Frosty Beaches: Winter Hiking in the Abel Tasman

This isn’t what I’d planned to write about, but it’s fresh in my mind, so Nelson will need to be put off until next week, I think.

I spent this past weekend hiking, sailing, and relaxing in the Abel Tasman National Park here on the South Island. It makes up a good chunk of the northwest coastline, and is home to some truly amazing views. It’s also home to many large, golden, sandy beaches. One of the interesting things which I got to see while I was there was what happens when a beach mixes with winter– I’ve never seen a frosty beach before! (Needless to say, I didn’t spend a lot of time on these beaches). There’s also a hiking trail which runs the length of the park, and you can choose to hike all of it, or parts of it– as much or as little as you want.

Saturday was a really early day for me. I’d set up a day trip in the park, and while the company running the trip was able to pick me up from Nelson, it was a 7:15am pickup. Ugh. But I made it out on time, bleary-eyed… and promptly fell asleep on the bus on the way into the park. It’s only about an hour from Nelson to the beginning of the park, Kaiteriteri, but we stopped to pick up people at a couple of stops along the way, and it was more like two hours. I had just enough time to grab a coffee and check in for my trip before we left.

The first part of the trip was a nice sail around part of the park: Kaiteriteri to Medlands Bay. We stopped at Split Apple Rock on the way, which is a rock formation that, well, looks like a split apple, and also went to go see fur seals at a nearby island. I was apparently too tired to take decent pictures, although I did go back the next day and take some. We were in a smallish speedboat, which was an interesting experience, too; pausing the boat in the middle of the water for 5 minutes nearly made me quite seasick.

I was the only one getting dropped off at Medlands Bay, so once we made it there, I bundled up (it was roughly +2 degrees at the time) and headed out. I should note at this point that I was carrying my weekend supplies and clothing with me in a regular backpack (not a hiking one), and while it wasn’t heavy, it wasn’t that light, either. I was also wearing semi-worn hiking boots which I bought here in February, but which hadn’t yet seen a big hike. Both ended up being very annoying in the end, although not critical. Here’s a picture of me at Medlands (taken by the boat skipper, so it wasn’t properly exposed– oh well):


The hike from Medlands Bay to my pick-up point, Anchorage, was supposed to take 4 hours, and I was aware I was on a time limit, so I tried to keep up a good pace. The first 30 minutes or so were pretty much all uphill, to my dismay, although once it leveled out, it was very reasonable. The trail was clearly marked and well-maintained, which was really nice. Once the sun started beating a little more heavily, I was also able to drop my gloves and coat– phew! Trying to hike in that many layers is not comfortable.

There was a really cool swing bridge in the middle of the hike, and lots of amazing views over the beach and into the distance across the Tasman Bay. Definitely worth the trek! That being said, I was pretty tired at the half-way point, and more than happy to sit down and eat my lunch. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that much hiking on that kind of terrain, and while I wouldn’t mind doing more of it, maybe I’ll take it in smaller chunks next time!

The second half of the hike was pretty uneventful– I made good time, and arrived at Anchorage with 30 minutes to spare. The worst part of it was that the last 10 minutes were on a beach– if you’ve never hiked on a beach before, it’s not pleasant! Your boots just sink into the sand like they weigh 100lbs each, and I find it much more tiring than hiking on dirt. But at that point, I could see the pick-up point in the distance (on the other side of the beach), and was really just happy to have made it without rushing.

I was dropped back off at Kaiteriteri by the boat, and immediately headed over to my accommodation for the night (which turned out to be another 15 minute walk). It was technically a motel, but I’ve never seen such a fancy motel :P. My “room” was basically a cabin– with a wall-mounted heater, microwave, and massive shower. It could’ve easily slept 6 people. And it was one of the smaller rooms! Very cool. I was glad I’d decided to stay in town, rather than book into one of the lodges on the trail (they’re cheap, but no heating). After a bit of an adventure back into town for supper, I caught up on my reading, and just relaxed for the evening.

I’d booked another day trip for Sunday (because why not?), but this time I was only on a 2.5hr hike and a much longer sail– over an hour. The boat took us around the same places as the previous day (I was with a different operator this time, just to see what it was like), but once we were past Medlands Bay, everything was new for me. The boat was also much bigger, so it didn’t have the same effect on me as the other one had– phew. We sailed all the way up to Totaranui, which is the furthest point commercial operators can go, and then came back down, dropping off and picking up people along the way. I was dropped off at Apple Tree Bay (where there are no longer any apple trees), and my pick-up point was Anchorage again, but this time I’d be hiking to it from the opposite direction.

There was plenty of time for this one– they’d given me 4 hours until the pick-up, so I took my time. The day was colder, so I was in full coat, toque, and gloves for most of the trail. The difference with this trail compared to the previous one was that it was much flatter– in fact, it seems to be a popular jogging segment, since I counted at least 10 joggers pass me in the opposite direction. That wasn’t the case with the Medlands-Anchorage segment!

I had quite a bit of time to kill once I arrived at Anchorage, so I settled down to read. It was quite pleasant, although I got cold fast from sitting still after hiking– the temperature was only around +5 degrees. It was a good way to end the trip though. It was also nice to sit down and take the weight off my back and feet– after two days’ hiking with the non-hiking backpack, my shoulders were really sore. I was also walking a bit gingerly– as it turns out, those boots I was wearing don’t have enough ankle support for long hikes :/.

The bus back to Nelson left nearly immediately after I got back into Kaiteriteri, so I just had time to get a hot chocolate before jumping back on the bus. It was another meandering trip back into town, but we were travelling at sunset, so it was a really scenic drive. I got back to the hostel, and narrowly avoided just going to bed right away (6pm) :P. All in all, a really cool weekend, and it was great to get out and hike, but it was also really great to sit down and do nothing on Sunday night. Another place checked off the list!

I’ve started making arrangements for Christchurch, which is the next stop after Nelson. Clearly I should get the Nelson blog post up before I leave! We’ll see how it goes :).



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