Visiting Abel Tasman National Park
I never explored the Abel Tasman National Park as it deserves to be explored. That’s by foot, though the bush. Instead, I admit I took the easy way, yeah, you can say its the lazy way too, looking at its beauty from the deck of a boat. What a truly beautiful area of New Zealand this is. I never realised how many individual bays there were within Tasman Bay. Or how many kayaks could be paddling along its coast.
I had particularly wanted to visit this region as my mother worked here during World War II. While I did holiday around here as a child a number of times, this was to be my first visit as an adult. I’ve been eager to arrive. We made our base in Motueka, at a lovely Bed and Breakfast called Uncle Abel’s Cabin – where a very charming and helpful host made us feel right at home. Our intention is to explore for a few days before moving on to the West Coast.
My first adventure is a boat trip up to Totaranui, suggested by my navy friend Robbie who grew up in Motueka. So off we drove to Kaiteriteri where boats depart for numerous trips around the bay area. I got a place on a Sea Shuttle excursion without having made a booking costing $76. My query about senior discount was met with a friendly smile and a negative response. Oh well, you can’t blame a body for trying. I was also advised that in a couple more weeks, prior bookings would be essential. So if you’re considering following my example and taking one of these trips, do consider that summer is fast approaching and with it, an increase in people wanting to do the same.
If you have read any of my pieces on my blog about my mother, Merville, you might remember her telling of going fishing during the war years. One story she told me was about a time when the boat she was on could not return to Kaiteriteri. Instead they had to spend the night sleeping on the beach at Torrent Bay. I had regretted not clarifying what had led to this. But today the reason was explained to me as we sailed through the “mad mile” – a portion of water past Te Pukatea Bay which can become very rough and dangerous.
During the four hour trip the boat visited various bays, dropping off and picking up people. We saw the split Apple Rock, Apple Tree Bay, Anchorage, Torrent Bay, Medlands Beach, Tonga Quarry, Awaroa and Totaranui. At almost every beach and bay, the sand was golden. Gorgeous dark yellow. But I was surprised to see in a couple of instances that an odd bay would have a different coloured sand, more white than yellow or gold. One I tried to capture where only a small outcrop of rocks divided a golden sanded beach from a white sanded beach.
This area is so different from what I saw in the Pelorus Sound. There, very little sand appeared in the bays/coves. Gravel of varying size was the norm. Here in Tasman Bay, the numerous bays, some so small between rocky outcrops, had the golden sand. I have to say, as I watched each little secluded bay slip past I couldnt help imagining what a great setting these could be for a romance story. I was taken back to when I wrote “Leath’s Legacy” although in her story the sand was white, not gold.
There were stories shared by Greg (skipper), although it seemed likely those stories changed with every trip. One interesting detail he shared was that the closed Tonga Quarry had been reopened in the 1960’s to quarry granite as used in the Parliament building. They wanted similar for the new Beehive. Greg also made mention of how the hill above Totaranui “turns red” with the blossoms of the rata and pohutukawa trees. Unfortunately I was just a little too early to take in this sight.
I did consider flagging this boat trip. It was only the chance to see Torrent Bay – not accessible by road – that drew me. After all, how different could this be to that of the Pelorus Sound? Very different! I’m amazed that two stretches of water so close geographically could be so different. We even had a different view of wildlife. Fur seals lazing at Adele and Tonga Islands, and sleek terns hovering above us. Greg took the boat out further from the coast to interact with a pod of bottlenose dolphins. There must have been in excess of fifty dolphins swimming around every side of the boat. Wherever we looked, there were dolphins jumping and playing, some close into our wake, others interacting with other tourist boats coming so say hello. You didnt know which direction to watch. Amazing treat!