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There's nothing quite like watching the sun rise over Wellington. The sun eases up from behind layers of blue mountains, casting a rosy-tinged glow across the harbour and cityscape. Some things are worth getting up early for; here's our pick of the best spots to seize the day:
In the midst of the Town Belt greenery, the Te Ahumairangi Lookout is peaceful, as well as beautiful. Viewing a sunrise here is a very special experience.
You can walk from the central city, through the Botanic Gardens and then along a few streets; or by car head to Orangi Kaupapa Road in Northland and the Lookout turnoff. You can take your car up a little way, but need to continue on foot for 5-10 minutes. Your reward for this effort is some of the most spectacular views in Wellington. You can see east down to the city and across the harbour, and south all the way to the coast.
For an even easier option, take the Stellin Memorial Park turnoff a little further down Orangi Kaupapa Rd. You can drive right up to a carpark on the ridgeline with similar views down to the city and harbour. Noone need miss this view.
One of the most popular places to get a view over the city and harbour, Mount Victoria Lookout is a Wellington must-do.
Right next door to the central business district, you can drive all the way up, or take a walkway through the Town Belt. Watch planes flying into the airport, and ferries sailing out through the harbour with a 360-degree panorama.
You’ll find a steady stream of locals, visitors and tour buses head up to this landmark lookout during the day, but if you’re aiming to catch the dawn, it’ll be a good deal quieter. It's also an incredible spot to watch the sun set.
Overlooking the entrance to Wellington Harbour, the Eastern Walkway is a scenic coastal walk that feels removed from the bustle of city life, while only being a short drive from the centre of town.
The walkway also takes in the historic Ataturk Memorial, and the memorial to the Wahine Disaster of 1968. The walk takes around an hour and a half, with gorgeous dawn views most of the way around.
This one is a bit more of an expedition; but it’s well worth the effort and the exercise. Get up here in time for the sunrise and you will have earned yourself good karma and somewhere nice for brunch.
Head in through Khandallah Park, past the pool and the playground to the beginning of the track to the summit. In the pre-dawn light, you'd be wise to take a torch, as you'll be walking through native bush. It's not a hike, but reasonable footwear is a must. Plenty of local joggers use the track, so a decent pair of outdoor runners would be fine.
The 445m climb takes about an hour, but when you get there, you'll be on the highest point overlooking Wellington Harbour. On a clear day, look to the south and you'll see all the way across Cook Strait to the South Island. On the way back down, you'll enjoy the dawn chorus echoing through the surrounding forest. Magic.
A 25-minute walk from the carpark at the end of Hatton St in Karori takes you to the summit of Johnston Hill. This is a great option if you want a bit of everything for your dawn viewing - a bit of a walk to get the blood pumping, but not too much, relatively accessible but not too poular, and great views across the city towards the harbour and the rising sun.
For detailed maps, pics and information about Wellington's most popular walking and mountain biking trails visit the Wellington Regional Trails website.