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By Stephen Heard
February 01, 2021
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By Stephen Heard
February 01, 2021
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It's the perfect time of year to get outside and stretch your legs. With water in nearly every direction, Wellington is home to a spectacular range of coastal walks where you can let the ocean breeze — or serious high sea gales — whip through your hair. These four options provide postcard-worthy harbour views, rugged beaches and historic sites, and they range from easy two-hour treks to epic half-day adventures.

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Buffy May.

RED ROCKS/PARIWHERO RESERVE

The southern coast from Owhiro Bay is perhaps Wellington's best-known coastal walk. Just a short trip from Island Bay, Red Rocks is an easy two-hour hike with great ocean views — you can even see the South Island on a clear day. To find the unusual red rock formations you'll have to walk for about an hour. Further along from Red Rocks is Sinclair Head/Rimurapa, where you can see seals in winter. The trail is also used by four-wheel drive enthusiasts, but is reserved for walkers only on Sundays. Parking and toilet facilities are available at Te Kopahou Visitor Centre.

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Stewart Baird.

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN/PAEKAKARIKI ESCARPMENT

Set aside at least three to four hours for this ten-kilometre walk. Part of New Zealand's nationwide Te Araroa Trail, the walk makes its way from Paekākāriki to Pukerua Bay, running high above State Highway 1 and the railway. It's not called the Stairway to Heaven for nothing; there are more than 400 steps to conquer before reaching the peak at 220 metres above sea level. With that height gain, the trail requires a decent level of fitness — you also be treated to expansive views of the ocean and Kāpiti Island. Further highlights of the track include two swing bridges and stretches of native forest. Dress for the elements — the track is exposed to the wind.

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Virginia Mcmillian.

PENCARROW LIGHTHOUSE

Starting from Eastbourne, it's a four-hour return walk to reach New Zealand's first permanent lighthouse, or 1.5 hours on a bike. Follow the easy, flat gravel road out before making the short ascent to the 1906 lighthouse. The rugged stretch of coastline offers spectacular views over Wellington Harbour, but given its location, the weather can certainly be unpredictable. Be sure to check the weather forecast before your visit and dress for the conditions. The lighthouse lies within East Harbour Regional Park, with additional loop tracks to the Parangarahu Lakes.

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Alastair Penn.

MAKARA WALKWAY

This seven-kilometre loop is the place to go if you're after a rugged yet scenic day out. About a 45-minute drive from the city, the advanced walk climbs from the rocky west coast beach to vantage points with spectacular views, including Cook Strait and the Kaikōura Ranges, wind turbines and WWII gun emplacements. An ancient Ngāti Ira pā also sits at the western end of Fisherman's Bay. Parking is available at Makara Beach.

Top image: Lisa Ng.

Published on February 01, 2021 by Stephen Heard

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