The track can be walked in either direction. It is well marked and signposted, but some sections may be steep, rough or muddy. This guide describes an easy walk for independent, non-guided walkers who choose to walk the whole track from Marahau to Wainui Bay.
Places to stay
DOC provides a range of accommodation along the Abel Tasman Coast Track, including four huts, 18 campsites and the Totaranui Great Walk campsite.
Overnight stays for Coast Track walkers are limited to one night at Totaranui Great Walk campsite and two consecutive nights in all huts and other campsites along the Coast Track.
Marahau to Anchorage
Time: 4 hr
Distance: 12.4 km
French names left by d’Urville and his crew Adele, Simonet and Torrent add character to this part of the journey. At the Marahau information kiosk, a causeway crosses the estuary. On the far side of the estuary the track passes through open country to Tinline Bay.
The track rounds Guilbert Point to Apple Tree Bay then passes through beech forest with large kanuka trees. After Yellow Point it turns inland, winding in and out of several little gullies before emerging in open country overlooking Torrent Bay and the coast and islands to the north.
Descend to Anchorage Bay where there is a hut and campsite.
Campsites and huts between Marahau and Anchorage
Anchorage to Bark Bay
High tide track
Time: 4 hr
Distance: 11.5 km
Low tide crossing, Torrent Bay estuary
Time: 3 hr
Distance: 8.4 km
Bridge between Torrent Bay and Bark
From Anchorage Bay, cross a low ridge to Torrent Bay estuary. The estuary can be crossed within two hours either side of low tide, or an all-tide track leads around it to Torrent Bay. Keep to the public track through the private houses here.
At the northern end of Torrent Bay beach the track climbs steadily and then sidles around two valleys and above a beautiful inlet to Falls River, the biggest in the park, which is crossed by a 47 m suspension bridge. Beyond the river, the track meanders through lush coastal forest before dropping back to the sea. Follow the track to the hut and campsite beside Bark Bay estuary.
Campsites and huts between Anchorage and Bark Bay
Bark Bay to Awaroa
Time: 4 hr 30 min
Distance: 13.5 km
Cross Bark Bay estuary or follow the all-tide track around its edge and climb steeply to a saddle. Here you lose all sense of the sea below as you journey through stands of manuka.
Return to the shore at Tonga Quarry, where blocks of granite remain from an old quarrying operation. Tonga Island sits offshore surrounded by marine reserve. A short distance on is Onetahuti Bay. A bridge and boardwalk (opened November 2013) provides an all tide crossing. The track then climbs over Tonga Saddle and descends to Awaroa Inlet. Follow the shore for 15 minutes to Awaroa Hut and campsite.
Visitors reaching Venture Creek on the Awaroa Estuary from the South may find the beach route round to Awaroa Hut impassable at times when there is a very high tide. If this happens then visitors should wait at Venture Creek until the tide recedes to reveal the beach route.
Campsites and huts between Bark Bay and Awaroa
Awaroa to Totaranui
Time: 2 hr 20 min
Distance: 7.1 km (tidal)
Awaroa tidal crossing at low tide
Awaroa Estuary can only be crossed close to low tide. The estuary should only be crossed within one and a half hours before and two hours after low tide. (Following very heavy rain the estuary may be impassable.) From its northern side the track crosses a low saddle and drops to Waiharakeke Bay, where a timber mill once operated.
The track re-enters the forest then emerges at Goat Bay, from where it climbs steeply to a lookout above Skinner Point before descending to Totaranui. Follow the road through the main camping ground to the camp office, water taxi pickup point and Coast Track walkers campsite.
Campsites and huts between Awaroa and Totaranui
Totaranui to Whariwharangi
Time: 3 hr 15 min
Distance: 9.8 km
The track heads around Totaranui estuary, climbs over a low saddle and winds down through lush forest to Anapai Bay. From here to Mutton Cove, travel alternates between sandy beaches and rocky headlands of regenerating kanuka.
Leave the coast at Mutton Cove and climb to another saddle. From here the track descends to Whariwharangi Bay. The hut - a restored farm homestead - and campsite are just behind the beach. Add 1 hour to go via Separation Point. (See side trips below).
Campsites and huts between Totaranui and Whariwharangi
Whariwharangi to Wainui
Time: 2 hr
Distance: 5.7 km
From Whariwharangi Hut follow a small stream then climb out of the bay to a saddle overlooking Wainui Inlet. The track winds down to the shore around gorse-covered ridges recovering from a 1978 fire, then follows the estuary edge for 500 metres to the carpark. It is possible to cross Wainui Inlet within two hours either side of low tide.
Many secluded and sheltered coves and lookout points are accessible from the Coast Track, as well as the following side trips.
Tinline Bay Nature Walk
From the campsite a 20 minute loop track leads up Tinline Creek meandering through lowland coastal forest.
Te Pukatea/Pitt Head
A 20 minute walk crosses a low ridge from Anchorage Hut to crescent-shaped Te Pukatea Bay. From there a 1 hour walk with good views leads to Pitt Head, an old pa site, and back to Anchorage.
From Torrent Bay estuary a 20 minute wander leads up a stream bed of large boulders to Cleopatras Pool.
A track heads inland from near Torrent Bay Village camp to the Falls River falls. Allow 3 hours return. A shorter option for those with less time is the Cascade Falls on the same track. Allow 1 hour 30 minutes return.
From Mutton Cove a track leads to Separation Point, where fur seals breed. This track branches shortly before the point to rejoin the Coast Track at the saddle above Whariwharangi Bay (1 hour).