The Abel Tasman Coast Track is New Zealand’s most popular Great Walk and a true classic. One of the more approachable Great Walks, the Coast Track follows the spectacular coastline of Abel Tasman National Park with stunning beaches and beautiful scenery throughout.
The walk is well serviced by a network of Department of Conservation huts and campsites, as well as a few privately run accommodation options. We think this is a great trek for the first-time tramper all the way up to the most experienced backpackers out there.
This post will provide an introduction to the incredible Abel Tasman Coast Track by providing in-depth maps, navigational resources, and much more!
Let’s get started.
In this post
- Where is the Abel Tasman Coast Track?
- Interactive Abel Tasman Coast Track map
- How long is the Coast Track?
- Abel Tasman Coast Track Elevation Profile
- Which maps should I carry on the Coast Track?
- Stage-by-stage maps for the Abel Tasman Coast Track
- Abel Tasman Track GPS/GPX
- Apps and offline mapping
Where is the Abel Tasman Coast Track?
The Abel Tasman Coast Track is located in the northwest corner of New Zealand’s South Island. The walk begins just outside the small town of Marahau and finishes in Wainui. However, many walkers do not finish at Wainui, opting instead to finish at Totaranui given its better transportation connections back to Marahau.
Getting to Marahau from the rest of New Zealand is generally a straightforward affair as a result of the popularity of the walk. Bus services connect the town of Nelson to Marahau multiple times per day during the peak season from December – March.
For the return trip upon completing the walk, we recommend taking a water-taxi from Totaranui back to Marahau and catching an onward bus from there.
Between the start and finish points, the Abel Tasman Coast Track provides some of the best walking in New Zealand. The highlight is certainly the golden beaches and crystal clear waters that this section of the country is famous for. Yet don’t overlook the beautiful rainforest and unique tidal estuaries that complement the beach views of the Coast Track.
The route is incredibly well served with a huge array of accommodation options. This includes four Department of Conservation huts and 19 campsites. In addition, there are several private lodges along the walk that offer a more luxurious experience. There is even a floating backpacker’s hostel!
Given that the Coast Track is the most popular Great Walk advance bookings for the the huts and campsites is essential.
The route is typically completed over five days, although countless alternative itineraries exist. Below is the standard itinerary for the Abel Tasman Coast Track:
- Stage 1: Marahau to Anchorage
- Stage 2: Anchorage to Bark Bay
- Stage 3: Bark Bay to Awaroa Bay
- Stage 4: Awaroa Bay to Whariwharangi
- Stage 5: Whariwharangi to Totaranui (via Gibbs Hill Track)
See the map below for additional detail:
In addition the main route, there are a few alternate routes that trampers can choose to complete. These include short detours to see stunning waterfalls, or the alternate finish in Wainui.
In addition, there are some portions of the route that will only be walkable during low tide.
This include the Awaroa Inlet, which is only passable between 1.5 hours before and 2 hours after low tide. At Torrent Bay, just past the Anchorage Hut, you can only be cross the bay within two hours of low-tide. Fortunately, there is a high-tide track that circumnavigates the bay and allows walkers to cross at anytime.
Interactive Abel Tasman Coast Track map
The interactive Abel Tasman Coast Track map below will allow you to zoom in on the various stages as well as view the traditional stops along the route.
How long is the Coast Track?
The official Department of Conservation website lists the Coast Track as 60 kilometers long. However, in reality it will vary greatly depending on a number of decisions and factors, as described below.
The two most common ways to complete the Abel Tasman Coast track involve either finishing in Totaranui by taking the Gibbs Hill track at the end of the walk, or by finishing in the Wainui car park.
For those who opt to finish in Totaranui, we measure the walk to be 62 kilometers long. If you opt instead to finish at the Wainui car park, plan on 58 kilometers.
Of course, measuring the exact distance of the walk has very little practical value as you’ll certainly end up walking a bit further than any exact distance we provide. Evening explorations to stretch the legs, countless opportunities to take in view points along the walk, and short trips to trail-side waterfalls will make the distance actually walked vary from person to person.
However, it is still helpful to have an idea of the distance of each stage of the Coast Track. The map below shows just that, with the approximate distances of each stage provided. The distances are calculated based on the classic itinerary outlined above.
Abel Tasman Coast Track Elevation Profile
At its core, the Abel Tasman Coast Track is a mellow coastal walk. Famous for being able to be walked in running shoes, the route is approachable for even the newest trampers out there. However, it is still important to have a sense of what you’re getting yourself into in terms of elevation and distance.
Over the course the Coast Track’s five stages you’ll gain (and lose) just under 2,000 meters in total elevation. This averages out to about 400 meters per day, although as you can see below most of this occurs on the Gibbs Hill Track. While Gibbs Hill is the high point of the walk, you shouldn’t underestimate the undulating nature of the path as it winds along the coast. It can still be tiring!
We’ve put together the elevation profile for the Abel Tasman Coast Track below to help you gain and understanding of the various stages and plan your own walk. Elevation is shown on the left side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents one of the Department of Conservation Huts/Campsites along the route. For instance, you can see that the stage from Awaroa Bay to Whariwharangi covers quite a bit of distance, while the final stage from Whariwharangi to Totaranui (via Gibbs Hill Track) has a lot of elevation gain.
You can use the elevation profile below to help plan your own itinerary for the Abel Tasman Coast Track, taking into account distance and elevation between any two stopping points.
Which maps should I carry on the Coast Track?
As with all the Great Walks, the Abel Tasman Coast Track is a well marked and easy to follow trail. Given the number of hikers, clear path, and good signage, there will be little opportunity to take a wrong turn. However, we always recommend carrying a physical map with you on any tramping trip.
The best physical map to bring on the Coast Track is the NewTopo Abel Tasman Topographic map. This map covers the tramp at a 1:40,000 scale and also includes the nearby Inland Track, which traverses less frequented parts of the national park.
Given that you are more likely than not to experience at least some rain on your walk, we also recommend bringing a waterproof carrying case like this one.
Beyond just a physical map, we highly recommend all hikers along the Coast Track have some type of GPS navigation on their trek.
Since there is limited cell phone service on the Abel Tasman Coast Track, it is very important to have a good offline mapping app, such as Gaia GPS, to ensure you’ll be able to access your location along the walk.
These apps combined with our Abel Tasman GPS digital download should give you a solid foundation to navigate from while on the tramp.
Stage-by-stage maps for the Abel Tasman Coast Track
We typically include stage-by-stage maps for all the walks and hikes we feature in our mapping articles. However, we’ve already covered that (and more!) in our complete guide to the Abel Tasman Coast Track. Check it out below:
Abel Tasman Coast Track GPS/GPX
If you’re interested in getting access to the GPS data used to create all of the maps in this post, we are happy to offer our Abel Tasman Coast Track GPX file for only $4.99.
When you download the GPX file, you’ll get route data for each stage of the Coast Track, way-points for each of the Department of Conservation huts along the route, as well as alternate routes along the walk.
You’ll be able to load the GPX file into the mapping software or GPS phone app of your choice!
Apps and offline mapping
As mentioned above we utilized offline downloadable GPS maps on our smartphones to navigate while walking the Abel Tasman Coast Track.
This is a great way to navigate on the trail as it allows you to see your progress for the day and also doesn’t require a cell phone signal (which you likely won’t have) to display the map.
Our How to Navigate on the Tour du Mont Blanc post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your map. Although written for a different hike, this step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device for the Coast Track.
Have a great Coast Track Adventure!
We hope this post has given you all the information you need to get a basic overview of the Abel Tasman Coast Track. Let us know your questions or comments below. Happy trails!