When we first got to Wellington, we were warned that the weather is often cloudy, rainy and windy. If the weather was better, everyone would move to this gem of a city. After being in Wellington for about 2 weeks, there have only been a few cloudy days. Lots of wind, but mostly blue skies and sunshine. I guess this is pretty unheard of for “Windy Wellington.”
We try to take advantage of the nice weather as much as possible (especially knowing it could change at any moment). The place we’re renting is on top of Majoribanks road at the edge of Wellington’s CBD. This means The Embassy theatre (Lord of the Rings:Return of the King premiered here) is at the bottom of the hill and Mt. Victoria is in our backyard. Wellington is a pretty small city and the downtown is very walkable. For those of you thinking about coming to Wellington, Mt. Victoria is a great ‘hood. It’s about a 5 min walk down the hill to town (about 10-15 on the way back up the hill).
Wellington encourages people to get out and get walking. They have trails set up through all their parks/reserves and one that takes you all the way around Wellington, down to the coast, and back around to Wellington. The Southern Walkway. We’re planning on doing a big hike when we drive back through Taupo and Rotorua at some point, so we figured walking the Southern Walkway would be great training. If you cut west, off the Southern Walkway, there’s a Red Rocks Coastal Walkway where you can see seals (Aug-Oct). Since it’s January, we figured we wouldn’t see any seals. But, we’ve been to Red Rocks in Colorado, we had to know how this compared!
Reading up about the trail, it seemed like it would take us about 4-6 hours. We couldn’t figure out if this was round trip or not. The Red Rocks Coastal Walkway supposedly takes about 2-3 hours. We’ve hiked fourteeners before (mountains at 14,000 ft). Which means we can easily handle a park and city hike. Right? Warned that some of the trail signs get confusing, we decided it would take us around 6 hours round trip for the whole thing. With packed bags, lots of water, we began our incredible journey (we’re in the land of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings…just go with it)
I tried to show exactly how we came, but made too many edits, so google maps wouldn’t let me change it anymore.
We started out by walking through the reserve/park that borders the back of our house. The trail cuts through several parks, around most of Wellington, winds through neighborhoods, down to the coast where it then loops back around and takes you to the west side of Wellington. We took a slightly different route since we wanted to do the coastal walk as well. Here are a couple of things we discovered.
1. New Zealanders walk fast. Really fast. We kept a brisk pace, walking continuously, but you can definitely pick out the native New Zealanders on the pathway as they pass you. This should also be considered when figuring out how long a hike should take you.
2. The trail signs are confusing. There are places during the hike where trails divert in several different directions. There were times we didn’t know exactly what trail we were on and the Southern Walkway signs pointed in multiple directions.
We followed this “handy” trail for a little while. A few of the trail signs had names that were worn off and replaced by “handy.” The other pic is actually one of the better trail markings. At least we new it was the Southern Walkway. Lots of arrows.
3. The Southern Walkway takes you out of the parks and through some neighborhoods. All of a sudden we were out of a park and at a field with no idea where to go. Or we found ourselves crossing major roads or walking through alleyways that look like they lead to people’s houses, but it’s just the Southern Walkway trail.
4. There’s also a point where it borders the zoo. We started to see “Do not climb fence: Dangerous Animals” signs. After winding around, we realized we were were right next to the baboons (up above them with 2 fences separating us, but still). We were fascinated. A large emu walked along the edge of their fence and all the baboons flocked to the fence, staring at it.
5. There are lots of things to discover on the trail from beautiful nature scenes to graffiti to tree swings. We came out on a hill and found this swing attached to a tree. After Will tested it out (thank you Will for being the guinea pig), we had lift off.
Here’s some of the graffiti we found along the way:
Not to mention things like this house. Or the remains of the house.
6. Google maps does not account for hills. The walkway looked like a pretty easy straight shot. Since we started at one of the highest points, we thought it would be mostly downhill. Wrong. We have been spoiled by switchbacks in Colorado. The walkway doesn’t have what we could consider switchbacks. Instead, you climb a hill, reach the top, have amazing views, then climb back down the hill only to be faced with another hill. At one point we took Buckley Trail as a shortcut. We had just come down a huge hill and were close to the coast. We thought it would take us West, closer to Red Rocks. Our shortcut added another 45 minutes to an hour. If we had just finished walking down the hill, we would have walked along the coast and had a flat walk along the shore. Instead, we walked straight up another hill and had to wind through a neighborhood. The pic below is the view from the top of Buckley.
Once we made it down to the coast, the views were amazing:
7. Red Rocks Coastal Walkway is a definite must. Even without the seals (we were hoping the time frame was wrong), the views were gorgeous. On one side, grassy, rolling hills the grass blowing in the wind looking like an ocean itself. On the other side, black sandy beach, and the ocean waves lapping against interesting rock formations.
8. If you keep walking you’ll get to the red rocks…eventually. We had a map of the Red Rocks Coastal walkway. After a full 4-5 hours of walking, we started the coastal walkway (our time estimates were a little off. We did sit to have lunch for about a half hour). Walking along the coast was inspiring, but our feet were barking. We thought the Red Rocks portion of the walkway would be a quick fifteen minute hike in. Turns out, it was more of an hour to get there. It was worth the added time though. And we sat on the red rocks and soaked our feet in the cold water.
9. It’s ok to take the bus home. We were stubborn and we didn’t. We had this idea to take a shortcut home. Shortcuts don’t always tend to be short. But this one wasn’t too bad. We walked on the main roads from Owhiro Bay to the West side of Wellington. On the way, we walked over the Tsunami Safe Zone sign (something neither one of us have had to worry about before) and passed this gem of a mini golf place.
10. In order to get home, we walked through Central Park and Brooklyn. Yup. Wellington has its own Central Park. Lots of trees and greenery (not to mention the downhill to our entire uphill hike back). After exiting the park, we were in the part of Wellington known as Brooklyn. (We also walked up Happy Valley Road. It made me smile.)
The whole hike took us a little over 8 hours (including our multiple shortcuts that may or may not have been shorter). There are some amazing views along the way, but we agreed it was one of the stranger hikes we’ve ever done due to the weird signs and weaving through neighborhoods. It’s a great way to explore the area. Just make sure you bring enough food, water, and sunscreen along the way. And you might want to bring some bus fare.