You don’t have to venture too far to find Wellington walks you’ll want to explore. Wellington has tons of spots for the eager outdoorsy type among us. It offers coastal trails, rugged islands, native bird havens and not one but two swing bridges and so much more! My pick of Wellington walks continues on from A Wellingtonian’s Definitive Guide to Wellington v2.0 in which I shared everything I love about Wellington, New Zealand including the best places to eat, drink and explore. If you’re looking for a dose of feel good endorphins, nature and wildlife, these might be the walks for you. My top 3 Wellington walks.
Red Rocks Nature Reserve / Pariwhero • website
Firstly, Red Rocks as it’s commonly referred to by Wellingtonians. I absolutely love the south coast of Wellington. It feels wild, rugged and unpredictable. It’s one of the first places I tell friends to visit. Approximately a one-hour bike ride from the CBD, it is a very accessible area. You can ride the steep route via Brooklyn or the scenic coastal route via Lyall Bay and around the bays. I highly recommend this route as the bays are a Wellington highlight in themselves.
Once you get to Red Rocks, it feels like you’re a million miles from anywhere. The hills climb high to your right and the waves crash onto the pebbled beach on your left as you make your way towards Devil’s Gate – a large rocky outcrop that surrounds the trail. It sounds menacing right! It takes approximately 1 hour to reach Devil’s Gate on foot (depending on fitness levels, conditions etc). It looks impressive too, especially when a 4×4 vehicle navigates up and through this bulky rocky mass. My favourite thing about this walk though is that during May to October, a fur seal colony makes it their home. I can’t help but return, time and time again to watch them sunbathing and frolicking in the water. Just remember, keep your distance and don’t disturb them.
Time – depending on how far you’d like to walk, 2 – 6 hours. Note, this is not a circuit, therefore leave plenty of time to walk back via the same route before it gets dark.
Price – free
Tip – on a Sunday all vehicles are prohibited on the trail itself and can only go as far as the carpark, making for a peaceful walk and/or run.
Matiu / Somes Island • website
Matiu/Somes is an island in the middle of Wellington harbour offering incredible views of the city from a unique perspective. That’s reason enough to visit! While it may not necessarily be classed as a Wellington walk, it’s certainly a place I recommend visiting and there are walking opportunities aplenty too.
This predator-free DOC reserve is a real haven for native species. On my last visit, I spotted a number of little blue penguins clambering around on the rocks – my favourite! As well as parakeets, plus a couple of sunbathing gecko. There are a selection of short, yet incredibly scenic tracks to wander, which offer great sneak peeks of hidden bays, surprisingly turquoise water and an operating lighthouse. It’s only a 15-minute ferry across to Matiu/Somes Island via the East by West Ferry from the waterfront near the TSB Arena. Matiu/Somes Island is perfect for a family outing or a unique Wellington adventure.
Time – depending on the trails you wish to walk, approximately 2 to 4 hours.
Price – ferry prices from Queens Wharf are $23 adult | $19 student | $12 children (3-15 yo) | $67 family (2 adults, 4 children). DOC site – donations accepted.
Tip – take a picnic, as well as snacks and drinks as nothing is available on the island. Ensure all items are in sealed containers to avoid attracting unwanted rodents onto the island.
Zealandia • website
Walking up to the entrance of Zealandia always reminds me of Jurassic Park… It has several sets of large gates, high fences and I get a tinge of excitement as I approach. Again, it’s not typically classed as one of the Wellington walks, however this massive sanctuary of over 550 acres has a huge number of trails to explore. They vary from short, easy walks to longer, more challenging ones. As you disappear deeper and deeper into the sanctuary, you are transported into the New Zealand wilderness, alone with the birds… and the occasional walker too.
Time – depending on the walks and activities you wish to do, approximately a half to full day.
Price – $19.50 adult | $16.50 student | $10 children (5-17 yo) | $46 family (2 adults, 3 children).
Tip – grab yourself a native bird identification card on your way into the sanctuary and keep a tally of how many different species you spot. It’s so much fun! Ps. There is a cafe available serving drinks, snacks and hot/cold food.
Paekakariki to Pukerua Bay Trail • website
Finally… I know, I know… I said my top 3 Wellington walks but there are just too many! I couldn’t resist adding this one. The Paekakariki to Pukerua Bay Trail is located on the stunning Kapiti Coast. I shared my experience of this breathtaking walk, in more ways than one (sorry, lame pun…) shortly after it opened. Have a read of the original article here: Paekakariki to Pukerua Bay Trail. The trail has continued to grow in popularity and for good reason. It has the best views possible from land of Kapiti Island and sheer drops to the coast far below. This definitely helps boost the adrenaline levels. Also, it doesn’t just have one swing bridge, it has two. What more could you ask for?
Often referred to as ‘Stairway To Heaven’ it’s no easy feat to conquer this Wellington walk. There are plenty of steps to tackle and it may play with your vertigo – if you suffer from it of course! However, this half day walk is extremely rewarding. I want to walk it again now just thinking about my first experience of walking it. The trail can be accessed via car or train from Wellington CBD to Paekakariki in approximately 1-hour.
Time – approximately half day depending on weather conditions, fitness levels and pace.
Price – free, donations accepted.
Tip – highly recommend beginning with scrambled eggs on toast with avocado and a flat white. This is available from one of Paekakariki’s excellent cafes. Of course, you can order something different if you so wish…
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