ACDC on the ATCT: Abel Tasman Coastal Track, New Zealand.

Disclaimer: This post wasn’t in the slightest bit sponsored, unfortunately. (I did get a hot lunch on our flight to Enzed but I think everyone got one.)

Abel Tasman National Park forest and bay

We enjoyed our New Year’s 2016 in one of my favourite places on the planet; Abel Tasman National Park, on NZ’s South Island. Unlike our previous South Island beach holiday destinations it’s right at the northern end, and a lot of its appeal lies in the fact that it has more sunny days (and therefore less hail, storms and freezing cold) than anywhere else in New Zealand!

The Gold Coast of Enzed? Not exactly; there is sun, golden sands and rainforest but the wild life’s a bit different – Abel T’s is more the fur seal and little blue penguin variety as opposed to the schoolies and toolies that migrate to the GC. (I’m kidding! I kid! Come on down to our beautiful Gold Coast, bring the whole family.)

We rented a bach (holiday house) in Mapua, about halfway between Nelson and the entrance to the national park at Kaiteriteri and had a fantastic outdoorsy holiday with the boys. As I’ve mentioned, the Abel Tasman Coastal Track (ATCT) is one of Enzed’s nine Great Walks (a tenth will be opened by 2019) and one of the reasons it’s so great is because it’s so accessible – perfect for day trips! We went via Wilson’s water taxi and cruiser to Tonga Quarry for an easy walk to Medlands Beach; a distance of a bit over 4km. Totally manageable for a 7 year old and just-about-5 year old! Easy peasy! …Right?

First thing they did was make us walk the plank.
First obstacle: walking the plank.

We boogsed seats up the front because you get more air time there. Our first stop was to see the egg of a (nice) sea monster.

It was named Tokongawa by the local Maori people, and later called Split Apple Rock by Europeans. Fans of Monkey might call it "Thought".
This distinctive granite boulder, split down the middle, has many names. It’s called Tokongawa by the local Maori people, Split Apple Rock by Europeans, and “Thought” by fans of Monkey.

We also stopped by Adele Island, which has been cleared of introduced predators and is being used by Project Janszoon with the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust, the Department of Conservation (DoC), local iwi and the community to help reverse human impacts on the park’s ecology and reintroduce and protect native species. Nice one! Our boat was one of several operated by the Wilson family (locals since 1841!) and part of every ticket sold goes towards funding these programmes.

We saw some sunbaking fur seals, and were happy to hear the population in the nearby Tonga Island Marine Reserve colony increases by about 25% every year… go you good things!
Come back in April and you can't swing a cat without hitting a horny fur seal.
The last single guys left at the prom…
The last guys left at the prom...
It was rumpy pumpy season over at Tonga Island until mid January so these studs were probably just having a break from partying to write some meaningful poetry.

As we crossed the ‘Mad Mile’ the swell grew and our speedboat bounced across it, sending up plumes of spray at every impact. The boys loved it, yelling out ‘SICK!’ and laughing as they slid all over the seats. c/- Rory: “This boat would make a good plane Mum!” We passed Monkey Rock – I couldn’t see a monkey. It looked more like Darth Vader to me, or maybe Dark Helmet. Our skipper reckoned it looked like a womble. (Don’t let Darth hear you say that!) We hopped onto a larger cruiser at Anchorage, which dropped us at Tonga Quarry for the start of our walk.

Right, let’s go! Toilet: check! Suncream: check! Hats: check! Rory’s shoes… shit.

#massive facepalm
#massive facepalm

We left his shoes in the car! We’d got on the boats barefoot and each of us thought the other had them. D’OH. Roars wasn’t worried, was in fact quite chuffed he didn’t have to wear shoes, being a bogan and all. Luckily for us the ATCT is a very well made Great Walk and could possibly be the flattest, easiest, least rocky/gravelly/rooty/prickly tramp in Enzed. Spectacular parenting fail redeemed by the spectacular work of DoC! Woohoo!

Heading into the forest - lots of ponga (silver ferns) which is good because it's one of the few Kiwi trees I know.
Heading into the forest surrounded by gorgeous ponga, aka the silver fern, the mystic symbol of sports-loving Kiwis everywhere.

This optimism lasted as far as halfway up the first hill, when Finn said it was boring and Rory said he was sooo tired. GAH! You were happily running around on the beach 5 minutes ago! I told them that we were nearly to the top, and that we’d be going downhill again very soon. Finn grumbled “Why are we even going up it then?”

Down off the saddle things got cooler, and damper, and darker, and... mostly... quieter...
Down in the gullies things got cooler, and damper, and darker, and (mostly) quieter…

Finn, after about ten minutes: “I hate tramping! I hate walking!” moan, whinge, etc.

silver fern on Abel Tasman Coastal Track

I asked him if he hated cricket too… he said no of course; he’s a fiend for it at the moment. I asked him if he’d feel better if he was holding his cricket bat (which Daddy was carrying in case of emergency innings) and he said yes he would. And like magic the bitching stopped!

A tramper passed us going in the opposite direction and Finn wanted to know what his trekking poles were. Soon after, he started using his bat as a walking stick.
Finn saw a tramper pass us going the other way using trekking poles. Soon after, the bat became a walking stick.

I warned him not to hit any plants or the path as this was a national park – he didn’t, but as he walked along he practised a few shots. On one backswing he nearly hit my camera, as well as my face which was right next to it. I reminded him he wasn’t allowed to damage anything in the national park, and since I was in the national park that included me. He asked what about him? And I said well don’t hit yourself with the cricket bat either. The boys thought this was hilarious.

An opportunity for adventure, and for the boys to prove their primate credentials.
A handy hobbit-sized bridge. Orcless.

As we walked through the peaceful, green dappled sunlight, the boys chilled out a bit and practised their conversation skills.

Finn: “Do trees like it when they hit themselves?”

Silver beech. Not too far from a golden beach.
I’d love to say this bark belongs to a silver beech, because then I could say it was a silver beech near a golden beach. Geddit?! But it’s actually a kauri. Don’t want to go barking up the wrong tree! *boom tish*

Rory: “Does it hurt trees when people call them names?”

The famous ponga. At least I hope so - Enzed has a couple hundred species of ferns but most tree-sized one I see I just think 'silver fern.'
The famous ponga. At least I think so – Enzed has a couple hundred species of ferns but most tree ones I see I just assume ‘silver fern.’

Finn: “Mummy, how special is Mr. Abbott?”

The blossoms of the manuka, or tea tree as Captain Cook called it.
The blossoms of the manuka, or tea tree as Captain Cook called it.

Rory: “A pickle, standing on a pretzel, and a teapot in a tree, and a pretzel smoothie, standing in a butt crack – that is ridiculous.”

After a while they went quiet, except for humming the opening riffs of Thunderstruck by ACDC which they always do at home when they’re drawing or building Lego or doing something thoughtful. I think they ‘get’ tramping now. They also got excited when they recognised a black fantail from a brilliant Kiwi storybook they were given as littlies.

Halfway up the 3rd hill J carried Roars a bit, then when we hit the downhill again he bolted off ahead.
Halfway up the 3rd hill J carried Rory for a bit, then when we hit the downhill again he bolted off ahead. Good strategy there Roars…

(40 minutes in, from both of them): “When’s lunch?”

Bark Bay, peeking temptingly through the trees.
Bark Bay.

Within sight of Bark Bay the track split – the inlet crossing (low tide only) was 650m as opposed to the high tide track which was 1.4km. Cue fight: Finn insisted we do the shorter one but we’d been advised to go the long way, probably because the boys didn’t have quite enough leg to wade properly.

Trampers crossing at low tide. Tides in the Abel Tasman are between four and five metres - I don't care how waterproof your boots are, you can't walk this at high tide!
Trampers crossing at low tide. Tides here are between four and five metres – I don’t care how waterproof your boots are, you can’t walk this at high tide!

We did see some people walking across, but I’m glad we went the long way because we found this;

Waterfall Creek Swingbridge
Waterfall Creek Swingbridge!

We heard the waterfall from quite a long way off, and on the way passed trickling springs, mossy rock faces and person-sized sinkholes, which hint at the hidden cave systems in the area. (Harwood’s Hole at the western edge of the Abel Tasman NP is a 176 metres deep vertical shaft and scary as hell! Experienced cavers only.)

Waterfall Creek Swingbridge, Abel Tasman National Park

Upon investigation the waterfall was blasting out of sheer rock; a resurgence, ie where an underground stream’s suddenly aboveground, or vice versa. Pretty cool! I caught up with the boys at the next bridge, where we had lunch.

black and white bridge, Abel Tasman Coastal Track

One of J's fave Kiwi treats; tan slice. Anything with choc chips in it is fine by me.
One of J’s fave Kiwi treats; tan square. Anything with choc chips in it is fine by me, but it also features gooey caramel sandwiched between two layers of lovely soft shortbread OMG…
Rory: "Daddy, can we go back in the fowest?"
Rory: “Daddy, can we go back in the fowest?”

Back on track, it wasn’t long before we arrived at the Bark Bay campsite, and not two minutes after that the boys had some beach cricket going. I went exploring.

A pair of oystercatchers.
A pair of oystercatchers.
oystercatcher, Abel Tasman National Park
These guys are also in the storybook!
Little black mussels. As they are little, and black.
Little black mussels. As they are little, and black. From a distance they look like black furry moss.

At the end of the beach I found an overhanging tree with half a dozen nests in it. On the cruise we’d seen some seabirds and Skip informed us they were pied shags. They’re called cormorants everywhere else in the world, but shags here. They are unique in that they have webbed feet but choose to nest in trees. So it’s fair to say that only in New Zealand can you get a shag in a tree.


More little mussels which are also black.
More mussels, plus barnacles.

Meanwhile, beach cricket had attracted more boys like a magnet and they all had a nice little game going.

It was REALLY hard to hit a six.
It was REALLY hard to hit a six.

We played for as long as we could, then had to head off so we wouldn’t miss our boat back to Kaiteriteri.

Discovered the panorama option on my phone camera!
Discovered the panorama option on my phone camera!

We all walked the last half k together barefoot which Rory thought was awesome, and once we arrived at Medlands Beach the boys got in some last minute explorations.Medlands Beach, Abel Tasman NPAbel Tasman NP Medlands Beach

sea kayaking Medlands Beach, Abel Tasman

rainforest, Medlands Beach

I found out later that this beach is named after an awesome old coot named Vern Medland who built a squatter’s bach here in the 1970s. He was ordered to remove it, and complied, by blasting it to smithereens with a stick of gelignite. Pieces got blown into the treetops, and they found the oven 60 metres away! Then Vern lived on his boat in the bay. Typical Kiwi hardcase.

Sadly, our boat arrived and it was time to go. I could very easily have stayed for another week.

Bucket List:
NOTE TO SELF: walk the whole ATCT when the boys are a bit older. And don’t forget Rory’s shoes!
Heading back to Kaiteriteri. *sob*
Heading back to Kaiteriteri. *sob*

The boys were knackered after their big day, but I’m pretty sure they’ll be up for it again! Can’t wait. The trip back was smooth and relaxing…

The thousand-yard stare...
The thousand-yard stare…


– Michelle

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Chrissie says:

    WOW! This place looks amazing! My brother and his family have just moved to NZ & they are really adventurous and would love this place. I will be recommending it to them!


    1. Michelle says:

      It’s a huge favourite with Kiwis too – I loved how while we were there we heard languages and accents from all over the world but we also encountered a lot of New Zealanders. I love it that they get out and enjoy their own country-they live in New Zealand, it’s stunning, they’d be silly not to. 🙂 Thanks for reading! And commenting! You rule.


  2. Laura Neacsu says:

    absolutely stunning views! and I LOVE the #masivefacepalm hahhahhahaha


    1. Michelle says:

      Hi Laura! Yes Enzed is overachievingly gorgeous, you totally have to visit there too! We MIGHT even get to visit there twice in one year as the in-law’s good mate neighbours want to house swap with us during the snow season. The cold mountainous parts are also stunning… 🙂
      And yeah, that meme sums me up at the moment. I’ve even started to SAY hashtagmassivefacepalm whenever I (regularly) do something dumb. “D’OH!” is also a favourite 🙂


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