Sea kayaking 12km is one the most rewarding outdoor experiences…especially when there is a luxury lodge at the finish line. On our honeymoon around the world, we had dreams of exploring New Zealand’s Abel Tasman National Park—without the use of a tent and camp stove. Enter Wilsons Abel Tasman. They are the only outfitter in the park with beachfront lodges, plus gourmet food, hot showers, a comfortable bed, and cocktail hour. Now we are talking!
For a little history…in 1672 Abel Tasman was the first European explorer to set eyes on New Zealand but no westerners inhabited the region until 1840–that’s when the Brits sent a settlement fleet with brave pioneers, including the Wilsons’ great-great-great grandparents. Eight generations later, the family continues the tradition of Abel Tasman exploration by leading hiking and kayaking trips through the national park, making overnight stops at their historic homes.
All Wilsons’ trips start with a boat ride along the incredible Abel Tasman coastline, through its vibrant waters and granite headlands. From there you can hike, kayak, run, and/or bike anywhere from one to five days. We signed up for the “Three-day Kayak & Walk Break” which involves hiking the northern beaches and forests and a two-day kayak through the southern islands and coves, totaling 32 kilometers of exploration.
We hiked along the beaches, through the forest and up to the cliffs. The vegetation was a lush combination of beech, rata, and tree ferns that would open up to breathtaking vistas of the beaches, where we spotted everything from seals to cormorants to sting rays.
Just before dusk, we arrived in Awaroa Inlet and Meadowbank: the family’s original home and current lodge. After a delightful shower, we enjoyed dinner and relaxed by the fireplace with a glass of wine, listening to the fascinating stories of family’s early days in the wild frontier.
The next morning we fueled up with a hearty breakfast before our 4km scenic walk over the Tonga Saddle to Onetahuti, our put-in spot for our sea kayak adventure.
We kayaked along the rocky coast and into the beautiful Bark Bay inlet for incredible nature sightings, including the endemic Blue Duck! This was no average duck–it rides rapids just like a kayaker.
After lunch we paddled to Tonga Island, a breeding ground for New Zealand fur seals. The seals spend their first few months around Tonga honing their swimming and hunting skills. We watched them take quick dips then scamper up the rocks to catch their breath, flop about and nap. Our guide said, sometimes the curious pups even hop onto the bow of passing kayaks. We would have waited all day to give a seal a ride, but sunset and a hot meal at Wilsons’ Torrent Bay Lodge were calling us to shore.
With fine food and a great night’s sleep under our belt, we were ready to take on the final 12km-stretch of kayaking. We celebrated our Wilsons journey at Split Apple rock, one last gorgeous cove before the port at Kaiteriteri. We felt such a sense of accomplishment but it was definitely Wilsons incredible guides and pampering that was the secret to our success.
Mike and Anne Howard left on their honeymoon in 2012 and have been traveling the world ever since. HoneyTrek.com chronicles their adventures across 7 continents, 44 countries, and counting! Their writing, photography, and the story of the “World’s Longest Honeymoon” can also be found on Condé Nast Traveler, BBC Travel, The Knot, Los Angeles Times, CBS, and dozens of other international publications. Connect with @HoneyTrek on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.