There are a number of towns and attractions in the Wellington surrounding areas which can be easily visited on a day trip from the city.
Eastbourne, New Zealand
Eastern Bay Drive runs along the east side of the harbor, passes through Petone and comes to Eastbourne, which also has beautiful bathing beaches. From here there is a pleasant walk on a waymarked trail through woodlands down to beautiful Butterfly Creek, where there is an attractive pool for bathers.Another trail (16km there and back) runs from Eastbourne to Pencarrow Head, on the east side of the entrance to the harbor, where New Zealand's first lighthouse was built (1859). From here there is a fine view of Port Nicholson.
Otari Museum of Native Plants
All botanists will enjoy a visit to the Otari Museum of Native Plants, which is not a museum but rather a beautiful garden, with specimens of all the plants that grow in New Zealand and the Chatham Islands. The museum is reached by way of Wilton Road (signposted to Karori), west of the city center.
Along the Kapiti Coast, from Paekakariki by way of Raumati to Waikanae, there are a series of beautiful bathing beaches. There are also three good museums.
The Tramway Museum in Elizabeth Park, Paekakariki (45km north of the city center on Highway 1), is a popular attraction at weekends. Here tramcars that once ran along Lambton Quay carry passengers on nostalgic trips to the Memorial Gates at McKay's Crossing. The gates commemorate the 2nd U.S. Marine Division that was stationed here during the second world war.
Address: MacKays Crossing Entrance, Queen Elizabeth Park, Paekakariki, New Zealand
Opening hours: 11am-4:30pm; Closed: Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri
Always closed on: Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee in NZD: Family $15.00, Adult $6.00, Child $3.00
Useful tips: Tram may not operate in very cold weather.
Paekakariki Rail and Heritage Museum, Paekakariki
Paekakariki, along the Kapiti Coast, is home to Paekakariki Rail and Heritage Museum. Exhibits on the railroad heritage of the area are housed in the Paekakariki Station.
Southward Car Museum
Near the Tramway Museum is the Southward Car Museum, with a large collection of veteran and vintage cars, including a Cadillac that belonged to Marlene Dietrich, another that belonged to Al Capone and the first two cars - made by Mercedes-Benz - to run on New Zealand's then dusty tracks in 1898. The museum is some 50km north of the city center, 3km south of Waikanae.
Lower Hutt, New Zealand
15km northeast of Wellington is the outer suburb of Lower Hutt (pop. 95,000), which was named after a director of the New Zealand Land Company. It lies on the lower course of the Hutt River, which is flanked by steep hills. Near here is Petone, where the first settlers arrived in 1840; frequent flooding by the Hutt River soon led them to move their settlement further south. After reaching agreement with the local Maoris on the sale of the necessary land they cleared the forest and laid out gardens. But as the expanding city of Wellington gradually extended to the lower course of the Hutt River the settlement of Lower Hutt became a residential suburb, and some of the market gardens gave way to factories. There are now also a number of research institutes and television studios.
Dowse Art Museum
Christ Church is the oldest church in the Wellington area. Built of wood in 1854, it was restored after a fire in 1989.
Settlers Museum, Petone, New Zealand
The Settlers Museum in the suburb of Petone (on the Esplanade) has an collection of material on the European settlement of the area, as well as extensive archives that are of particular interest to genealogists.
The Settlers Market in Jackson Street and the Station Village Market at the corner of Hutt Road and Railway Avenue attract large numbers of visitors on Thursdays and Sundays.
In Wainuiomata Valley rocks exposed here show clearly the various upthrusts caused by earthquakes. The most recent spectacular upthrust of the seabed resulted from the 1855 earthquake. The uppermost raised beach was thrust upwards some 6500 years ago.
Otaki, New Zealand
75km north of Wellington, on the South Taranaki Bight, is Otaki (pop. 6500). The Otaki area once had a relatively large Maori population and was controlled in the early 19th C. by Te Rauparaha from his base on nearby Kapiti Island. It is now the commercial center of a fertile vegetable-growing area.The first Maori university, the University of Rauwaka, was founded in Otaki as the logical development of earlier Maori pre-school and school education projects.The British missionary Octavius Hadfield (1814-1904), later bishop of Wellington, worked in Otaki from 1839 and taught the Maoris to cultivate the excellent local soil. He strove to maintain good relations between the settlers and the Maoris and was able to restrain Te Rauparaha from attacking Wellington. His uninhibited expression of his views on the Taranaki land war, however, made him unpopular with the government.Otaki's main sight was the Rangiatea Maori church, which unfortunately was destroyed by fire several years ago. Only a sign remains to commemorate New Zealand's finest Maori church.Nearby is the grave of Te Rauparaha; legend has it that his body was transported to Kapiti Island.1km further on is a Roman Catholic mission station established in 1844. The church was built in 1857.
Upper Hutt, New Zealand
30km northeast of Wellington, in the valley of the Hutt River, is the satellite town of Upper Hutt (pop. 38,000). The population includes many commuters who travel into Wellington to work, but the town also has a number of factories and other institutions, such as the New Zealand Central Institute of Technology.
This long narrow island (17.6 sq.km) lies off the west coast at Waikanae, 70km north of Wellington. It is now a nature reserve but can be visited only with the permission of the Department of Conservation. There is no overnight accommodation on the island. The east side, facing the mainland, has gentle wooded slopes, but the west coast has cliffs or falls sharply to the Tasman Sea.In the early 19th C Chief Te Rauparaha, whose tribe had been driven out of their territory round Kawhia by other Maori tribes, established himself on the island. Through trade with the settlers he acquired so many guns that, like Hongi Hika, he was able to mount plundering raids as far south as Christchurch on the South Island. Finally he was arrested and sent to prison for 2 years. Although he never became a Christian he supported the missionaries in the building of the Rangiata church at Otaki.
Map of Wellington Attractions