Welcome to the Abel Tasman Coast Track Part 2! This article covers our adventures over days 3-5 from Bark Bay to Whariwharangi via Awaroa, then back to Totaranui and home!
If you’ve come from part 1 of this article (welcome back!) you’ll recall that pre-tramp, I was nervous about the sleeping situation. I googled excessively for hut photos, and accidentally found a very flash hut indeed, which turned out to be .. not one. The not-a-hut was Awaroa Lodge, and upon finding it’s an alternative for night three, I immediately yes booked it.
Therefore, in spite of the sore feet thing, I greeted day three with positivity. Turning a deaf ear to some gentle ribbing about our upcoming evening of posh wankery, we fueled with freeze dried apple crumble (5/10) and loaded up. Let’s pick up the story.
day 3: Wairima/Bark Bay to awaroa
Bark Bay to Awaroa is 13.5km’s (estimated 4.5 hours) and for us, included the highest climb of the trip at 160m. A later part of the track goes to 200m (Whariwharangi to Wainui), but we didn’t go that far. Leaving the hut, we took the high tide track (10 mins), and ascended through a lush manuka forest. Parts of this track were quite rough after recent flooding.
Frequently, the sound of peeps and baby peeps would signal the presence of Pīwakawaka (NZ fantail). If you’ve tramped in NZ you’ve met an adorable Pīwakawaka. They’re friendly with humans because our movements stir up the bugs. In November the cuteness was amplified by floofy fledglings, flitting around the branches and peeping at their mums. The weka also had their babies on display, teaching them the ways of their kind – i.e. how to steal from humans.
After two hours we descended into Tonga Quarry, then popped over a small rise to the long, golden beach at Onetahuti. Lunch was once again, bars, cheese and melted chocolate. When organising the food, we’d planned to stop for cooked lunches, and eat the bars for snacks. In reality though, it was easier and more appealing for our sweaty selves to eat uncooked food mid-walk. In addition, finding somewhere safe to jetboil, then washing up and repacking didn’t spark joy so we saved the cooking for breakfast and dinners at the huts. Next trip, I’ll pack more snacks and fewer dried meals.
After fueling and hydrating, we spied some flatmates and compared notes. Yes, the beach was pretty but not easy with a pack on. Sore knees or blisters? Oh, both? Damn. Which way from here do you think? Probably over this bridgey thing? Ok, onward to Awaroa.
From Onetahuti Bay to Awaroa Hut is 7.2kms, but we were looking for the turn off to Awaroa lodge ‘somewhere’. We didn’t know if it was before or after the hut, and it was a huge surprise to discover the lodge’s ‘pizza cafe’ sign after barely 2.5k’s. Honestly, the excitement! Posh wankery aside, I coveted a cider and hot shower.
For those of you not staying at the lodge, here’s some intel. You can still eat there. While the main track is 5km’s from hut to lodge, there is a tidal shortcut that gets you there in 30 minutes. The pizza restaurant with open seating looked cool, but was closed. It opens yearly in December. Apart from that, there’s a bar and restaurant, with bookings generally necessary at the restaurant.
From the pizza sign, it was a short walk down an obviously non-DOC-maintained track and we reached the lodge by 11.30am. Sitting in the bar, I made some executive decisions. I decided to ditch the torture shoes and try walking in sandals with tramping socks. Yes, that’s quite a look but the socks stopped the sand exfoliating my feet to the bone. Then, I booked a water shuttle to Tōtaranui through reception. The next day (Awaroa to Whariwharangi) hit 17km’s and I was just not feeling it. The taxi allowed us to bypass the first 8km’s, which we heard later, is quite swampy anyway due to a compulsory tidal crossing at Awaroa inlet. Lastly, we decided to leave Wainui for another trip and instead return directly to Tōtaranui after our night in Whariwharangi. This cut 6 km’s from the final day.
In case you are judging me for all this hacking and slashing, trust me, I was also judging myself. Previous me would never have considered it, however, I was recently recovered from the flu and my energy was crap. Pushing the bod seemed unwise, and of course, we live here so seeing Wainui later is no biggie. It might also be useful for other newbies to know there are ways to ease things if you get started and find you’ve overstretched. Not all tracks are so forgiving.
The night at the lodge was as you’d expect. It’s pricey, but the food was good, the bed was not a sleeping bag and the staff were lovely. The free wi-fi is capped, which seemed a bit stingey but who needs that when the beach is right there? We even met a kereru, who insisted on pointing its butt toward the camera, hence the modesty crop.
The next day was a leisurely start. 10.30am water shuttle to Tōtaranui, then on our way to the historic haunted hut at Whariwharangi. The tramp was not without incident.
day 4: tōtaranui to whariwharangi: taking a wrong turn
Firstly, let’s backtrack. Despite the late start, I spent the morning running around (haha, fast limping) trying to find my sunnies. Eventually, I located them covered in sand on the rail to the beach ramp. I must have dropped them on the beach when taking the shells pic, and some kind soul got them before the tide did. Whoever you are, you’re an excellent human.
For day four, we were looking at 10 k’s, max elevation around 120 metres. It’s three little climbs, each slightly higher than the previous, with Anapai and Mutton Cove bays between them. Upon leaving Tōtaranui, you cross an open field then join the track and get into some serious scenery. This part of the track is a photographer’s dream.
At Mutton Cove we somehow lost the track then spied a familiar orange marker down the beach and headed that way. The track leaving the beach was super steep with some big steps. I pulled a butt muscle climbing them (fun times!). The path then headed back to the beach and we found ourselves facing a daunting rock scramble.
Although the orange marker was visible (see pic below), we had doubts, and my partner ran back down the beach to see if we’d gone off-track. Apparently not. Let me tell you, this was not easy with a full pack with a sore butt and feet. By the time I climbed and booty-scooted down the rocks you see at the end, I was both hating life, and congratulating myself on doing hard things.
Shortly after this section, which took ages, we found a sign saying 3.5 km’s to the hut and I nearly had a tantrum. Trying, but failing, to not be complainy, I tramped on and we finally made Whariwharangi hut. Flopping on the lawn, we chatted with our nurse flatmate about the weirdly difficult track, but she replied something like ‘oh what? nope, didn’t see any rock scramble’. Our dietitian and Aussie friends overhead and immediately chimed in that they had also gone the hard way and hated life (a.k.a ‘yes, f*ck that’).
After a bit of CSI, it appears we missed a sign at Mutton Cove. Another tramper offered that they’d nearly done the same because swimmers had hung their towels on it (rude!). We had inadvertently added 2 km’s and an hour to our day by taking the Separation Point turnoff. So that’s something to keep in mind if your plan is the direct route to Whariwharangi. Stay sharp. Anyway, the butt pain faded thanks to a lidocaine patch from my new dietitian BFF, and the day evolved into a top tier evening. Cooking outside, on the grounds of a haunted homestead, chatting to fascinating humans is something I’d rate.
Whariwharangi hut was built in 1896 and renovated in the 80’s, preserving some features like the original staircase and interior paneling. It’s a bit different to the other huts, with some lingering evidence of having once been a colonial home. For example, there’s a massive fig tree in the garden. The hut has the luxury of a very cold shower (which will be occupied by a weka), flush toilets, sinks and washing line. There are three bedrooms – one down, two up, with a mix of bunks and side-by-side sleeping. Wi-fi and cellular coverage is minimal. Unlike other huts, it lacks window bug screens, so there’ll be a ‘fry or get bitten’ decision at bed time.
The area was historically a site of conflict between Māori and early European settlers, with many deaths on both sides. This seems to be the origin of the haunted hut rumours. I tried, but couldn’t summon a ghost visitor. That’s a shame, because I really wanted to add to the ghost stories in the hut book – it’s a great read.
Day 5: Whariwharangi to Tōtaranui
Saying goodbye to the flatmates the next morning was actually quite sad! It’s amazing how much conversation goes down over three evenings with no Netflix. We breakfasted, took a group photo, swapped insta handles, made last-minute notes about footware, commiserated on injuries and headed our separate ways. Some of the group were heading over the hill to Wainui, but our destination was back to Tōtaranui, via the direct route this time.
We took our time, stopping to swim at Anapai Bay, and made Tōtaranui with an hour to spare before our taxi. I perused the visitor centre walls, where there’s the story of how the park came to be. Basically, the govt mood was to destroy all the native bush (fire hazard), but they were no match for a feisty chick called Perrine Moncrieff. There’s a very abbreviated version on Wikipedia here, but if you have the time at Tōtaranui, it’s worth a look.
..and back to Motueka
The last part of our Abel Tasman journey was the water taxi back to the car parked at Mārahau. Being the last taxi of the day, instead of offloading at the jetty, the boat was loaded onto a trailer with the passengers still aboard. We drove through the streets of Mārahau to the depot, like princesses on parade, then offloaded and minibussed to the carpark.
Finally, we headed back to our motel, revitalised and happy, and ready to start plotting the next adventure. As I write this, it’s been two months since the Abel Tasman Coast track, and I already bought some walking shoes with a wide toe box. Those need a trial run soon.
Any questions or stories of your own experiences? Please hit the comments below. I love comments, even more than weka love poking their whole faces into backpacks.
Looking for More Tips?
I've collaborated on Hiking the Abel Tasman: Tips for Amateurs with the lovely Tania from Thrive Nutrition. Head over to that post for some super tips on food, water, backpacks, hygiene and of course, shoes!