Tag Archives: Island Bay

Wellington Walks – City to Sea

Wellington’s City to Sea Walkway takes you from Parliament, in the central city, to Island Bay, on the coast 12 kilometres away.

Almost the end of Wellington's City to Sea Walk
Almost the end of Wellington’s City to Sea Walk

Once again, the City to Sea walk offers all the things that we love about Wellington – the rugged hills, the bracing wind, the sweeping views of the city, bush and sea, with glimpses of historic places and famous local landmarks.

The first stage of the City to Sea Walkway takes you through the Botanic Gardens. Slow down and smell the roses, especially in the famous Lady Norwood Rose Garden. You’ll pass by two historic graveyards where many Wellington founding fathers lie at rest. High on the hill you’ll find the Carter Observatory, one of several on the route. You can watch the legendary Wellington Cable Cable arrive and depart. From here, you can see Wellington University tucked into the fold of the hills and far below, the city wrapped around the harbour.

Now it’s all downhill to the Aro Valley with its hundred year old wooden cottages strung along the steep, narrow streets. Take a break in Aro Park, where, during the Cold War era, historian Bill Sutch was sprung passing national secrets to a Russian spy. If pass through this park in early March, you’ll catch one of the most spectacular festivals on the Wellington Calendar.

Leaving the Aro Valley in your wake, you’ll head up into the bushy Town Belt through stands of pines and native bush onto wind swept ridge tops. The views from here are spectacular. Behind you there’s central Wellington spreading around the harbour. Turn your gaze to the south and you’ll see Newtown, where stately Government house stands in its lush gardens, an oasis among the crowded streets. Beyond Newtown, Berhampore sprawls across the hill. Further on the Gothic towers of Erskine college mark the beginning of Island Bay. Look up and you’ll see the Brooklyn wind turbine turning against the sky. On one side there’s , Mount Victoria, on the other Mount Kaukau. Ahead, in the v of the hills, there’s Cook Strait and on a clear day, you can see the peaks of the South Island’s Kaikoura Ranges standing white against the blue.

The walk down over the hills of Brooklyn, through the last glades of bush is beautiful, especially when the broom and the gorse are blooming on the hills of happy valley. From here, the coast, with surging waves dashing against the rocks, is magnificent

Like the Southern Walkway, this is a walk that can be done in stages. Again, it is well sign-posted, so it is easy to leave or join the track at any time.

The experts recommend a good level of fitness to complete the City to Sea walk in a single day.


Island Bay, a great place for kids

Where in Wellington do you find a hermit’s island, fishing boats, rockpools, a pirate ship, a haunted house, a treasure trove of books, dolphins, seals and penguins, fish and chips and ice-cream? In Island Bay of course. That’s why it’s such a great place for kids.

Tapu Te Ranga
Tapu Te Ranga

With flocks of seabirds wheeling above its rocky peaks, waves pounding its seaboard side and cut from the mainland by a narrow but treacherous looking channel, Tapu Te Ranga, Island Bay’s island, smacks of adventure. It was here, long ago, that the mysterious hermit of Island Bay lived with his goats. Long before that, the Tangata Whenua, or people of the area, took refuge here in times of war. Long, long before that, the legendary Kupe climbed its highest rock, to search for the octopus Te Wheke. Adventurers unable to resist the urge to explore Tapu Te Ranga are advised to be judicious in their choice of transport (reliable) weather (fine) and tide (definitely not outgoing) and to take water!

There are plenty of adventures to be had within sight of Tapu Te Ranga, on Island Bay beach – swimming, of course, sand construction projects, diving and bombing off the jetty, leaping around rocks and exploring rock pools. There’s also plenty to see, especially if you happen to be there when the fishing boats, followed by screeching seagulls, chug in from Cook Strait.

The story of commercial fishing in Island Bay dates back to the late 1800s when fishermen from the Shetland Islands and from Southern Italy migrated here to fish the rich waters around here. Many of the descendants of those fishermen still live in Island Bay today and many of them are still in the fishing business. Island is often called little Italy and an important feature on the local calendar is the annual blessing of the fishing boats.

Just over the road from Island Bay beach, Shorland Park’s pirate ship has fulfilled countless young adventurers’ Treasure Island and sea-faring fantasies for almost half a century. There’s a hillside slide, a paddling pool, a sandpit, a roundabout a band rotunda and lots of lawn to race around on when the pirate games have played out. When they have, it’s probably time for a little ghost spotting.

The former Convent of the Sacred Heart, Erskine College, stands against the hills at the city end of Island Bay. It’s grim-faced grey, neo-gothic building. A creaking gate opens onto a shadowed garden of overgrown trees and thick shrubs. The air seems chilly. Rows of blank windows reflect the clouds. It’s the kind of place that fires the imagination with stories of ghosts. This probably why Peter Jackson chose to set his film The Frighteners here!

Island Bay Bookshop
Island Bay Bookshop

Back down in Island Bay’s main street, Island Bay Stationers, with its incredible collection of children’s literature, has been feeding young imaginations for over 40 years. Generations of children, including my own, remember hours happily browsing and choosing books with the kind and gentle assistance of Mrs Fay Far who established the collection. This Island Bay institution is still full of reading treasures – for kids and parents alike.

Not strictly speaking, in Island Bay, but a bracing march over the hill and along the coast road, or a short drive of the same, you’ll find the Island Bay Marine Education Centre with a small aquarium and a touch tank – interesting stuff for budding marine biologists!

Beyond this, you enter a marine reserve where all kinds of interesting sea creatures make their homes. It’s beautiful walk, with stunning views out to sea, where often, you’ll see the inter-island ferries sail past and if you’re lucky, dolphins cavorting in the waves, or, if you’re even luckier, you might catch a glimpse of a penguin.

Further on still, on the windswept, sea-battered point where land ends, you’ll come to Red Rocks, home to a large colony of seals. Grandpas, grandmas, mums, dads, kids and baby seals lounge and play, chattering among themselves. It‘s fascinating to watch. The seals are quite untroubled by tourists and sightseers, until, of course, they get too close!

To end a day at Island Bay, there’s nothing better than fish and chips on the beach, or in Shorland Park, with an ice-block for dessert. The best place to find those fish and chips is Island Bay Fish and Chips at 137 The Parade Island Bay. Right next door, there’s a dairy for the ice-blocks!