Abel Tasman and the beach that NZ bought

So if like us you’ve been seeing all those pictures of the clear blue waters and golden sands with kayakers paddling and wondering where this may be – the answer is Abel Tasman.  

These beaches have been on the kids wish list for so long and they, unlike me, don’t then to froth over nature!  

Abel Tasman

Our best advice came from talking to people who lived or visited the area.  Not that the websites aren’t awesome – they are but there are just so many choices it can be slightly overwhelming.  You can walk part or all of the Abel Tasman track, you can water taxi, you can kayak, or you can do a combination of everything.  And there are timetables and maps with beaches with names I’ve never heard of and it all just seems a little bit hard.  Especially when you want to do it all and only have a day in a very busy exploring schedule.

Awaroa Bay - Abel Tasman

So we went with the advice we were given – get on the water taxi at Kaiteriteri 10.30 and get off at Awaroa.  Catch the water taxi back at 2.20.  Easy.  

We were also told that there was a cafe there too – or just bring along a picnic.  It’s also perfect as Awaroa Bay is the furtherest bay along so you get to see all the other bays as you pick up and drop off passengers.

And really it is that simple.  Although even for one bay this isn’t nearly long enough, but more on that soon.

Now as with everything – who you choose to travel with makes a huge difference.  And I can’t speak for other water taxi companies but Wilsons were sensational – here’s a link to booking with them. 

We got a small water taxi on the way there and it was so utterly perfect.  There were just a dozen of us on the boat and we quickly got chatting to another family who lived in Nelson and were able to give us some awesome tips about where to go for dinner on the way back to Nelson.  Funnily enough it was their first time going to Abel Tasman too despite living just down the road so to speak.

Our skipper was so good!!  He took his time taking is in close to Split Apple Rock and telling us all about how it was formed.

Split Apple Rock

He told us stories about how Awaroa Bay had been in danger of being sold to foreign investors so in true Kiwi spirit a crowd funding initiative was started and 39,000 Kiwi’s bought the beach and donated it right back to NZ.  It bought a tear to my eye hearing about it on the water, and it does now writing it again.  I’m just so bloody proud to be a Kiwi. 

Awaroa Bay - Abel Tasman

He told us other stories about ownership, walks, fish and wildlife.  All things I swore I’d remember and retell on here (awfully embellished with key points left out as I usually do).  But there was so much to fill up my mind that I can’t remember them all now but the stories out on the water made it all the more magical so I suggest you do your best to get on the Vigour Water Taxi from Wilson’s if you can and hear the stories for yourself.

We meandered our way up through the bays dropping passengers off as we went and seeing the scores of kayakers bobbing around in groups exploring, until there was only us.  Seriously – how lucky is that!!

Awaroa Bay - Abel Tasman

Our skipper asked the kids if they wanted to go looking for seals so we headed off to the rock they are normally found.

On the way we spotted penguins so we stopped for a while to bob around and watch them play.

Then over to the rock to watch for seals.  We saw so many of them – including a new baby with his Mum and Dad.  And we got all the great seal information that the kids loved and I again, sadly can’t remember enough of to tell you here.

And then we were at Awaroa.  To be fair there isn’t a bad bay to go to in Abel Tasman so no where is going to be disappointing but I’m going to call it and say that Awaroa is the best.

Awaroa Bay - Abel Tasman Wilsons

It was everything that you have seen in the amazing instagram pictures and so much more.  I tried – I even had the fancy work camera but I don’t know if any camera (and certainly not my skills behind it) can truly capture just how beautiful this place is.

We headed to the estuary first and set up a little picnic spot while the kids jumped off the shelf in the estuary to the clearest ocean I think I’ve ever been in…

Awaroa Bay - Abel Tasman

James meanwhile took over manning the camera to explore his new love – bird photography.  Yep, he’s even joined a Facebook group he tells me.

Awaroa Bay - Abel Tasman

After a while we decided to walk to Awaroa Lodge & Cafe.  Not because we were hungry but because it felt criminal not to explore as much of this little piece of paradise as we could.

Awaroa Bay - Abel Tasman

A word of advice – it’s busy so expect a bit of a wait for food and drinks.  We just got drinks so it wasn’t too long but the key here is to leave enough time if you want to adventure up there.

And time is something that you are going to wish you had more of.  The hours go by in a flash and in no time at all we were swimming on the beach waiting for our ride back to Kaiteriteri. 

Awaroa Bay - Abel Tasman

We went with Wilsons again – this time on the bigger boat.  The bigger boat was still amazing and infinitely more comfortable (with an onboard bar) but I’d been totally spoilt by our amazing trip there on the smaller boat that I was a little sad when I saw that one pull up.

Awaroa Bay - Abel Tasman

We had a quick paddle in the estuary at Kaiteriteri before heading off to Jellyfish for dinner at Mapua Wharf (thanks to the suggestion of our boat mate).

If you are up that way we’d thoroughly recommend it and letting the kids jump off the wharf.  Advice from the locals – don’t jump at high tide because the current is so strong it will sweep you down the river.  When we jumped (well I say we – the kids) it was perfect!

Mapua Wharf

So – our tips for getting the most out of your day in Abel Tasman…

  1. Go for a couple of days – you’ll never get it all done in one day!
  2. Arrive early – parking is hard to find on a sunny day
  3. Go for a smaller boat if you can – there’s nothing like zooming through the water on a small boat and getting to chat to the skipper too
  4. Allow some time for Awaroa Lodge and Cafe and maybe consider just drinks to allow you more time to swim 
  5. Take a hat – there’s not much shade
  6. Remember there is a bar on the bigger Wilson boats – take money if you want a beer or a wine on the trip back
  7. Take some pictures but then put your camera away and take it all in.  Nothing is every going to be as awesome as just being there in the moment
  8. Stop and jump off Mapua Wharf on the way home