If your liking is for a short and easy hike around a seaside headland through native forest accompanied by the ever-present sound of the sea, and often the wind, then I can recommend one of my favourite morning-before-breakfast-walks in Abel Tasman National Park – the Headlands Track.
It is true that you can fit it in before breakfast without feeling like you are on a hunger march and it is also true that it is accessible to all ages and abilities with just minimal planning. This planning entails checking on the low tide time so that you can do a nice, neat round trip across the small estuary at the top of the beach and so avoid a long detour, mostly on roads, around the back of the Totaranui campground.
Once over the estuary, and having flicked off the sand and re-laced your shoes, you can go either right or left when you come up from the beach. I favour the right-hand option because it gets you up high quickly through the very beautiful forest and out onto the headland where a small seat awaits with a snapshot view of Totaranui Beach and Awaroa to the south. If you don’t sit down here, at least enjoy the view for a moment before trucking off along the ridge top.
There’s pretty good birdlife on the walk and you will almost certainly see a few weka running about and probably kererū and tui diving through the canopy.
The trail dips up and down, but mostly down, and through what I believe is one of the real attractions of the walk – long, airy avenues of manuka. If it is sunny, these corridors along the crest are really captivating as the dappled light casts a pattern of light and shadow through the forest. There are several corridors with some being almost completely level and lovely to wander through.
The track curves around to the west and then south as it begins to drop back to the estuary. At this point, the canopy is more open and views of the beach below become frequent. Soon, a track junction is reached where the Headland Track intersects with the main Abel Tasman Coast Track heading north to Anapai and Separation Point. If you are still keen, Anapai is just another 30 minutes on, but Separation is more than two hours away and best left for a longer excursion.
A pleasant winding track leads to the head of the estuary at Totaranui and then it is a flat and very scenic walk around the estuary, through forests, wetlands and a short hillside terrace trail to the open sands where you crossed earlier.
If you got the tides right, it’s an easy crossing. But if the water has come in, you’ll have to take the longer track and road option back to the start.
- Total Ascent
- At the north end of Totaranui Beach the Coast Track continues across the estuary and onto the headland