Destinations South Island New Zealand Sport

Abel Tasman National Park : two days kayaking in the sea

9 February 2017

At the beginning of november, four months and a half after we arrived in New-Zealand, it was time to discover the south island. Everybody was telling me about how amazing it is. So I went for a  two weeks road trip with Franck and Dimitri, a friend from France coming for holidays. Our first stop ? Abel Tasman National Park.

This national park is one of the New Zealand’s smallest but also one of the most famous thanks to its golden beaches, turquoise seas and dense forests. It is also the sunniest place in New Zealand. This national park is also well known because it offers one of the nine great walks. Greats walks are tramps over several days in national parks with stunning landscapes. The Abel Tasman great walk’s characteristic is that you can choose to do it walking on earth on kayaking in the sea. This is the only great walk, with the Whanganui journey, which can be done kayaking. I can’t walk for long distances so, for me, it was the perfect opportunity to do a great walk. So we rent kayaks for two days but we choose not to be part of a guided tour. This way we can do whatever we want, without rush. Moreover a guided tour is very expensive.

During these two days we will paddle from Marahau to Onetahuti Bay and we will spend a night in Anchorage Hut. We will come back to our starting point by water-taxi. The first day we will paddle for 4 hours an the seconds for 3 hours and a half approximately.

Day 1 : From Marahau to Anchorage

This morning we are heading to Marahau in order to pick up the kayaks and begin our journey in Abel Tasman’s seas. As soon as we arrive at the rental office, the renter shows us the kayaks and explains us the safety instructions: how to get out the kayak and how to turn it over if we need to. He is thoughtful with me. It knows how to be warm and at the same time, paying close attention about if I am capable to execute the safety procedures. For instance, if I am able to push my knee in the kayak skirt to pull it out. He also explain us how to use the replacement paddles and the flares. Then he describes the maps of the coast we are about to go along. He specify which places are better to avoid, where we can see animals and where we can be exposed to more current.

Now it is time to put one our kayaks skirts and life jacket before sitting in the kayaks in order to adjust the footrests and the pedals steering the rudder. Franck will be alone in a solo kayak as he is the most experienced. I will be sat in the front the second kayak and Dimitri will be at the back. He will have to manage the pedals to make the kayak turn right or left. This way I will just have to paddle!

Everything is ready. We reach the beach into a shuttle which is not wheelchair accessible but I believe it is possible to follow it in your own car. It is low tide when we arrive at the beach. The renter offer Franck and I to be dropped off near the sea. Great idea! So he brings us to the sea in the vehicle which is carrying the kayaks. That made the others kayakers smile!

That’s how to cross a beach with style!

That’s how to cross a beach with style!

For the ten first minutes, the leaser explain to us how to paddle in a good way to avoid to be tired too quickly. At last we leave to explore the Abel Tasman’s seas! There are some clouds in the sky at the beginning of the morning but they disappear gradually and finally the sea reveal its wonderful colours: amazing! Once more while I am writing this lines I realise how lucky I am to be in this country, to live these experiences and to share them with you!

With my fantastic co-sailor, Dimitri.

With my fantastic co-sailor, Dimitri.

We stop for the first time on « Adele Island » where we eat lunch. It is also the good moment for the guys to have some fun!



Time to go back, and to face our first difficulty: what is the best way to put back the kayaks in the water since I can’t help to push them? Furthermore I need someone to stabilise the kayak while I will get into it. Consequently Dimitri and I set up in the kayak and Franck give us a push to start. So that means he have to set off again alone and that was not easy at all. So for the next departures we chose to help the person alone to leave first. Then, I go up into the kayak (which is just a third-part in the water), my team-mate push the boat and get in it while I paddle to take off.

Anyway, here we are sailing in the waters! We paddle peacefully observing the many beaches, the cormorants on the rocks and the wooded hills above the bay. We take a break  in « Watering cove » and leave again to « Anchorage » where we spend the night in a hut of the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Watering Cove.

Watering Cove.

The huts are not accessibles. These are dorms for six persons made up of bunk beds. First-come, first-served basis. When we arrived they were only above beds. No choice, I have to climb. Eventually that was not so complicated using the ladder and Franck’s help.

Day 2 : From Anchorage to Onetahuti Bay

As soon as I woke up I had a concern. How will I go down from this bunk bed? This a way more difficult than to climb. We try many ways with Franck but none of these solutions can assure that we will not fall. At the end I decide to hang from the bed structure and Franck just catch me. A bit frightening but I am in the ground now!

This morning the sky is blue and the sun is present. Superb! Turquoises water are waiting for us! Let’s go to « Pinacle Island » Where we hope to see some seals. Well, that was a deception: there is no seal. However, there are a lot of cormorans. The sea is bit shaky and many water-taxis are crossing this part of the Bay so we have to face some waves. Dimitri feels not so safe. Well, he is   alone in his kayak. Franck and I, on the other hand, find it rather funny even if I got wet after a wave smashed in the front of the kayak. A few minutes later it’s Franck’s turn to get soaked: he falls in the sea in his way to get out of the boat drawing alongside « Sandfly Bay ». Every one got one!

During high tide « Sandfly Bay » is a lagoon but, unfortunately, the tide is low when we arrive so we just enjoy the beach. Anyway we are feeling good there, just chilling, sunbathing and appreciating the view.

Almost alone!

Almost alone!

After this break, we paddle to « Mosquito Bay ». Gorgeous! Once more the golden sand join the turquoise waters and the luxurious vegetation on the rocks. We lunch here. A group of tourists arrive in a motorize « Eco-boat »  a king of tourists tour shuttle in the sea.  Suddenly such life and noise where it was so quiet is weird. We quickly get used to be in a quiet place, cut from the civilisation.

Last stop before heading « Onetahuti Bay » and end our journey : « Tonga Island ». This island is famous because there are a lot of seals on it. On our way to go there we have some fun blazing through a bird group floating in the sea. Not very king to them but what a show when they all fly away together! In « Tonga Island » there are a lot of seals. Two of them seems to race and offered us a very special moment when they came just near us. Great! 

After this nice encounter it’s now time to reach Onetahuti Bay. We take the water-taxi to go back in Marahau. It’s rather pleasant, a bit like a little tourists attraction to end our two days in this little paradise on earth. Twenty-five minutes later we land in Marahau. It took us about eight hours paddling! We pass by all the coves and beaches we have been through. I look back on this two days, flying by! That was so awesome!

Everything is said!

Everything is said!

To conclude, here some advices if you decide to give it a go :

  • Depending on your disability you might not be able to spend a night in the hut. A two days trip will be very difficult but there are great  excursions you can do in a day!
  • Otherwise, don’t forget to book your night in a hut or in a campsite in advance. You can do that here.
  • Bring your sleeping bag and everything you need to cook (food, tableware and, possibly, camping stove). None of these items is furnished. 
  • To sleep in a hut you will be asked to provide a proof of your booking. The booking number is not enough. The best solution is to have a print version of the confirmation email or a screenshot of it. Be careful there is not wifi neither network so you will not be able to download it.
  • Sandflies repellent is your best friend! Whatever you do don’t forget or you will spend the rest of your holidays fighting itching!

You want to travel all around New Zealand? Find many ideas of awesome destinations in north island and south island in my other articles as well as wheelchair accessibility tips.

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