A little known gem half an hour north of Wellington CBD, Keith George Memorial Park / Silverstream Scenic Reserve offers enjoyably challenging and varied hiking with plenty of birdlife.
The car park off State Highway 2 requires quick reactions to reach, pulling off the 100km/h motorway to the left shortly after the Silverstream junction as you enter Upper Hutt. When I visited on a Sunday afternoon there was only one other car in the car park, whose owner came out of the bush as I went in, so I had the place to myself for a couple of hours.
It didn’t take too long thankfully to escape the noise of the motorway after heading up a steep slope to start the Loop Track. This was as close as I came to a view, but the bush, wildlife and track easily made up for the lack of panoramas.
There were some fantastic giant tree ferns and the track was generally clear, but certainly more challenging than most in the Wellington region, good fun!
I saw a kererū and a few fantails but the clear highlight was seeing this amazing ruru / morepork about ten feet straight ahead of me. It was the first time I’d seen New Zealand’s native owl in the daytime, my previously encounters have been at dawn or dusk, and I’ve often heard them at night. I froze to avoid scaring it away but then had to very slowly and carefully extract my camera from my backpack and change lens to get these photos.
The bush was super atmospheric and lush.
The tracks don’t appear on topomaps or Maps.me so I was entirely reliant on the signage, an unusual feeling to not really know where I was.
This was a particularly incredible tree, with plenty more giant tree ferns close by.
Toward the end of the main loop track I ventured around the Short Loop Track, which had some colourful fungi and impressive trees.
Unfortunately a few of these trees had fallen across the track, with one particularly large one blocking the track fully with no easy way around, over or under it, so I had to return the way I came.
There was one remaining tree to crawl under to return to the bridge at the start of the track and head home.