With its encircling wooded Town Belt, great city views from nearby hills and the temptation of watching seals along the southern coast, Wellington offers some excellent and easily accessible walking. Pick up free detailed leaflets from the i-SiTe (see p.000). for information on walks around Wellington, see p.000.
Red Rocks Coastal Walk (4km each way; 2–3hr return). An easy walk that traces Wellington’s southern shoreline to Sinclair Head, where a colony of bachelor New Zealand fur seals takes up residence from May–oct each year. The walk follows a rough track along the coastline from owhiro Bay to Sinclair Head, passing a quarry and the eponymous Red Rocks – well-preserved volcanic pillow lava, formed about 200 million years ago by underwater volcanic eruptions and coloured red by iron oxide. Maori variously attribute the colour to bloodstains from Maui’s nose or blood dripping from a paua-shell cut on Kupe’s hand, while another account tells how Kupe’s daughters cut themselves in mourning, having given up their father for dead. The track starts around 7km south of the city centre at the quarry gates at the western end of owhiro Bay Parade, where there’s a car park. To get here by bus either take the frequent #1 to island Bay (get off at the Parade at the corner of Reef Street and walk 2.5km to the start of the walk) or, at peak times, catch #4, which continues to Happy Valley, 1km from the track. Both head east from Courtenay Place.
The Southern Walkway (11km; 4–5hr). Offering excellent views of the harbour and central city, this walk cuts through the Town Belt to the south of the city centre, between oriental and island bays. despite a few steep stretches it’s fairly easy going overall. fantails, grey warblers and wax-eyes provide company, and island Bay offers some of the city’s best swimming. The walk can be undertaken in either direction and is clearly marked by posts bearing orange arrows. To start at the city end, simply walk along oriental Parade (or take bus #14 or #24) to the entrance of Charles Plimmer Park, just past 350 oriental Parade. To begin at the southern end, take the #1 bus to island Bay and follow the signs from nearby Shorland Park.
The Northern Walkway (16km; 4–5hr). extending through tranquil sections of the Town Belt to the north of the city centre this panoramic walk stretches from Kelburn to the suburb of Johnsonville, covering five distinct areas – Botanic Garden, Tinakori Hill, Trelissick Park, Khandallah Park and Johnsonville Park – each accessible from suburban streets and served by public transport. Highlights are the birdlife on Tinakori Hill (tui, fantails, kingfishers, grey warblers, silver-eyes); the regenerating native forest of Ngaio Gorge in Trelissick Park; great views across the city and the harbour and over to the Rimutaka and Tararua ranges from a lookout on Mount Kaukau (430m); and, in Johnsonville Park, a disused road tunnel hewn through solid rock. Start at the top of the Cable Car and head north through the Botanic Garden, or join the walk at Tinakori Hill by climbing St Mary Street, off Glenmore Street, and following the orange arrows through woodland. To begin at the northern end, take a train to Raroa station on the Johnsonville line.