Wellington is a city of hills. Many, many hills. These hills and the wind are the defining features of our capital city and, while other people may complain about them, I’m quite fond of both. The hills are a way of locating yourself, both in the city itself and the wider region. For me, this is almost more than physical, a way of knowing I’m home. The hills are also immensely pretty.
To explore these hills a bit more (and to make sure I got out of the house and appreciated the ridiculous summery weather we’re having), I challenged myself to conquer all twelve peaks listed on the Wellington City Council’s peak bragging website before I went back to work on January 8.
Day 1 – Southern Walkway
For Day 1, my flatmate joined me on the Southern Walkway. The walkway wends its way from Oriental Bay along the Town Belt to Island Bay, ticking off two peaks along the way – Mt Alfred and Mt Albert.* It starts within five minutes of our house, so it was easy to just say ‘let’s go’. But first we had to put on copious amounts of sunblock as it was gloriously sunny.
Named for one of Queen Victoria’s sons, Mt Alfred is 133m tall. Previous to European occupation, it was a Ngai Tara pā site called Te Akatarewa. It’s a fairly easy hike up to the survey mark along the Southern Walkway, mainly because all the hard work was done earlier on Mt Vic. The peak isn’t on the path itself; I would have missed it altogether if my flatmate hadn’t pointed it out.
Amazing views over Evans Bay to Kilbirnie and the Miramar Peninsula/Te Motu Kairangi.
Further along the Walkway, after passing Truby King House (and explaining how important Truby King was to New Zealand history to my Australian flatmate) and the back of the zoo (and debating whether baboons had tails and whether they were apes or monkeys and realising we know nothing about apes or monkeys), is Mt Albert.
Only slightly taller, at 183m, Mt Albert is presumably named after Queen Victoria’s husband. Guess who was the ruling monarch when Wellington was being established?
By this time the sun and previous hills were beginning to take their toll and we puffed up the side of the hill. We were then justly rewarded:
Unfortunately I didn’t take many photos, just this video which I accidentally turned a weird colour in Instagram:
Once we reached the coast at Houghton Bay, we turned left, leaving the Southern Walkway, and settled on a beach in the Taputeranga Marine Reserve. My flatmate and his friend went snorkling, while myself and another friend guarded our stuff on the beach – i.e. got some knitting done! Amazingly, while we were there, a pod of dolphins came into the bay to play!
All up, Day 1 was great – just some small parks to get started!
Day 2 – Te Ahumairangi Hill
The weather the next day was not great, with low clouds threatening rain. But I wanted to stretch out muscles from yesterday’s hike and figured at least I wouldn’t have to wear sunblock.
Easily accessible, Te Ahumairangi Hill was a good choice. Located in the Town Belt on the other side of the city centre from Day 1’s walk, it’s 303m tall. I walked from the bus stop on Lambton Quay through the Bolton Street Cemetery to St Marys Street and then into the Town Belt. I zigzaged up various paths until I reached the lookout, which isn’t quite at the top, but has good views of the city even on a cloudy day.
The peak proper has a radio transmitter and various other machinery, with many warning signs. But it you sneak around the side, you can see out over Karori.
In addition to views, the walk through the Town Belt is also worth the climb. A mix of exotic pines and regenerating native bush, I could hear many tūī and kākā, and there are great peeks into the government area of Wellington.
I went back down the hill via the East-West Connector and then came back out on St Marys Street again – just a couple of houses down from the Sprig and Fern Tavern where I had an excellent post-peak pint!
Day 3 – Rest Day
And on Day 3, I rested, as I was a bit buggered.
* We could have also added in Mt Victoria/Matairangi, but I decided to leave it for another day (my flatmate reckoned I’d done it enough times to count it already, but I want to do all the peaks in the allocated timeframe).