the Great Walks versus staying in the more pricey huts. Despite the cost of huts (at Abel Tasman they were $32 NZD per person per night but at other Great Walks can be as high as $52 NZD per person per night), they are very basic. They have no cooking equipment whatsoever, and the sleeping quarters aren’t too roomy. There is often up to 12 people sleeping in a room, which guarantees there will be snorers.
On the other hand …
- Campsites often don’t have showers. Most huts do have showers, but they are all with cold water. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to taking a cold shower, but after 4 days, I still wasn’t.
- Huts have filtered water. Campsites you need to boil or treat your water before drinking it.
If I were to do it over again, I would definitely go for the campsite. Even if I had to buy some used camping equipment (and there are loads of places you can find this in New Zealand as all of the tourists are looking to get rid of it when they leave) it would be worth it.
But then again, if you’re more of a social person and are looking to meet more people, maybe a hut is the way to go!
Overall, the Abel Tasman Great Walk is such a beautiful hike that passes through gorgeous beaches, rocky coastline, and beautiful forest that it’s worth it no matter how you do it. There are a number of huts and campsites and it’s possible to hike it in two nights, three nights, or even four, depending on your preference (and perhaps fitness ability).
Having only completed one Great Walk so far (and loved it), I now feel the need to return to New Zealand just to complete the remaining 8! Also, there is signage everywhere along all of the Great Walks so the chances of getting lost are slim to none, if you stick to the trail.
Have you done any Great Walks in New Zealand, and if so, which ones were your favourite?
You might also like: Hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing