Hutt Valley is Wellington’s giant playground
Just across the harbour lies Wellington's giant playground of outdoor and artisan events; the Hutt Valley is a place of greenery, grub and adventure
The Hutt, as it’s commonly called, extends from the slopes of the hills on either side of the valley north from Petone to Taita Gorge, about where Lower Hutt fades into Upper Hutt, and around the eastern headland of Wellington Harbour to Pencarrow Head.
It might be New Zealand’s seventh most populous city but you’re never far from the great wilderness here. With around 3,000 hectares of parks, reserves, bush-clad hills, beaches, walkways and tracks, the Hutt has your fitness needs sorted.
Wander through the bush and interact with the wildlife including abundant birdlife, Clydesdale horses, emus, and more within the confines of Staglands Wildlife Reserve.
Petone beach is popular with joggers and walkers, while the pier at the western end is like catnip for those who enjoy fishing and the yacht club is the breeding ground of champion rowers and sailors.
The banks of the Hutt River are also where you should head for walking and cycling (and an excellent Saturday market), while the Remutaka Cycle Trail sweeps up through the valley before climbing over the Remutaka Ranges. The entire trail can take two-three days to complete, but don’t worry, someone’s thoughtfully carved it up into sections so if easy short rides are more your style, you’ll be fine.
You have to go a little further to get to the Jurassic-like Remutaka Forest Park, which offers some of the region’s best tramping. On the way, detour to Eastbourne, where houses cling to the sides of hills and art galleries and cafes will keep you entertained and well fed. Hire a bike and ride the stunning coastal trail along Pencarrow Coast Road to New Zealand’s first lighthouse. Thankfully it’s flat so it won’t bother your glutes too much. But if you’re feeling fit, walk up to the 1906-built lighthouse where your reward will be stunning views of Wellington harbour (and, if the weather gods are playing nicely, across to the South Island).
For the Lord of the Rings fans among us, don your elf ears or hobbit feet, and visit Rivendell, the site where Arwen and Aragorn kissed in Peter Jacksons epic trilogy. It’s also where you’ll find a replica elvish archway to jog your imagination.
Feel like getting outside, but with a club in hand? One of New Zealand’s most beautiful and historic golf courses is right on your doorstep with at Royal Wellington Golf Club. Its 18-hole championship course is a demanding test of golf for players of all levels.
It’s not all about the outdoors. Hutt Valley is a haven for arts and food lovers. The Dowse Art Museum is a free public gallery showcasing the best in contemporary art and design with more than 300 artworks on display.
While Wellington has long been lauded for its bars and eateries, when we weren’t looking, Petone stepped up to the plate and Jackson Street, which runs like a spine down the centre of the suburb, now has one of the greatest densities of eateries in New Zealand.
You want Indian? Tick. Mexican or a medium-rare steak, tick and tick. Or just a drink or decent flat white? Throw a stone in any direction in Petone, and it will land on a bar or eatery. When they say there’s something for every palate and wallet here, they’re not messing with you.
For an example of what can be done with an old tyre factory, a love of craft beer and ten tonnes of imagination, catch the train out to Brewtown Upper Hutt. From the ashes of the old Dunlop Tyre Factory in an industrial park, Brewtown Upper Hutt is now home to four local award-winning craft brewers – Panhead Custom Ales, Kererū Brewing, the Te Aro Brewing Company, and Boneface Brewing Co. Clustered around tables, you can sip on beer brewed steps away (including limited custom batches not available anywhere else), and line your stomach with tasty Southern-inspired treats. There's even the Wild Kiwi Distillery are making whiskey and currently serving up their own gin, vodka and rum as well as Good George ales. And, should you be so inspired, you can buy a kit to brew your own craft beer at home.