The Ten Best Runs in Wellington
Tracks every Wellingtonian should conquer.
August 20, 2015
One of the best ways to experience Wellington is with its wind in your hair and a pair of running shoes on your feet. Wellington running man and author of Runner's Guide to Wellington, Hayden Shearman has taken up the noble and tough quest of finding the best runs in this fair city of ours – taking you up high-gear lactate producing hill runs, down past Lord of the Rings cameo spots, around the bays and all the way to a lighthouse.
1. Mt Victoria
There are only so many gentle strolls around Oriental Bay you can make before this famous peak lures you up its slopes. From Oriental Bay, find Grass Street and follow the steep trail leading to the summit of Mt Vic (196m high). Enjoy the view!
From here you can either stagger back down or venture through the labyrinth of trails that cling to either side of Mt Victoria as it gradually slopes down towards Newtown's Constable Street. On the way, keep a look out for the tree root that Frodo and his hobbit friends hid under from the dark rider.
2. Karori Wildlife Sanctuary
While it costs an arm and a leg to visit the inside of the sanctuary, its outside fence line has a hilly, but beautiful 9k pathway you can follow. Your work on the climbs is rewarded with stunning views of the harbour and of the hills behind Wellington.
3. Mt Climie
Can you handle the burn? This is the big daddy of all mountain climbs in Wellington. Park at Tunnel Gully (just northeast of Upper Hutt) and begin your 6.5k uphill climb (gaining over 650m) to the summit. Then turn your lactate-brimming legs around and jog back down.
4. Colonial Knob
Speaking of burn, Porirua has its very own lactate monster of a climb. Start at Camp Elsdon and head to the summit via the lush bush and painfully repetitive sets of stairs. Descend down the other side of the peak on the trail that passes through private farmland and then through the bush above Broken Hill Road. This creates a loop of 14 challenging kilometres.
5. The Bays
Now for something more sedate (unless you strike it during an all-too-common northerly gale). Start exploring Wellington's many bays from Queen's Wharf in the CBD. Head southeast to the sparkling, imported sands of Oriental Bay (2k); run around Point Jerningham (3k), past Kilbirnie's wind wand (6.5k), to the shelter of Scorching Bay (14.5k) and the small climb at the Pass of Branda (18.5k), and eventually to the South Coast's Lyall (23k), Houghton (27.5k) and Owhiro Bays (30.5k).
If you're really keen (read: crazy), a full loop of the bays back to the city via Happy Valley is 38.5k.
6. Botanic Gardens & Tinakori Hill
There are few capital cities on the planet that you can step out the door of their parliament and be lost in bushy trails within minutes. Wellington's Botanic Gardens and the neighbouring Tinakori Hill provide such an opportunity. Only caveat is that the serenity comes with a steep price tag of several tough climbs to muscle through.
7. The Hutt River Trail
From Upper Hutt's Harcourt Park all the way to Petone's Hikoikoi Reserve you have 25k of flat trail running on both sides of the river (note that the sections of river at Manor Park and north of Moonshine Bridge have no trail on the west bank). The trail's flatness is a major attraction and you can use one of nine bridges to create all sorts of loops and figures-of-eight. It's notoriously unsafe after dark however.
8. Skyline Track
Wellington City Council has produced several way-marked walks that make great runs (if you can follow their sometimes-irregular signage). The Skyline Track from Johnsonville to Karori is probably the peak of the bunch.
It starts with a meaty climb up the imposing Mt Kaukau (the one with the radio mast) and then skips along the ridgeline down to Makara Road (13.5k later), where you can always add on some extra with a journey into the Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park.
9. Pencarrow Lighthouse
With very few flat options around, this is ideal for an easy jog on a sunny and still Sunday morning. From road's end at Eastbourne, it's 7k to the lighthouse. Take a selfie or two and either head back the way you came, carry on for another 7k (to make a 28k return trip) or take a little detour around the lakes (behind the hills).
10. Makara Loop
This run is the breeding ground of champions. It is a 34k loop with no shortcut options and a heart-breaking 3k climb near the end. Start at the Karori Fire Station and follow the main road to Johnsoville. Then take Ohariu Valley Road into the countryside to Makara. This is where you'll meet the hill, before limping through Karori and diving into whatever salty carbs await you at the finish.
Hayden Shearman is the author of the book Runner's Guide to Wellington. Grab your copy online now for only $15 (postage included).
Published on August 20, 2015 by Hayden Shearman