Explore the Region
Known for its wild coastlines, quaint villages, local eating, trails for exploring and first-class wine country, exploring the wider Wellington region is a great way to taste the best New Zealand has to offer all in one perfect easy to get around package.
With around 3,000 hectares of parks, reserves, bush-clad hills, beaches, walkways and tracks, the Hutt Valley is an adventure lover’s paradise. Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt are city neighbours minutes apart, which combined offer a giant playground that lures mountain bikers, runners, kite surfers and other modern day adventurers. Which is entirely appropriate, as the area was said to be first discovered by the great Polynesian navigator Kupe, who landed on the Petone (from the Māori Pito-one) shore, before other Māori and then Europeans settled the area.
But it’s not just about the outdoors, the Hutt Valley is a hub of artisan food and drink producers, such as coffee roasters, craft beer, cheese makers and bakers of ‘the best chocolate cake in the world’ according to Scarlett Johanson, who sampled a slice when she was filming in Wellington a few years back.
About a 90minute drive or train ride from the city, you will find Wellington’s own wine country and some of New Zealand’s best pinot noir. With a cluster of wineries just a short bike-ride apart, the Wairarapa is New Zealand’s answer to Burgundy, France. Visit Martinborough village and take your pick from tasting your way around 20-plus wineries, as well as great cafes, restaurants and bars.
Home to characterful villages, the Wairarapa is also the place for a spot of shopping. Stop for cheese and books in Featherston, clothing and homeware boutiques in Greytown, and antiques in Carterton.
A trip to Wairarapa’s wild coast is also a New Zealand must do. Take in one of the country’s most incredible views at Castle Point, known for its picturesque lighthouse and sunbathing fur seals. Wairarapa’s spectacular night sky is also worth staying up for, with the incredibly low light pollution making it one of the best dark sky destinations in the Southern Hemisphere.
Whilst a city in its own right, Porirua is effectively a big suburb of Wellington and well worth a visit as part of your Wellington stay. Only 20 minutes from the Wellington city, Porirua is a spot to go hiking and biking, with Colonial Knob in particular, a 1.7km native bush walk, with the views from the top well worth the climb. And for those still in need of more adventure, they can test their mettle at Adrenalin Forest, a multi-level aerial obstacle course.
But it’s not just the outdoors that are worth exploring in Porirua, Pātaka Art and Museum is a treasure trove of local art, with a particular focus on Māori and Pacific artists.
Fun fact: the ka mate haka made famous by the All Blacks rugby team, orginates from local Porirua iwi (Māori tribe) Ngāti Toa, composed by famous chief Te Raupahara.
An hour’s journey from Wellington city is the Kāpiti Coast, made up of a line of towns and villages from Paekākāriki to Ōtaki that span 85 km of truly magnificent coastline. Any trip to the coast must include a visit to Kāpiti Island, either for a few hours or overnight. An eco-reserve, Kāpiti Island is pest-free meaning it’s one of the best places in New Zealand to see a large number of native birds, including little spotted kiwi and the little blue penguins (or korora as they’re known in Māori) who call this island home.
With a ton of farmers, growers and other food producers in the area, this is also a place for sampling everything from cheese and olive oil to beer, chocolate and ice cream.
Kāpiti is also becoming increasingly insta-famous for the Paekākāriki Escarpment trail. This track, part of the national Te Araroa Walkway, opened in 2016 and runs from Paekākāriki to Pukerua Bay, a 10km stretch that takes around 2.5 hours to complete and gives walkers some of the most spectacular views (and photos) in Wellington.