Where: Makara Beach – 20 minutes out of Wellington
Distance & Time: 11km loop walk, 3 hours
Take: water, snacks, wind jacket
Amenities on route: cafe and toilets at the start/end of the walk, and bathrooms halfway
Cost of the walk: Free
Makara Beach is one of those spots that you can imagine yourself retiring to live, where you spend your days walking along the beach, collecting driftwood and paua shells, before returning to your cosy house to read books and drink cups of tea in front of the fire. It’s that kind of place. Although, if I lived there I’d probably come to resent the hoards of city folks that would descend on my doorstep whenever the weather is beautiful, like it was when we did this walk.
We lucked out with a gorgeous Wellington winter’s day, blue sky and barely a breeze. Our trip out to Makara started with one of those ‘only in Wellington’ moments – passing a woman on a penny farthing cycle, towing a large stuffed animal. I swear I’m not making that up!
The first few moments at Makara are spent taking in the view, the obligatory beach photos, and realising just how sheltered it is from the wind (that would change upon our return though!)
There’s several walks you can do throughout this area – you can just stick to exploring the shoreline, where there’s more than enough to keep you occupied. Or you can head up to the cliffs, where if you walk it on a day like we did, you’ll get the most stunning views over to the South Island.
We went up the cliffs – even though it may look like it’s steep, it’s relatively short and there are lots of opportunities to stop and take a breather while you take photos. And trust me, you’ll want to take photos.
Paul really likes this photo because it’s quintessentially New Zealand – green landscapes, a windmill, sea, sheep, and the crazy dancing Kiwi girl.
Where you’re walking is an active farm, so you’re not allowed to take your dog. The sheep are used to all the people though, and stare at you nonchalantly as you stroll past.
It’s unlikely you’ll get lost on this walk as it’s well signposted and you’ll no doubt see other people wandering around while you’re there.
Amy’s Advice – There aren’t many outdoor options in Wellington when there’s a southerly blowing, but Makara Beach is one as it’s sheltered from southerlies; one of the few places in Wellington that is!
Head up to the gun emplacements on top of the cliffs, most of them are fenced off now due to not being safe from earthquake damage, but there’s still one up there you can get your obligatory ‘I spot an enemy ship’ photo! It’s also a perfect scroggin snack spot 🙂
After you’ve explored the remains of the army barracks, you’ll have a choice depending on how tired you’re feeling. You can either head back down the way you’ve come, head on to the Opau Bay loop track (another 2 hours approx), take a 10 minute detour and do the Windmill loop, before heading down steeply to Opau Bay and heading back to Makara – which is what we did.
On our way to the windmill we passed people wearing their entire winter wardrobes and then a dude who was wearing shorts and jandals. We were wondering how in the world they made it up that far in jandals before realising you could drive to the windmill – d’oh! Ah well, we had that smug feeling knowing that we’d walked the whole thing.
The track down to the beach doesn’t take very long at all, but it is quite a steep downhill down the four wheel drive road. I attempted to do the whole ‘rolling my feet when landing’ thing, but I haven’t quite got the hang of it without looking like a muppet.
And then you arrive here – what basically looks like a giant beaver dam. Seriously, if you’re in need of driftwood, Makara is the place to get it.
Makara Beach is awesome because it’s one of the few places around Wellington that you can truly feel as though you’re alone. There’s so many little bays along the coast that you can stop and picnic in, and there was evidence of quite a few driftwood huts & beach fires that made me want to come back here ASAP with friends this summer to roast marshmallows and tell stories round the fire. I have no idea if the Council actually allows you to do that or not, but I’ll look into it.
This coastline must be a boon for treasures washing up from the ocean. One of the more interesting things we found was a (dead) pufferfish – I didn’t even know we had those in New Zealand waters! Plus lots of pumice (great for my feet!), paua, crabs, sea birds, and rock pools.
When I was a kid I used to love playing in rock pools, turning over the rocks to see crabs scurry out. That hasn’t changed now I’m an adult.
The coastline walk back is around 2km, but if feels like the longest part of the walk because it’s tiring walking along rocks, gravel, and sand. You have to watch your footing in case you roll an ankle/stand on something you shouldn’t!
Rounding these rocks reminded me that it probably would have been a good idea to check the tides before I did this walk. But I didn’t, and instead this is going to be a classic example of do as I say, not as I did, and check the tides before you walk!
There were a few guys heading out for a dive, from all the paua shells we saw, I’d say this is a prime spot for them. There was no point asking them where they went, as any diver worth anything will never tell you where their spot is!
Photo credit: Most of these photos were taken by Paul on his cellphone, and some on mine. They all turned out pretty awesome!
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