Skyline Walkway: delivering bounty of birds and views
The ridgeline of this walkway offers views that take your breath away, while Mount Kaukau gives a shout out to a clever local resident, the kākā
Wellington’s Skyline Walkway lives up to its name, offering sweeping, panoramic views to the city below and far out to the major landmarks of the area.
With an abundance of farmland, alpine foliage and the chance to encounter native wildlife, this hike is a go-to option for locals and visitors alike.
Views views views
Journey along peaks from Mākara Saddle to the summit of Mount Kaukau, exploring the land above the outer green belt.
Along the path you’ll have views of the city, harbour and the Remutaka, Tararua and Ōrongorongo Ranges. On a clear day you can see Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku and the Kaikoura Ranges in the South Island, and northwest to the Porirua Basin and Tasman Sea.
Rolling green or golden hills, a windswept coastline, alpine foliage, wildflowers, urban farmland and forests are all elements of this diverse walk.
The resurgence of the kākā
The native name of Mount Kaukau is Tarikākā, so named for the flourishing populations of kākā that called the area home.
The kākā are a rare and intelligent species of native parrot that, at one point in time, would fly in large flocks above the native forests of what is now known as the Wellington region. Habitat decimation including clearing of Totara forests, and the introduction of mammals such as possums and stoats, led to the kākā completely disappearing from Wellington City.
In the span of almost two decades, the efforts of Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne, DOC, Wellington City’s Urban Ecology team, and local community volunteers has led to an insurgence of the species, so much so that today they can be seen and heard throughout urban areas and on the local trails. They are common in the outer green belt, in parks and even in people’s backyards.
How the kākā came back
Between 2002 and 2007, 14 captive-bred kākā were translocated from zoos to Zealandia, where they thrived in the protected environment. With specially designed nest boxes and containers throughout the sanctuary, the eggs and chicks were monitored and tracked, given colourful leg bands so they could be easily identified.
Up until the 2015-2016 breeding season, Zealandia had banded more than 750 kākā, with many unbanded birds also showing up at feeding sites. This indicated the birds were breeding successfully through the city’s reserves, and the collaborative predator control efforts were a success. From a modest amount to hundreds and potentially thousands of birds both in and out of the sanctuary, the kākā story is considered an example of success in revitalising a native population.
While the birds still encounter the challenges of an urban environment, such as lead poisoning, inappropriate food and mammals, the population is healthy - to the point that birds from Wellington are translocated to other areas of New Zealand.
On your hike, keep your ears and eyes alert for their loud call, brown and scarlet feathers, and large beak. The chatty birds interact in groups, and can be known to venture close to visitors.
View the Skyline Walkway trail page for information on the elevation of the trail (it can get steep in some parts), how to get there and other ‘know before you go’ information.
Top tips for the Skyline Walkway
- The Common Ground Café at the Johnsonville Library dishes up coffees and cafe fare
- On the Karori end, the Karori Park Cafe is your place for coffee, while One Fat Bird has food and craft beer on tap