Featherston & down to Wellington

Though still a work in progress the Rimutaka Cycle Trail is justifiably heralded as one of the great New Zealand rides. It offers two ways into Wellington: around the rough southern coast; or via the comparatively sedate Rimutaka Rail Trail and Hutt River Trail.

Featherston to Wainiomata via Orongorongo Station (≈85k)

Lake Onoke looking out to Cape Palliser For those setup to ride over a bit of rough this is a great way to cycle into Wellington. Start the day by heading out along the Western Lake Road. To your left is Lake Wairarapa, contoured by the mountain ranges of Aorangi Forest Park. To your right the Rimutaka Forest Park rises above you. At about the 20km mark you leave the lake behind as you pass through farmland, with the road rising after about 15 more km to reveal views over Lake Onoke and out to Cape Palliser. The road turns to gravel as it descends into Ocean Beach where a few baches dot the coastline.

Corner Creek Campsite After a few more kilometres you arrive at the Corner Creek DOC campground. Ocean Beach Road continues right around the coast over a rough 4WD track, through the Orongorongo Station and eventually ending at the mouth of the Orongorongo River - the official end of the Rimutaka Cycle Trail.

From the river mouth it's a further 21km to Wainuiomata along the quiet, rural, and fully sealed Wainuiomata Coast Road. There is the option to camp at the Catchpool Valley DOC campground in the Rimutaka Forest Park (about 9km up the coast road). Alas, from Wainuiomata there is only a single link road into Wellington. Wainuiomata Road is a 4 lane highway of fast flowing traffic with no margin and many blind corners. Avoid!

The Trees Tell the Story There are plans to eventually continue the Rimutaka Cycle Trail right around the coastline along Pencarrow Coast Road and into Eastbourne. At time of writing though, passage through a small parcel of private land is still under negotiation, so it's still just a plan.

Choose your time and keep an eye on the weather. This coastline can clearly get pretty rough. But if the weather Gods are smiling then this area of stark and rugged beauty is well worth the trip.

Featherston to Wellington via the Rimutaka Rail Trail (80k)

Rimutaka Summit This is great riding with most of the day spent on dedicated walking/cycle tracks. Head out of Featherston along Western Lake Road. After about 10km you come to a turnoff right into Cross Creek Road which takes you up to the start of the Rimutaka Rail Trail, a walking/cycle trail following the original route of the Wairarapa line, with several historic tunnels and restored railway bridges. A well graded track takes you right through to Upper Hutt with camping available at Cross Creek, Ladle Bend and along the Summit. The main track ends at Kaitoke where it meets up with Highway 2 again. But here, rather than brave the highway traffic, turn left into Incline Road. True to its name this road rises for one or two hundred metres. At the crest of the hill there is a turnoff left into the Old Railway Line track through to Tunnel Gully. The Tunnel Gully track ends at Maymorm Station. Continue straight along Parkes Line Road then turn right into Mangaroa Hill Road to rejoin Highway 2. Once across the highway you can join the Hutt River Trail, a dedicated walking/cycling track which follows the river to its mouth at Petone.

On the Rimutaka Rail Trail At Petone you have the option to continue south into Wellington along a well signposted network of cycle paths (not always the smoothest ride, but safely off the main highway), or as an alternative you can ride into Eastbourne and take the ferry into Wellington. For a camp with a difference catch the sailing which stops off at Somes (Matiu) Island, a scenic reserve in the middle of Wellington Harbour where there is a DOC campsite.

Wellington is the departure point for ferries to the south island, but for those staying a while the city has much to offer. Popular activities include Te Papa (the national museum), the cable car, theatre, art galleries, parliament, Weta Workshop, Zealandia wildlife sanctuary, ...

Known colloquially as "Windy Wellington" the city is often buffeted by strong winds, funnelled through the Cook Straight by surrounding mountain ranges. One great thing about this city is that it is quite compact. Hemmed in as it is by the surrounding hills and harbour, urban sprawl has been unable to take hold. Consequently you can visit Te Papa, take swim at Oriental Bay, dine at one of the many restaurants (according to Lonely Planet there are "more bars, cafés and restaurants per capita than New York") and then go out for a movie or show - all within easy walking distance.

Wellington "Round the Bays" Loop (37k)

If you have time to explore Wellington then this is an easy, flat ride and makes great day trip, passing through plenty of swimming bays, with cafés dotted around the coast. The round-the-bays loop is popular with Wellingtonians and if the weather is fine you're bound encounter locals out for a lunchtime jaunt or perhaps taking the long way home. The great thing about this route is that - even if you're a stranger to the city - it's virtually impossible to get lost. Just keep following the coastline until Owhiro Bay, where you turn inland and cycle up the valley through Brooklyn and back down to the city. If you're keen you can continue around the coast from Owhiro Bay for about 5km along a 4x4 track which takes you to a seal colony at Red Rocks.