Abel Tasman National Park
Day 2 - Kayak - Observation Beach to Bark Bay
Friday, February 19
Rain dampened our spirits during our overnight hours at Observation Beach. While we were dry and snug in our tents, we wondered if the upcoming day would turn out sunny (as promised by the forecast).
We drew back the fly just before sunrise. The sky looked gloomy and even a bit threatening - dark, with roiling clouds on the distant horizon. However, the rain had stopped, and the air was still. The beach before us was pristine, smooth, and untouched - rain, waves, and tide had wiped the slate clean.
The itinerary for today was simple: depart Observation beach, paddle north along the coast, and land at Bark Bay - where our next campsite was located - about 9 kilometres to the north of us.
The dark clouds and gloom began to clear away as we had our breakfast and broke down our tents. Soon, golden sunlight streamed down onto the beach from the east, giving us a nice positive vibe and chasing away the morning's chilly dampness.
We pushed off shortly before 9 a.m., through a small surf that was visibly less than yesterday's. A bit of high cloud had partially re-obscured the sun, but conditions were still nice.
The biggest "obstacle" on our journey north today was an area of headlands known as the "Mad Mile". More exposed to the weather, the Mad Mile often has rougher, more challenging conditions. Even though our recent storm was now two days in the past, the marine forecast still indicated some somewhat elevated seas along this section. We were mildly anxious, therefore, to get through it in the morning, when it is often calmer.
Paddling past Watering Cove
We kept up a good pace as we started the Mad Mile. The seas were indeed heavier, but it was more of a rolling swell rather than shorter, choppier waves. At times, we would briefly lose sight of each other in the roughly 2-meter deep swells. After a while, we began to loosen up and enjoy it. The smooth nature of the swells was not all that hard to navigate, and we felt a bit more like we were on a real sea adventure.
It only took us about 25 minutes to paddle the length of the Mad Mile, and soon we turned into the broad entrance to Torrent Bay, where the waters were considerably calmer. A dark bank of clouds had glided over us, casting a gloomy pall and making us wonder if some rain was on the way (there was none in the forecast, which had called for a sunny day).
The grey skies seemed to quench any appetite for exploring the nooks of Torrent Bay area (in which the Anchorage Bay and the Torrent Bay Beach community are located), so we turned north, continuing towards Bark Bay.
The next bay north - Frenchmans Bay - also looked interesting, and was much smaller, more intimate, and quicker to explore than Torrent Bay. However, try as I might, I couldn't convince the others to do it. So, Caroline and I once again went it alone, paddling in towards a posh-looking beach house that marked what seemed like the back end of the cove.
Reaching the back of the cove, we discovered that the mouth of a small river was hidden behind some rocks and trees. We were now at high tide, and the mouth looked navigable. Paddling up it, we emerged into a wonderful lagoon. In contrast to the energy and waves of the ocean, the lagoon was completely still, and the water perfectly clear. It was too bad about the dark bands of clouds overhead, for in bright sunshine, this was probably one of those kayak-glides-over-crystal-water type places you see in the travel brochures for Abel Tasman.
Not wanted to be separated from the others for too long (as it was we probably shouldn't have split up), we reluctantly turned around and paddled back out into the open sea and caught up to the others, who were circling around some shoals and rocks to get a look at some seals on a small bit of land known as Pinnacle Island. I recounted our discovery of the lagoon, but again there didn't seem to be much interest in giving it further attention.
Rounding South Head
We continued north, paddling past another interesting bay (Sandfly Bay) with a lagoon behind a barrier beach. Another ten minutes or so and we rounded a headland to come to the entrance of broad and wide Bark Bay - our destination for the day.
Heading into Bark Bay with Brian and Lori in the lead (apparently Lori had started to feel a bit sea-sick, so they pushed ahead to reach shore sooner), we crunched into the sand shortly before 11 a.m. The forecast was again looking pretty accurate: the grey band of clouds had slid off, and the sun had returned in full force.
The Bark Bay campsite was the opposite of the small, isolated Observation Beach campsite. Big, lots of capacity, with fancy washrooms (flush toilets!) and kitchen facilities, and accessible by both foot and water traffic. Even so, there were lots of empty tent sites available. We took advantage of this abundance of choice and set up our tents in prime spots soon after we landed.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Abel Tasman Kayak Day 2 - click map to view
Abel Tasman Day 2 - Observation Beach to Bark Bay
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet