The relatively easy Abel Tasman Coast Track (51km; 3–5 days) is one of New Zealand’s most popular hiking trails.
For the most part it hugs the coast and allows plenty of opportunity to take a break on some lovely sandy beaches.
Like the Queen Charlotte Track, the coastal nature of the Abel Tasman Coast Track means that you can let a water taxi carry your backpack between overnight stops allowing you to walk with only a small daypack.
You will need to refer to a tide table when planning your walk as the track passes several estuaries that can only be crossed a couple of hours either side of low tide.
There are four DOC huts on the track that provide dormitory accommodation. In the peak season (Oct–Apr) you will need to book your hut accommodation by buying a summer season hut pass from a DOC office.
The track is divided into the following sections:
Marahau to Anchorage (11.5km, 4 hours)
The first leg of the track leaves Marahau at the southern entrance to the park (close to The Barn backpackers hostel), passing four beachside campsites before arriving at Anchorage Bay where there is another campsite and also a DOC hut.
Anchorage to Bark Bay (9.5km, 3 hours)
This section of the track involves crossing the Torrent Bay estuary, which can only be crossed two hours either side of low tide. After crossing the estuary, the track climbs through pine forest and crosses the Falls River before descending back to sea level and the Bark Bay hut.
Bark Bay to Awaroa (11.5km, 4 hours)
After crossing Bark Bay estuary, the track climbs to a saddle and through manuka bush before returning to the shore at Tonga Quarry in the Tonga Island Marine Reserve. At Onetahuti Beach you have to cross a tidal stream that is only passable three hours either side of low tide. After leaving the beach the track climbs over the Tonga Saddle before descending to Awaroa hut. The classy Awaroa Lodge is located close to Awaroa Hut and offers the opportunity for a nice meal.
Awaroa to Totaranui (5.5km, 1½ hours)
This part of the track starts by crossing the Awaroa estuary. This can only be crossed 1½–2 hours either side of low tide, although Awaroa Lodge operates a barge ($5) during high tide. The track goes inland for a short distance before returning to the beach. Again, the track goes inland for a short distance before arriving at the DOC campsite at Totaranui. It is possible to finish the track here, getting a water taxi back to Marahau.
Totaranui to Wainui Bay (13km, 4½ hours)
Much of the last section of the track alternates between the beach and rocky headlands. You also have the option of making a one hour side trip to the lighthouse at Separation Point. After passing the Whariwharangi DOC hut, the track cuts inland for 5km before following an estuary for the final 500m to the trailhead at Wainui Bay.