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72 Hours in the Abel Tasman

a body of water with a mountain in the background

So you’re planning to visit the Abel Tasman, but you only have a few days up your sleeve? Not to worry, we’ve got you covered with the local’s guide to making the most of your time in and around Abel Tasman National Park, the crown jewel of the Nelson-Tasman region. In 72 hours, you can comfortably fit in walking, kayaking, exploring, eating, and even skydiving.

Day 1

10am – Before you make a beeline for the national park, you’re going to want to fuel up on food. There’s no better place to do it than Toad Hall, located on your way into Motueka – the unofficial gateway to the Abel Tasman.

You can grab a late breakfast, coffee, hearty pies, a healthy, freshly-made juice, or one of their famous ice-creams. The relaxed, rustic environment makes for a great start to your day. It’s a favourite stop for locals and visitors alike.

11.30am – Drive to Kaiteriteri and put a towel down on golden sand for a dose of rest, relaxation, sea and sunshine. You’ve got an action-packed few days ahead of you, so enjoy this while it lasts. If it’s too busy for your liking, try taking the scenic walkway to Little Kaiteriteri. Make sure to stop at the lookout to take in the view (and catch your breath!).

2.30pm – Now it’s time to head into the Abel Tasman officially for the first time. Drive the scenic, coastal route to Marahau. You’re probably a bit peckish and thirsty by now, so stop in at The Park Cafe for a beer and bite to eat.

3.30pm – Take a short stroll into the park from the Marahau entrance to either Tinline Bay (30 minutes) or Apple Tree Bay (50 minutes). This is a great introduction to the park. Allow some time to explore and relax on the beach. You’ll be seeing more of this tomorrow, so make sure you head back well before it starts to get dark.

6pm – Stop at the famous Fat Tui burger restaurant for dinner. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better burger in the region. Stick around in Marahau for sunset.

9.30pm – Head back to Motueka for the night, but before turning in, check out the Sprig and Fern to sample some locally-brewed beer and friendly hospitality. As tempting as it might be, don’t stay out too late as you’ve got a big day in store tomorrow.

Day 2

7am – Wake up early because this could be the best day of your life so far. Make sure you’ve booked in advance for the most scenic skydive in New Zealand at Skydive Abel Tasman. You can get a good deal here for a skydive and sea kayaking trip in the park.

8am – Head down to Skydive Abel Tasman for the ultimate bucket list experience. Jump out of a plane from up to 16,500 feet over three national parks, turquoise waters and golden beaches.

10am – Once the adrenaline rush has worn off you’ll want to refuel at Ginger Dynamite Cafe in Riwaka. Try and award-winning pies and creative cruffins (a cross between a croissant and muffin) with a coffee to wash it down.

11am – Back to Marahau for a half-day of kayaking with Marahau Sea Kayaks (part of the package linked to above). Enjoy a guided tour to Observation Beach, past the famous Split Apple Rock and Adele Island, learning about the wildlife and history of the park while taking in the stunning views.

4pm – You’re going to be a wee bit worn out from your epic day, so now’s the time to truly unwind. Head to Hooked On Marahau for waterfront dining with amazing views and great food to match. Sample local wines and watch the sunset from the outdoor dining area.

10pm – If you feel like a boogie later in the night, there are often local acts playing at the Park Cafe. But we understand if you just want to get an early night. It’s been a big day!

Day 3

9am – You’ve earned a sleep in. But you don’t want to waste your last day in paradise. Head down to The Smoking Barrel and join the queue for their famous, mouth-watering donuts.

9.30am – Make sure you’ve packed a picnic lunch and before starting to drive towards Golden Bay, over the Takaka Hill, from where you can access the heart of the Abel Tasman.

10.15am – On the way, it’s worth stopping at Harwood’s Hole, the deepest vertical shaft in New Zealand. It’s basically an awe-inspiring cave in the middle of limestone country. It’s a 10 kilometre drive on a gravel road and a short walk through the forest to get there, but it’s well worth it.

12.15am – Continue on your way to Golden Bay and drive to the popular Totaranui Campground. If you want to avoid the crowds, you can take a short walk to Anapai Bay (1 hour) and set up your picnic on the sand.

3pm – Start thinking about heading back to Totaranui, but there’s no hurry. If you want to check out some of the clearest freshwater in the world at Te Waikoropupū Springs, that’s a short side trip from Takaka.

5.30pm – You’ve got two options here. Grab a delicious pizza from The Dangerous Kitchen in Takaka for dinner and enjoy the laid-back vibe and friendly service in one of New Zealand’s most free-loving towns. Or drive 15 minutes to the world-famous Mussel Inn, a rustic bar and restaurant where you can get great food and their very own beers. It really is a unique experience.

So there you have it – the best way to experience the Abel Tasman area in 72 hours. You get to see the park on foot, from the sky, and from the water, while experiencing the best food and fringe activities during your stay in the Nelson-Tasman region. We look forward to seeing you soon!

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