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A pretty section of track with some of the best original forest cover. Depending on the tide there is either a crossing of the Torrent Bay Estuary and it’s huge sand flats, or a circumnavigation of the estuary edge with the detour to Cleopatra’s Pool and it’s natural water slide. A choice of beaches for sandwiches and swimming.
Check tide times https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/nelson-tasman/places/abel-tasman-national-park/things-to-do/tracks/abel-tasman-coast-track/tide-tables to work out if you have to take the high tide track, or if the low-tide track is an option.
Water taxis can take you to both Anchorage and Bark Bay. Larger vessels stop at Medlands Beach, 10 minutes south of Bark Bay.
Anchorage to Bark Bay via high tide track 4 hours | 11.5 km
From Anchorage, head to the southern end of the beach and the large orange triangle. At the top of the small hill, head left. Straight ahead shortly arrives at the Torrent Bay Estuary. The climb up the hill arrives back on the main Coast Track. A few sneaky peeks look out over the estuary and towards Torrent Bay Village, before a gentle descent up the Torrent River. From the bridge you can often spot whitebait. The deep green pool by the small beach is ripe for a swim on a hot day.
Up the head of the Torrent River here feels a long way from the coast, but as the track follows the river downstream, sublime estuarine views over Torrent Bay Estuary fill the horizon blue. Although only a small body of water, the sinuous coastline is a significant detour compared to the direct crossing at low tide. But very pretty. Cross Tregidga Creek on the footbridge and pass the junction with the Falls River Track before arriving at Torrent Bay Village. Here is a collection of ingenious Kiwi style baches, with some rich and famous ones dumped in too. This land is private title. These are houses like anywhere else, except there is no mains electricity, phone lines or rubbish collection. Everything comes in and out by boat. There are no permanent residents, save a few seasonal workers. However during the New Zealand summer holidays the place is packed, with every house enjoying family and extended family in a typical clean orgy of beer, wine, fishing and water sports.
The end of the sandspit, at the mouth of the estuary, is a quiet place to watch the tide roll in. And if you are spending a night here, you can watch it roll away again. Otherwise the main track continues at the northern end of the beach. The best view of Torrent Bay is reserved for the switchback before the track heads inland once again through an area cleared of pine trees, planted by the early pioneers bach owners. The forest beyond is lofty and green, with gullies stuffed full of ferns, cliffs of hard beech and occasional emerging podocarps. Cross Glasgow Stream, named after an early bach owning local family, and Kilby Stream, named in memory of the first park ranger employed by the park board, who was responsible for surveying and cutting the first track. Another magnificent viewpoint over the tropicalesque waters of Frenchmans Bay and then it’s a descent to the longest swingbridge in the park over Falls River.
Climbing out of the watershed is a 20 minute-return steep descent to Sandfly Bay and another 20 minute-return detour to South Head. The main track then continues towards Bark Bay, with an optional short descent to the quaint and secluded Medlands Beach. That is except for when the large boats disgorge their clients in a flurry of activity, before all is calm again. The beach was named after another early bach owner, Vern Medland, who was a notable personality of the region.
The junction which takes you to Bark Bay beach is 5 minutes before the one to the hut.
Cleopatra’s Pool 20 minutes return | 1.6 km
From the junction head upriver, passing the huge boulders and towering rimu lining the steep gully. A dangling rata vine is near the stream crossing, where most walkers can negotiate the stepping stones without removing footwear. When it’s wet, take care on the rocks, as they are mighty slippery. And if it’s been raining hard the stream will be impassable.
Cleopatra’s Pool is like Disneyland but real. A perfect cascade tumbles over pink granite bluffs into a plunge pool, drained by a natural water slide. The large pool at the base is home to eels, who happily share their home with sweaty walkers keen for a dip. Smooth-as-skin bluffs beside the falls and a hotch-potch of boulders below are draped with bodies, re-warming after refreshing swims.
Anchorage to Torrent Bay via the Low Tide Track
From Anchorage, head to the southern end of the beach and the large orange triangle. At the top of the small hill continue straight head. Left takes you up to the main Coast Track and the high tide route.
At the estuary edge take your shoes and socks off. There is no way to do the crossing maintaining dry feet. The first part is squidgy mud, which wriggles up between your toes. Crabs scurry for their holes as they sense your vibrations. Walking in the water is a better bet and in the afternoons is warm and caressing to tired feet. The main Torrent River crossing is never more than waist high and if it is, then either get wet, turn back and use the high tide track or wait an hour. Even heading further upstream doesn’t help. Once out of the cold mountain drained water the massive shell banks are an easy surface, save for the odd sharp shell to catch an unwary step. A shallow stream crossing arrived in the village near the jetty and rejoins the main Coast Track through the village.
South Island ▷ Nelson Region ▷ Abel Tasman
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Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍