Looking over the city of Wellington, New Zealand you can see the famous Cable Car approaching the viewing deck as seen on the City to Sea Walkway.

Your Ultimate Guide To The City To Sea Walkway In Wellington

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The City To Sea Walkway is a relatively long walk that requires a reasonable level of fitness to finish the entire route. The aim of this guide is to inform you of everything that you need to know to complete the walk, and inspire you to get out there and walk it. You can start the walk from within the city centre or from the other starting point which is in Island Bay, whichever is easier for you. On the walk you will travel through the Botanic Gardens where you will get to see the top of the Cable Car and spectacular views overlooking the city and harbour. You will travel through many parks and reserves, walk through some of the best scenery that Wellington has to offer as well as taking in some beautiful rugged coastal views.

Key Details

  • Distance: 14km
  • Time To Complete: 4-5 hours depending on distance
  • Elevation Gain: 352m
  • Start and Finish: On the corner of Bolton Street and Mowbray Street and Shorland Park in Island Bay
A couple walking down a footpath in the direction of Wellingtons CBD on a beautiful sunny day on the City to Sea Walkway.

Travel To The Start And Finish

If you are looking to start the walk from the starting point within the city centre on Bolton Street, you can catch a bus from wherever you are to Lambton Quay as this is very close to the start. You can find information about the public transport options on the Metlink Website. If you are looking to start the walk from the other starting point in Island Bay, you can catch the Number 1 bus from the city straight to Shorland Park. Also if you are finishing the walk in Island Bay, you can easily catch this same bus back into the city, from right outside the park on Reef Street.

If you wanted to drive to the start of the walk in the city there is street parking available on Bolton Street. This is located right in the centre of the city so you will have to pay at the parking machines located on the street. If you are going to be there all day it could turn out to be very expensive so you might be better off finding the nearest coupon parking zone and park there as it will be a lot cheaper, especially if it is on the weekend as it is free. Alternatively, there is plenty of street parking at the starting point in Island Bay and it is free here so you can park for as long as you like at no cost.

Navigating The City To Sea Walkway

The walkway is very easy to navigate, you will be guided along by yellow posts throughout that say ‘City To Sea Walkway’ on the top of them. The posts are periodically spread out along the route in a way that is very easy to follow. Starting from the corner of Bolton Street and Mowbray Street walk up the stairs to where the walk starts. From here you should be able to see the first of the City To Sea Walkway posts. If you are beginning from Shorland Park in Island Bay you can find the starting point of the walk at the back of the park behind some of the playground equipment. You will see a big sign that reads ‘City To Sea Walkway’. From this sign exit the park onto The Parade road, from here it should be easy to see the next yellow post and continue the walk.

A busy main road in Aro Valley, Wellington, that forms part of the City to Sea Walkway.
The yellow sign posts that will guide you along the route.

The Route

I will explain the route starting in the city as that is the way I completed the walk. The walk starts in amongst the tall high rise buildings of the CBD. You will walk for about 3 minutes until you are greeted by an overpass which you will walk over to cross the Wellington Urban Motorway. As you are crossing the motorway to your left you will get to see some pretty great views of some of the large CBD buildings.

As you continue over the motorway you will enter a cemetery which you will take a short walk through. As you leave the cemetery you will enter the Botanic Gardens, this is where the walk starts to get interesting. In the Botanic Gardens you will get to walk through all the beautiful scenic paths that the gardens have to offer. After a short walk through the Gardens you will reach the top of the Cable Car. It is here where you will really want to get your camera out as you have an incredible view over the main city centre of Wellington.

From here you will leave the Botanic Gardens behind and eventually reach Kelburn Park which you can actually see from the viewpoint at the top of the Cable Car. A quick walk around the park and another short walk through the forest of trees and you will emerge back onto the road. You will then start to walk up quite a steep incline as you head towards the main campus of Victoria University of Wellington. Before you reach the campus itself you will take a left turn to head through your second cemetery of the day.

A map of the Southern Walkway route that shows the start and finish points.

After you leave the cemetery you will head back towards the university campus and walk through it briefly.  The next part of the walk consists of mainly residential areas for a short while until you reach Aro Valley.  You’ll head through Aro Park and then head onto Aro Street which is normally pretty busy.  Walking through Aro Valley is nice and will give you a good chance to grab a drink if you need it at a cafe or the local mini mart.

After you leave Aro Valley you will walk through a series of parks, first you will enter Tanera Park where you will continue through into Central Park and then finally Prince of Wales Park.  There are lots of benches in these parks so might be a good time to stop for some food if you didn’t stop in Aro Valley.  The next part of the walk travels through various woodland areas and you will walk past quite a few cricket fields, when I was walking I think I saw 4 different games being played.

After you pass the cricket fields you will walk through a golf course briefly until you reach a gravelled footpath.  This footpath will take you up through a slightly challenging series of twists and turns under the cover of the forest trees until you reach the summit.  At the top you will enter the Tawatawa Reserve, this is really beautiful and where you will start to get to see the amazing coastal views that this walk has to offer.  The walk through Tawatawa reserve is fairly short as it takes a pretty direct route through.  It might be a short walk through the reserve but I can confirm it’s pretty sweet too.

As you leave Tawatawa Reserve you will emerge in a residential area.  You will walk down Frobisher Street for what seems like a long time but don’t worry you are going in the right direction.  For the final part of the walkway you join a gravelled footpath and travel to the top of an exposed ridge line which can be very challenging especially on a windy day.  This is where you will get the last of the fantastic views looking over Island Bay.  From here you will make your way back downhill until you reach the final point of the walk which is Shorland Park in Island Bay.

A large Art Deco style building standing in front of a sports field. Seen whilst walking through Victoria University of Wellington on the City to Sea Walkway track.
A sports field in the grounds of Victoria University of Wellington that the route travels through.

Thoughts On The Walk

I was very impressed with the City To Sea Walkway and thought it was well worth all the hard work I put in hiking.  The thing I loved most about the City To Sea Walkway was the array of different surroundings I found myself in.  From the Botanic Gardens within the city centre, the grounds of Victoria University, the various parks and reserves along the route and the exposed ridge lines towards the end of the walk.  It has a good balance between an inner city walk and longer hike that you would find out in the bush.

One thing I would say about the walk is that you need a good level of fitness to complete the entire route as it is a fairly long distance and does include a fair bit of elevation gain throughout.  If you didn’t fancy tackling the whole route you could certainly just complete a certain section of the walk.  Anyway I hope you found this guide helpful; if you did let me know in the comments, I’d love to know how you got on.

A footpath on the top of a hill that looks as if it is leading towards the sea. In the background you can see the coast and ocean located in Island Bay, Wellington.

If you’re looking for more great Wellington walks check out this article.

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City To Sea Pinterest Pin showing the views that you are treated to at the top of the cable car in Kelburn.

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