Hiking New Zealand’s Great Walks II

As promised, here are my summaries of the remaining two great walks. Part one, which includes The Routeburn and Rakiura can be found here.

Abel Tasman Coast Track

At a glance, The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a 60km length of trail along the Northern coast of New Zealand’s South Island. The trail itself is not particularly challenging and routinely rewards hikers with beautiful views of turquoise waters and dazzling beaches, but the logistics of hiking the path can swiftly become troublesome if you have limited flexibility in your plans. Although much of our time was spent hiking along the hillsides overlooking the ocean, large potions of the trail (and to my knowledge, all campsites) lay alongside the water; inviting hikers to take a quick dip when the sun gets too hot. In several places it is even possible to take shortcuts across tidal flats, and in one location, absolutely necessary.


Our trip began on the outskirts of Marahau, a small town used as a staging area for the trail. For the first two to three hours of hiking, the trail gains in elevation before abruptly dropping off over the course of a kilometre into Torrent Bay. We had the option to camp here at Anchorage hut, which is tucked into a picturesque and protected arm of the bay. However, staying true to our transient nature, we paused to eat a snack and take a few pictures before continuing on to our intended destination a little less than twelve kilometres away.

We arrived at the Bark Bay campsite as the sun began to set and set up tent. The campground lies on a narrow, lightly forested peninsula, which boasts a beautiful view and calm, protected water perfect for swimming.

Waking up early in the morning, our party was delighted to find that thanks to the receding tide, we could cut a kilometre off our day by taking a straight line across the now-exposed lagoon. I highly recommend bringing some kind of alternate footwear for this reason, as walking across the shell-strewn sand in bare feet was less than comfortable.

My feet are regretting being attached to me right about now

The next few hours of hiking became less and less enjoyable as the sun reached its apex. Despite a rapidly approaching Autumn, my time in New Zealand saw daily temperatures routinely exceeding my preferred limit of 24 degrees–and this day was no exception. As much as stopping for a swim would have boosted morale, we had no time to spare in getting to our next objective. About 37km into the trail sits Awaroa Inlet, a natural blockade which may only be crossed during a three and a half hour window around low tide. We arrived as the water was filling the inlet, and managed to cross without getting our feet too wet. Once on the other side, it was finally possible to take a break and enjoy the trail, rather than race against it.

From here the track undulates over headlands for a half a dozen kilometres or so, before dropping to sea level in the town of Totaranui, another staging area for the Abel Tasman. From here we took a water taxi back to the trailhead at Marahau, having completed about 50km of the trail. The marine life seen from the boat was quite special, with dolphins and sea lions frolicking about in the ocean, and I found it to justify the cost of the water taxi.

As with most of the Great Walks I experienced, the Abel Tasman coast track is well-marked, well-maintained and well-deserving of its title as a Great Walk. Hiking 50km in less than 24 hours was a new first for me, but I can safely say that trail made it quite easy to take my mind off of sore feet or fatigue. With stunning scenery and a constant race against a falling sun or rising tide, there is plenty on this hike to occupy the mind.


Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Volcanic activity abounds on the crossover, and it’s no wonder that Mt. Ngauruhoe (pronounced Naw-Ra-Ho-Ee) was cast as the well-known Mt Doom in the Lord Of The Rings films. The Alpine Crossing (or Northern Crossover) is a small but dramatic section of a much longer hike in the region. Regardless, this is a great segment of a great walk, and deserves to be put on any avid hiker’s to-do list. The crossover is by no means a loop and you will end up quite a ways from your vehicle. There are shuttles between the two parking lots, though hitchhiking is more affordable and more flexible. In addition, there is nearly 400m of elevation change between Mangatepopo car park (1120 m) and Ketetahi car park (760 m), so unless you prefer climbing over descending, it is best to start from the former location. Another precaution people must take is in avoiding dehydration. There is no fresh water on the trail, so make sure to bring lots of water and drink sparingly.

Waking up early

The trail itself is rather well-marked and incredibly diverse. Beginning in a dense forest at dawn, one emerges within a half hour onto the pock-marked slopes of a cratered volcano. The trail continues for some time up the side of the volcano, switchbacking through alpine shrubs until it crests and heads down into a sinister landscape of red and black stone, bright green lakes and boiling mud pots. A steep climb and subsequent descent then places hikers on the flat expanse of black cinder that marks the bass of the towering Mt. Ngauruhoe. Climbing the mountain is not necessary but definitely worthwhile. Summiting Mt. Doom brings with it a fairly powerful sense of accomplishment and some great photo opportunities. From here on out the trail is an easy downhill stroll through a vegetated valley/ravine. Next to the Routeburn, I would claim this is the best trail I walked in New Zealand, but here are some photos in case you aren’t yet sold.

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For more information on The Abel Tasman Coast Track:

Department of Conservation – For official information and bookings

For more information on The Tongariro Alpine Crossing:

Department of Conservation – For official information and bookings

Besthike – For loads of detailed information about the hike


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