Abel Tasman National Park preserves the native bush and the coastline whose
rare beauty stirred to rapturous enthusiasm the French explorer Dumont
d'Urville, the first European to see it properly, when he came to describe
the peaceful waters that mirror rocky headlands. As the topography ranges
from the coastal islands through bush to high country there is a great
diversity of plant, insect and bird life. Proclaimed a national park in 1942
, the park holds fascination for the casual walker, tramper, shooter, caver,
skindiver, water-skier and even for the family at the beach for a day.
However, to appreciate the region fully one should emulate Dumont d'Urville
and explore by boat the sandy nooks and rocky crannies of its coastline. A
number of huts serve trampers but many choose to pitch their tents in the
wild. There are camping grounds at Totaranui and at Marahau (just outside
the park). The park includes Harwoods Hole, and the famous potholes of
Canaan are just beyond the boundary. Pigs, some goats and a few deer offer
the only hunting.
Attractions of Abel Tasman National Park
On the south-west edge of the park are several spectacular cave systems,
including an extraordinary pothole, Harwoods Hole. Fully 370 metres in
depth, the hole is among the deepest of its kind to have been explored,
although the Nettlebed system, under Mt Arthur, is certainly very much
The coast, delightful as it is, must be treated with respect. Boat-owners
should obtain information from local residents and have with them the
appropriate marine charts. The topography of the park is such that sudden
squalls and whirlwinds can occur, particularly near valleys and headlands.
Particular points of interest include the Astrolabe Roadstead (where the
French explorer Dumont d'Urville anchored his corvette, Astrolabe, for a
time in 1827), Adele Island (named for the French explorer's wife) and the
remarkable, and unmistakable, Split Apple Rock.
Remote coves, seal colonies, ancient Maori pa sites and curious geological
phenomena can all be explored at leisure from sea kayaks built with
water-proof compartments for luggage and camping equipment. 1- to 4-day
excursions may be arranged.
Abel Tasman National Park has a beautiful rocky coastline edged by rain
forest and many opportunities for "tramping" (what Kiwis call
hiking), sea kayaking and boating. Inland are caves and Maori rock carvings.
Nelson is a good base for visiting the park. Local companies provide day
trips through the park and on the water, as well as shuttle service to
Marahau, where the Abel Tasman Coast Track begins. Marahau is also a good
place to rent sea kayaks. All kinds of birds, including penguins, and
dolphins are not uncommon in and around Tasman Bay.