Wellington is full of classic North Island scenery: huge hills topped with lush green grass and sandy beaches lapped by salty water. The best way to fully explore it all is with a day hike.
Most are up to 10 kilometres long and will take around four to five hours to complete, so plan a day around them, complete with a stop for local food and coffee at the end.
The Escarpment Track takes you between Paekākāriki and Pukerua Bay: two towns on the beautiful western coastline of New Zealand’s North Island. A well-built track featuring two swing bridges, this is one of the region’s most popular walks, maintained by local volunteers who have made an effort to preserve the area’s natural vegetation. It has steep sections (the whole track is 1,200 steps, including the 400-step “stairway to heaven”) but rewarding views, and at around 10 kilometres long it will take around half a day to complete. Get the train from the city to Paekākāriki, walk the track then jump on a train at Pukerua Bay to head home. Stop by Beach Road Deli for coffee and a bagel before you start, then finish off with a pie at local coffee caravan, Greedy and Co..
Southern Walkway Track
The Southern Walkway track starts at Oriental Bay, a beach suburb with crystal clear waters. Head south to the top of Mount Victoria for views of the city and water beyond. On the track, you’ll walk through some classically lush New Zealand greenery and past a famous location from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The full path runs for 10 kilometres and can be completed in about four to five hours, but for the food-minded, you can split it up into smaller sections and stop at some cafes. We recommend Tomboy and Myrtle Bakery and Kitchen at Mount Victoria, and Lola Stays at Oriental Bay.
Red Rocks Coastal Walk
The popular Red Rocks Coastal Walk takes you along Wellington’s rugged south coast, with views of historic beaches and rock formations, including the red-coloured rocks that were formed 200 million years ago (and have intriguing Māori legends about how the rocks came to be the colour that they are). The track is around six kilometres long and will take about three hours to complete. In winter there are often seals perched along it, but it’s best to view them from a distance so they don’t get stressed. Before you set off, grab a coffee and breakfast (try the bacon and egg roti pockets) at Beach House and Kiosk near the starting point at Oku Street Reserve.
Head to Wellington Central and jump on the Ika Rere – the first electric ferry in the southern hemisphere – to travel for half an hour from Queen’s Wharf to Days Bay in Eastbourne. When you arrive, visit Marmalade Deli and pick up supplies (cakes, pastries and bread) to picnic with later. Then walk along the MacKenzie Road Track to Butterfly Creek, a peaceful spot next to a valley inside East Harbour Regional Park. The track is a zig-zag trail that runs through the park’s lush greenery. Once you’re inside, there are lots of options for shorter or longer trails, so if you change your mind after the picnic and want to head back, or carry on for a longer hike, the park is your oyster.
Brooklyn Wind Turbine Route
The Brooklyn Wind Turbine is an iconic site in Wellington, originally installed in 1993 to test the strength of the city’s notorious winds for generating renewable energy. A huge success, it now powers an average of 490 homes a year. This two-hour one-way track takes you from the Waimapihi Reserve entrance to the turbine’s public viewing area, which has panoramic views of the city. It’s green and full of native birds, and popular with runners and mountain-bikers. The Salty Pidgin is a neighborhood bistro near Waimapihi Reserve – make a hearty meal at the end your motivation for making your way back down those hills.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Wellington NZ.