Kaiteriteri Beach, Abel Tasman, New Zealand

A guide to exploring the stunning Abel Tasman, New Zealand

Golden sand, crystal clear water, islands covered in lush vegetation… no I’m not talking about Greece! Right here, at the top of the South Island of New Zealand is a little slice of summer paradise, known as the Abel Tasman. 

The Nelson-Tasman region is a must see for travellers of all types! It’s the perfect retreat if you fancy spending time soaking up the sun on the beach, or getting out on the water and enjoying the many outdoor activities the region has to offer!

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    Where is the Abel Tasman?

    The Tasman District of New Zealand encompasses a diverse and expansive region at the northwestern part of the South Island. It stretches from the Kahurangi National Park in the west to the Richmond Ranges in the east.

    The district includes notable towns such as Motueka, Richmond, and Mapua, as well as picturesque coastal areas like Kaiteriteri and Marahau. The district is known for its stunning natural landscapes, including the Abel Tasman National Park, the Kahurangi and Nelson Lakes National Parks, and the beautiful beaches of Golden Bay.

    It is also recognized for its thriving arts and crafts scene, local wineries, and outdoor recreational opportunities. With a mix of coastal areas, fertile plains, and mountainous terrain, the Tasman District offers a diverse range of experiences for visitors to explore and enjoy.

    What is the best time to visit the Abel Tasman?

    The best time to visit the Abel Tasman is definitely in the Summer months (December – February) when the warm weather is perfect to spend your days outside by the ocean, swimming in the water or hiking one of the many gorgeous trails in the area! However, this area is incredibly popular with tourists, and can get very crowded! 

    Our favorite time to visit the Abel Tasman is during the shoulder seasons of Spring (September to November) or Autumn (March to May), where the weather is still lovely and warm, but there are less crowds and you can enjoy the region in peace and quiet! 

    Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

    How to get to the Abel Tasman

    By Car

    The best way to get to and around the Abel Taan is by car, as some of the best spots are a little out of the way! Kaiteriteri is around an hour’s drive (54km) from the major city of Nelson, following State Highway 60 through the coastal town of Motueka until you reach the turn off for Kaiteriteri. Here, the road becomes narrow and windy, with incredible views of the coastline and beautiful blue water.

    By Public Transport

    Public transport is limited in the region, so your best bet to get into the Abel Tasman region from Nelson is to find a shuttle service. Golden Bay Air offers twice-daily shuttle services from Nelson to Kaiteriteri, as well as shuttles between smaller towns around the region. They also offer tour options to help you get the most out of your trip if you are limited on time! If you are wanting to learn more or book a shuttle, check out their website here!

    Driving over Takaka Hill, Abel Tasman, New Zealand

    Things to do in the Abel Tasman

    The Abel Tasman region is filled with awesome things to do and see, no matter what you’re in to! The highlights of the Abel Tasman are it’s beautiful hikes and water activities, and so this region is an outdoor enthusiasts dream! However, if you prefer to take it slow and have a relaxing get-a-way, this region is perfect. With markets, museums, cool breweries and awesome restaurants, there is something for everyone.

    Here I will give a little rundown of all the cool things to do while visiting the Abel Tasman! (hold on to your boots, it’s a pretty big list!)

    Abel Tasman National Park

    The crown jewel of the Abel Tasman region is the stunning Abel Tasman National Park! This incredible area stretches between Mārahau in the south and Wainui Bay in the north, and covers an area of approximately 23,000 hectares! 

    Abel Tasman is best known for its stunning coastline, which is characterized by golden sandy beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and rocky outcrops. It’s my idea of paradise! The coastal landscape is dotted with picturesque bays and estuaries, surrounded by lush native forest. Some of the well-known bays in the park include Torrent Bay, Bark Bay, and Awaroa Bay.

    If beautiful beaches aren’t enough, the park is filled with incredible native forest and a diverse range of ecosystems – giving you a taste of a wild and untouched New Zealand! The forests are filled with native tree species such as rimu, totara, and vibrant pohutukawa. These forested areas provide an awesome habitat for lots of native birds, such as the tui, bellbirds and cheeky fantails! I loved walking through the national park in the evening and listening to the incredibly loud birdsong fill the air.

    Abel Tasman Great Walk

    One of the most popular activities is hiking the Abel Tasman Coast Track, a 60-kilometer (37-mile) track that showcases the park’s coastal beauty. The track can be completed in multiple days or explored in sections, depending on how long you have to explore the region!

    This multi-day hike winds its way along the stunning coastal path, taking you along pristine beaches with crystal clear water, and winding through lush native forest.  One of the most iconic features of the track is the crossing of the tidal inlet at Awaroa. During high tide, you’ll need to take a water taxi or wait until low tide to wade across the estuary. It’s a memorable experience and adds an element of adventure to the hike!

    To read more about walking the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, check out my post on our experience here! 🙂

    Hire a Kayak!

    Another awesome way to experience this incredible coastline is by hiring a kayak and heading out on the water! This gives you the freedom to explore hidden coves and remote beaches at your own pace, and you may even get the chance to do some wildlife spotting while you’re at it!

    There are a number of kayak rental companies in the Abel Tasman, so you can pick and choose depending on what experience you want! There are a range of options, including freedom kayak day trips or multi-day adventures that allow you to travel further up the coast. 

    The best place to hire a kayak is in Marahau, which is a small town at the base of the Abel Tasman National Park. We hired a couple of kayaks from the awesome dudes at R&R Kayak Rentals, and it was an incredible experience! They have in-depth knowledge of the area, and can help you plan a suitable route for your skill-level and preferences, so you can get most out of your adventure!

    Our 1-day Kayak Adventure!

    We hired the kayaks for a single day, as we were planning to walk the Abel Tasman track the next day. This was perfect, as we had enough time to explore a couple of the islands off the coast near Marahau, as well as do some wildlife spotting and have a relax and a swim off the beach!

    From Marahau, these are some of the spots we stopped at on our kayak:

    Apple Tree Bay: Located approximately 2 kilometers from Marahau, Apple Tree Bay is a popular destination on a day trip. It features a beautiful sandy beach where we parked up for a swim in the ocean and a wander down the beach. The bay is surrounded by native forest, creating a serene and tranquil atmosphere.

    Motuararonui/ Adele Island: Situated just off the coast of Apple Tree Bay, Adele Island is a small island known for its wildlife. As we kayaked around the island, we saw loads of seabirds, including gannets, shags, and terns. The island is also a sanctuary for New Zealand fur seals, and we saw a couple of these playful creatures sunbathing on the rocks and swimming in the water.

    Fisherman Island: Fisherman Island is a small island just south of Adele Island, and it was our favourite place to spot on our kayak adventure! We stopped at the small bay and snorkled around the rocks, looking at the beautiful fish feeding in the shallow water! There were also seals lounging on the rocks, so keep your eyes peeled!

    Split Apple Rock: After a tiring kayak across Sandy Bay (it took longer than we thought!) we went to have a look at the famous Split Apple Rock! This is an iconic rock formation that has been naturally split into two halves, and is a perfect spot for a photo!

    When hiring a kayak, the rental companies typically provide safety equipment, including life jackets and waterproof gear. They may also offer maps and advice on suitable routes, depending on your skill level and preferences. It’s essential to listen to the safety instructions provided and be aware of the weather conditions and tides before setting off.

    Getting to Mārahau

    By Car

    Mārahau is located just north of Kaiteriteri, following the coastal road. The drive takes around 20 minutes, and gives you awesome views of the coastline and surrounding hills! The road is well maintained, however it is a little narrow and very windey in places, so take it slow and enjoy the scenery!

    By Public Transport

    Unfortunately there is no public transport to Marahau. There is good news, however! Many of the rental companies offer a shuttle service from either Nelson, Motueka or Kaiteriteri to Marahau, so if you are interested give them a call and they will be able to sort you out!

    Split Apple Rock

    Split Apple Rock is an iconic attraction in the Abel Tasman, and a must-see when you’re exploring the region! This unique rock formation, located along the coast, is renowned for its distinctive shape and natural split, which resembles a large apple that has been split in half!

    Where is Split Apple Rock?

    Split Apple Rock is situated just north of Kaiteriteri Beach, and is an awesome spot to stop at on your way up the coast to Marahau! The best way to see this awesome rock formation up close and personal is by kayak, which you can rent from either Kaiteriteri or Marahau. 

    If you would rather view this awesome rock formation from land, there is a small beach nearby which gives you awesome views of the Split Apple and the surrounding coastline! A short walk from the road takes you through lush forest, before emerging onto the golden sand of the beach. A little way out into the bay is the Split Apple Rock in all its glory! The beach itself is gorgeous, lined with vibrant red pohutukawa trees and warm turquoise water, it’s a perfect spot for a swim and a relax on a hot day. 


    Kaiteriteri Beach is a DREAM, and should be on everyone’s New Zealand bucket list! Golden sand, crystal clear water, gorgeous rocky islands to explore… It is the quintessential New Zealand summer destination. Just check out these photos!

    Kaiteriteri is located just a short 50 minute (54km) drive from the bustling city of Nelson, and is the perfect place to spend a weekend in the sun! You can rent kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, or join guided sea kayaking tours to explore the picturesque coastline, visit nearby islands, and discover hidden coves and rock formations. Alternatively, if you want to sit back and let someone else take the wheel, you can take a leisurely boat cruise to enjoy the scenery, spot wildlife, and visit attractions such as Split Apple Rock!

    Little Kaiteriteri

    Just a short walk or drive from Kaiteriteri, you’ll find Little Kaiteriteri. This smaller and quieter beach is perfect for a peaceful retreat. Enjoy a picnic, go for a swim, or take a stroll along the shoreline. It’s a great place to unwind and soak in the natural beauty of the region.

    Cafes and Restaurants: Kaiteriteri and Little Kaiteriteri offer a selection of cafés, restaurants, and eateries where you can enjoy a meal or grab a coffee. From casual beachside cafes to more upscale dining options, you’ll find a range of culinary experiences to suit your preferences.

    Breakers Bay

    A small walk over the headland will take you down into Breakers Bay – another stunning beach with slightly wilder surf to play in! This beach is awesome to visit, and often is not quite as crowded as Kaiteriteri in the summer months, due to the walk. On either side of the beach are some cool rocky outcrops, where you can fossick around the rock pools or try your hand at fishing!

    Kākā Island

    At the northern end of Kaiteriteri Beach is Kākā Island, a rocky island that juts into the ocean and protects Kaiteriteri Beach from the wild ocean waves. It is known for its diverse wildlife, including the charismatic native parrot species called kaka. A visit to the reserve allows you to observe these colorful birds in their natural habitat and listen to their distinctive calls! This island is easy to walk around during low tide, or can be explored by kayak.

    Kaka Island at Sunset, Abel Tasman, New Zealand


    Just north of Motueka is the small township of Riwaka! Although this place is small, it’s definitely worth a visit while on your way through to the Abel Tasman National Park. 

    Hop Gardens: Riwaka is renowned for its hop gardens, as it lies in the heart of New Zealand’s hop-growing region!  Take a stroll through the picturesque hop fields, learn about the hop-growing process, and appreciate the distinctive aroma of these essential ingredients in beer production. Some hop farms offer guided tours and tastings, and give you an awesome insight into the beer industry in New Zealand!

    Fruit Orchards: Riwaka is surrounded by fertile land, making it an ideal area for fruit orchards. During the harvest season, you can find an abundance of locally grown fruits, such as apples, kiwifruits, berries, and more. Many orchards offer pick-your-own experiences, where you can enjoy the freshest produce and learn about fruit cultivation.

    Local Cafés and Breweries: Riwaka has a small but vibrant community, and you can find charming local cafés and breweries to indulge in delicious food and beverages. Enjoy a cup of coffee, sample local craft beers, or savor tasty treats made with fresh, local ingredients. One of our favorite breweries in Riwaka is Hop Federation, who do a delicious core beer range, as well as some exciting limited-edition micro brews!

    Riwaka Resurgence

    One of Riwaka’s notable natural attractions is the Riwaka Resurgence. Located in the Kahurangi National Park, it marks the source of the Riuwaka River. A short walk through lush native forest leads you to the crystal-clear pool where the river emerges from underground. The site holds cultural significance for the local Maori people and offers a serene and peaceful setting for relaxation and reflection.

    Riwaka Resurgence Walk, Abel Tasman , New Zealand


    Motueka is an awesome place to base yourself while visiting the Tasman region! Nestled near the stunning Abel Tasman National Park, Motueka serves as a gateway to adventure! However, it’s also an awesome town to explore, with lots to see and do while you’re here. 

    Motueka Sunday Market

    Start your visit by exploring the Motueka Sunday Market, where you can browse through stalls filled with fresh produce, local crafts, and delicious food. It’s a great opportunity to connect with the local community, sample regional specialties, and purchase unique souvenirs.

    Farmers Market, Motueka, New Zealand

    Cycling and Mountain Biking

    Motueka is surrounded by beautiful countryside, making it a perfect destination for cycling enthusiasts. Rent a bike and pedal your way through scenic trails, vineyards, and orchards. The Great Taste Trail, a cycling trail that connects various attractions in the region, passes through Motueka and offers a delightful biking experience.

    Motueka Museum

    For a dose of local history and culture, visit the Motueka Museum. Discover the stories of early settlers, learn about the region’s Maori heritage, and explore exhibitions showcasing the town’s history, natural environment, and industries.

    Takaka and Golden Bay

    Just over the hill from Riwaka is the incredible Golden Bay, which should be your next destination on your New Zealand Travels!

    Takaka Hill, Abel Tasman, New Zealand

    The drive up Takaka Hill itself is a highlight, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. As you ascend, you’ll be treated to stunning vistas of rolling hills, native forests, and glimpses of the coastline. Take your time to enjoy the journey and make stops at designated lookout points to capture memorable photos!

    Note: The road is well-maintained, however often narrow and very winding in places, so take it slow! Also, for the last few years there has been roadworks occurring on the hill, which can lead to some delays during the drive. Check online to see travel times, and give yourself plenty of time to complete the drive!

    Ngarua Caves

    Located near the summit of Takaka Hill, Ngarua Caves is a fascinating underground wonder. Join a guided tour to explore these limestone caves and marvel at the impressive stalactites, stalagmites, and other geological formations. Learn about the rich cultural and geological history of the region as you venture into the depths of the caves.

    Golden Bay

    As you descend Takaka Hill on the other side, you’ll reach Golden Bay, a stunning coastal region known for its golden sandy beaches and relaxed atmosphere. Spend some time exploring the picturesque towns of Takaka and Collingwood, visit art galleries, sample local cuisine, or simply unwind on the beautiful beaches.

    Golden Bay , New Zealand

    The fascinating history of the Abel Tasman

    Maori Connection

    The region of Abel Tasman National Park has a deep cultural and historical significance to the local Maori iwi (tribes). For centuries, Maori people have inhabited and interacted with the coastal area, utilizing its abundant resources for sustenance, trade, and cultural practices.

    Abel Tasman National Park recognizes and respects the cultural heritage of the Maori people. The park holds significance for local iwi, and there are ongoing efforts to integrate Maori cultural values, knowledge, and practices into the park’s management and visitor experiences.

    European Exploration

    The park takes its name from the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, who was the first known European to reach New Zealand in 1642. Tasman’s expedition made contact with the local Maori people, resulting in a violent encounter in what is now Golden Bay, near the park.

    Kaiteriteri Beach, Abel Tasman, New Zealand

    Establishment of the National Park

    In 1942, the land was designated as the Abel Tasman National Park, becoming New Zealand’s second national park. The park was established to preserve the area’s outstanding natural beauty and provide recreational opportunities for visitors to enjoy the stunning coastline, beaches, forests, and marine environment.

    Today, Abel Tasman National Park stands as a testament to the importance of preserving natural environments and honoring the cultural heritage of the region. It showcases the harmonious coexistence of nature, culture, and recreation, providing a unique and memorable experience for visitors while protecting its ecological and historical significance for future generations.

    Where to stay in the Abel Tasman!

    The Abel Tasman has a range of amazing accommodation options, no matter if you are looking for a relaxing retreat in a beautiful hotel, or wanting to find somewhere where you can enjoy the incredible scenery on a tighter budget.

    Top 5 Boutique Hotels in the Abel Tasman

    1. Appleby House & Rabbit Island Huts | Mapua

    Appleby House and Rabbit Island Huts provide charming and unique accommodation options in the Mapua area. Appleby House is a beautifully restored historic guesthouse offering elegant rooms and a peaceful garden setting. In contrast, Rabbit Island Huts offer cozy and rustic huts nestled in an orchard, providing a tranquil retreat surrounded by natural beauty. Both options allow guests to enjoy the picturesque surroundings while being conveniently located near the vibrant coastal village of Mapua.

    2. Split Apple Retreat | Motueka

    Situated overlooking the stunning Kaiteriteri Bay, Split Apple Retreat is a boutique wellness retreat offering luxurious accommodation and personalized wellness programs. With spacious suites, breathtaking views, and a focus on relaxation and rejuvenation, this retreat provides a serene and intimate getaway.

    3. Awaroa Lodge | Abel Tasman

    Located within Abel Tasman National Park, Awaroa Lodge offers an idyllic setting surrounded by nature. The lodge features comfortable rooms, some with stunning ocean views, and provides a peaceful atmosphere for guests to unwind. The on-site restaurant serves delicious meals showcasing local flavours.

    4. Abel Tasman Lodge | Mārahau

    Abel Tasman Lodge, located in Marahau, offers comfortable and convenient accommodation in the heart of the Abel Tasman region. This lodge provides a range of options, including studio units, self-contained apartments, and chalets, catering to different group sizes and preferences. The lodge’s inviting atmosphere and well-appointed rooms ensure a pleasant stay for guests. With its prime location, Abel Tasman Lodge is an ideal base for exploring the nearby Abel Tasman National Park, as well as enjoying water activities and scenic walks along the stunning coastline.

    5. Kimi Ora Eco Resort | Kaiteriteri

    Offering a unique eco-friendly experience, Kimi Ora Eco Resort is nestled in native bushland near Kaiteriteri. The resort provides comfortable rooms, spa facilities, and a focus on wellness. Guests can relax in the hot tubs, indulge in spa treatments, or explore the surrounding nature trails.

    Awaroa Inlet, Abel Tasman, New Zealand

    Top 5 Budget-Friendly Accommodation Options in the Abel Tasman

    1. Motueka Top 10 Holiday Park | Motueka

    Offering a range of affordable accommodation options, including cabins, powered sites, and tent sites, Motueka Top 10 Holiday Park provides a comfortable and budget-friendly stay. The park features amenities such as communal kitchens, BBQ areas, and a playground.

    2. Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve | Kaiteriteri

    Situated in the heart of Kaiteriteri, the Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve offers budget-friendly accommodation options, including cabins and campsites. It provides convenient access to the beach and is a great base for exploring Abel Tasman National Park.

    3. Abel Tasman Backpackers | Marahau

    Located in Marahau, the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park, Abel Tasman Backpackers offers affordable dormitory-style rooms and private cabins. The hostel features a communal kitchen, lounge area, and outdoor seating, providing a relaxed and social atmosphere.

    4. The Barn Cabins and Camp | Marahau

    Situated in Motueka, The Barn Backpackers offers affordable accommodation in dormitory-style rooms. The hostel has a communal kitchen, BBQ area, and a comfortable lounge, providing a friendly and laid-back environment for budget-conscious travelers.

    5. Green Tree Haven B&B | Riwaka

    Green Tree Haven BnB, located in Riwaka, offers a tranquil and welcoming accommodation experience surrounded by nature. This charming bed and breakfast provides comfortable rooms and a warm atmosphere for guests to unwind. The property boasts beautiful gardens, allowing guests to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. The convenient location in Riwaka provides easy access to nearby attractions such as the Abel Tasman National Park and the picturesque beaches of Golden Bay.

    Camping Abel Tasman

    Thank you for reading my post on visiting the Abel Tasman region of New Zealand! It was one of my all-time favourite places to travel, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

    If you are interested in checking out more of my travel guides to New Zealand, <a href="https://kiwiandthekraut.com/category/newzealand/" target="_blank" rel="noopener" title="click here! click here! <3

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