Leg 6 – Whitmore Street to Seatoun

18 kilometres
4 hrs 25 mins (walk)
51 mins (cycle)
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This leg of the Great Harbour Way begins at Tug Wharf at the junction of Whitmore Street and Customhouse Quay.[CYCLISTS: May cycle on the waterfront all the way to the end of Oriental Bay, where a cycle lane begins. Think “Cruise the Waterfront” – keep your speed down, don’t pass too close, and make your presence known to pedestrians by using a bell or a cheery greeting.] It has been proposed to name this section Ara Moana.

Free WiFi is available along the waterfront between the Westpac Stadium and Waitangi Park, so if you have a laptop or smartphone you can check your email (or this website).

Follow the Quay with the water’s edge on your left. Keep an eye out for the “Lobster Loos” – a pair of red tentacle like facilities, part artwork, part toilet. You will soon reach Queen’s Wharf with its bars and restaurants. Just past Shed 5, a short detour to your right will take you to The New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, open to the public and housed in one of many historic heritage buildings, as is the Wellington Museum, next door. This is an excellent place to learn more about Wellington’s maritime history, and features an excellent film and permanent display of the Wahine’s sinking. Alongside the Chicago Bar is Plimmer’s Ark Gallery, which offers a fascinating insight into the 1855 earthquake and the reclamation of Te Aro flat. Plimmer’s Ark, the remains of the sailing ship Inconstant, is undergoing conservation in the gallery. The ship was rediscovered in 1997 under the Old Bank Arcade on Lambton Quay.

A few minutes further along the waterfront, where the ‘rip-rap’ begins (the large rocks piled up to protect the coast from erosion) sits Frank Kitts Park, named after a former Wellington mayor, and home to the mast of the Wahine, along with various sculptures and memorials. If you’re passing on the hour, check out the Wind Whirler, conceived by Len Lye. Here you can also pick up the Wellington Writers Walk, which runs between here and Chaffers Marina, further along the Great Harbour Way – look out for text sculptures along the waterfront, each quoting one of the many writers who have, at some time, made Wellington their home. To undertake the entire Writers Walk, obtain an interpretive map from the website or the Wellington Visitor Centre.

The City to Sea Bridge is on the city-side of the lagoon – cross it to explore Civic Square, the City Gallery and Cuba Mall. Otherwise, continue along the waterfront promenade, past the Wharewaka housing two ceremonial waka, the  historic Odlins Building, and over the Hikitea footbridge. In summer, you may see enthusiastic swimmers braving the drop from the diving platform. This is occasionally closed, not because of the physical hazard, but when the water quality below is deemed to be poor.  Looming beyond is the unmistakable monolith of New Zealand’s national museum – Te Papa, the city’s biggest-ever building project, completed in 1998 and described by its architects as ‘a high intensity roller-coaster architectural adventure’. In front is Solace in the Wind, a bronze sculpture by Max Patte, of a diver leaning into the wind. This attracts curious onlookers, often craning around his front to check if he’s anatomically correct!

The Wellington city waterfront on which you now walk is the result of major land reclamations, begun by private citizens as early as the late 1840s. From 1852 the provincial government oversaw a programme of reclamations, responsibility for which passed to the Wellington City Council (formed in 1870), and later on, shared with the Harbour Board (formed 10 years later). Nearly 360 hectares of land had been reclaimed from the habour by the time the works eventually ceased in the mid 1970s.

Continue along Taranaki Wharf until you reach Chaffers Marina, home to many of the city’s resident and visiting boats. Here, at the art deco Herd Street building that was originally a Post Office headquarters, you can have a coffee by the Marina, or rest awhile in the only-just-saved-from-development Waitangi Park. Originally called Chaffers Park, this was the site of a 10-year battle between park supporters, and developers. One of the city’s rare open spaces, the park’s former uses were hardly illustrious: dog pound, morgue, works depot and site of the ‘destructor’ – an incinerator of ship’s dunnage, the stuffing used to prevent cargo getting wet. A park was planned as early as 1937, but it wasn’t until 2005 that Wellington’s citizens finally got it, and only just.

From the park, head back to the marina to complete a circuit of the wharf, right around the Overseas Passenger Terminal. Or just cut straight across to the start of Oriental Parade. Clyde Quay Marina is on your left behind the boatshed roofs. The eye-catching building just past the sheds is the Freyberg Pool. The golden sand on the beach ahead is not naturally occurring in this area: it is ground-up rock shipped in from Takaka during a 2003, $8 million revamp. Oriental Bay is a splendid place to loiter, with good swimming (lifeguards in summer), coffee kiosk and satisfying people-watching. Just offshore lies the Carter Fountain, built in the 1970s, and in the middle of the parade the band rotunda, built as changing sheds in 1936, now housing a restaurant with a public viewing platform on top.

As you leave the bustle of the bay around Point Jerningham, the horizon expands to take in the Miramar Peninsula on the other side of Evans Bay, and that’s where you’re headed.

At the eastern end of Oriental Bay, an on-road cycle lane starts and is more or less continuous on both sides of the road until Greta Point.

The first bay you reach is Little Karaka Bay; the second is Balaena. Onward through Weka Bay, and past Snapper Point is Kio Bay. At Greta Point the cycle lane ends and a shared path starts on the footpath on the eastern side of the road. An interesting alternative for walkers is to follow the shoreline from the small beach just north of the NIWA research establishment, past the Greta Point townhouses, to rejoin the road just past the Soi restaurant.

After Greta Point is Cog Park. Here you can either keep close to the road, or follow the gravel path around the shoreline. The ‘cog’ is from the Patent Slip used for the repair and maintenance of ships, built in 1873 and decommisioned in 1983. A little further on is Hataitai Beach, with a grassy picnic spot opposite. Just after the boatsheds is the council-owned Evans Bay Marina, which cyclists and walkers can pass through to rejoin the roadside path on Cobham Drive. If you’ve kept to the road , turn left at the busy intersection into Cobham Drive, heading towards the airport. That giant orange needle is Zephyrometer by Phil Price – get underneath and look skyward – dizzy delight if the wind’s blowing the right way! This is the first of several sculptures that you walk or cycle past as you traverse the GHW. Once a popular beach, the bay was used to dump fill from the airport excavations of the 1960s.

Follow Cobham Drive to the Calabar Road roundabout. Waving around in the middle is Pacific Grass by Kon Dimopoulos. To the right is the airport which extends right down to Cook Strait. Head left towards Miramar.

[CYCLISTS: Take the next left into Shelley Bay Road until you reach Shelly Bay.]

Walkers can ignore the left turn into Shelly Bay Road (unless you want an easy option – in which case follow the road to Shelly Bay). For a high level walking route, go through the cutting and take the next left into Maupuia Road. Miramar is on your right, as you walk up, and peeping over the top are the Orongorongos. Continue up Maupuia Road until it turns into Akaroa Drive. Go through the gate ahead, into Maupuia Reserve, and follow the path.

When you meet a signpost to Shelly Bay, follow the path down the hill. When you reach the road, cross it to continue safely walking onwards, to your right. This is a wonderful part of the journey, being relatively quiet, with quiet anonymous bays and blooming pohutukawa trees in summer. Note that there is no footpath, so it is important to keep left.

Shelly Bay is around the next bend. This collection of almost entirely Second World War-era buildings was formerly a Royal New Zealand Air Force base, decommissioned in 1995. The base started out as one of the many military defences around Wellington built as protection against Russian invasion. The base at Shelly Bay was the ‘submarine mining depot’ – completed in the 1880s but never actually utilised. In 1907 the site passed to the navy, and the buildings and wharves were built in 1942. In 1946 the base was transferred to the Air Force and manned right up to its decommission. Today, the land is owned by Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika, acquired as part of a Treaty of Waitangi settlement. The Chocolate Fish cafe offers a chance for a break.

A few minutes onward from Shelly Bay there’s a small car park on your left. Follow the path across the road to the Massey Memorial. Unveiled in 1930, this grand memorial of Coromandel granite covered with Kairuru marble from Takaka is dedicated to William Ferguson Massey, New Zealand prime minister 1912-25. An Irish-Scot who was 14 when he arrived in New Zealand, Massey rose from activist farmer, through 18 years of parliamentary opposition to become prime minister, leading much social reform and ushering the country through World War One before his party was broken by the Great Depression.

Backtrack to Shelly Bay Road and continue. You will soon reach Point Halswell, so-named in the 1840s after the Commissioner of Native Reserves. To Maori, this point was known as Kaitawharo (‘to eat jellyfish’), and the surrounding fishing grounds as Rukutoa (‘strong diving’) – only the most skilled divers were capable of obtaining shellfish here, the powerful currents and rough waters making it treacherous.

The bay beyond the point is Kau Bay, on which the Ngati Ira settlement of Kai Whakaaua Waru Kainga used to stand. Early European writers noted several large middens and oven stones here.

Beyond Kau Point lies Mahanga Bay, home to the NIWA Aquaculture Research Facility, where scientists research cold-water fish and shellfish species.

Leaving Mahanga Bay you pass Point Gordon. The hilltop above this point is the site of Fort Balance, formerly Wellington’s principle coastal defence base, one of many built during the ‘Russian scare’. By 1888 it had various guns, magazines, engine rooms and barracks. The Fort complex was soon added to with a musketry parapet, minefield control station, search-light emplacement and underground tunnels. But by the beginning of the First World War, Fort Balance was past its prime, with focus switching instead to Fort Dorset in Seatoun. In 1957 these coastal defences were decommissioned, and in the 1970s they were filled with dirt. Fort Balance was excavated in 1992, and has since assumed the protection of the Historic Places Trust. It is currently not open to the public.

Pass Point Gordon, into Scorching Bay, opening up a new, exciting vista of the harbour entrance (and across to Pencarrow). This is an excellent place for a break, especially if you’ve packed your swimsuit, or indulge at the Scorch o rama Cafe. On a fine day, the open air tables on the seaward side of the road are in great demand.

Continue on the coastal footpath along Karaka Bay Road into Karaka Bay. As you leave the bay, you pass Taipakupaku Point. From the discovery of a Maori burial site and other relics, this area is thought to have been extensively occupied by Maori in the early 1800s.

Worser Bay, past the point, is named after ‘Old Worser’ James Heberley (the original pilot station master), who acquired the nickname after being asked about the weather prospects – his reply: ‘worser’! Worser Bay offers excellent swimming, both on the main beach and at several coves past. The hills above the bay were once the site of Whetu Kairangi Pa, a major fortification built by the chief Tara. (It is said that it was after Tara built this pa he named the harbour after himself – the Great Harbour of Tara, ‘Te Whanganui a Tara’.) The hilltop pa offered protection from invaders and a safe retreat for its neighbours, including those from next door Kakariki-hutia Pa (‘plucked parakeets’), so-named because its chief was said to have hastily eaten several uncooked birds before battling invaders – a meal credited for his fine performance. The unmarked pa site may be reached via a clearly visible zigzag track opposite the south end of the beach – it’s well worth the walk to the top.

Around ten minutes from Worser Bay, you will reach the Seatoun Wharf, where this leg of the Great Harbour Way ends.

Toilets Frank Kitts Park
Civic Square (over the City-to-Sea Bridge)
Oriental Parade
Balaena Bay
Hataitai Beach
Scorching Bay
Worser Bay
Churchill Park, Seatoun
Public transport Metlink
Wellington Combined Taxis, tel 384-4444
Accommodation WellingtonNZ Accomodation
Useful contacts Wellington Visitor Information
Museum of Wellington City and Sea
Te Papa
Wellington Writers Walk