Location: Matiu-Sommes Island, Wellington
Distance & Time: 5km, approximately 1 – 1.5 hours with lots of photo stops
What we took: clean sneakers (read below for why), snacks for a picnic lunch, lots of water (no drinking water available on the island)
Amenities: bathrooms are available on the island
Cost: $11.50 return ferry ticket (normally $23, but grabone normally has 50% off tickets for sale)
This gem of an island is in the middle of Wellington harbour and provides the perfect 360 degree view around the harbour.
The easiest way to access the island is via ferry from central Wellington, or Day’s Bay. If you’re super fit and feel like a challenge, you are welcome to kayak or swim (!) on over.
The island is pest free, so there are some precautions that happen as soon as you arrive on the island. All visitors are taken into a hut where we’re given a briefing about the island and how we can help to maintain its pest-free status. This includes making sure our shoes are clean (there are facilities in the hut to help with this) and doing a bag check. The rangers while let you know what to look out for. They tell a story about how one lady arrived on the island with her handbag, not thinking they’d be anything in it, but during her search found a wee (thankfully) dead mouse that her cat had kindly left for her. I shudder to think how long it was in there for!
Amy’s Advice: Keep an eye out on GrabOne for discounted ferry tickets to Matiu-Sommes Island, they come up fairly regularly
The waharoa (archway) leading to the main path around the island adds a beautiful sense of occasion to the start of the walk. Try to either get ahead of the crowd who were in the Hutt with you, or linger until the group has spread out a bit more, to give yourself the opportunity to enjoy the serenity of the island without feeling as though there are other people right around the corner. It will also ensure all photos only feature you, rather than a bunch of random strangers!
There are tuatara, skinks, weta, native birds and even seals to spot on the island. Unfortunately, I have yet to spot tuatara on the island, but I’m reliably informed they are there. The others however, are plentiful. You’ll catch yourself looking to the side of the trail thinking you saw something move and if you stand still for a few seconds, the skink will start to move again.
Make sure you head up to the top of the island (it’s not very large) so you can take in the most gorgeous 360 degree of Wellington harbour. I think it rates as one of the best views you’ll find anywhere in the Wellington region.
Take the time to explore the old buildings on the island too – there is some sad history behind them which I won’t give away here, suffice to say it’s easy to imagine how difficult it was for those who called the island home at different times in history.
The tracks are incredibly easy to walk, with a few stairs here and there. There are parts of the island that are off limit unfortunately, but there is still plenty here to explore. Next time I come, I want to stay over for the weekend as I was very envious of those who got to stay on the island and wave us goodbye as we took the ferry back to the city.
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