Featherston & down to Wellington

The Remutaka 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 Remutaka Rail Trail and Hutt River Trail. Alternatively both sections can be ridden as a single loop.

Featherston to Wellington via Orongorongo Station (84 - 104k)

Open in Google maps

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 Remutaka 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 A few kilometres along the coast you arrive at the Corner Creek DOC campground. Ocean Beach Road continues right around the coast over a rough 4WD track. While much has been done to improve the track since its adoption as a New Zealand Cycle Trail ride, it is still pretty rough, with sections immediately after Camp Creek too sandy to ride.

Orongorongo Station, at the mouth of the Orongorongo River, is the official end of the Remutaka 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 Remutaka 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 Fortunately there is an alternative. From the Orongorongo river mouth, continue up Wainuiomata Coast Road for about 4km until you see signage on your left for the East Harbour Regional Park. Cross over the bridge and follow the road over the hill to the quiet, gravel Pencarrow Coast Road, which continues right around the coastline to Eastbourne. From Days Bay you can either catch a ferry into Wellington or continue the further 20km around the harbour.

Note that a section of Pencarrow Coast Road is privately owned and continued access is at the discretion of the owners. Be respectful of this.

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 Remutaka Rail Trail (80k)

Open in Google maps

Remutaka 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 Remutaka Rail Trail, a walking/cycle trail following the original route of the Wairarapa line, with several historic tunnels and restored railway bridges.

From the roadside a shortish section of easy single track takes you up to Cross Creek where there is the opportunity to camp. A well graded 4WD trail continues right through to Upper Hutt, with further camping available along the Summit and at Ladle Bend. The main track ends at the Kaitoke carpark where it meets up with SH2. Here though, 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, which then continues on to the Tunnel Gully track, finally terminating at Maymorm Station.

From Maymorm Station signage directs you right & down the hill to join SH2 for the few remaining kilometers into Brown Owl (service station and campground). Just south of Brown Owl you join the Hutt River Trail, a dedicated walking/cycling track which follows the river to its mouth at Petone. Alternatively you can continue straight from Maymorm Station along Parkes Line Road, turning right into Mangaroa Hill Road. Once over the hill you join SH2 at the start of the river trail, thus avoiding a section of highway, albeit at the price of a small climb.

On the Remutaka Rail Trail Petone, one of the oldest European settlements in the Wellington Region, has plenty of shops and cafés and is worth an explore. From here a well signposted network of cycle paths takes you the remaining 15km into Wellington - not always the smoothest ride, but safely off the main highway. As an alternative you can ride to Days Bay in 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)

Open in Google maps

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 4WD track which takes you to a seal colony at Red Rocks.