When I got to Wellington in November 2019, I never imagined that I’d stay for a full year – at least, not at that point in time. I knew early on that it was going to be a place I could see myself living in for quite a while if the opportunity presented itself, but that was long before Covid gripped the world and changed everything.
As it happened, I stayed for a full year. I had a good job that kept me going throughout lockdown and this allowed me to save a chunk of cash to fund further travel around New Zealand. At the end of this contract, I was finally ready to move on, but not before I ticked off a few more things I’d been looking forward to.
Polhill Reserve and the Wind Turbine
Polhill Reserve is a green space not far from the centre of Wellington and is the start of a great trail up to the Wind Turbine, which you can see from around the capital. You can also reach it, or close to it, in Zealandia if you choose a path taking you to the fence, but this one gets you right to the base of it.
There are a couple of routes to choose from but they are windy, narrow trails that you also share with bikers, so there’ll be times when you find yourself stepping to the side to let them by – and they go in both directions.
After the initial walk up, there are some bunker ruins (decorated with plenty of colourful street art) and sweeping views of the city and harbour below. It’s worth taking a moment or two to enjoy this before continuing to the Wind Turbine.
When it’s time to continue up, you can take a direct path up – but where’s the fun in that?
There’s another path that sweeps around the hill and, when you can see through the plant life, you get more great views. I seem to be saying that a lot, but it’s true. The climb can be steep at times but you should be able to avoid bikes for a good chunk of this path as there is a cycle-only trail for a part, at least going one way.
Then you reach the Wind Turbine and even better sights of the city. Read about the history of it all and make your way back down – or continue on and if you walk long enough, you can reach the Red Rocks Seal Colony to the south.
There is a steeper, more direct trail for walkers only but this is better to go down on, if I do say so myself.
This one wasn’t on my list originally, but it was suggested to me before lockdown – and then lockdown happened and threw that idea into the freezer for a little while. With winter ending and the weather improving, it was finally time to take a look.
This park has plenty of different routes and trails to choose from, with a garden area, boardwalks and a river with waterfalls at different points. It’s a serene place where you can get lost in nature for a while as you venture up and down the different parts.
You can also reach the Skyline Walkway from Otari-Wilton’s Bush, and if you’re so inclined after that height, you can follow it all the way to Karori. I didn’t do that, but I did reach the trail and took in the stunning views of Wellington and the surrounding area.
It never ceases to amaze me just how stunning Aotearoa is!
Kaitoke Regional Park and Rivendell
This one had been on my list for a while – and you shouldn’t be surprised.
Well, it’s the site of Rivendell, with only a few structures left to mark it as such, but it is where other buildings stood. It’s easy to get to from the park entrance with only a short walk – or a shorter walk if you want to drive in as far as you can – and I could easily have just sat there and felt the energy of the place, somewhere I never would have dreamed of being a few years previous.
Kaitoke Regional Park itself is huge. To the north of Wellington and a little outside Upper Hutt, it’s not so easy to get to. There’s no public transport, so you have to drive, get a taxi or find a friend who will take you there.
Like other parks, there’s plenty of trails and routes, with a swing bridge across the river and bridges over others. Swimming points are dotted around the area and there’s a tramp trail that takes you up high and to the other end of the park.
Another trail takes you all the way up another hill and there’s no path here. From crossing rivers to climbing roots and rocks, it was a steep climb and yet I still managed it in jeans (not advisable but I only have limited space for clothes!). It took a few stops till our group made it to the top, and while we could have made it back down that way, I imagine it being a little more treacherous going that way, so we took the sloping dirt road back down.
Word of warning; another river to cross appears at the end and while there are stepping rocks, they’re slippery and submerged enough to get at least one foot soaked as you do.
Yes, that happened to me.
And that brings an end to my time in Wellington. There are so many other great things about the city; a lot I did and others I missed, but I’m glad of what I got through despite everything happening.
With all that said and done, it’s time to move on and see more of this remarkable country. The first stop; Queenstown.