Explore Wellington's big backyard
Exploring the Wellington region is a great way to experience the best New Zealand has to offer all in one compact and easy to discover 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.
Take a 90-minute drive or train ride from the city and you will find Wellington’s own wine country and some of New Zealand’s best pinot noir. The quaint wine-making village of Martinborough has 20-plus wineries, as well as great cafes, restaurants and bars. Martinborough's wineries are closely clustered together so hiring a bike is a great way to explore and visit multiple cellar doors.
Home to characterful villages, the Wairarapa is also the place for a spot of shopping. Stop for cheese tasting and book browsing in Featherston, clothing and homeware and clothing 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 Castlepoint, 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.
Just 20 minutes’ drive or train ride from Wellington, Porirua is a harbour city bordered by rolling hills, lush green in winter and in summer slowly turning to a toasted ochre.
There are many great spots to go hiking and biking in Porirua, including Rangituhi/Colonial Knob , a 1.7 km native bush walk - the views from the top are 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 + 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, originates 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.
Kāpiti Coast is also a food-lovers paradise with many growers and food producers making delicious kai, from cheese and olive oil to beer, chocolate and ice cream.
Kāpiti is also becoming increasingly well-known on social media 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.