Abel Tasman Southern Loop
We kept it pretty close to home this time and headed into the Southern end of the Abel Tasman National Park for a quick overnighter along the Inland Track. Starting at Marahau along the coastal track, we swung a left just past Tinline Campsite, up to Holyoakes shelter and then on to Castle Rock hut where we camped overnight (5 hours from Marahau). The next day we returned via the track heading towards Anchorage, lunched at Observation Beach (4 hours from Castle Rock hut) and returned to Marahau via the coastal track (2 hours).
It was a memorable weekend – mostly due to our dehydrated meal being one of the worst meals I’ve ever tasted!! But as we always overpack the food, we managed to avert a complete crisis. On the plus side, this trip was the first time I had managed to cram my overnight gear, including full waterproofs, gloves, hat and scarf, a warm change of clothes, half the food, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, bikini and towel into a 24 litre pack. I wasn’t carrying the tent – but I was pretty pleased with my efforts.
We’d set foot on the inland track a few times before – when we’d gone in from Canaan Downs to Porter Rocks along the Moa Park Track and also when we walked a Northern Loop from Wainui Bay to Totaranui and Gibbs Hill. This time we drove to the official start of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track at Marahau along the SH60 from Nelson via Motueka and Riwaka. We stopped into the wonderful Ginger Dynamite cafe in Riawka just in time for lunch. It took us a while to wade through a steak & ale and mince ‘n cheese pie, and an enormous date scone. We took a pastry for the road.
Marahau to Tinline Campsite
I’d never been to the the start of the Abel Tasman Coastal track before. It’s one of the most easily accessible, and easily do-able great walks in New Zealand, so people come here in droves. Being the height of summer and a weekend, I guess this was fairly representative of the average amount of people you’d find on the track on a Saturday. The car park was huge and almost full.
We started walking at 1.30pm. Being a great walk the track was wide and well groomed, and as it was fairly flat, we made quick time of it. We were pretty shocked at the amount of litter which had made it’s way down onto the beach and estuary, and vowed to do a bit of a collection on the way back.
I chose this easy overnighter to wear my new tramping boots for the first time. Generally I am not a wearer of boots, but I’m going though pairs of walking shoes and trail runners at an alarming rate. I figured boots are the more economical option – and I’m hoping not to have to buy a new pair every 9 months.
Wearing a pair of tramping boots on a track that I could have worn my slippers on, I felt a tad overdressed, but it was good to give them a proper go once we got off the coastal track and onto the inland track. I was glad to iron out the little teething problems that you always get with new items of kit – whilst on an easy track close to home.
One of the downsides of Abel Tasman is that where there are masses of people, there will also be a few bringing their bad habits. Within 15 minutes we could hear the annoying buzz of a drone which are banned from most of New Zealand’s National Parks. We could see it but were out of stone-throwing range. We hurried on, and within 30 minutes we’d reached the turnoff for the inland track just after the Tinline campsite.
Tinline Campsite to Holyoakes Shelter
We swung a left not far along from Tinline campsite and almost immediately started to climb. DOC recommends 3 hours (5.8 km and a 679m climb) to Holyoakes Shelter from here, and 5 hours 30 mins (12.4 km and 720m) from here to Castle Rock hut. I didn’t time our arrival at Holyoake, but we took around 4.5 hours to Castle Rock hut including a couple of breaks.
The trail was less ‘great walk’ and more ‘easy tramping’ from here. The track narrowed and the terrain varied between forest and open scrub.
After a couple of hours and a hefty climb, we came to a rock outlook and stopped for a break. We considered that we’d worked off the pies by now, so we climbed up onto the rocks for a drink and a museli bar, and admired the view.
After the rock outcrop most of the climbing was over, so it was a fairly easy 20 minutes or so to Holyoakes Shelter. It was a cute little 2 bedder (not a 4 bed/2 bunk as detailed on the DOC website). We chatted to the couple who had occupied it, had another quick break and carried on.
Off the main track, we only met another couple after that – who hadn’t taken a tent and who were also intending to stay at Holyoakes after not wanting to proceed any further along the tree-rooty section to Castle Rock. We didn’t have the heart to tell them it was already occupied (but we found out in the morning as we passed through again, that the original occupants did have a tent with them, and gave up the shelter).
Holyoakes Shelter to Castle Rock Hut
The next section to Castle Rock hut was undulating, beginning through a tunnel of gorse and into beech forest. We really enjoyed this section although the especially tree-rooty parts were pretty slow going in places. I was glad I could finally test the new boots properly, although I was pretty annoyed that I hadn’t brought any gaiters; my boots were slowly filling up with grit and bits of the forest floor that I was flicking up with each step.
We strolled into the flats at the eight-bed Castle Rock hut at around 6.20 pm. Judging by the number of bikinis, undies, general detritus and huge beach tent hanging up around the place, the hut was occupied by a gaggle of young ladies. It had cooled down quite a bit and they had the fire going. We were camping, so we pitched the tent, had a quick look around, got changed, and under the watchful eye of the local weka (who was playing it cool) embarked on making dinner.
Those of you who know me will know how much I love to eat. In fact the biggest reason I try to run most days, is so that I can eat more – and for a very small person I can certainly pack it away. I can’t remember the last time I refused food.
Tonight’s dinner was a vile, soapy ‘chicken curry’ pasta. If you see it in your local supermarket definitely give it a miss. Luckily we had more than enough other food for lunch tomorrow, so I enjoyed a cheese and crackers dinner (yum) while Rich gallantly munched his way through half of the offensive dinner before admitting defeat.
Luckily we had saved a pastry from Ginger Dynamite for dessert. I think the shock of such a horrible dinner experience must have temporarily overcome us, because looking back, neither of us can remember what the pastry was.
After dinner, we estimated there were about 20 minutes of light left, so we followed the little signpost into the bush towards Castle Rocks. As the crow flies it was only around 300m away, but it was down then up a steep little hill. It was worth it for the lovely sunset, some nice views, to warm up a bit and to get over the trauma of dinner.
I was glad of my fleecy layers in the tent as the temperature dropped during the night. The next day we enjoyed breakfast in the early sunlight and warmed up a little. The resident weka, who up until now had been nonchalantly cruising around (lulling us into a false sense of security) made off with an empty ziplock bag from the bench. We gave chase, but the undergrowth was too thick and by then he had switched into stealth mode.
Castle Rock Hut to Observation Bay
We set off just after 9 am on Sunday morning and retraced our steps back to the coastal track via the Anchorage loop, as we fancied a swim. It took us a rather unhurried few hours to return on the same track via Holyoake Shelter, where we enjoyed a break before continuing to the Anchorage turnoff.
Through the tree-rooty forest section, a fantail followed us closely for about 30 minutes. We got the bird caller out numerous times to talk to him, and he flitted around us hopping from branch to branch, around our heads and feet.
We reached the Anchorage turnoff at around 12.15 pm. The next section downhill to the coast was beautiful through regenerating forest and scrub, and we got some great views of the Abel Tasman Coast. A rescue helicopter flew low overhead and made a landing pretty close to Anchorage and we hoped it was nothing too serious. It prompted a discussion on what would happen if either of us got injured on the Coastal Track. We decided we’d really try our best to hop, crawl, drag, kayak or carry ourselves back to the car park – however long it took, as it would be really embarrassing to inadvertently break an ankle on such an easy track and need to call a chopper.
Shortly after the Anchorage turnoff the track split again and we were back on the main Coastal Track with options to head for Anchorage (left) and Marahau (right). We took off in the direction of Marahau and came to the junction to Observation Beach. We decided to head down to the beach for some lunch.
We were down at the beach by 2 pm and immediately got into our togs for a swim. It was a scorcher of a day and the water was really warm. There were only a few other people there and we wondered if people didn’t come here because it was down quite a steep hill and a little way off the main track.
The beach itself was wonderful. There was a tiny campsite right on the beach for 6 tents (bookings required). A truly idyllic spot.
We dried off in the sun, lazed around a little then got lunch out. A few wasps buzzed around on the beach minding their own business, and weren’t too bothered with us… until they realised we had food. Our serene lunchtime quickly became a riot of shoo’ing, batting and dodging. We ate very hurriedly, wrapped up the leftovers and got off the beach very quickly – a little narked that our peaceful lunch has descended into chaos.
Observation Beach to Marahau
It was a short, sharp gut-buster of a climb back up to the main coastal track. I guess we rejoined the track at around 3 pm and it was very busy with walkers and runners. We made decent time getting back and took a couple of hours for the 10 km or so back to Marahau.
About 2Kms out of Marahau, we remembered our promise to pick up litter upon our return. In that short distance, we collected enough to fill a large ziplock bag with general rubbish, plus coffee cups and a beer bottle.
When we got back to Marahau we were pretty hungry again so we stopped at the magnificent Fat Tui food truck a short drive back into Marahau from the car park. The rest of the menu looked pretty tempting, but I’d heard about the incredible burgers – which certainly lived up to their reputation! We ordered a couple of what turned out to be possibly the biggest burgers I’ve ever eaten. We could only manage half each (1x traditional, 1x lamb), so took the rest home for leftovers.
It topped off a rather lovely weekend. If you haven’t got enough time to tick off either the full Coastal Track, the Inland track or this nice little loop was a great taster.