A wonderful half day Wellington walk, the Southern Walkway runs from the yellow sandy beach of Oriental Bay to the rugged south coast bays, with three summits and plenty of views along the way.
Oriental Bay is where on a good day Wellingtonians head in their masses, attracted by a lovely beach, regularly topped up with sand, cafes, and a bustling coastal walkway.
The well signed posted walkway heads up the hillside past precariously perched houses with big views of Wellington harbour.
The Southern Walkway mostly follows the Town Belt, areas close to the city marked out on the original 1840 city plan to avoid development. There are few cities in the world with so much green space close to the centre, helping to make Wellington one the best places in New Zealand for walking.
The walkway basically heads uphill until the 196m summit of Mt Victoria, the most popular lookout in the city, understandable given the views and ease of access, though I think I prefer the view slightly further back along the road.
It’s poor cousin is the somewhat underwhelming Mt Alfred further along the walkway, almost directly above the Mt Victoria tunnel.
The section passing by Newtown is rather pleasant, with some well located benches.
Heading into Kilbirnie there is a brief road section and a steep zigzag path by more difficult to access Wellington houses.
Sir Truby King was the well known founder of Plunkett, which provides services for children. After his death in 1938 he was buried in the grounds of his home surrounded by well developed gardens.
There is an atmospheric section of pine trees with a base of lush ferns that descends steeply before returning to the streets.
Below is the distinctive Congregational Christian Church of Samoa.
Heading into Melrose Park the walkway skirts the perimeter fence of Wellington Zoo, beautifully laid out and home to a surprisingly extensive number of animals.
There are further views from the ridge side looking back toward the CBD.
The last big climb of the walk is to the 178m summit of Mt Albert, one of the better lookouts across the city.
The rest is mainly downhill toward the coast through the huge if fairly dull Sinclair Park, which is often boggy underfoot in places.
From Houghton Bay Playground there are two options. The hillier runs inland up to Orchy Crescent lookout, with panoramic views across the south coast.
The alternative takes you to Houghton Bay on the rocky and often windswept south coast.
The Esplanade offers flat walking past quirky houses, with views of Tapu Te Ranga Island off the coast of Island Bay.
The Southern Walkway finishes (or starts from) Island Bay’s attractive Shortland Park. From Island Bay the regular no.1 bus can take you directly back to the CBD, or for a really big day of walking you can walk the longer and harder City to Sea Walkway which starts / finishes here and heads to the CBD along the other main ridge line.