Waves crashing on the shore of a bay in Wellington, New Zealand on a beautiful sunny day on the Southern Walkway track.

Your Ultimate Guide To The Southern Walkway In Wellington

by Jonny Marc Baker
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The Southern Walkway is a walk from Oriental Bay in the centre of Wellington that travels 11km south to the final destination in Island Bay.  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 yourself.  The walk is fairly easy, it has a few steep climbs in places but overall is generally quite easy going.  On the Wellington City Council website, they say the walk can take between 4-5 hours depending on fitness.  I found that the walk took me closer to 3-4 hours to complete.

  • Distance: 11km
  • Time To Complete: 3-4 hours depending on fitness
  • Elevation Gain: 267
  • Start and Finish: Where Oriental Parade meets Carlton Gore Road and finishes in Shorland Park in Island Bay
A clear path through various trees in a forest on the Southern Walkway trail.

Travel To The Start and Finish

Although I chose to walk the route from Oriental Parade travelling south to Shorland Park in Island Bay, you can choose to start the walk at whichever end you would like. If you are travelling to the start by car you can find street parking at both the starting positions near Shorland Park and Oriental Parade.  You will find plenty of free street parking outside Shorland Park.  Oriental Parade is a coupon parking zone so does require payment, although the first two hours are free.  You can find more information on this on the Wellington City Council website.

If you are finishing the walk in Shorland Park you can either walk back to the city centre of Wellington in about 1 hour and 15 minutes along the main roads or if you’re feeling tired like I was you can catch a bus. On the corner of Reef Street and The Parade where the Southern walkway ends in Island Bay, you will find a bus stop opposite a building that has a mural of a boat in the ocean. You can catch the Number 1 bus from here back to Courtney Place for $5. Alternatively, if you started the walk in Island Bay you can catch the Number 1 bus back to here if you needed to pick your car up.  You can find out more information on the public transport options on the Metlink website.

Navigating The Southern Walkway

The walkway is extremely easy to follow throughout, just look out for the pink posts that have ‘Southern Walkway’ written on the top to guide you along the way, they are very easy to spot. The walk starts on Oriental Parade just past Oriental Bay in the centre of Wellington. You can find the starting point close to where Oriental Parade meets Carlton Gore Road. There is a large sign that reads ‘Southern Walkway’ at the start, this is also where you will see the first of the pink posts that will guide you.

The walkway finishes in Shorland Park in Island Bay. I completed the walk this way, but as I said earlier you can choose where you would like to start and finish. So if you would like to start in Island Bay and walk north towards the city you can do this as well.  If you are starting the walk from Island Bay you will see the first of the pink Southern Walkway posts in the park.

Looking back over the city of Wellington, New Zealand through the cover of a few trees during a walk on the Southern Walkway track.
The pink sign posts that you will find along the route.

The Route

Starting from Oriental Parade, you will be walking uphill for the first part of the track to get up to the top of Mount Victoria; it is a very gradual incline though so is relatively easy.  As you are walking up you will see some amazing views of the harbour and CBD of Wellington, especially if you are lucky enough to get a beautiful sunny day.  The track starts mostly under the cover of trees, especially when the Southern Walkway track joins with the Mount Victoria Loop track about 20 minutes into the walk.

After about 40 minutes of walking, you will find yourself on the top of Mount Victoria and you will find yourself on relatively flat ground for a while.  It’s here on the top of Mount Victoria that you will get your first taste of the spectacular views that this walk has to offer.  To your right, you will see the main city of Wellington and to your left, you will start to see as far as the Wellington Airport in Rongotai.

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

As you continue on the walk you start to travel through the Wellington Town Belt, this is one of my favourite parts of the walk.  It’s easy to forget how close you are to the city still as you continue through the town belt as the landscape is transformed from city to rugged forest.  If you listen carefully enough though, you will still be able to hear the sound of traffic in the distance and the odd siren.  As you continue through the town belt you will encounter a few roads to cross so make sure you watch out for traffic, as some of these have some blind corners where you can’t see what’s coming.

As you start to leave the town belt you will walk through some residential areas in Melrose until you get to Melrose Park.  When I was walking, there was a cricket match being played in the park so I just walked around the perimeter of the boundary.  As you leave the park you will start climbing up a few gradual inclines, as you do keep a look out on your left as you can see into the baboon enclosure in the Wellington Zoological Gardens.

From here you will continue south with some more views looking over various parts of the city until you reach Sinclair Park, from here it’s all downhill until you get your first exposure to the beautiful coastline at Houghton Bay.  From here the walk is fairly simple you just follow the coastline all along The Esplanade until you get to where the track finishes in Shorland Park.

The end of a concrete jetty that looks out to sea with a few boats in the distance at the end of the Southern Walkway.

Thoughts On The Walk

I thought this walk through the town belt of Wellington was well worth it and I really enjoyed my time on this route.  It is a great little walk if you are looking for something that is not going to be too challenging.  With easy access via public transport or driving yourself, it is an extremely good option if you are looking for something to do on a weekend.  I would especially recommend this to anyone who is visiting Wellington and perhaps is looking to get away from the crowds whilst also taking in all the beautiful views that this city has to offer.

A path on the Southern Walkway leading through the town belt of Wellington, New Zealand with grassy hills in the background with lots of houses on the hills. The sky is bright blue with a few whispy clouds hovering.

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

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Southern Walkway Pinterest pin that shows some of the beautiful coastal views that you are treated to at the end of the walk.

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