In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks. – John Muir
From hiking Diamond Head on Oahu to pilgrimages in Santiago de Compostela, we walk to ground ourselves. It doesn’t really matter to us what it is classified. We are not particular about city hikes, monument climbs, or National Park vistas. We are not kitted out in gear because we travel only with carry-on bags. Hiking boots would take up too much luggage real estate. Our criteria are that we can wear athletic shoes, carry a day pack, and complete the adventure with three kids. We simply look for ways that we can explore new landscapes together and perhaps learn something along the way.
It is no secret that New Zealand is famous for trekking and delivers awe-inspiring landscapes around every turn. Although we plan to explore some of the famous trails and family-friendly things to do in New Zealand over the next few months, we are currently living in New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington. Shortly after checking off the major tourist attractions in the city, the kids were squirrelly and we knew it was time to set out on foot and see things anew. Although we have not even begun to walk our way through all greater Wellington has to offer, here are our favorite adventures to date.
Mount Victoria Lookout
We unknowingly parked on Cuba Street, in downtown Wellington and meandered our way to the Mount Victoria neighborhood through the lively central business district. What I loved about leaving from bustling downtown and returning through crowded streets is that the peacefulness of the Town Belt trail was in stark contrast to the city buzz. The lookout is over 600 feet (200 meters) above the city and the walk is stunning. There is a famous spot about mid-way along the Mt Victoria hike. It’s a fun spot to watch out for because a scene from The Lord of the Rings was filmed there. Beginning the walk in the city center, versus driving up to the look-out also means stopping for delectable fish and chips at the Mount Vic Chippery on the descent.
Although we love the stately, protected harbors in Wellington City, we found ourselves craving a taste of the rugged coastlines of New Zealand we had dreamed of for years. Makara Beach is only 10 miles (16 km) north of Wellington on a winding country road dotted with sheep. The road cuts through the Ohariu Valley in a gentle, river-like sweep. The Makara Walkway hike is less than a 4-mile loop (6 km) loop, climbing to vantage points with spectacular views, and returning along the beach. There are gun emplacements from WWII, native plants, and on a clear day, it feels like the South Island is close enough to touch. The Saddleback Cafe on the Ohariu Valley Road has the best Kids Dinner Menu I have seen. From chicken satay with jasmine pilaf to farm-raised Angus beef burgers, all members of the family feel finely dined. It is a rare and wonderful place, tucked away yet hard to pass by.
Houghton Terrace Steps
The views from View Road in Houghton Bay are spectacular with kids or without. If you park the car along View Road, you will be treated to airplanes taking off and landing, shipping lane traffic, and views of the Cook Straight.
When walking down the Houghton Terrace Steps toward Lyall Bay, the steep, winding descent serves as a constant reminder that what goes down, must come up. The destination was Maranui Cafe that is upstairs in the classic Surf Life Saving Club building. It is a cheerful spot right on the bay, full of life, joyful noise, and legendary food. I loved the unpretentious atmosphere where you can refill your coffee and water pitchers when thirsty coupled with the unparalleled tastes of the fresh, local ingredients. The food looked as beautiful and bountiful as it tasted. It was a diverse menu packed full of tradition and new infusions all made to be devoured by surfers, families, or people like us who were going back “up the stairs.” It was the perfect lingering Saturday brunch sandwiched by a glorious walk.
Next on the list of adventures:
- Mount Kaukau
- Eastbourne Lighthouse
What is amazing about each walk, hike, and jaunt is they seem to be one of the things we remember most about a particular location. Whether it is climbing the stairs up the Statue of Liberty or down the side of Mount Aetna, we always leave changed. I think it is because investing the time in climbing, descending, or traversing toward a new perspective is always worthwhile.
Today’s Tweetable: Hike your way to a new perspective.