Updated: Dec 30, 2022
8th May 2022
Matiu Somes Island, Wellington - access is only via a boat
Thank you 'Walking with Kids' for giving me the opportunity to be a guest blogger for your vast and amazing list of walks around the Wellington Region. Our walks are usually fairly easy while our children are 4 and 6 and we take a lot of inspiration from your site. I am Holly, and I have a photography business called Holly Couch Photography. I love exploring trails with my children, being in the outdoors and capturing the beauty of this world we are so lucky to live in.
Matiu-Somes Island had been on my summer bucket list for years! I have lived in Wellington virtually all of my life, and never ventured out to this island that sits proudly in the middle of Wellington harbour. Turns out it was a bucket list item for my mother too, so what better day to go on a little adventure was Mother's Day 2022! We packed up a picnic and off we set.
We were so lucky to have the new electric ferry turn up at the Day's Bay wharf at 10.15am to take us there! We were also able to take advantage of the half price Metlink fares (which go until 31st August). With Adult fares being $25/per person return and children $13 (5-15yo) and our party being made up of 4 adults and 2 children, we saved a lot of money, and I highly recommend the visit before the end of August to take advantage of this great discount.
A little note about the new electric ferry, Ika Rere. It is the first fully electric, high speed passenger ferry in the southern hemisphere that can take 130 passengers! It is so beautiful, quiet and clean! The captain was so friendly and obviously so proud of this new vessel in their fleet, he was happy to answer any question we had, and even took us up front so we could see how they operated the boat (it was fascinating for the young and old)!
We asked the captain on arrival at Matiu-Somes Island which time he would be returning (as they alternate between the new and old boat), and by chance the return ferry was the 1.25pm which we had already planned for.
Doc limit arrival passengers to 30 people per ferry crossing. So, in the busy months it is recommended to arrive at the Wharf early to secure your spot. On a grey, windy day, we were the only ones, so didn't come across any issues! We disembarked and got taken to a little hut, where the lovely Doc volunteers told us all about the island, what animals are on there, and more importantly what is NOT on the island, and explained the conservation efforts they were trying to achieve. We then had to check every pocket of our bags, shoes and clothes where any seeds or animals could be hiding. They helped vacuum out deep pockets and we all scrubbed our shoes free from anything that might put their conservation efforts in jeopardy.
From there we followed the path straight up the centre of the island to the information hut. The track was steep and would be slippery on a wet day, but we wound through the native bush and the thought that we may come across some of the tuatara's that are on the island kept the little legs going. At the information hut we found all sorts of fascinating information about the island's history, were able to touch skeletons of animals and also use the flushing toilets.
From there we followed the track to the right and enjoyed the very scenic walk around the island (anti-clockwise), seeing a view out over wellington and the Miramar peninsular that you don't get from anywhere else. The track itself was flat and perfect for our little legged friends.
We stopped at the beautiful lighthouse and all viewing areas along the way.
Once we had got half way around the island and admired the view down the cook straight and across to the South Island, we headed up hill towards the middle of the island to the gun emplacements. There were 80-100 steps going up this track to get there, but nothing my 4-year-old couldn't handle.
We had a great time exploring the bunkers and you had an incredible 360degree view of Wellington from there, it was quite spectacular.
The Doc volunteer on arrival had told us that there was some friendly sheep in the paddocks. One of them named 'little legs' had been a pet lamb prior to becoming a lawn mower on the island. So we ventured down towards the paddocks and set up our picnic at a nearby table. Little Legs was great, and a neat experience for the children to pat sheep out in the wild.
Once done with our picnic it was time to return to the wharf for our 1.25pm ferry (there is also ferries at 2.25 and 4.25pm or the option to stay overnight if you wanted to explore the island further).
On arrival at the Wharf our friendly Doc volunteers were waiting for us. They had a surprise!!! One of their jobs was to track and document the Little Blue Penguins and they knew of 2 that were in a nest close by, and they wanted to treat the children to a view of these special creatures. There are nesting boxes all over the island for the penguins to come to and it is important not to disturb them. They are also very feisty, so they recommended not getting too close. Seeing the penguins was an experience in itself and my animal mad 6-year-old had a smile from ear to ear and still almost a month later will not stop talking about the experience.
We loved our whole experience of walking Matiu-Somes Island. It had a bit of everything for everyone. I hope you enjoy some of the images from our adventure, and I highly recommend you make the trip for a walk around the island!
Age of our Kids: Miss 4 & Miss 6
Buggy Friendly: It should be okay for a sturdy buggy (and buggy pusher)
Walking Time: 1.5 hour loop track (but you can spend a lot longer on the island exploring)
Track Type: Loop
Amenities: Toilets are near the information hut and there are seats and picnic tables speckled around the place
Dogs: Are not allowed
Things to be aware of: You have to time your walk to make the return Ferry (definitely do not miss the last Ferry unintentionally or it'll be a cold night in the old quarantine center :))