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Nature & Wildlife

Wellington city walks

  • 7 minutes

@Stuff

Best bits where to go for a stroll

Explore Wellington city centre on foot finding a writer’s walk, the interesting waterfront with its buzz of people, eateries and shops, Te Aro street art trail including Hannahs laneway, historic cemeteries and a stunning Botanic Gardens. Further afield Wellington offers the chance to climb heights to soak in the views of the harbour, Cooks Strait and beyond to the shimmering outline of the South Island. Nearby is Pencarrow Lighthouse, Mt Kaukau ridgeline trail and Makara Wind Farm to stretch the legs.

Wellington Harbour with Matiu Island in background, New Zealand

WELLINGTON CITY & TOWN WALKS

Wellington Writers Walk

Find 23 sculptures quoting Wellington writers. The placement of the sculptures between views of the land and harbour creates differing perspectives depending on your viewpoint at the time. Sometimes you have to look closely to identify where the sculpture is located

Wellington Waterfront stroll

The ideal spot for people gazing with numerous eateries and watersports happening on the harbour. The wide promenade is a local running, jogging, skating and biking track with participants artly dogging strolling visitors. Expect to see buskers, impromptu live entertainment and families trying out Wellington’s crocodile bikes.

Mt Victoria Lookout

Keep walking, from Courtney Place, past the iconic Embassy theatre (site of the Lord of the Rings worldwide launch) up the hill and trek up to Mt Victoria. You will be climbing 200 metres on the Southern Walkway. At the summit you have one of the best views of the Cooks Strait, the inner Wellington Harbour and through to Hutt Valley. The view is stupendously good and you will cool down as the breeze is sometimes a gale. Catch your breath, take photos you made it up to the summit and return to town on Majoribanks Street.

Mt Victoria Lookout, Wellington, New Zealand @Stuff
Mt Victoria Lookout @Stuff
Wellington Bolton Street cemetery Two jewish tombs, from 1840 to 1892, New Zealand
Wellington Bolton Street cemetery

BOLTON STREET CEMETERY (MEMORIAL PARK)

Find a hidden treasure of paths, spring flowers and Victorian / Edwardian funeral splendour in the Bolton Street Memorial Park. The park is often overlooked due to being overshadowed by the modern motorway system (which took much of the original cemetery grounds for its construction). The Bolton Street Memorial Park, one of Wellington’s earliest cemeteries and the burial ground of many early European settlers. Expect to see a great example of social division between classes with imported and local stone, iron and wood marking out the rich and well known from the trades burial plots.

CEMETERY WALKS – MOUNT STREET CEMETERY

Mount Street Cemetery, the first Roman Catholic cemetery in Wellington, was consecrated by Bishop Pompallier on 6 January 1841. The Mount Street Cemetery was the first cemetery in Wellington for Catholic burials and contains the graves of the first nuns and priests in Wellington

WELLINGTON BOTANIC GARDENS

Historic 19th century inspired collections with tulips, bedding plants and statues, the Lady Norwood Rose Garden conveniently located next to the garden cafe, winding paths partially shaded by exotic and native trees, quiet corners where Aotearoa New Zealand natives flourish and curated garden rooms reflecting the collecting passion of the gardeners.

Read more 10 best Wellington Gardens to visit, natural attractions: Best Bits

Wellington Botanic Garden Duck Pond, New Zealand
Wellington Botanic Garden Duck Pond

WELLINGTON WALKS

New Zealand Red Rocks Shoreline, Wellington @nomadasaurus
New Zealand Red Rocks Shoreline @nomadasaurus

RED ROCKS

Unearth a wildlife encounter and meet the local fur seal colony. A capital city where some of the locals are marine is amazing. Winter is the ideal time to explore the wild jagged rocks of the stormy south coast. It is likely there will be a brisk wind however if the seals don’t complain who are we to worry about a nip in the air. The very popular route can be walked, biked and even driven in a 4WD during the week. You will start at the Owhiro Bay Quarry site, pass 1950’s historic bachs and out to Devil’s Gate and Sinclair Heads.

Length: 5.6 km

Grade: Flat easy walk although can be uneven due to rock debris.

MT KAUKAU SKYLINE

Challenging ridgelines, extreme weather conditions yet the dual-use track running north and south along the ridge between Old Coach Road in Johnsonville and Makara Saddle in Karori is one of New Zealand unsung great walks. You are close to urban areas yet faraway trudging the line in the sky. The route follows the outer green belt onto Mount Kaukau, the Crow’s Nest, Kilmister Tops and Johnston Hill.

Highlights include

  • Absorbing the city at your feet
  • Watch Tararua and Orongorongo ranges as clouds swirl around the mountain tops
  • Clear days offer views of South Island Kaikoura Ranges, Marlborough Sounds

The walk ascents to 445 metres and is 14 km in length.

Mount Kaukau, Wellington, New Zealand @17sc12
Mount Kaukau @17sc12
Otari-Wilton Bush alpine climate zone section, New Zealand
Otari-Wilton Bush alpine climate zone section

FAMILY FRIENDLY OTARI – WILTON’S BUSH NATIVE BOTANIC GARDEN

A canopy walkway floats visitors across treetops to the visitor centre. This is a must-do walk for garden buffs with its comprehensive range of Aotearoa New Zealand plants. From alpine to lush temperate forest this glorious pocket handkerchief is a superb introduction to native flora and fauna.

Read more 10 best Wellington Gardens to visit, natural attractions: Best Bits

TE RAEKAIHAU POINT

Te Raekaihau ‘the headland that eats the wind’ is a favourite location for photographers wanting great shots of Lyall Bay, Island Bay and Cook Strait. On the fringe of Taputeranga Marine Reserve there are numerous tracks to explore. Well-formed walkway from here to Princess Bay. Princess Bay is a favourite with families for its sheltered coves, rock pools and possibilities to explore marine life. The nearby Cooks Strait adds a spice of drama as it relentlessly pounds the coast and the Cooks Strait ferry regularly sails past on its way to the harbour entrance.

TIP

The area has little light pollution and is known as a good place to view the stars.

Te Raekaihau point, Wellington, New Zealand @wellywalkies
Te Raekaihau point @wellywalkies
Taputeranga Marine Reserve, Wellington, New Zealand @matt_ruglys_photography
Taputeranga Marine Reserve @matt_ruglys_photography

TAPUTERANGA MARINE RESERVE

Island Bay Snorkel Trail is a marine reserve with buoys marking the route. The sheltered bay offers great snorkelling opportunities and is suitable for competent swimmers.  Take your own snorkel gear or head to a local dive shop to get kitted out; the best snorkelling is at half to full tide.  Island Bay is also one of the great dive sites in New Zealand. Divers have the chance to delve into the wreck of the navy frigate HMNZS Wellington. In summer a swim raft is moored in the bay.

TIP

Wet suits even in summer are recommended

MAKARA WIND FARM SHARED WALKING TRACK

Get swept off your feet by the impressive towering 62 wind turbines sprinkled across the hillside at the Makara wind farm. Public access includes a viewing platform, walking and mountain bike tracks. The recreation area includes the old Post Office building, which has been converted into a viewing platform – retaining some of its most unique features and creating a space where views of the coast and the wind farm can be enjoyed. From here visitors can take a short walk to the People’s Turbine, one of the wind farm’s 62 turbines, and the only turbine that the public will be able to access on the site.There are also two other walking tracks of various lengths and difficulty that offer fantastic views of the coastline and access to Makara Beach from the recreation area. Two mountain biking tracks, designed and constructed by Wellington mountain bikers Jonathan, Paul and Simon Kennett, provide some wonderful challenges for keen mountain bikers.

Makara wind farm, Wellington, New Zealand @jacintaleephotography
Makara wind farm @jacintaleephotography
Pencarrow Lighthouse, Wellington, New Zealand @armed_crosschecked
Pencarrow Lighthouse @armed_crosschecked

PENCARROW LIGHTHOUSE

Get out of town and stretch your legs exploring the entrance to Wellington harbour. The first permanent lighthouse in New Zealand and home to New Zealand’s first official woman lighthouse keeper Mary Bennett. The coast line has recorded over 40 shipwrecks with a rusting ship. The steamer Paiaka wrecked in July 1906 was excavated and placed by the side of the road

INTERESTING FACT

As you near Pencarrow Head, if you are walking you can climb the path up the hill promontory for spectacular views from the historic Pencarrow Lighthouse. You pass a child’s grave surrounded by a white rail fence. Evelyn Violet Amy Wood, the daughter of one of the lighthouse keepers, died in March 1896.

MARITIME DISASTERS – WAHINE FERRY

The Pencarrow Coastal Trail is a walk through marine history with the fate of the Wahine ferry a reminder of the power of the ocean. The Wahine ferry sinking inside the Wellington Heads (1968) had considerable loss of life with victims washing up on the Pencarrow coastline. View the memorial plaque at the Pencarrow Carpark.

Wahine 50, Wellington, New Zealand @AREC Today
Wahine @AREC Today
SS Penguin plaque, Wellington, New Zealand @NZHistory
SS Penguin plaque @NZHistory

MARITIME DISASTERS SS PENGUIN

A plaque commemorating the wreck of the SS Penguin, New Zealand’s worst maritime disaster of the 20th century. It is located on a prominent rock at Tongue Point close to where the ship, carrying 102 people, is thought to have hit rocks and foundered.

The plaque was to have been unveiled at the site during a ceremony to mark the disaster’s centenary on 12 February 2009, but the event was moved to Makara Hall because of bad weather.

Read more about what to do and see in Wellington travel guide

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