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Abel Tasman National Park
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrAbel Tasman National Park was established in 1942, and is world-famous for its golden sand beaches, granite cliffs, and the beautiful Abel Tasman Coast Track.
Located at the top of the South Island, Abel Tasman is New Zealand’s smallest national park, covering 22,530 hectares.
HistoryMaori , the indigenous people of New Zealand, inhabited the Abel Tasman coast for over 500 years. The area provided a rich source of food from the sea, estuaries, and forests. Maori also cultivated kumara (sweet potato) in some areas. Some Maori settlements were seasonal, but some in the Awaroa estuary were permanent.
Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, was the first European to visit New Zealand in 1642, and anchored his ships near Wainui in Mohua, or Golden Bay. His encounter with the local Maori wasn't without conflict – he lost four of his crew in a violent confrontation.
It wasn't until over 200 years later that European settlers arrived and began to inhabit the area. The settlers logged the forests, built ships, quarried granite, and turned the hillsides into pasture. Over time however, the easily accessible timber was exhausted, and gorse and bracken took over the pasture.
Concern about further logging prompted a campaign to turn some of the crown land into a national park. The Government was presented with a petition to name the park after Abel Tasman. The petition was successful, and Abel Tasman National Park was opened in 1942, the 300th anniversary of Abel Tasman’s visit.
GeologyGranite rocks feature heavily in the park, and the golden sand beaches are derived from granite. The park also contains deposits of limestone and marble. From the top of the park, it is possible to see Harwood Hole , a large vertical shaft that descends into the limestone cave system of nearby Takaka Hill.
Activities and AttractionsThe major attraction in the park is the Abel Tasman Coast Track, an easy 3 to 5 day hike. The track features stunning coastal views and picture perfect beaches. The track covers 54 kilometers, and includes tidal crossings, which can only be attempted at low tide. Accommodation is available along the track, including huts and campsites.
The less well-known Inland Track takes the hiker away from the coast, and through the regenerating forests. The track provides an easy hike, covering a distance of 41 kilometers, and taking 3 days. The track can be accessed from the road at Marahau (the southern gateway), as well as northern access points from Totaranui and Canaan.
MythologyThe park is located at the north of the South Island, which has one ancient Maori name of “Te Waka o Aorangi” (the canoe of Aorangi). According to legend, Aorangi was travelling in his waka (canoe) during a violent storm. The waka overturned and, along with the crew and cargo, turned to stone, creating the South Island. The legend says the prow of the waka forms Farewell Spit, Golden Bay, Tasman Bay, the Marlborough Sounds, and Cloudy Bay.
Flora and FaunaThe area has largely recovered from extensive logging and clearing for pasture, and native forests continue to regenerate. In the damp gullies, a wide variety of plants can be found, and native black beech covers the ridges.
The park is home to native birds like the Tui and Bellbird, and the estuaries and wetlands provide a habitat for Pukeko.
In 1993, the Tonga Island Marine Reserve was created along a section of the park’s coast. Within this reserve, all marine life is protected. Tonga Island is home to a seal-breeding colony. Adele and Fisherman Islands are also home to many native plants and animal species that are either scarce or no longer found on the nearby mainland. Tonga Island is not suitable for public access, but Adele and Fisherman Islands can be accessed by boat or kayak.
How to Get There/Practical InfoThe park has a mild climate, and so is suitable for visiting or hiking any time of the year. Summer is definitely the most popular time, and the park can be overflowing with tourists. Booking in advance for the Coast Track and accommodation is necessary. A small fee is charged per person, per night, to stay in huts and campsites on the Coast Track. There are no fees to complete a day walk on the track or for entry into the park. You can pay by booking the huts or campsites before you start the track, online or at a local visitor center.
Dogs are only allowed in the park by permit.
Nearby towns include Nelson, Motueka, and Takaka. Kaiteriteri is located at the southern entrance to the park, and has a petrol station, small grocery shop, accommodation, and café.
There are roads into the park at either end of the coastal track, at Marahau (1.5 hours from Nelson) or Totaranui (2.5 hours from Nelson). Regular public bus services are available from Nelson and other smaller local towns, as well as water taxi services from various points throughout the park.
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Author: Amanda. Last updated: Oct 29, 2014