Abel Tasman National Park
Day 1 - Kayak - Marahau to Observation Beach
Thursday, February 18
After two days of waiting, the morning of our new kayak-and-hike departure day had arrived. With baited breath, I looked outside into the pre-dawn darkness. Bird-chirping could be heard. That was good - it meant that it wasn't windy or heavily raining. Even better than that, there were little points of light in the sky. Twinkling little lights - stars, I believe they are called, and the faintest blush of blue and orange to the east. The storm had passed, and the morning was clear. Fantastic.
Arriving at our scheduled 8:30 a.m. meetup time at Abel Tasman Kayaks, we once again registered and made our way over to our designated spot in the long line of gear and equipment being set up for the day. Four double sea kayaks stood waiting for us, with instructor Josh flitting about, making sure each vessel had the necessary bits of gear. After re-introducing ourselves (we had met Josh two days earlier on our first visit), we went over the basics, both regarding our gear and safety procedures.
After nearly two hours of briefing and prep, we were ready to roll. We collectively loaded up our kayaks onto a boat trailer, then hopped into a people-carrier trailer. Both trailers were attached, train-like, to a sturdy old farm tractor. We climbed aboard and were soon puttering along Marahau's main road for the short ride to the beach put-in point.
I didn't expect the tractor to plunge straight into the bay without stopping, but that's what it did, causing me to hastily put on my "outex" waterproof enclosure to protect my camera. Trundling along in a few feet of water, we were pulled way out from shore (the gradient was obviously very slight). Having been towed far enough out, we splashed into the water and lowered our kayaks down from the trailer.
Slipping into our kayaks and fastening the skirts, we practiced a bit in calm waters before heading farther out, where some two-foot high breakers indicated that the trailing effects of the recent storm were still being felt. Our first test (under the watchful eye of our guide) was to slice through this with some semblance of skill.
Released to the open sea
After our Abel Tasman Kayaks guide had given each of us the clear, she peeled back towards shore and we continued up the coast. We were free to roam as we saw fit.
Travel photos of the Abel Tasman coastline show kayaks floating in crystal-clear turquoise waters. Unfortunately, at the moment the water was brownish and a bit turbulent - caused, I thought, by the remaining energy from the recently-departed storm. Hopefully as time progressed, the water would clear and we'd get that magical Abel Tasman clearwater.
So... a bright, sunny morning, on the water well before noon, and we had a very modest distance of about 7km to cover before arriving at our destination for the day: a water-access-only campsite at a place called Observation Beach. I knew from prior experience that covering seven kilometers in a kayak can be easily done in an hour or two, tops. So, I assumed that we could spend some time exploring the coastline along the way. I directed my helmsman (Caroline) to head over to a beautiful beach-filled cove that was beckoning to us from nearby on the left.
Remembering the recent lesson about landing between the waves, Caroline and I poured on the juice to land reasonably proficiently on the sands of Coquille Beach. When I hopped out of the kayak and looked back to the others, I saw that they were hanging back. Calling across the water, we learned that the desire was not to stop or explore, but to head straight to our campsite.
Not able to have any sort of meaningful discussion while separated by big distances over water, Caroline and I quickly hopped back into the kayak and rejoined the others. I decided not to buck the overall trend, and we continued north, making a straight line for our campsite. We could always explore the surroundings at Observation Beach, which were no doubt quite beautiful. However, lesson learned: before setting out on a multi-party boating adventure, don't make destination assumptions, and come to a verbal agreement on the itinerary before you start floating.
We reached Observation Beach about 90 minutes after starting out, landing on the sloping sand between energetic little breakers. The Observation Beach campsite is small - only six sites and no foot access, and except for one other kayak, there was no one here. A quiet South Pacific paradise!
Native bush crowded right down to the beach, overhanging the sand, save for a cleared out bench of grass that served as a pitching area for camping. We fetched our tents out of the kayaks and staked our claims to suitably flat and smooth spots along the bench.
With tents erected, we returned to prep our kayaks for their overnight stay, hauling them up above the high-tide line and sealing everything up.
Kayaks at Observation Beach
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Abel Tasman Kayak 1 - click map to view
Abel Tasman Day 1 - Marahau to Observation Beach
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet