Ten Must-Do Day Trips from Wellington
Check out these 10 awesome day trips from Wellington, for ideas on what to do for your next out of town adventure.
1. Turakirae Scientific Reserve - 45 minute drive
Turakirae Scientific Reserve makes for a great day trip from Wellington. The short walk has an abundance of wildlife to be observed, with the main attraction being a colony of up to 500 New Zealand fur seals. Turaki, which means sea, and rae, which means headland, describes the point where the Rimutaka Range comes down to meet the sea.
Turakirae Scientific Reserve is located 20km south of Wainuiomata, at the end of coast road. It is a 45min (3km) walk from the car park down to the head.
For more information and restrictions on access, please see the DOC website.
2. Cape Palliser – 2h 20min drive
Visit the southernmost tip of New Zealand’s North Island on your next day trip from Wellington. The area has wildlife, stunning walks and a lighthouse for you to explore. Climb the 253 steps to the Cape Palliser lighthouse, which has been there since 1897. The fur seals which inhabit this coastline form the North Island’s largest seal colony. Head there between November and February and you might just see some seal pups as well.
Don’t miss the Putangirua Pinnacles (Google Maps) on the way. This amazing rock formation was where Sir Peter Jackson filmed The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Find out more about the region on the Wairarapa website.
3. Paekakariki Escarpment Track – 35min drive
There is no better way to get your tramping (hiking) on than a day trip from Wellington to the Paekakariki Escarpment Track. As part of the (much longer) Te Araroa walkway, this 10km track runs along the west coast from Beach Road, Paekakariki in the north, down to Pukerua Bay shops in the south. Remember this not a loop track, so either leave a car at one end, or catch the train back to your car. The trail is very exposed to the west coast, which makes for stunning views, but remember to check the weather and be prepared for changes in conditions.
For more information, see the Te Araroa website.
4. Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre – 1h 50min drive
The Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre is a must do and makes for a great day trip from Wellington for those with kids. The centre is a sanctuary for some of New Zealand’s most famous, native wildlife. Here, you will see New Zealand’s iconic Kiwi, Kokako, Kaka (parrot) and other forest birds, along with eels and the Tuatara. A 2-hour bushwalk and aviary walk loop allow you to explore the area at your own pace.
See the Pukaha website for opening hours and entry fees.
5. Kapiti Island – 50min drive
Kapiti Island, off the Kapiti coast, is one of New Zealand’s most accessible nature reserves. The tranquil island is a sanctuary for New Zealand’s native birds. Take a day trip from Wellington and wander through native forest or climb the island’s highest peak (521m) for panoramic views. The only way to access the island is through an approved tour operator, so you’ll have to get in touch with Kapiti Explorer & Marine Charter or Kapiti Island Nature Tours to arrange a visit.
For more information, visit the DOC website.
6. Castle Point – 2h 30min drive
Castle point has been voted one of New Zealand’s top beaches. The lighthouse, which was first lit in 1913 is one of New Zealand’s last remaining beam light houses. Other beach activities include swimming, surfing and hiking trails. It may be too long for a day trip from Wellington for some, so camp for the weekend at Castle Point Holiday Park and make the most out of a weekend away.
See the Wairarapa website for more information on the area.
7. Makara Mountain Bike Park and Beach – 30min drive
Makara Peak is an award winning, purpose built, mountain bike park set in 250 hectares of native bush, perfect for those adventure junkies looking for an easy day trip from Wellington. The park contains walking trails as well as bike trails and the park hosts a range of biking and trail running events throughout the year. If you don’t have a mountain bike, you can rent from Mud Cycles in Karori on your way out to the trails.
For more information and trail maps, see the Makara Peak website.
Cool off after riding at Makara beach. This stony beach has crystal clear waters when calm and is only another 20min on from Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park. There are a variety of coastal walks with views of the coastline, wind turbines and old gun emplacements. Finish off your day trip by treating yourself with an ice cream from the café near the beach.
8. Blueberry Picking – 35min drive
Fancy getting outdoors and into nature for a day? Going blueberry picking at the Blueberry Farm is the perfect way to take a day trip from Wellington and do just that! This farm and bakehouse is located in the picturesque Akatarawa Valley in Upper Hut. Just a 35 minute drive from central Wellington, pop there for just a few hours or spend the day exploring the area. Blueberry picking takes place from December to late April.
For more information, see the Blueberry Farm website.
9. Explore Otaki – 60min drive
Otaki, located an hour north of Wellington on State Highway 1, is a great day trip destination for those with shopping on their mind. The small town has a range of outlet stores, including some well-known Kiwi brands like Icebreaker, Kathmandu and Amazon.
Otaki may be best known for it’s outlet stores, but the neighbouring beach is also worth checking out. Beach access is off Marine Parade. Head south along Kapiti Lane to the Otaki River Estuary Viewing Platform (Google Maps) for great views over the Otaki River Estuary and it’s wildlife.
10. Wairarapa Moana Wetlands – 1h 10min drive
Being the largest wetlands in the southern North Island, the Wairarapa Moana Wetlands play an important role in supporting native plants and animals. The wetlands encompass Lake Wairarapa and Lake Onoke and stretch all the way down to Onoke Spit at Palliser Bay in the south. Matthews and Boggy Pond Wildlife Reserve have a lookout and walking track, best for taking in the native wildlife. Stop off in Featherston for a bite to eat to complete an unforgettable day trip from Wellington.
For more information, see the DOC website.
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