Natural Wonders

Get up close and personal to the spectacular Putangirua Pinnacles on the Wairarapa coastline

Putangirua Pinnacles

These unique rock formations must be seen to be believed - it’s no wonder the Putangirua Pinnacles were chosen as a filming location for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

It’s less than two hour’s drive from Wellington or a one-hour drive from Martinborough to the start of the trail, 13km along Cape Palliser Road from the Lake Ferry turn-off where the dramatic scenery awaits you.

Starting out

If you’re heading to the Putangirua Pinnacles from Martinborough, get your coffee fix and brunch first at The Land Girl, a modern country café with character to boot, just 20 minutes south of Martinborough.

If you’d rather not drive, check out Green Jersey’s Cape Palliser Coastal Explorer Tour, which leaves from Martinborough to explore the Putangirua Pinnacles and Cape Palliser’s rugged coastline.

Couple with takeaway coffee from the Land Girl cafe
Couple walking through the Putangirua Pinnacles in the Wairarapa
Putangirua Pinnacles track
The Putangirua Pinnacles in the Wairarapa

Putangirua Pinnacles

Put on your sturdy walking shoes and allow at least half a day to check out the spellbinding rock formations that featured in The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King.

Explore the Putangirua Pinnacles via one of two trails - walk up the stream bed to where these stalagmite structures tower overhead. Or about 10 minutes along the stream bed from the carpark take the easy bush walk that leads to the loop track junction and on to the lookout above the Pinnacles.

If you’re keen on a longer walk (3-4 hours return) with spectacular views of Palliser Bay and Lake Onoke, continue uphill from the lookout to a track and turn left. The loop trail returns to the coast 300m from the entrance to the Putangirua Pinnacles Track.

Cape Palliser lighthouse

Majestic Cape Palliser

Once you’ve conquered the Putangirua Pinnacles, it’s worth driving the dramatically scenic coast road to Cape Palliser, the southern-most tip of the North Island, while you’re in the area.

Test your fitness with the 250-odd steps up to the cast iron Cape Palliser lighthouse, which has stood on the cliffs since 1897 and is still shining strong. You’ll be rewarded with views across to the South Island.

You may also be lucky enough to spot seal pups - the Cape is home to the North Island's largest fur seal colony.

On the road again

After working up an appetite, stop at Lake Ferry Hotel on your way back, one of the oldest licensed hotels in New Zealand.

Situated on the shores of Lake Onoke, and overlooking Palliser Bay, enjoy a feast of fish and chips at Lake Ferry Hotel and wash it down with a well-deserved beer or wine.

To make the most of your Wairarapa adventure - stay the night in Martinborough and enjoy tastings at some of the 20-plus boutique vineyards. And explore some other Wairarapa trails.

Group having wine at winery in Martinborough

NOTE: There is no public transport to the Putangirua Pinnacles. Parking is available at various entries to the Putanirua Pinnacles Track.


Ready to start your trail adventure? Join the Find Your Wild - Wellington Regional Trails Facebook Group, share your adventure and go in the draw to win one of five staycations around the Wellington region.

Join to win