One of the largest suburbs in Wellington, Karori seems to be like marmite, those who live there usually love it, those who don’t live there don’t. It’s not on the way to anywhere (other than Makara) so isn’t well known by many Wellingtonians. After living here for about 18 months these are the reasons I love the place…
Access to the bush
Within two minutes walk from my house I’m in Johnston Hill Reserve, with access to dozens of tracks through the native bush of Otari-Wilton Bush, up to the 365m high summit of Johnston Hill, and along the epic Skyline Walkway to either Makara Hill or Mt Kaukau. You’re never far away from the bush wherever you live in Karori. For those the other side of the valley there are tracks through Wright’s Hill Reserve leading to Brooklyn Hill and Te Kopahou Reserve. I’m a hiker, but for those who like to mountain bike there are dozens of tracks, and road cyclists will enjoy the climb up and over toward Makara.
One of the world’s leading predator free sanctuaries, Zealandia is a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year. It is home to many native birds rarely seen in the wild, including kiwi, kaka, takahe, tieke / saddleback, hihi, and whiteheads. It’s a great place for a walk, with many tracks crossing the valley. My favourites are the rarely walked Round the Lake track, and the track heading round by the fence.
Wellington’s main cemetery between 1891 and 1965 is a hugely atmospheric place to explore. It’s a popular place for dog walkers, and connects through to Otari-Wilton Bush and Johnston Hill Reserve.
Public transport and access to the city
The no. 2 bus is one of the most frequent routes in Wellington, which runs between Karori and Miramar / Seatoun through town, with buses every 5-15 minutes. The road to Karori is one of the most popular in Wellington for cyclists with hundreds of people commuting by bike. There is no dedicated cycle lane but it feels relatively safe, and are there a couple of handy shortcuts past the Kelburn roundabout and traffic lights by Karori Fire Station. I live at the city end of Karori, close to the cemetery, and can walk to work near Parliament in about 40 minutes via Northland, along quiet streets and through the botanic gardens. Pretty good way to start and end the working day…
One of New Zealand’s finest modernist buildings is the beautiful Futuna Chapel, built 1958-61, found down a Karori side street. Amazingly it was nearly demolished in early 2000s, but after a campaign was thankfully saved, though the grounds were turned into a slightly odd housing estate.
Karori gets a mixed score on this account. Unlike Thorndon it is not directly on a fault line (though close to some), and being hundreds of metres above sea level there is no tsunami risk. Slips are a risk though, and most crucially there are only three main roads into / out of the suburb…
It isn’t in Karori, but one of only two roads to Makara Beach is through Karori. It’s a stunning part of the Wellington coastline, home to a varied and scenic walkway. The road through rural Makara is part of the experience, feeling a world away from the huge suburb just over the hill.
Wellington is not the easiest place to park, there is limited flat land and roads are often narrow. In many central suburbs parking is for residents only, though may not be guaranteed even for them. Karori is one of the flatter / more spacious suburbs (for the most part), making it relatively easy to park.
Thanks to the extensive bush, and proximity of Zealandia, Karori has incredible bird life. I frequently see tui and kaka by my house, and hear ruru / morepork at night.
House prices across Wellington (and the country) have gone crazy since Covid but Karori is one of the relatively more affordable suburbs close to the city centre, particularly for those wanting space and relatively flat land.
These are nine and half (due to resilience) reasons to love Karori, but there are a couple of considerations to balance things. One is the relative lack of shops and restaurants, there is nothing that would be a destination to visit the suburb for. You also need to be careful if looking for houses to ensure that you get plenty of light as houses in the steeper parts of the valley can get limited sunshine, though it’s far better than places such as Aro Valley.