Wonderful Wellington walks – Hit a hiking trail in the capital

Check out the best Wellington walks, as written by Peter Sim, a local tramper. We’ve got something for everyone in this fabulous list. Don’t plan a walk in the capital without reading this first!

There are many epic adventures to be had within the Wellington region – many of which are best undertaken by foot.

From day walks to multi-day tramps, there are countless options all within easy access of our capital city.

To help you plan your next walk in Wellington, we’ve given detailed descriptions of our favourite tracks, along with difficulty ratings and suggested times.

Find a walk that suits your fitness and needs and head out exploring in and around our amazing capital city…

Feet wearing hiking boot on a dusty track.

Wonderful Wellington Walks – Explore the Capital by Foot

The following walks have been ordered based on their difficulty. Keep in mind that it’s possible to walk any of them as far as you want before turning around – this makes even the most challenging multi-day hikes a possibility, even for a weekend wander.

Red Rocks Coastal Walk – South Coast

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 2-3 hours return.

Distance: 7.4km

Home to a unique scattering of rocks, coloured by iron compounds, and a group of bachelor seals, the Red Rocks Coastal Walk makes for a fabulous weekend walk with your family.

Beginning at Owhiro Bay car park it is possible to walk as far as you like around the curving coastline. Watch the waves crash on the shore as you check out the area’s unique rock formations. Towering cliffs to your right provide an impressive backdrop to the bay.

Whilst visiting, ensure you take some time to explore the rock pools. If you’ve got time, continue walking around where you might even meet the resident seals.

The Devil’s Gate sits a few kilometres in and is a great milestone to turn around and come back.

As you’re walking, keep an eye out for 4WD vehicles. They’re allowed on the track every day (but Sunday).

This is also a great place to enjoy fish and chips on the beach – we suggest stopping at Island Bay or Brooklyn to pick them up.

Did you know? You can venture out at night to discover an incredibly dark starry landscape, where there is much less light pollution (apart from the cars back at the carpark). It’s a great spot to practise your astrophotography.

Ōwhiro Bay, Wellington 6023

Rock formations at the coast where it meets the seas.

Putangirua Pinnacles – Wairarapa

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 1.5-2 hours.

Distance: 3km return

The Putangirua Pinnacles will be very familiar to those who enjoy Lord of the Rings – you’ll recognise it as the Dimholt Road.

Often a bit sludgy, this track takes you to another world where you can experience these rock formations.

From the carpark, it takes no more than a couple of hours there and back where you will be amazed.

You have two options on this walk – both of which are fantastic. It is possible both to walk through into the valley or walk up to the viewing area higher up.

Why not combine this with a visit to Cape Palliser, making for a uniquely epic weekend getaway?

Rocky tracks surrounded by trees.

The Skyline Walkway Along the Top of Wellington

Difficulty: Moderate.

Time: 6 hours.

Distance: 13.4km (with amazing options within the first 30 minutes)

A vantage point over both Wellington City and the South Island, the Skyline track trails through farmland. The ridgeline spans most of the western suburbs in Wellington City and can be completed from north to south or south to north.

Within just thirty minutes of the entrances, you’ll find the rolling hills of Ohariu Valley, excellent views and the opportunity to enjoy the sunset over the Cook Strait. With such easy access, this is an excellent walk to squeeze in on the weekend or after a busy day at work to clear your head.

Views can also include the snow on the Tararuas in the wintertime along with Mt Taranaki and Ruapehu (on clear nights) and the famous Mt Tappy to the south. There really are no better views in the southernmost capital in the world.

This beautiful walk also provides the opportunity to see both kākā and kerurū flying overhead. These stunning NZ native birds are a real highlight.

The highest point of Makara Road is the start of the track in the south of Karori. There, you will follow a trail of mountain bike paths to begin your 12km journey. Stay on the ridge and you will gain even more impressive views of the South Island.

Continuing on, you’ll pass Johnston’s Hill to your right, then the many turn-offs to Otari Bush, where if you’re lucky you may see native birds overhead. Push through more ups and downs as you traverse the Kilminister tops then make your way along to the Crow’s Nest.

The next dip will be sign posted ‘Bells Track’ to your right – this links up to Ngaio. Continue on to find yourself staring up towards one of the biggest inclines on the track. This takes you up to one of the most famous lookouts in Wellington, Mt Kaukau. At the top, you’ll find the massive TV tower (122m high, built in 1965) – it’s quite the structure!

Several access ways up and down Mt Kaukau can be found to your right – Woodmancote Road, Clark Street or Simla Crescent. It’s possible to end your journey at any of these. Or keep following the little purple markers that say ‘Skyline Walkway’.

The traditional finishes for this track are either McLintock Street in Johnsonville or along the Old Coach Road to Rifle Range Road – either way, just make sure it is the one where you dropped your car to get back!

If you have the time, there are many different combinations of trails and routes in this area. Tramp, trail run, mountain bike or enjoy easy stroll over lengths of 2km right up to marathon length for the Wuu2k!

This certainly is one of the best ways to see the whole of Wellington City – from the Stadium, to Porirua, out to the Remutaka Ranges, the Tararua Ranges and beyond. From the top, you’ll be able to see and plan out your upcoming adventures.

Karori, Wellington 6012

A woman in akimbo with her backpack stands atop a hill with the view of the grassy hills and mountains.

Paekakariki Escarpment – North of Wellington

Difficulty: Moderate.

Time: 3.5-4 hours.

Distance: 10km one way.

The Paekakariki Escarpment is perhaps one of the most beautiful day hikes in the Wellington region.

Swing bridges, forest, coast, islands and more – it offers a little bit of everything, making it hard to beat on a bluebird day!

This is a highlight of the Te Araroa Trail, and it beats walking along the road by a long shot.

From Paekakariki to Pukerua Bay, this track hugs the hill and includes many hundreds of stairs – sometimes known as the stairway to heaven.

Either start at Pukerua Bay Station or at Muri station at one end and finish (or start) nearer Paekakariki station afterwards.

With hundreds of stairs, this walk is a calf-burner but it’s more than worthwhile.

The bridges are definitely the draw card here as well as the seats at the high point of the track.

For an easier journey you can park your car at either end, go half way, then return back the way you came to avoid catching a train or figuring out an annoying car transfer.

The Pukerua Bay end is the better one if this is your chosen route as you’ll get double the swing bridges!

State Highway 1, Paekākāriki 5034

A woman walks on a small but long hanging bridge during a beautiful sunny day.

Rangituhi/Colonial Knob Walk – Porirua

Difficulty: Moderate.

Time: 3-5 hours.

Distance: 7.6km return

If you’re looking for spectacular views (and you’re not afraid of a fair bit of elevation gain), then theColonial Knob Walk is for you!

Rangituhi dominates the skyline of Porirua at an impressive height of 468m so it’s unsurprising that on a clear day, you can see as far as the Inland Kaikoura Range (in the South Island) and Mount Taranaki (to the north-west).

There are many ways to attack this training hill all with their own unique flair, but don’t expect to only find walkers up there. This collection of tracks also plays host to a world class mountain bike park.

The main track starts at Elsdon Carpark. This narrow track submerges you straight into the bush, before crossing over a series of bridges and then presenting you with a wall of stairs.

Once you have tackled the stairs (and there are a lot of them) you’ll come to a clearing – this is where views above Porirua and Tawa become present.

Depending on your walking pace, expect 35 minutes to get to this first look out then another 40 to push on to the top.

When you reach the ridge line, the steep incline becomes more gradual as stellar views out to Mana Island become visible.

Once you reach the top (by the building), you should be able to see Mt Kaukau to the south and the Tararua Ranges to the north.

For the best lookout spot follow the fence line alongside the building where the South Island boasts all its glory.

Trust us – this hike is worth the effort!

Ohariu, Wellington 6037

A view of the city, its surrounding mountains, harbours, and the ocean as seen from Mt. Rangituhi.

Kime Hut, Tararua Forest Park

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult.

Time: 6 hours in, 5 hours out. 11 hours in total over 2 days.

Distance: 21.6km return

Kime Hut sits atop the southern ridgeline of the Tararua Ranges. It is an obvious choice for Wellingtonians – that’s if you can handle the 5 hour uphill slog.

Multiple routes from Kime Hut leave many options for further exploration or simply a return trip back to the carpark.

The tramp starts an hour north of Wellington beginning at the Otaki Forks car park.

You’ll begin by crossing a swing bridge then meandering across flat(ish) grassy plains, before heading straight up a steep zig-zag gravel track. On the way you will pass Field Hut – this is a great place to stop for lunch and is also a popular (but more rustic) accomodation spot for the night.

The terrain eventually changes to tussock as you pass beyond the snow line. During the winter, the snow can make for a truly beautiful southern crossing.

The views over Kapiti are stunning from this point on – that’s if you aren’t shrouded in cloud and mist. Assuming the weather is clear, be sure to stop to admire the vista!

Continuing on, you’ll find yourself scrambling up rock and tramping through muddy tussock. This part of the tramp is covered in mounds but it really is one of the best parts – especially the last incline that ascends up to Bridge Peak (at an impressive 1,421m).

When the weather forecast is clear, Kime Hut fills up fast. With that in mind, we recommend heading directly there to secure your spot, before wandering out to the ridge line (just above the hut) for a beautiful sunset over Kapiti Island. From there, you’ll enjoy views over to the South Island – be sure to have your camera at the ready!

The next morning, you’ll want to wake up early (if you can manage it), to head along to Field Peak – it is just 10 minutes further on from the hut and is the perfect spot to soak in the sunrise. It is quite the sight to see the Tararua Ranges lit up from such an elevation. This is one of the highest huts in the forest park, so make the most of it while you’re there.

When it’s time to move on, you’ll head towards Mt Hector. Or, if you are up for a multi-day tramp, you’ll complete the whole southern crossing.

I have walked this in both sunshine and in a freezing cold blizzard and both make for excellent experiences, so don’t let the weather put you off too much.

With that said, of course make sure you’re equipped for the conditions (ideally with a Personal Location Beacon – PLB) and that you don’t push yourself too far. Each year, countless people come unstuck whilst tramping in New Zealand – you don’t want to be one of them.

A mountain peak with a view of clouds covering everything below it.

A talented photographer and keen tramper, Peter Sim runs Aotearoa Wanderer. When he isn’t out on a hiking track, you’ll find him at home in Wellington, where he is a teacher, hard at work inspiring the next generation.

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