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Ocean Beach to Orongorongo

18km, 3-5 hours, Grade 3-4 (Intermediate to Advanced)

Suitable for:  Regular cyclists with a good level of fitness.

Things to be aware of:  Potential for cold and wet weather around the exposed South Coast section.  Quite challenging trail conditions with rocky and sandy sections.  There is little or no cell phone coverage around the South Coast.  Ensure you are carrying enough food as there are no shops on this part of the trail.


Wild Coast Trail heading north 1

The final section of the trail runs along the South Coast of the North Island, with the Cook Strait on your left and hill country to your right . On a clear day, the snow-capped peaks of the South Island’s Kaikoura Ranges are visible across the water.

Much of the land is part of the Orongorongo Station, one of the oldest established operations in the country.  The landscape is one of stark and rugged beauty, but do keep an eye on the weather while planning and riding, as this section is exposed to southerly winds off the ocean.

The southernmost point of the trail is at Turakirae Head, where riders will find the unique geological formation of the raised beaches. Formed by a series of tectonic uplifts over the past 7000 years, three of the five ‘beaches’ are visible as distinct ridges on the coastline. 

The headland is also home to a colony of up to 500 fur seals each winter.

The trail then runs north to the mouth of the Orongorongo River where the Wainuiomata Coast Road provides a road link back to the city of Wellington.


Points of interest:

  • Southern Coastline: Māori settled the Palliser Bay area in approximately 1200 AD. Archaeological data tells us it is one of the oldest inhabited areas in New Zealand.  
    The coast is filled with stories of early settlement, shipwrecks, violent storms and earthquake upheaval.

  • Turakirae Head raised beaches:  The name Turakirae tells us that this is the headland (rae) where the Rimutaka Range comes down (turaki) to the sea. The five earthquake-raised beaches are internationally-renowned in scientific circles for the continuous record they provide of geological upheaval over the past 7,000 years.  

    The most recent uplift occurred in 1855 when an earthquake measuring 8 on the Richter scale raised the beach 2.5 metres at Turakirae Head and 1.7 metres in Wellington Harbour. The second beach ridge was uplifted by a similar ’quake around 1460 AD. This is now about 8 metres above sea level and is separated from the 1855 beach by a platform of large boulders.  

    A similar platform separates the third beach at about 16 metres above sea level. This beach is estimated to have been uplifted about 3,000 years ago.

  • Seal ColonyUp to 500 New Zealand fur seals stay at Turakirae Head each winter. The colony mainly comprises juvenile males, which spend their time here building up condition before moving to breeding colonies in other areas. During the breeding season they will not eat for three months or more, living off the fat reserves they build up over winter.  

    This colony began in 1950 and has steadily increased since then to become the largest haulout on the south Wellington coast. All seals should be treated with caution.

    Never approach too closely, and do not get between a seal and the sea.

  • Located on the south coast of the Wairarapa is the oldest house site in New Zealand.
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