Discovering Wellington’s Epic Hill Top Walks

Discovering Wellington’s Epic Hill Top Walks

For those that don’t know me, I’m a massive fan of getting to the top of things. It’s a slightly dangerous addiction that’s led me to the top of radio towers, cranes, bridges and cliffs (sorry mum). I just can’t seem to get enough of those 360-degree views.

To safely manage this addiction, I’ve discovered hilltops around Wellington that provide the same epic 360 degree views. Luckily for me, Wellington has heaps of hill top walks worth checking out. I’m mentioning my 8 favourites – but I’m always keen to learn about more (especially the more difficult walks!). If you do have suggestions for other hill top walks I should check out, or include in this post, let me know!

If you’re interested in checking out more walks around Wellington, I’d recommend checking out Wellington Wanders – they’ve got an awesome website with some great resources of walks within Wellington and beyond.

For all of the spots I’ve mentioned, I’ve put together a map so you can easily find all of the different hilltops (it’s at the bottom of this post).

 

1. Wrights Hill

Epic WWII bunkers and bird life.

Photo credit – Wellington City Council #PeakBragging

Situated above the Zelandia bird sanctuary, Wrights Hill was once a battlement for WWII. It’s perfectly positioned for epic 360 degree views over Wellington and out to Makara.

It’s only a short 5-10min walk up to the top of Wrights Hill from the carpark – there’s even a ramp so it’s pram friendly!

There are great walks around Wrights Hill. My favourite is the Lookout Loop Walk – which tracks around the outside of the fortress up to the main lookout. I’ve written a little more about Wrights Hill on my post Exploring Wellington’s Historic Bunkers.

Why it’s awesome:

  • Loads of old WWII bunkers to check out
  • Heaps of birdlife catching the winds up the hills
  • Sweet views over Wellington and out to the Makara wind turbines

Getting there:

By Car: You can park at the Wrights Hill carpark. Here’s a link to where that is.

Learn More About Wrights Hill

 

2. Hawkins Hill Radar Station

One of Welly’s hidden gems.

This is one of those totally underrated walks in Wellington. You can park at the Brooklyn Wind Turbine and walk from there. On the walk you’ll pass what looks like a Castle. Last time we walked this we managed to get invited in, turns out it’s a luxury dog hotel! (Called Woofington, if anyone’s interested).

If you wanted to do a massive loop, the walk continues down to Red Rocks. But don’t take the wrong turn otherwise you’ll end up by the landfill (like we did – whoops).

Why it’s awesome:

  • You can finally get close to that massive sphere at the top of Wellington.
  • Epic ridgeline walks – it’s the perfect setting for your next 1000 ❤insta.
  • Quiet as hell – for some reason no one knows about this spot!

Getting there:

By Car: Park at the carpark for the Brooklyn Wind Turbine, which you can get to from Ashton Fitchett Dr. Here’s a link to where you can park.
By Bus: Catch bus number 8 from Willis Street, this will take you up to Karepa Street. From there it’s a 25-30minute walk up to the wind turbine, and another 1.5hours to the Radar Station. Here’s the number 8 bus timetable – note that this bus doesn’t run on weekends.

Learn More About Hawkins Hill

 

3. Maupuia Park

Water reservoirs always have the best views.

I was tossing and turning over if I was going to feature this one, as it’s one of my secret spots. BUT I’ve decided it’s too cool not to share.

This spot has awesome views over the entire Wellington harbour and out to the Cook Strait, on a clear day you can even see the South Island from this spot.

There’s also a concreted pump track here. So bring your skateboard, scooter or mountain bike for hours of fun.

There are heaps of mountain bike tracks from this spot too, if that’s your buzz.

About a 10min walk up the hill from this spot is an abandoned prison – you can’t get in, but still pretty cool to walk around!

Why it’s awesome:

  • Views over the entire city
  • Pump track (Sshhhhh – don’t tell anyone)
  • Heaps of mountain bike tracks

Getting there:

By Car: Park at the carpark on Main Road. Here’s a link to where you can park.

Learn More About Mapuia Park

 

4. Mount Kaukau

A quad workout to be proud of.

Photo courtesy of Jonty Hodge. Who demanded he be referenced.

If you’re wanting some decent quad muscles, hike up this hill. It’s about 40mins to the top.

Top tip here – there’s an alternative route, a secret path that goes up to the right before you get to the playground on Woodmancote Road. This is a bit steeper, but it’s way quieter, and a bit faster if you can handle the incline.

Once you’ve reached the radio tower, you’re not actually at the top. You can keep walking another 5mins to reach the tippy top at 445 meters. On a good day (which I hear Wellington is known for 😉) you can see all the way to the South Island – nice!

Hit this spot at sunset for spectacular golden hour photos.

Why it’s awesome:

  • Tick off leg day for the week
  • Sweet views over Wellington
  • Can get unbelievably windy at the top

Getting there:

By Car: Drive to the carpark on Woodmancote Rd. Here’s the map link to that.
By Train: Catch the Johnsonville Line train from Wellington Station (by the Beehive), get off at the Khandallah station. From there it’s a short 7 minute walk to the start of the walk (Left onto Station Road E, Left onto Box Hill, Right onto Woodmancote Road). Here’s the timetable for the train.

Learn More About Mount Kaukau

 

5. Pencarrow Lighthouse

Twin lighthouses & fun times.

Taken from the lower lighthouse, you can see the upper just popping its head out the top.

Drive out to the end of the road at Eastbourne. Jump on a bike (or walk) the remaining 7.5kms (about 2 hours) out to the twin Pencarrow lighthouses. Once you’ve nearly reached the lower lighthouse, there’s a path up the hill on the left hand side. If you wander up there, you’ll reach the higher Pencarrow lighthouse. From here you’ll see awesome views over the entrance to the Wellington Harbour, and down towards the Wainuiomata coastline.

From the start of the track you can hire bikes from Bike Shed Pencarrow (I’d suggest booking well in advance) – it’s $30 for two hours or $40 for four hours.

Why it’s awesome:

  • The walk or bike out to the entrance to the harbour is absolutely lovely
  • Sometimes you see goats! 🐑
  • Lighthouses are cool, right?

Getting there:

By Car: Drive all the way to the end of Eastbourne. Park up here.
By Ferry & Bus: Take the ferry from Queens Wharf to Days Bay (timetable here). From there walk to the bus stop in Days Bay and jump on bus 81 (bus timetable here) until the end of the line. Transport should take you about 40mins all up. From there it’s about 20mins until the start of the walk.
By Bus:  You can just take bus 81 all the way from Courtenay Place through to Eastbourne. This takes about 45minutes. The 81 bus timetable is here.

Learn More About Pencarrow Lighthouse

 

6. Boulder Hill

Lovely forest walk up to some rather strange rock formations.

Boulder Hill is another one of those Wellington walks no one seems to know about. We went there for the first time a couple of weeks ago and it was awesome! It’s right on the edge of Belmont Regional park with views over the Hutt and out to Porirua.

It starts with a lovely walk up through a native forest, which is teeming with Tui’s (the bird, not the beer – silly).  Once you’re out of the forest it’s a short 15min walk up to the summit.

You can stay on this track and wander over to the Belmont bunkers – the remains of an old World War Two fortification. If you make it there, checking out the old fortifications can be quite cool, however sometimes you’ll find dead sheep in them 😨.

Why it’s awesome:

  • Possibility of an epic game of the floor is lava
  • Unique views over the Hutt Valley, Petone and Porirua
  • Option to check out the Belmont Bunkers

Getting there:

By Car: Park at the carpark just off Kaitangata Cres. Here’s the link for where that is.

Learn More About Boulder Hill

  

7. Brooklyn Wind Turbine

Get 360-degree views of Wellington and feel tiny at the same time.

You can drive all the way up to the wind turbine, so this is perfect if you want to get to the top of a hill and don’t want to leave the comfort of your car.

The wind turbine at the top feels absolutely massive when you’re standing under it, and I really enjoy the whooshing noise it makes.

Why it’s awesome:

  • Wind energy is cool
  • Epic views over the city
  • I’ve run out of reasons things are awesome

Getting there:

By Car: Park at the carpark for the Brooklyn Wind Turbine, which you can get to from Ashton Fitchett Dr.Here’s a link to where you can park.
By Bus: Catch bus number 8 from Willis Street, this will take you up to Karepa Street. From there it’s a 25-30minute walk up to the wind turbine. Here’s the number 8 bus timetable – note that this bus doesn’t run on weekends.

Learn More About Brooklyn Wind Turbine

 

8. Baring Head Lighthouse

Super fun afternoon adventure feat. lighthouses, bunkers and epic views.

Epic ANZAC mission with @monn_saffari and @ciaranjackdesign to #bearinghead

A post shared by Tim Dorrian (@t4tim) on

I’d suggest leaving Wellington around 12-2pm to time your walk for golden hour.

Drive out towards the Wainuiomata Coastline (about 1hour 20mins from Wellington CBD), before you reach the coast you’ll see a car park by a bridge on the right hand side of the road.

Once you’ve parked, walk across the bridge. Now you’ve got a choice on which direction you want to do the loop. My prefered way is to take the left, and follow along the river.

Follow the path until you reach the house and cell phone tower. Walk through the complex until you find the lighthouse.

From the lighthouse, you’ll have unbeatable views down the Wainuiomata coastline on one side, out to the South Island (look out for the Kaikora ranges) and up the coast towards the Pencarrow twin lighthouses, with Wellington in the distance. SUCH an awesome view.

If you’re not satisfied by that, there’s a walk (more of a scramble) up to the top of the hill, where there’s a decrepit old war bunker (you can’t go into it, it’s falling apart). Check out the 360 photo below to see the view from it.

Walking back, I’d suggest taking the ridgeline to complete the loop.

All up the walk is about 2.5 hours.

 

Why it’s awesome:

  • Some of the best coastline views
  • Decrepit old bunker
  • Rivers, coastlines, lighthouses, falcons, sheep, lakes – this walk has got it all

Getting there:

By Car: Park at the carpark just before the Wainuiomata coastline (if you can see the beach, you’ve gone too far). It’s a 1 hour 20minute drive from Wellington CBD. Here’s a link to where you can park.

Learn More About Baring Head Lighthouse

 

As promised, here’s a map of all of the spots I’ve mentioned.

 

What have I missed?

I’m always keen to learn about more awesome hilltop adventures – so feel free to email me directly, hit us up on the Aro Digital facebook page or drop a comment below! If I learn of some more awesome ones I’ll add them to the post!

2 thoughts on “Discovering Wellington’s Epic Hill Top Walks

  • Daisy

    • 19 April 2018 at 5:45 pm
    • Reply

    If you go up Polhill Reserve, you can also get to Brooklyn Wind Turbine and tick off 2 walks in 1!
    Also, for Mt Kaukau, you can get off the train at Simla Crescent and there’s another entrance on that road 🙂
    Love this article, there’s a few walks I haven’t heard of so will definitely give a go!

  • tim

    • 21 April 2018 at 9:02 pm
    • Reply

    re your other list of bunkers, one tip for Massey Memorial is a freaky acoustic phenomena: if you stand on the raised dome and speak or make a sound, the reflections from the curved marble surface make the sound seem like it is coming from inside your head!! Quite a strange effect…

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