Beyond the compact and wonderfully walkable city center, Wellington offers a diverse selection of hiking trails for weekend warriors and hardcore hikers. There are hundreds of walks to do in the region, between the city, the port and the coast. Here are some of our favorites.
If you don’t fancy taking on the 3,000 km Te Araroa trail in New Zealand, why not hike one of its most spectacular sections? Stretching from Paekākāriki to Pukerua Bay on the Kāpiti Coast, the Escarpment Track is a much more doable 9.1km, four-hour walk. The trail follows the Kāpiti railway line before climbing 220 meters above sea level. Also known as the Stairway to Heaven, it features over 1,000 steps, two swing bridges, and views of Kāpiti Island.
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Red Rock Coastal Trail
Head to Wellington’s south coast and you’ll come across rock formations with an otherworldly red hue. From the parking lot at Ōwhiro Bay, the flat and easy 7.4 km walk, 2-3 hours round trip, follows the coastline of the Te Kopahou reserve. Explore the rugged Red Rocks/Pariwhero at low tide, walk historic tarps and spot fur seals in the colder months. The track is also open to 4x4s, so for a quieter experience go on Sundays when the track is closed to vehicles.
Brooklyn Wind Turbine/Pohill Preserve
It’s a 12km round trip (or bike ride) to visit the Brooklyn Wind Turbine – New Zealand’s oldest wind turbine – and take in some of the best views in town. From the top of Aro Street, the two-hour (one-way) trail enters the regenerating bushland of Polhill Reserve. Follow the signposts and keep your eyes peeled for native birds at the nearby Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary.
Mount Victoria Lookout Walk
Wellington’s most impressive views can be seen from the Mount Victoria Lookout Walk. There are several ways to explore the capital’s historic pine forest before climbing to soak up spectacular views of the city and harbour. The shorter 2.6km, 45 minute loop starts at the top of Majoribanks Street or Bayview Terrace and goes over the dog park to the start. The complete 4.6 km loop from Courtenay Place to the summit and via Oriental Bay takes 1.5 hours. For an even bigger adventure, follow the Southern Walkway along the coast to Island Bay.
Cross by ferry to the center of Wellington Harbor and explore the largest of its three islands. Matiu/Somes Island has a storied past, moonlighting as a lighthouse site, quarantine station and WWII defense post. Today it is a pest-free nature reserve that is home to native birds. After the mandatory biosecurity check, take the 40-minute loop trail that passes historic buildings and offers 360-degree views of the harbor. You can also camp in a sheepfold.
Beginning and ending at Mākara Beach, about 16km north of Wellington CBD, this 7km loop trail combines both sights and history. A Ngāti Ira pā sits at the western end of Fisherman’s Bay, while the high coastal cliffs are the site of gun emplacement used in World War II. This walk climbs to spectacular views of the rocky coast and crosses the Cook Strait and Kaikōura Ranges. Part of the trail is closed for lambing between August and September.
The Skyline Gateway
It will take you at least six hours to cover this challenging track that hugs the ridge between Old Coach Road in Johnsonville and Mākara Saddle in Karori. The 13.4km along Wellington’s exposed ridges – Mount Kaukau, Crow’s Nest, Kilmister Tops and Johnston Hill – offer views of the city, harbor and coast. On a good day, you can also spot the Marlborough Sounds and the Kaikōura Ranges. Weather conditions can be extreme, so be prepared.