Day trips from Wellington
There are loads of epic day trips around the Wellington region. Here are our top picks for adventuring out on a trail and grabbing a bite to eat afterwards.
Spend a day in heaven: Escarpment Track
Explore the small township of Paekākāriki and tackle, what locals call, the stairway to heaven while taking in spectacular views of Kapiti Island from above the coastline on the Escarpment Track.
Start your journey by driving 40-minutes from the city through farmlands until you meet the ocean. Spot Kapiti Island on the ocean stretch from Pukerua Bay to your first pit stop. Take two cars and park one at the end of the track or catch the train from Pukerua to Paekākāriki if you don’t want to take the train back (don’t forget to take cash for your train fare!).
Find a park and get a quick caffeine fix before your hike from The Perching Parrot, the locals pantry and caffeine hub.
A short walk will take you to the start of the track. Paekākāriki Escarpment Track is 9km one way (suitable for children 10 years and older). The start of the track follows the Kāpiti railway line then veers uphill. On this track, you’ll climb 220 meters about sea level, clock 1,200 steep steps, navigate narrow pathways across the ridgeline, and traverse two swing bridges.
More in the tank? Explore rock pools at Pukerua Bay.
Wairarapa’s hidden gems: Castlepoint Lighthouse
Travel 2-hours through small boutique townships on your way to Wairarapa’s most picturesque sight; Castle Point.
Stop off in Greytown, awarded as one of New Zealand’s Most Beautiful Small Towns, and known for great food, sophisticated shopping and cute cottages. Pop your head into the small boutique shops and snatch up some chocolate from Schoc Chocolate.
Next up on your travels is Carterton’s very own Clareville Bakery who has multiple awards for their outstanding food. You can’t go all this way without adding one of these treats to your picnic basket.
Arrive at Castle point, one of New Zealand’s most loved and visually dramatic beaches, and stroll to the Lighthouse imagining life as a lighthouse keeper. Look out for shell fossils in the limestone reef while walking back down.
Spot the big rock known as Castle Rock and choose to climb it if you’re not afraid of heights. After ascending 148m you’ll be rewarded with a view of the lighthouse and The Gap like no other.
On a hot day or as a way to treat yourself after a big climb head to Castle Point Store and get a milkshake or drink of your choice and take it to the beach front. Enjoy these while watching the keen surfers crave up the waves. An unforgettable day out.
Discover wild coastline Pencarrow Coast Road
Jump on your bike or take a long walk out through wild coastline, past rock pools and fishermen on your way to Eastbourne’s Pencarrow Lighthouse.
Drive towards Eastbourne by passing though the bays until to you reach Chocolate Dayz café where you’ll fuel your body for your journey ahead.
Starting at Burdan’s Gate, the Pencarrow Coast Road is part of the East Harbour Regional Park. The road winds its way along the coastline for 7km to Pencarrow Lighthouse and the shores of the Cook Strait. See the harbour from a whole new perspective. Get more out of your adventure by hiring a bike from The Bike Shed Pencarrow at the start of the trails from 10am every day.
Choose the side trail and climb up the hill to stand with the Lighthouse and get incredible views of the Orongorongo Mountain range, Wellington’s west and south coastline and the majestic Cook Straight or continue around the bend for 2km to Lake Kohangatera.
Make your way back and stop to relax at Days Bay with an ice cream or pizza from The Pavilion and enjoy it on the beach. If you’ve timed it right, then you’ll see a spectacular sunset behind Wellington city.
More in the tank: Butterfly Creek is also in the area. Take the Kowhai Street Track to get there.
Kaitoke Regional Park
Explore magical land of Kaitoke crossing the exhilarating swing bridge and see why Peter Jackson chose to film part of Lord of the Rings here.
Pack a picnic filled with favourite yummy local treats from your closest supermarket before you go because there are many picnic opportunities.
There are many tracks at Kaitoke Regional Park, but the Swing Bridge Track is unmissable. This track starts by taking you along the swing bridge where you’ll see the Hutt Valley gorge in all its glory.
On your way, you’ll find pristine swimming holes, majestic ancient rain forests and camping facilities. Don’t forget to check out the home of the Elves; Rivendell from Lord of the Rings trilogy.
A trip to Upper Hutt wouldn’t be complete without checking out Brewtown, an old tire factory renovated into an area for local breweries. With names like Panhead and Boneface, your taste buds will be treated to mouthwatering food and thirsty quenching cold drinks.
Take your adventure to new heights: Mt Rangituhi / Colonial Knob Walkway
Head out to Porirua and enjoy sweeping views of Mt Taranaki, Kapiti Island, Mana Island and the South Island on the Mt Rangituhi / Colonial Knob Walkway.
Start off by getting some yummy treats from Filo Porirua a healthy takeaway alternative. But don’t let that fool you because their filo’s are paired with delicious salad options that are crowd-pleasers.
Mt Rangituhi / Colonial Knob Walkway winds its way from the Camp Elsdon car park up to the Rangituhi Lookout. You'll pass through the Porirua Scenic Reserve full of regenerating native forest, and scale several hundred steps on your journey uphill. At the top, you'll be rewarded with stunning views across the region.
You can travel along the trail in both directions or combine it with Te Ara Utiwai to create an enjoyable 8km/half-day loop. This is a steep track that will take 3-5 hours return, reasonable fitness is required.
After the track, reward yourself with fish and chips at Titahi Bay Beach (5-min drive away,) watching surfers and enjoying the sunset over the horizon.
Explore the South: Sinclair Head Track / Red Rocks Coastal Track
Encounter a colony of fur seals and spot the Kaikoura Ranges on the South Island during your walk to Red Rocks on the South Coast.
Pick up some food from the only café on the South Coast The Beach House and Kiosk. Dine in or order from their kiosk and take your coffee and scone across to the beach. If you’re wanting something that has the Royal’s tick of approval then head around the bays to Lyall Bay for a bite to eat at Maranui Cafe.
Start the Sinclair track at car park in Owhiro Bay. Put on your walking shoes, hop on your bike or, if you have a four-wheeler venture to Devils Gate where you’ll pass the Red Rock and find the seal colony.
Explore the many rock pools on your journey and if you don’t find anything see if the Bait Shed in Island Bay is open to get up and personal with the local marine life.
More in the tank? Continue all the way to Sinclair Head Track after seeing the seals at Devils Gate.
Unwind on the sunny coast - Waikanae Trail
Take a leisurely stroll or ride your bike along the beautiful Waikanae River where it’s not unusual for locals to ride their beautiful horses.
The Kāpiti coast is known for is sun-shining days so the best way to enjoy it is doing the Waikanae Trail that’s perfect for all ages, walkers, bikers, four-wheel drivers and even horse riders. This track takes you along the river, passing through farmlands and swimming holes.
Unwind with a cuppa and food from The Front Room Eatery next to the beach. From the front this looks like a small cottage but when you walk in, you’ll see that is extends outside to a tropical outdoor eating area. Don’t forget to challenge someone at a game of giant Chess!
If you’re in no rush to leave the sunny Kāpiti Coast check out one of the breweries in the area. Grab a drink from Duncan’s Brewing Company, Tuatara Brewery or North End Brewing at Salt and Wood Collective.