Although named the Abel Tasman National Park, the area existed for millions of years before the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman came upon and named the land New Zeeland. Trees, plants and birdlife evolved in New Zealand to form our unique native flora and fauna.
New Zealand’s evolution is distinctive because, apart from two native bat species, the landscape was totally devoid of mammals. This provided an environment perfect for creating our many unique flightless birds.
The Maori people came to the Abel Tasman area around 500 years ago and mostly inhabited the beach areas as seasonal food gathering sites, however there were permanent settlement sites in Awaroa Inlet.
The explorer Abel Tasman on his voyage of discovery in 1642 anchored nearby but did not set foot in the Abel Tasman area or indeed New Zealand. As his crew were making their way to shore, they were met by the local Maori people in waka (canoes). An altercation took place and 4 of his crew were killed and the expedition left immediately.
The area was missed by Captain Cook’s later expeditions, leaving the early European exploration to be carried out by a Frenchman, Dumont d’Urville, in 1827. This indeed accounts for the many French names within the park today – Adele Island, Coquille Bay and Astrolabe Roadstead, to name a few.
Once early European settlement began in New Zealand, timber mills flourished in the area. Once much of the easy timber had been milled, concerns about the despoliation of the native landscape emerged.
One of the concerned people, Perrine Moncrieff, led a group wanting to protect this area from future timber milling. In 1942, exactly 300 years after Abel Tasman’s first European visit, the Abel Tasman National Park was formed and the coastal track developed from there.
Today the Abel Tasman National Park is the smallest of New Zealand’s National Parks but has the most visitors from New Zealand and around the world. It has been awarded the highest level of possible protection by the New Zealand Government.