Travel

Six ways to enjoy Abel Tasman National Park

Experience the park off-peak for a unique holiday

As part of their recently-concluded 16-day Pacific royal tour of Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle stopped by Totaranui in Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand on Monday.

There, the couple went on a bush walk with the Department of Conservation and enjoyed a barbecue lunch with youth ambassadors.

Though it is the country's smallest national park, it is one of its busiest.

The summer months - December to February - see the most visitors, but April through September is also a terrific time to encounter its remarkable wildlife.

Cute New Zealand fur seals (kekenos) are at their most active during winter, especially playful pups who push the boundaries while their mothers are pregnant.

Dolphins are also regular visitors through these cooler months.

According to Tourism New Zealand, here is how you can experience the popular seaside paradise - without being a royal or a serious hiker.

WALK THE GREAT WALK

If hiking the Abel Tasman Coast Track is on your list, consider visiting from May through November, when the region's friendly climate produces plenty of sunshine and T-shirt temperatures. The park's golden sands, sparkling seas, sculpted cliffs and lush forest appear just as gorgeous as they do in summer too.

Abel Tasman's tourist numbers drop dramatically after Easter, leaving space on boat transport and in the track's huts and campsites.

Do not be deterred by the thought of cold mornings and nights - the Great Walk huts have solid fuel heaters.

Lodge accommodation offers hot showers, hearty meals and cosy beds.

KAYAK THE COAST

Solitude, settled weather and calm seas are good reasons to embark on the park's popular kayak trip out of peak season. So is the coastal scenery and crystal-clear waters. Sure, the ambient air temperatures may take a dive, but this is nothing that a respectable paddling rate and an extra layer of clothing can't counter.

GO SWIMMING

Chances are an Abel Tasman off-peak swim won't actually kill you.

Among many upsides are potentially uninterrupted skinny-dipping and the thrilling invigoration that comes from a bracing plunge.

The waters reach mid-winter lows of 10 deg C. But watch out for hyperventilating.

GO ON A SCENIC CRUISE

Nearly three-quarters of Abel Tasman's visitors dip in on a day trip, and it's not hard to see why.

A cruise is a particularly great way to experience the park off-peak, especially on larger boats with their comfortable onboard lounges, viewing decks and freshly prepared food and hot drinks.

There are plenty of tour options to suit your itinerary and interests. Sit back and enjoy the views on the way to highlights such as Split Apple Rock and Tonga Island's seal colony, or visit iconic beaches such as Anchorage or Awaroa.

TAKE A COMBO TRIP

The park's tour operators offer an array of combined cruise-walk-kayak tours all year round.

Survey major landmarks by boat, then get even closer on a sea kayak trip or hike between the park's beautiful bays.

And whether you are on or off the water, you will get way more space to yourself outside of the summer months.

SKYDIVE FOR THE VIEW

If you want to see it all in one go, you can always choose to leap out of a plane with Skydive Abel Tasman.

It is the only skydive drop zone in New Zealand with views over both the North and South islands as well as mountains and the ocean at the same time - from volcanic Mount Taranaki on the western extremity of the North Island, across the sea and the national park, and all the way south to the northern Southern Alps and the Marlborough Sounds to the east.

TOURISM & TRAVEL