Day trips from Wellington city

People walking along a suspension bridge on the Escarpment track overlooking kapati island.
Castlepoint, Wairarapa. Two people are walking up the steps in front of the Castlepoint Lighthouse.
People walking along a suspension bridge on the Escarpment track overlooking kapati island.

Escarpment Track

Get away from the city to one of the best trails Wellington has to offer. Dubbed the “Stairway to Heaven”, the 9km Escarpment Track zigs and zags above State Highway 1 between Paekākāriki and Pukerua Bay.

It offers a unique trail experience in the form of swing bridges and spectacular views of Kapiti Island, as well as the challenging but rewarding 1,200 steps. The steps are steep and not recommended for those with vertigo, but the views make it an experience to remember.

Walking from Pukerua Bay to Paekākāriki does seem to involve a steeper climb, but finishing in Paēkakariki village with a cold drink, coffee, ice cream, or beer is a satisfying way to end the day.

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Castlepoint, Wairarapa. Two people are walking up the steps in front of the Castlepoint Lighthouse.

Castlepoint Lighthouse


Travel two hours through boutique townships on your way to Wairarapa’s most picturesque sight, Castlepoint. Take a walk along a short trail, following the wild, rugged coastline and leading to one of the most recognisable landmarks in New Zealand.

Spot the big rock known as Castle Rock, and choose to climb it if you’re not afraid of heights. After ascending 148m, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the lighthouse and The Gap, a surf break where the swell passes through a rocky opening into the inlet, breaking on the sandy beach.

Treat yourself after a big climb and head to Castle Point Store to get a milkshake or a cold drink to take to the beachfront. If you’re swimming at the beach, check the conditions beforehand, as there can be dangerous swells. The lagoon is a favourite for families, as it is generally calm and protected from the swell.

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Pencarrow Coast Road

Eastbourne, Lower Hutt

Jump on your bike or take a long walk on this flat, winding trail to the historic Pencarrow Lighthouse and the shores of Lake Kohangatera. It begins at Burdan’s Gate, located at the end of Muritai Road, Eastbourne. The road winds its way along the coastline for 7km to Pencarrow Lighthouse and the shores of the Cook Strait.

Choose the side trail and climb to stand with the Lighthouse, enjoying incredible views of the Orongorongo Mountain range, Wellington’s west and south coastline and the Cook Straight, or continue around the bend for 2km to Lake Kohangatera.

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Kaitoke Regional Park

Upper Hutt

Explore this magic regional park, cross the swing bridge and see why Peter Jackson chose to film part of Lord of the Rings here. Kaitoke Regional Park is one of the region’s most visited parks and is popular for picnics, camping, swimming and tramping.

There are walks for all ages and abilities, from hiking the hills of the Ridge Track to meandering to the weir with a pram. The trail to the location of Rivendell, home of the elves, is an easy 15-minute walk. The Swing Bridge Track is one hour long, journeying through rimu and rata forests and offering great views of the Hutt River Gorge.

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Mt Rangituhi/Colonial Knob Walkway

Te Ara a Rangituhi, Porirua

Best climbed on a clear day, this 468m peak offers sweeping views from the Inland Kaikoura Range in the south to Mount Taranaki in the northwest, including Mana and Kapiti Islands.

There are three routes up to Mt Rangituhi/Colonial Knob, all of which take you through the regenerating native forest of Porirua Scenic Reserve. One of the more scenic routes begins at Spicer Botanical Park. It takes you past man-made lakes that once supplied water to Porirua Hospital and Kohekohe Forest. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views across the region. Depending on the walk you choose you will need to set aside 2 to 4 hours.

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Sinclair Head Track/Red Rocks Coastal Track


Experience the wildest part of Wellington’s rugged south coast, spot the Kaikoura Ranges on the South Island and encounter a colony of fur seals in winter at Sinclair Head. Check out the red-coloured rocks that were formed 200 million years ago.

The Red Rocks Coastal Track starts at the carpark in Owhiro Bay. The walk from Sinclair Head takes about an hour, following a coastal four-wheel-drive track. The track passes Red Rocks and two small groups of historic baches dating from the early 1900s.

In winter, find a colony of fur seals just beyond Red Rocks at Sinclair Head, but don’t get too close or walk between the seals and the ocean. These seals need their space.

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Waikanae River Trail

Kāpiti Coast

One of the more popular tracks within the Kāpiti region, the Waikanae River Trail offers something for walkers, runners, horse riders, or bikers. There’s plenty of room for the kids to run around and safe and shallow swimming areas if you want a dip to cool off.

Waikanae is located 60 kilometres north of Wellington and will take about an hour to get to by car. The Waikanae River Trail and estuary is a nationally significant area. Bordered by the Tararua Ranges and Kapiti Island, many native and endemic bird species live here. The trail is a flat gravel pathway that runs along both sides of the Waikanae River, past safe swimming areas.

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