Glorious days of sun, sea, wildlife, tramping and kayaking can be enjoyed in the Abel Tasman National Park. These are some of the fondest memories travellers take home with them after a visit to the smallest, yet most popular park in the country.

Abel Tasman National Park was named after the first European explorer to reach these shores. The coastal fringe of this park, in the Nelson region, often has the look and feel of a tropical paradise, enjoying a record 2,500 sunshine hours each year.

The unforgettable scenic highlight of this area is the exquisite coastline. The coastal track, which is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, traverses lush forest, magnificent tidal flats and beaches. There are surprises around every corner – like bursting out onto a sun-drenched private cove with sparkling silica particles in the sand. The crystal clear water can vary in colour from azure blue to turquoise. It is so inviting you’ll want a refreshing dip and a sunbathe before trekking on.

Access to the park is simple, as bus services operate daily from Nelson to Motueka connecting with the main starting points of Marahau and Kaiteriteri. From here water taxis, cruise boats and kayak trips depart at regular intervals. The water taxis drop trampers off at Torrent Bay, Bark Bay, Tonga Bay, Awaroa and Totaranui (the northern access point). Any number of combinations of cruising, tramping and kayaking can be arranged for one-day or multi-day trips. Accommodation is in the form of Department of Conservation huts and the Awaroa Lodge, which all require advance bookings.

Kayaking around the Tonga Island Marine Reserve and Seal Colony is a memorable experience as the playful creatures cavort under and around your kayak. Capturing these streamlined swimmers on camera can be a challenge. ‘Swimming with the seals’ excursions leave from Marahau during the summer months.

Abel Tasman National Park has a rugged Inland Track to explore as well, with bizarre landscapes of limestone, marble and granite. The vast honeycomb of caves includes Harwood’s Hole at Canaan, which is the deepest cave in the Southern Hemisphere.

Be sure to include Abel Tasman on your itinerary; the walking is easy, the golden sand and clear water is the ‘Blue Lagoon’ of your dreams.