Wanderings around Wellington  

After our time on Taranaki, we had a change of pace with a few days in and about Wellington, New Zealand's capital. This part contains a brief description of 3 day-walks that we did, two in which we were back todrawn coastal landscapes and one urban walk exploring parts of the city itself.

Pukerua Bay

Pukerua Bay is a quaint coastal village nestled into the cliffs lining the Tasman sea just north of Wellington. It appears to have once been a resort for weekend escapes from the city, but is now home to many commuting workers. We chanced on a short coastal track when we stopped to admire the views there and, feeling the need for a good dose of negative ions, we were soon walking along the narrow path from Pukerua Bay to Wairaka Point, with the sun shining and a brisk sea breeze at our back.

Pukerua Bay coastal track

What long sea voyage could this bleached tree trunk have made?

Wind-sculpted and mauve-splashed hillside
To our east the cliffs were draped in a wind-sculpted green mantle of coastal shrubs, splashed with the yellow and pink, while to the west the green waters of the Tasman Sea surged up against the rugged black rocks of the foreshore. Bleached-white piles of driftwood, some still whole tree trunks, lay in piles at the high tide mark, a silent witness to the power of the wind and ocean in this part of the world.

Cape Palliser / Putangirua Pinnacles

Lake Wairarapa

Our next day walk took us further afield - we have always been attracted to lighthouses, partly due to the fact that they invariably are built in beautiful areas and partly because of their splendid isolation. Our destination was the lighthouse at Cape Palliser, the southernmost point of the North Island.

Palliser Bay

A 2-hour drive over the gorse and broom covered Rimutaka Range, south through gentle undulating green pastures, past the muddy tan waters of Lake Wairarapa eventually brought us to the isolated coastline of Palliser Bay. Here we followed an undulating part sealed, part gravel road along the rugged shore to the lighthouse at Cape Palliser. This seemed a much drier part of New Zealand and, as we drove over the gravel stretches, the long plume of dust thrown up by the car made us feel nostalgic for good old Oz. Soon the lighthouse, rising red and white from it rocky base in brilliant contrast ot the black sand and green and tan cliffs, greeted us. From the lighthouse platform, the snow-capped peaks of the Kaikoura Ranges across Tasman Strait made us of think of adventures to come on the South Island.

Cape Palliser Lighthouse

Views to and from the lighthouse

Walking across a rock platform not far from the lighthouse, a strong fishy waft greeted us - either the salmon pate sandwiches had gone badly off or else we had reached the local seal colony. A loud grunt from a few metres to our right confirmed the latter, and we found ourselves on speaking terms with a number of New Zealand fur seal females and pups. Across a wide rock pool, sunning himself on a flat rock, a solitary bull barely deigned to look at us, while, floating lazily in the waves, another gave us the one-flipper salute as it cooled itself off.


It was hard to leave our new found foul-fishy smelling friends, but time was short and we had planned a walk up the Putangirua Stream on the way back. This stream had carved a course through the gravelly, pre-conglomerate soils, leaving behind the Putangirua Pinnacles, a spectacular group of strangely eroded landforms. Again we left quickly, dark clouds where gathering in the west over the Rimutaka Ranges - a sure sign that the weather was about to change for the worse yet again.

Eroded pinnacles and columns lining the Putangirua Stream bed

Storm clouds gather over the Rimutakas

Wellington City to Sea Walk

We much prefer small cities to their larger bustling sisters. Wellington is a compact and attractive city on a beautiful harbour, but its reputation as a wet and windy place was upheld. However, wild weather provided us with the opportunity to do other things, such as visit the remarkable Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand, and listen to a local band playing old Cuban salsa - straight out of the Buena Vista Social Club. Wellington prides itself in a modern cafe-scene sophistication and, weather aside, it seemed a great place to live.

The modern civic centre

"The Beehive" - housing New Zealand's parliament

One of the many good aspects about Wellington is the urban walkways that have been developed through different areas of the city. When the rain finally stopped, we chose the City to Sea Walkway, a 13 km path from centre of the city to Island Bay, a laid back suburb on the southern shore.

Classic view of Wellington from the Cable Car Lookout

19th century houses (and a few more
recent ones) clinging to the hillsides

Te Aro Road

Where else would you see
medieval knights at play?

The undulating walkway took us past old settler cemeteries; through the Botanic Gardens to vantage points overlooking the city and harbour; past the Victoria University; down into historic old quarters of the town (where we stopped for a latte in trendy Aro Road with its 19th century weatherboard houses and shops); up through suburbia where houses clung to the steep hillsides; along streams, playing fields and golfcourses on the Town Belt; over steep windswept coastal hills, where gorse, broom and boneseed bloomed golden in their weedy splendour; and finally down to sleepy, but beautiful Island Bay, where we caught a local bus back to the city. These walkways are great way to get to know Wellington.

Descending from the windswept Tawatawa Trig

Island Bay

This photo is included ......

.... just because I like it!