One of the reasons I love tramping is for the feeling of solitude – the ability to kid my mind into thinking I’m the only one who has ever explored this place.
But in a kayak, a whole new world of solitude materialises. Fewer people have boats than feet, meaning when you explore a section of coastline accessible only by boat, you have a far greater chance of getting it to yourself.
Even somewhere as packed as the Abel Tasman affords periods of fantastic emptiness on the water. Plenty of beaches become accessible which are not available to those on the trail – or are too cumbersome a side trip for most to bother.
A few days spent exploring a stretch of coastline like this is hugely satisfying, especially if you get out early when the water’s at its calmest. There can be few greater pleasures than floating past beaches on glassy water with the occasional leaping mullet and the trees glowing against a low morning sun.
Contrary to this, when the wind picks up, you can have a fight on your hands. Your idyllic waltz becomes a breakdance, as you battle to keep the vessel facing forward,, countering the chop with spray battering your face.
A multiday trip, taken at a steady pace, gives you a chance to enjoy the calm or the storm – whichever you prefer – while vegging out when conditions are less favourable. It’s an entirely different experience to a tramp, but one every lover of the outdoors should try.
Bay of Islands, Northland
The only island where camping is allowed is Urupukapuka. From that base, days can be spent exploring the surrounding islands and bays
Queen Charlotte Sound, Marlborough
Sheltered and serene, with plenty of accommodation and a water taxi service
Mahurangi Regional Park, Auckland
Numerous camping spots, beaches and islands; though very tidal, so best when the water’s up