At the top of the South Island, Kaiteriteri Beach holds a special place in many Kiwis’ hearts. As a Christchurch boy, Kaiteriteri is like a byword for family summer holiday, writes Mike Yardley.
Awakening to that fabled arc of golden sand, washed by the gentle waves of Kaiteriteri Beach is one of life’s great pleasures. It’s all the more pleasurable from February onwards, when the peak summer crush has cleared out. Savouring the first crack of daybreak across the wide sweep of Tasman Bay is appointment viewing. Kaiteriteri Reserve Apartments is the unrivalled location from which to bask in the brilliance of this celebrated holiday hotspot. It is the postcard-perfect beach, glistening turquoise water, thickly-forested headlands, gloriously golden sand and that classic crescent shape. If you want really want to push the boat out, book a Two Bedroom Superior Apartment, for absolute beachfront views from your balcony.
Top views from the top of the South
Be sure to take the short stroll north from the beach up to Kaka Point. In addition to the serene views, this historic reserve is of cultural importance to tāngata whenua, as some plaques at the top of the trail duly explain. From there, follow the path to the neighbouring hideaway of seclusion, Breaker Bay, which feels like an escapist bolt-hole compared to the summer hordes at Kaiteriteri. The southern end of the beach connects with Little Kaiteriteri, weaving around the headland and down a wooden staircase to the peaceful and tranquil beach on the other side. At low tide, you can shimmy around the rocks to this less-trafficked slice of golden sand.
Abel Tasman National Park
After taking my fill of the sensory splendour that Kaiteriteri lays on thick, I took a fleeting foray into the heart of The Abel Tasman National Park. Accorded national park status in 1942, that winning blend of sun-splashed crystalline waters, verdant forest and sweeping golden sands commands its siren-like allure. Whether you’re seeking to blaze some hiking trails, strike out on a sea kayak or simply bliss out in a beautifully secluded bay, The Abel Tasman delivers in spades. The essential go-to pros to spirit you across the waters are Abel Tasman Sea Shuttles. This trusty transportation and scenic cruise company has been plying the waters for over 20 years, with Keith and Heather Knapp at the helm.
We passed by Adele Island, a flourishing wildlife sanctuary, where the chorus of birdsong rings from the treetops. Adele Island is home to one of New Zealand’s rarest birds – the South Island saddleback (tīeke). With only 650 left in the world, the work of the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust to create a predator-free sanctuary and reintroduce endangered species to the park has resulted in a new breeding ground for these vulnerable birds. We called into all of the key points on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, including Apple Tree Bay, Anchorage, Torrent Bay and Medlands Beach, where a multitude of happy hikers alighted and rejoined our vessel. I loved admiring the whimsical shapes and contortions of the sculptured granite cliffs that line the coastline – an indelible calling card of The Abel Tasman.
Just prior to arriving at Awaroa Lodge, my skipper gave our group a great introductory overview of the Tonga Island Marine Reserve, spanning Bark Bay to Awaroa Bay. Taking its name from the island it is based around, a heaving colony of fur seals were lazy on the rocks, within metres of our passing boat. It’s also a fiendishly popular hangout spot for kayakers, given the high chances of encountering little blue penguins and a pod of dolphins in these parts. Operating a year-round schedule of cruises, with a dramatically expanded roster of options in the warmer months, Abel Tasman Sea Shuttles embodies the spirit of this wondrous part of the world.
Abel Tasman Coast Track
The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a breathtaking but easily accomplished multi-day walk. I recommend walking it over four days, so you have ample time to swim, get sand between your toes, and accomplish some incredible hiking without being rushed. You get to revel in the thrill of hiking one of New Zealand’s Great Walks with a day to rest and recuperate in the lap of luxury at Awaroa Lodge. Push the boat out and book a Superior Suite for escapism in excelsis. These architecturally designed suites were conceived with comfort and style in mind, wrapping you in nature while still being spoilt with all of the home comforts.
There’s a variety of tranquil walks at your disposal from the retreat, zipping you up to the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, in addition to some secondary tracks. Be sure to strike out on the 30 minute Wetland Walk, where you’ll likely spot the recently released pateke ducks (brown teal.) I absolutely adored the Sky Track Walk, which hoists you up the hillside to join the Abel Tasman Coastal Track for the most radiant views across the expanse of Awaroa Bay. South of the lodge you can also burn off the restaurant indulgence on the Tonga Arches Walk, which leads you down to the old Tonga quarry, where granite was cut, while further along you’ll relish the Tonga Arches – naturally created forms sculpted by the elements.