Our guide to New Zealand's best places - Abel Tasman

Richard describes his childhood in the stunning Abel Tasman at the top of the South Island as idyllic. With a national park literally as his neighbour, he lived in an intentional community based on principles of shared responsibility and teamwork to provide a sustainable living environment. It encouraged independence in children that would horrify today's health and safety advocates, as children roamed the nearby land with machetes and sailed boats on the estuary while their parents built their future dwellings. The community, which still exists, is run as a trust with a board and no single leader and prefers to celebrate the equinox and solstice rather than any religious events.

Travellers in the area interested in WWOOFing (willing Workers on Organic Farms) at the community can contact tuiwoofing@gmail.com

Although you can fly from Wellington to this region in under an hour, we recommend taking the ferry across the Cook Strait using either the Interislander or Bluebridge. On a calm clear day you can expect spectacular views of the Marlborough Sounds as you approach Picton, while enjoying the ships amenities, including several restaurants, a bar and indoor and outdoor seating. Once in Picton its a scenic drive to the Nelson Marlborough region or beyond.

The area is well-known for its abundance of holiday homes, or baches as we refer to them in New Zealand. As we have discovered several times it pays to book early during the summer season to avoid only finding disappointing or exorbitantly priced options. If you are spending a night in the park and don't fancy sleeping in a tent, you can book at bed in a DOC (Department of Conservation) hut. Be aware you are booking a bed in a shared room only and not an entire hut to yourself, as a surprised tourist discovered in a story one former DOC worker recounted to us.

The Abel Tasman National Park is a 225km area surrounded by coastal beaches and walking trails. Famous for golden sand beaches, the area is great for hiking, camping and an array of water activities. Water taxis and shuttles pick up and drop off passengers from beaches around the park, varying in price and location depending on which company you choose.

We boarded a water taxi in Kaiteriteri and hopped off at the Awaroa Lodge. Their stylish accommodation was a bit above our price range, so we enjoyed a beverage before almost missing our connecting boat to Anchorage. Note to selves: remember to check the departure time.

We then enjoyed a 2-3 hour stroll (Vanessa was not sweating or swearing at any point) to the beautiful Apple Tree Bay where we sunbathed while waiting for our last boat returning to our rental car in Kaiteriteri to arrive