Favourite Places: Exploring Makara Walkway with Welly Walks

Makara Beach is easily one of my favourite spots around Wellington. Just a short 30-minute drive from the city center, you’ll feel like you’re the only person on the island.

pano from beach

I’ve been here several times, as Brett is an avid spear-fisherman and the rocky shorelines makes for ideal conditions. The first time we drove to Makara, the beach was dark and gloomy – but I haven’t had a bad day since. Even when Wellington is windy and cold, Makara seems to be in its own world with low winds at beach level, calm waves and clear waters.

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Mana Island is just visible from the main entrance of Makara Beach

Although we are approaching Autumn, this past weekend felt like a summer day – with warm temperatures and not a cloud in the sky. This is how I’ve come to know Makara Beach, and have experienced my best Wellington days out here, sitting on the (rocky – not sandy) beach and searching for shells and sea glass.

opposite beach view

shells

A few weeks ago, I found an iPhone App that lists different walks around Wellington, with Makara Walkway being one of them. So when Brett told me he was going diving with a friend (meaning that I didn’t need to sit on the beach and keep watch) I took the opportunity to explore the hills around the beach.

The Welly Walks app guides you through the hike (which is easy enough to navigate on your own), but also tells the history of the area. The gun emplacements and bunkers near the summit were originally built following the Japanese attacks at Pearl Harbour. Although they were commissioned by the start of WWII, these grounds never saw any action and were de-commissioned in 1944 (credit to the Welly Walks App for the history lesson).

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Mana Island & Kapiti Island in the distance

As with any ocean look-out built during WWI/WWII, the views are incredible, as it was necessary to scout out invaders. The irony is that these grounds have now become a place of peace and reflection for hikers or picnickers – a complete turnaround from the original strategy of their placement.

me with view

To get to this viewpoint you can either hike from the beach or (the most popular route by the looks of it) park near the B2 turbine and take a short walk.

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Part of the hike crosses over farmland, so you’re bound to make some new friends along the way 🙂

The B2 turbine is also a site to see, as it’s the only wind turbine in the area that pedestrians can access up close. I personally find the wind turbines to be very calming and peaceful to watch, and although they seem to always be turning in full force around Makara Beach, there was hardly any wind at ground level.

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B2 Turbine (FYI for you lazy people: parking access is just around this hill)
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Shepherds Gully Fault

Although the app suggests to take the Opau Bay route and walk back to Makara along the beach, I went back down the way I came, for a couple of reasons. The beach is very rocky and somewhat annoying to navigate (which I know from experience), and the views near the beginning of the trail were secluded and incredible, and I wanted to re-visit these places on my way back down to the beach.

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Gun emplacements, with Opau Beach to the left; South Island in the distance
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View from the hike up/down that I wanted to re-vist 🙂

The hike took about two hours to complete, including numerous “photo op” stops. The climb to the top is relatively steep, but worth every aching muscle once you see the incredible views for yourself.

I don’t often repeat hikes (as I like to see as many new things as possible), but I would definitely do this one again and perhaps spend a bit more time relaxing at the top and enjoying the views.

And as much as I loved Makara Beach before, this hike has solidified it as one of my favourite places in the Wellington area.

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The road less traveled: Carterton, New Zealand

New Zealand’s North Island looks like a scene from the Wizard of Oz, with a splash of Dr. Seuss throw in. This is due to the rolling, green landscape, with a single tree occasionally scattered on a hilltop. It really looks like a fairy tale.

As a sendoff for my last day of Christmas vacation, Brett and I planned to go hiking nearby. We headed towards Carterton, a small town about 15 minutes from Masterton. At the end of Dalefield Road was the access point to Mount Dick Lookout, known to be one of the best viewpoints in the Wairarapa (the other is Rocky Lookout, which I’d hiked to with Brett’s dad in November).

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I’d read online that there was a road leading to the top, which requires 4-wheel drive unless the roads are dry. We weren’t sure where the road ended and the trail began, so Brett and I took his 2007 Corolla station wagon up the dirt road towards the Lookout.

Eventually, we realized that we were on the trail, and that if we wanted to get our exercise for the day, we’d need to park and get out. However, the momentum of driving uphill got the best of us, and we drove the entire way to the top in 2-wheel drive without any issues (*phew*).

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I think I counted about 873 blind corners on this route.

Even before we reached the peak, we were rewarded with picturesque views of the surrounding valley, including lush forests and farmland. It was quite breath-taking at the top, with very low wind levels considering the elevation of 520m above sea level. In the far distance, we could see Lake Wairarapa near the town of Featherston, which is my favourite viewpoint during the train commute to Wellington.

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Posing with Mr. Brett Gibbs himself

In hindsight, the 3.7km walk to the top would’ve been easily manageable for Brett and I, as we are quite active and the slope wasn’t very steep. However, I’d say we were not fully prepared for the trip (i.e., Brett refused to bring his own water bottle and I’m not really into sharing) so driving was likely the best option for us today. If you’re interested in a shorter walk, there is a ‘parking area’ about 2/3 up the hill, which would likely give you a 30-minute walk to the top.

Before taking the winding road back to the city, we had a mini photo shoot (as all couples do these days, especially when the boyfriend has a popular social media presence).

Pics or it didn’t happen, right?

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I’m actually just thinking about pizza.

So, regardless of our hiking fail, Brett and I have reservations at the infamous Iberia Café in Masterton for $10 pizza night. Seriously. $10. Tax is included and Kiwis don’t tip (my understanding is that wait staff are paid above minimum wage versus relying on non-guaranteed gratuities). So, you give them a $10 bill and eat the pizza. It’s amazing. And it’s so, so good.

Here’s hoping I can fling myself out of bed at 5:00am tomorrow morning to make the 6:20am train with a pizza hangover. 🙂

Jan 8, 2017 8:00PM Update:

Behold, the three glorious pizzas we ordered: Apricot Chicken (front), Pepperoni (back left) and Brie & Cranberry (back right). We’re at the point now that we get recognized as ‘regulars’. Perhaps it really is time to move. 😉

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Paradise for surfers and seals: Cape Palliser, New Zealand

Today we drove approximately 90 minutes to Cape Palliser, the Southern-most point of New Zealand’s North Island. This coast doubles as a home to both surfers and seals – and divers if the ocean is calm enough – which, on this day, it unfortunately was not.

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Cape Palliser

Despite the high winds and rain, we shimmied up the 250+ slippery stairs leading to the 1897 Cape Palliser Lighthouse. It quickly became a “tortoise and hare” situation. As Brett leapt up the stairs like an antelope, I slowly made my way up, rigid and terrified as I passed a fellow tourist. We had to decide who would hold the only railing and who was at the mercy of the wind.

I held the rail.

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Going up…

At the top, we were rewarded with a 180 degree view of the coast. Brett’s dad took an obligatory photo of Brett and I. Not surprisingly, the weather was not co-operating and we were left with yet another hilarious tourist-y image of us trying to conceal our discomfort in the cold and rain. I like to think these types of photos are becoming some sort of weird tradition for us.

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I personally think a down jacket is a necessary addition to any summer wardrobe.

After surviving the descent back to the parking lot, we took a tour of “The Nursery”. This is where a large amount of seals congregate to make noise and stink up the crisp ocean air. Just kidding. This is the seal colony’s home base, which provides a natural shelter from the elements, even during high tide and winds. Oddly enough, I toggled back and forth on my opinion of the seals: one minute they were adorable with big bulging eyes, and the next minute I was screaming in horror as a big blob flopped towards the truck.

There’s really no middle ground with these creatures.

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There are dozens of camouflaged blobs in this photo. 
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“The Big Blob”

After safely arriving back home in Masterton, Brett and I took a recovery session at Iberia Café: home of the best (if not the only) Apricot Chicken Pizza. Paired with shoestring fries and a flat white coffee, this was the perfect way to cap off another day in the beautiful land of New Zealand.

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View from The Nursery

PS – If you were expecting me to finish this post with a photo of the mouth-watering pizza, I’m sorry to report that it didn’t stand a chance. Maybe next time. 😉