As soon as we arrived in New Zealand, we started hearing stories of the Great Walks. There are nine official Great Walks in New Zealand, three on the North Island and six on the South Island. Many conversations we had were with tourists like us who spoke of gear lists, storm watchers, and Department of Conservation permits and reservations. With each exchange we walked away feeling overwhelmed and a bit averse to the idea of planning a Great Walk, with three kids, in a foreign country.
Because we were house-sitting in Nelson, and had animals and gardens to attend to, we put the idea of a Great Walk out of our mind and focused on the task at hand. We kept telling ourselves, “there are great trails everywhere, we don’t need to do the official tracks.” But there was that little voice inside that kept reminding us how close we were to greatness.
The day before the homeowners left us in charge, they took the time to give us some tips on the area. The final suggestion was the most emphatic, “You really must see the Abel Tasman Coast Track.” We peppered them with excuses as all past conversations and reservations came rushing back, “But what about the animals? What about water taxis? We don’t have the gear or permits” to which they replied, “just put on your shoes, start at the beginning, and walk.”
Could it really be that simple? We packed our lunch and water, put on the kids Converse, and set out into the wild blue yonder.
The drive to the trail head was mesmerizing. As we passed Kaiteriteri and Marahau, we knew something great awaited us. The trail was beautifully marked and informative. The Abel Tasman is a coastal track and can be walked in three to four days with relative ease. It is open all year thanks to the mild climate of the Tasman Bay and there is plenty of time to hike, play, and kayak between overnight spots.
We were just planning to walk, and see how far our legs could carry us in and out, in the same day. We ended up in Apple Tree Bay for lunch and were rendered speechless by the stingrays gliding in the crystalline waters at our feet. As we meandered through Coquille Bay and Tinline we didn’t see another hiker. We were alone, in paradise and it was nothing short of a Great Walk.
Of course, if we were to walk the entire track, we would need some gear and reservations, but its greatness was evident from the very first official step. What made it great was that it was accessible, welcoming, open, and free to anyone who makes the trip. Sometimes it is just about taking the first step, only then can greatness find us …
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