Christmas and New Year in Abel Tasman

Serenity of Swanwick
Phil and Sarah Tadd
Sat 8 Jan 2022 03:40

The second half of December, over Christmas and into the New Year were spent back up in the Abel Tasman visiting anchorages and doing more of the available walks.

We anchored off Adele Island and took a dinghy trip around it to see the seals and the shag colony, although the seals can be seen basking on the rocks all around the island, the shags all nest in one small area.

Seals on the rocks

and a small part of the shag colony

With a strong north westerly forecast we moved the half mile across to the main land for more shelter. We still had a bit of a choppy night but at least we weren’t on a lee shore. In the morning this bay was the destination for some noisy jet skiers but a pod of dolphins still came in and followed around the bay I assume on a food hunt.

We landed and walked north to Observation bay and back.

The area we are in here is called Astrolabe Roadstead after Dumont D’Urville’s vessel, D’urville was one of the early explorers of this coast.

Moving back up to Torrent Bay and anchoring at Anchorage we booked on one of the local ferry boats so that we could walk from Torrent bay to Bark Bay and come back on the ferry. The first part of this walk has two alternatives, high and low water routes, we set out early enough to take the low water route which cuts down the distance but does mean getting your feet wet, not too deep though.

Wading the Torrent River

Having set out early and having about 6hrs available to do a three hour walk we were able  to visit a number of offshoots including one called Sandfly Bay, luckily no Sandflies there on that day.

Another lovely sandy beach, this is Sandfly bay at the bottom of the Falls River

There is a hut and campsite at Bark Bay, our destination, used by kayakers and walkers on the Abel Tasman track, the camp was well equipped with flush toilets but had very little shelter from the easterly winds being on a narrow sand spit. The bay was named because of the tree bark that was collected here for tanning hides and fishing nets.

The sandspit campsite at Bark bay.

After the 15 minute boat trip back we joined most of the boat crews from the anchorage onboard Desiderata for Christmas drinks, a great way to get to meet people, Desiderata has room for this sort of gathering.

Christmas day and a quick trip to Adele Island for a good phone signal and back on Boxing Day.

As the wind was settling in the Northwest it seemed a good time to try the anchorage at Tonga Roadstead, a few miles further north. Tonga Island in the bay is home to the largest Fur Seal colony in the area but most of the bay is open to the prevailing easterly winds.

From here we walked over to Awaroa Inlet, which is probably the most commercialised part of Abel Tasman. It has a lodge, café bar and luxury glamping! All serviced by the ferry boats and water taxis and the small grass airstrip. The walk over to Awaroa and down to the café was quite short but continuing along the beach to the DOC Hut and then returning along the main track which winds around the hillside with great views made it one of our longest day walks, we hadn’t set out until after lunch!

Tonga Bay

Awaroa Inlet from the main track

A final walk in this area was along the coast south to Tonga Quarries and Arch Point. The Granite in this area is not generally of good enough quality to use for building but there was a quarry established here and some usable stone removed. The stone was used for the Post office in Wellington and steps in Nelson, it only operated for a few years. Next along the coast Arch Point has some naturally weathered rock arches only accessible on foot at low water.

Tonga Arches at Arch Point

As the wind  and swell had gone back to the east we left the bay and headed down to Torrent Bay yet again and this time Anchorage was full. On New Years Eve we counted at least 100 boats in the bay, not surprising as a local Bach owner organises a firework display every year, no  charge and about a 15 minute display.

We spent a few more days in the area and did a couple of local walks then returned to Nelson to restock.