Abel Tasman Northern Loop

Wainui Bay to Totaranui Loop via Gibbs Hill

We made an overnighter of this awesome Abel Tasman Northern Loop, but it would make a great day walk too. Starting at Wainui Bay at the Northernmost tip of the Abel Tasman National Park, we headed to Whariwharangi where we camped for the night. The following morning we headed around to Totaranui via Separation Point. The return journey took us up the steep inland track over Gibbs Hill. Checking the DoC distances and times for the Abel Tasman, I’d say this was about 27Kms including the detour to Separation Point.

Abel Tasman National Park

The Abel Tasman National Park is the smallest National Park in New Zealand, on the Northern coastline of the South Island. The Abel Tasman Great Walk stretches 60Kms from Marahau in the South to Wainui Bay in the North. It is easily accessible by road and sea, and owing to it’s beautiful climate is walkable year-round. Because it is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, bookings in the summer season are essential. It is an extremely popular track owing to its accessibility, ease of walking and beautiful golden beaches. I was pleased to have my first taste of it in late Autumn, when we only met a handful of other people of the track.

Wainui Bay is not far out of Takaka in Golden Bay. From Takaka drive out to Pohara beach then carry on around the coastline. The road becomes winding and narrow and has some amazing limestone rock formations so it’s worth a leisurely cruise around. We had spent the afternoon rock climbing at Paynes Ford on the way in to Takaka, which is also worth checking out for the wonderful rock formations.

Wainui Bay from the Abel Tasman Inland Track
Wainui Bay from the Abel Tasman Inland Track

Wainui Bay to Whariwharangi

We started walking the 5.7Kms to Whariwharangi hut at around 7.30 pm on a cloudless night. It was beautiful hiking under the Milky Way, but the moon wasn’t out so we needed to use our head torches. We obviously couldn’t see much around us but we lost the sound of the ocean as we turned into the Inland Track after about 1Km. The next 2Kms or so were spent climbing up to around 200m.

Being a Great Walk the track was in perfect shape and was easy to walk. At the top of the climb, we saw the inland track shoot off to the right to Gibbs Hill. We planned to return this way. After the climb, we walked a ridge for a couple of kms until we finally descended to the Whariwharangi hut. We reached the hut and campsite at around 9 pm.

Whariwharangi hut is a gorgeous 20 bedder, built in 1896. It was once a farming homestead and was restored in the 1980s when it was turned into a tramping hut. There was a fire going, so we knew we weren’t alone. We had brought our tents and were the only campers, so we found a great flat spot under the trees (to avoid the longer dewy grass in the centre of the campsite). We set up and immediately went to bed.


In the morning we woke at around 7.30 am and enjoyed a very leisurely breakfast. It was a cloudless day and the sun slowly crept up and hit our little camp spot.

There was no hurry, so we got going around 9.30 am. I poked my head around the hut door to say hello to the occupants and spent a while chatting with a couple of local ladies who were here for an overnighter.

Camping at Whariwharangi
Camping at Whariwharangi
Whariwharangi hut Abel Tasman
The gorgeous Whariwharangi hut

Whariwharangi to Separation Point

The first part of today’s walk took us North to the beautiful Whariwharangi Beach. Wow – if this was the shape of things to come, I could see why the Abel Tasman track is so popular. The beautiful, golden sand beach was deserted and we thanked our lucky stars that we had it to ourselves!

Whariwharangi Bay Abel Tasman National Park
Whariwharangi Bay – Abel Tasman National Park
Whariwharangi Bay towards Separation Point
Whariwharangi Bay towards Separation Point

We walked the length of the beach before the track headed inland, up and on to a ridge that led East along the Separation Point Track to the end of the headland. Once on the ridge, it was an easy couple of Kms out to the point. We took about an hour to walk from the hut to the point, and there were some great views of the coast en-route.

Towards Separation Point
Towards Separation Point

Gannet Colony

A surprise awaits you at Separation Point. Upon a first casual glance, you see and hear some nesting gannets down by the lighthouse. However, on closer inspection and a read of the information board, you learn that the birds and the soundtrack are decoys to entice a breeding colony to settle there. Project Janszoon and DoC are concerned that the breeding colony of gannets on Farewell Spit 20Kms to the North, is vulnerable to erosion. They hope a breeding colony will set itself up here.

We spent 10 minutes or so at the point to see if we could spot some real gannets or seals but unfortunately saw neither.

Separation Point Abel Tasman National Park
Separation Point Abel Tasman National Park

Separation Point to Mutton Cove and Anatakapau Bay

We retraced our steps a few 100m back to a junction and this time headed towards Mutton Cove and Anatakapau Bay about 10 minutes away. The beautiful campsite at Mutton Cove, almost right on the beach, was deserted.

We continued walking down the bay for 1Km or so, before the track headed inland, up and over some coastal bluffs.

Mutton Cove Abel TasmanNational Park
Mutton Cove
Anatakapau Bay Abel Tasman National Park
Anatakapau Bay
The track heads inland to Anapai Bay
The track heads inland to Anapai Bay

Anapai Bay

We reached Anapai Bay at around 11.30 am and had a lovely morning tea break. We saw a handful of people here, including some brave souls swimming. It was so warm I did contemplate a swim, but having no togs, towel, or change of clothes we settled for a paddle instead.

Anapai Bay looking North
Anapai Bay looking North

Anapai Bay to Totaranui

After our break, the track headed inland again for a couple of Kms to an estuary behind Totaranui Beach. As we passed the estuary and came out onto the grassy flats we saw more and more people. There is road and boat access to Totaranui, so it’s much easier to access than the Northern part of the track we just walked.

This morning’s stretch between Whariwharangi and Totaranui was 9.8Kms. DoC recommends 3 hours to walk it. We’d actually taken about 3.5 hours, as we’d made the detour out to Separation point and had a lovely long break at Anapai Bay.

Anapai Bay looking South Abel Tasman National Park
Anapai Bay looking South

Totaranui to Wainui over the Gibbs Hill Track

The next stretch took us inland and back to Wainui. We completely missed the sign for the Gibbs Hill Track so had to backtrack when we got to the carpark at Totaranui. The track headed inland just after the estuary we’d crossed.

Heading to the Gibbs Hill Track from Totaranui
Heading to the Gibbs Hill Track from Totaranui

This stretch is 9Kms up and over Gibbs Hill which takes you up to an elevation of around 400m. The track was a mixture of a hard uphill slog, a lovely undulating ridge walk with great views (which I forgot to take any photos of), then a knee-busting downhill to join the inland track we’d walked into last night.

We enjoyed a leisurely lunch just before the summit and met a friend who was running the loop we’d just walked. Apparently, there is a trail running event up here each year.

Back to Wainui Bay

We arrived back in Wainui Bay at around 4 pm – so with lunch included it had taken us just under the 3hours that DoC recommend for this stretch.

What a great weekend! It was nice to be able to knock off a small section of the Abel Tasman Coastal and Inland Tracks without the crowds and without having to wait for sea transport or busses. It’s definitely worth coming up even just to spend a night in the lovely hut and campsite at Whariwharangi.

Wainui Bay Abel Tasman National Park
Wainui Bay Abel Tasman National Park






  1. […] Separation point. The last time I was here was in the Winter when we walked a Northern loop from Whariwharangi to the coast and over the Gibbs Hill track. It was a real treat to experience the beauty of the park from the water this time. We spent the […]

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