Abel Tasman National park in a glimpse
Located in the Nelson and Marlborough Regions on the northern tip of New Zealand's South Island. The park is closed to vehicles, and access is either on foot (from one of the various carparks mentioned below) or by boat, or if you've got money to spend it is possible to charter a helicopter or small plane (Awaroa only).
Some of the land in the park is privately owned - mainly in Awaroa Bay and Torrent Bay. It is important to remember this when visiting the park - the locals are friendly but they don't want loads of travellers walking through their backyards all the time! However these areas are clearly marked so you shouldn't have any problems.
The first European to visit the area around Golden Bay was Abel Tasman, a Dutch explorer, on December 18, 1642. There he met a settlement of Maori, the native peoples, briefly fought with them and left.
Around 1855, more Europeans began to arrive and permanent settlements began to spring up. These settlements began to pillage the land's resources - logging for homes and ships, mining of granite, and creation of pasture through burning.
The park, created out of protest due to concerns about heavy logging in the area, was officially opened in 1942, 300 years after Abel Tasman's first visit. The initial grant was 15,000 hectares of government land and has since grown to over 22,000 hectares. It is, however, New Zealand's smallest national park.
The most notable feature of the park are its beaches. The golden sands bring many visitors, some for just a day, others for overnight trips. However, moving away from the beaches and inland, the park is mountainous and rough.
Some areas of the park are very tidal. Watch out in particular for the estuaries at Torrent Bay and Awaroa - these can drain almost completely at low tide! So be aware of this before anchoring your boat in some places. In fact, at low tide it is possible to walk from Torrent Bay to Anchorage by walking across the empty estuary - this takes about 25 minutes, whereas the track around the outside of the estuary takes closer to 2 hours. Some beaches also have unusual sand bars - if in doubt, don't go too close to shore in your boat, or you might run aground unexpectedly!
Flora and fauna
Much of the nature vegetation has been destroyed by the area's early inhabitants, but left alone, the park is slowly renewing itself. All four species of Beech trees can be found within the park, an unusual find.
Wildlife, like much of New Zealand, consists mostly of avian life, but also like much of the country, the rarest birds, such as the kiwi, are not present. Other wildlife, such as the blue penguin, can be found in the more isolated areas of the park now that their population have begun to dwindle. You can still see lots (and hear!) lots of birds - keep an eye out for wood pigeons, tuis (you will definitely hear these even if you don't see them), wekas (rare, flightless birds), oyster catchers (by the sea) and cormorants.
Much of New Zealand's native wildlife is under attack due to introduced species and the Department of Conservation (DOC) along with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) are trying desperately to halt these attacks. Stoats, a relative of the ferret, were introduced into New Zealand to control rabbits in the 1880s. However, those stoats, then and today, prefer the native animal populations such as the blue penguins over rabbits or their other "normal" prey.
When exploring Abel Tasman or any other national park, you may observe traps for introduced species such as the stoat or the possum. Please do not disturb these efforts to maintain New Zealand's natural wildlife.
The Abel Tasman National Park is in one of the sunniest places in the country with over 2000 hours of sunlight per year. There is moderate rainfall that is spread out over the year and snow is occasionally found in the park's higher elevations.
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