2019/04/09

2 fabulous national parks in Oceania

Walking Ben Boyd N.P. in AUS & boating Abel Tasman N.P. in NZL

There is no shortage of stunning nature in southeastern Australia and New Zealand, this much can be said for sure! When my husband and I toured this area on our month-long journey (see outline), we were awestruck by so much natural beauty! Two of our favorite national parks were Ben Boyd National Park about half way between Melbourne and Sydney and Abel Tasman National Park at the north end of the New Zealand’s South Island. While the former is best explored by foot, you might profit most from the latter by
doing this (mostly) on the water.


General

You might wonder why I say these two national parks in one breath. This is out of pure coincidence as Ben Boyd National Park and Abel Tasman National Park do not have much in common with the exception of having the chance of immersing in gorgeous nature and a coastline location. While the first mentioned national park is not amongst the best known, the second one ranks among the must-do activities when visiting the area.

As we did have quite a rushed travel schedule, we only had limited time available to explore these sites, a half day for Ben Boyd National Park
and a full day for Abel Tasman National Park.
Nevertheless enough to get an idea of both places.

Ben Boyd National Park

It is a ruggedly beautiful stretch of coast with rocky headlands, heathland and pristine beaches, and it is completely different from the rest of the coastline in the area. This is due to its impressive rock formations and radiantly colored stone set in a stunning coastal landscape.
The national park is situated on the New South Wales south coast near the town of Eden and is 10,500 hectares (26,000 acres) in size. It is separated into two parts, split by Twofold Bay, with a small section in the north and a larger one in the south. We only went to the northern part at the entry point of Haycock Road.

Walk from Haycock Point to Barmouth Beach and back

At the northern tip of the park, Haycock Point
is the starting point for a great walk to Barmouth Beach. It is easy to moderate with a few stairs and gentle hills and is 3 km one-way (1.9 miles). You need about two and a half hours to complete this walk.

The first part leads along a green flat plateau before coming to a coastal forest where you have views of blood-red and other colored rocks again and again.
Before reaching the goal of the walk, you catch sight of the opposite Merimbula Beach.
Some more steps up and down until you come to wooden stairs leading down to the idyllic Barmouth Beach. What a great place to lay your bath towel!

After a short break, you start your way back to Haycock Point, in awe again of the red-colored rocky coastline. Here, take a look at the seemingly endless beach towards south
before returning to your car and head for another – this time very short – walk, the Pinnacles Loop.

The Pinnacles Loop Walk

The walk from the carpark is on a loop track and takes less than 30 minutes to fulfill. There are two lookout points along the way to view the Pinnacles, one of the highlights in the park. These white sand cliffs are capped with a red gravel clay which has eroded over the years.

Where to stay and eat in style near Ben Boyd National Park

Finally, I do not want to withhold from giving advice where to stay and where to eat in style when visiting the Ben Boyd National Park. I am afraid there is not that much on offer for discerning travelers in the area. Nevertheless, there is the one or the other good establishment.

A great place to stay in style is Balconies Dolphincove Bed & Breakfast, located in Tura Beach, north of Merimbula in a quiet residential area. There are three nicely furnished, spacious rooms

overlooking landscaped gardens (where kangaroos are regular visitors, feeding on the lawn),
the outdoor pool
and native bushland beyond. A tasty breakfast is served in your own room.

If you like tapas, then Ritzy Wine & Tapas Bar is the place for you with a good range of scrumptious dishes to share and a casual atmosphere. Great choices are the Asian style oysters
and scallops.

Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park is renowned for its golden beaches, sculpted granite cliffs and its popular coastal track. Another asset is its reliable weather, it sits atop the sunniest region of the country.
It is located on the northern coastline of New Zealand’s South Island. With an area of 23,700 hectares (58,600 acres) it is bigger than the before mentioned sibling in Australia but the country’s smallest national park.

When you are short on time – as we were – when exploring the park, a combination boat trip along the coast with short land excursions and walking a section of the Abel Tasman track might be the best thing to do here.

For this purpose, we had opted for doing the “Golden Future Tour” by “Abel Tasman Eco Tours”, which was just perfect for spending a day here.

Tour description “Golden Future Tour”

After boarding the vessel “Zeehaen” in Marahau, the southern entrance of Abel Tasman National Park, we got up close with the amazing coastline including outlying islands. Highlights included marveling at impressive granite rock formations just as Split Apple Rock
and observing wildlife.
Then it was time to go on land for the first time at Te Pukatea Bay where Stu, our friendly and competent guide, laid out a picnic of coffee and tea with two kinds of tasty cake,
followed by an (optional) instructive nature walk to witness forest ecology, botany, predator traps and incredible views.
Back in the boat again, there is some more exploring the coastline before stopping again for having lunch and another short nature walk at Mosquito Bay.
On the return to Marahau, there was the opportunity to be dropped off at Apple Tree Bay for a walk back to Abel Tasman National Park’s south entrance (one and a half hour). Of course, my husband and I took this chance and walked back to the starting point while viewing the magical coastline and taking in the wonderful scenery once again.

Where to stay and eat in style near Abel Tasman National Park

As before in the area of Ben Boyd National Park in Australia, there is a shortage of adequate hotels and restaurants for demanding travelers. Having said that, there is a truly luxurious hotel onsite, Split Apple Retreat. However, my husband and I had decided that it is not suitable for our case as we had little time left for spending time here on the one hand and as it seemed a bit steep on the other hand. There are some upscale lodging opportunities in Nelson, the only bigger town in the area, an hour from Marahau. But if you want to stay in style close to the park’s southern entrance, the nearest to this might be Split Apple Lodge.
This accommodation, located in the middle between Marahau and Kaiteriteri, offers breathtaking views over the Tasman Bay.
It features a spacious communal deck and a large guest lounge. A serviced breakfast buffet
and afternoon snacks are included, there is also the opportunity to use the kitchen for preparing your own dinner. The rooms (six rooms and a self-contained apartment) are rather small and sparsely furnished in a contemporary way.
They have a somewhat basic bathroom
and – if you are in a Sea View Room – a private balcony.

In terms of dining, your best choice in my view is Hooked on Marahau, in Marahau, serving delicious fish

and other dishes in relaxed atmosphere. Another recommended place to go is The Views, A vegetarian restaurant, in Kaiteriteri, offering a variety of well-made meatless dishes
including pizzas in a rather non-descript hotel ambiance.

Overall

If you look for Oceania national parks in a splendid coastal location offering a myriad of opportunities to enjoy wonderful nature, then you cannot go wrong with Ben Boyd National Park in southeastern Australia and Tasman Abel National Park in the north of New Zealand’s South Island. While the former is ideally explored on foot, it is recommended doing this with latter at least partly on the water.

Lodging and dining opportunities for discerning travelers near both national parks are not exactly plentiful but but I was lucky enough to have found some!

Date of visit: November 2018


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