Leg 5 – Petone to Whitmore Street

10.5 kilometres
2 hrs 45 mins (walk)
37 mins (cycle)
Go to map

From the Petone foreshore, you get a good perspective of Matiu/Somes Island, lying three kilometres away in the middle of the harbour. According to Maori oral history, the legendary Maori explorer Kupe named the island Matiu and its tiny neighbour Makoro after his nieces when he sailed into the harbour 1000 years ago. The islands were renamed Somes and Ward by the New Zealand Company in 1839, and in 1997 Somes was renamed Matiu/Somes. From the 1870s, the island was a quarantine station for animals and humans. Until the 1920s travellers suspected of carrying diseases such as smallpox were quarantined there, and war internees detained there during both World Wars. In the early 1980s, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society began habitat restoration and established a nursery. When rats were eradicated in 1987, the island’s conservation value was greatly enhanced and the quarantine station closed for good. This prominent landmark was off-limits to the general public until 1996 when it passed into the care of the Department of Conservation. It’s a regionally significant breeding site for several threatened bird species as well as the common black-backed seagull, and one of the few places to see tuatara in the wild. The Cook Strait giant weta also lives there. The island can be visited by catching the East by West Ferry from Queen’s Wharf in Wellington, or Days Bay in Eastbourne. Check timetables as not all ferries stop there.

This part of the Great Harbour Way runs along a major arterial route – the multilane Hutt Road, part of State Highway 2. It is therefore not recommended for walkers. A bus can be taken from Petone to the Hutt Road at Ngauranga Gorge, where the pathway can be picked up again, or a train from Petone to Wellington station, giving excellent harbour views.

There are plans for a walking/cycling route on the seaward side of the railway line. In August 2015 NZTA was suggesting construction could start in 2018.


Visualization of the GHW route between Petone and Ngauranga

[CYCLISTS: however, may follow this route with care, but please note: the cycle path is designed to be used from Petone to Wellington, since the Petone to Horokiwi section is a cycle lane beside a busy expressway. If you attempted to cycle from Wellington to Petone on the cycle path, you to be cycling against the flow of traffic. If you do wish to cycle Wellington to Petone, you should travel on the expressway shoulder from Ngauranga to Petone. Take care at the vehicle on/off ramps.]. Leave the Korokoro Gateway car park, and continue along The Esplanade until you reach the cycle track climbing up to the overbridge (there is also a cycle track under the bridge connecting the foreshore with the Hutt Road). From the overbridge, follow the cycle path for a kilometre. At Horokiwi, about a kilometre from the overbridge, the off-road cycle path begins. As you approach the Ngauranga flyover, veer left and right, under the flyover, and turn left into the Hutt Road. Here the cycle path continues. Take care crossing the numerous exits from businesses along this cycle path.]

Ngauranga, over which the motorway flyover flies, is thought to have originally been a Ngati Ira canoe-landing site. However, it is believed that when this iwi left for the Chatham Islands in 1835, the kainga passed to Te Atiawa. At the height of the New Zealand Company purchases (the 1840s), around 50 Maori were living at Ngauranga, and although reluctant to relinquish ownership, by the early 20th century the land had passed out of their hands.

As the Hutt Road meets the Ngaio Gorge, you have reached Kaiwharawhara, so-named because of the wealth of wharawhara (Astelia banksii) that grew on the slopes above the stream (which flows still – just past the Spotlight store – although it was once much bigger and heavily forested). The city council’s Project Kaiwharawhara is revegetating this stream and has developed walking tracks for many kilometres right up to Otari-Wilton’s Bush – a possible side trip for walkers who have taken the bus from Petone.

As you approach the Aotea Quay (ferry terminal) flyover, follow the path underneath, through to Thorndon Quay.

Along the Quay, with its wall-to-wall retailers and the odd café, keep on. You will see the Westpac Stadium, (affectionately known as the ‘Cake Tin’), opened in 2000, on your left.

Opposite the Capital Gateway complex is Pipitea Marae, built in the early 1980s to cater for the growing demand of an urban Maori population in the Wellington region. It’s a place where traditional Maori customs are keenly observed, but where people of all iwi and all races meet.

The land above the marae is where Pipitea Pa once stood, a site of great significance to the Maori of Wellington. Overlooking the beach, close to fresh water and cultivation supplies, the pa was originally home to the Ngati Mutunga people who journeyed south from Taranaki in 1824. Patukawenga and Te Poki were the leading figures of the Ngati Mutunga at Pipitea when, in 1835, they renounced their rights to the land in favour of Te Atiawa. They then left for the Chatham Islands. The pa occupied about two and a half hectares and was surrounded by extensive cultivation, and in the early 1940s was home to about 80 people. Much of this area was subsequently claimed by settlers by way of the New Zealand Company’s Port Nicholson Purchase.

On your right is The Thistle Inn, Wellington’s oldest pub – built in 1840.

A few minutes on from Pipitea is Wellington Railway Station, where you should turn left, into Bunny Street. Opened in 1937, the station’s exterior architecture is loosely described as ‘neo-Georgian’ and it’s worthwhile going through the grand front entrance to look at the beautiful ‘Beaux Arts’ style booking hall.

Where Bunny Street meets Customhouse Quay, turn right into Aotea Quay, and at Whitmore Street, cross to the waterfront where this leg ends, by Tug Wharf. [NOT MARKED]

Toilets The Esplanade, Petone
Wellington Railway Station, Bunny Street
Public transport Metlink (bus services), tel 0800-801-7000
Hutt & City Taxis, tel 570-0057
Accommodation WellingtonNZ Accomodation
Useful contacts Wellington Visitor Information