Skyline Walkway - Johnsonville to Karori, Wellington
Updated: Aug 13
Saturday, 17th June 2023
Location: The end of Old Coach Road, Johnsonville, Wellington.
There is a fair bit of logistics to sort out before starting the Skyline Walkway with kids. Direction is important as is organizing how best to get back to the car as Johnsonville and Karori are a fair distance apart. Despite it being a southerly we chose to start in Johnsonville as we'd been advised that coming from the Johnsonville end felt like the trail was mostly downhill and aside from Mt Kaukau, this turned out to be true.
Parking at the trailhead on Old Coach Road, the path meanders up behind the backstreets of Johnsonville at a very reasonable gradient. The walkway is marked by purple bollards making it very easy to follow. There were quite a few mountain bikers on their way up which meant a little bit of dodging. The path is quite wide though (it's a service road most of the way up) so that wasn't a drama.
On the way up to Mt Kaukau there were a few optional tracks. Typically, one was shorter and steeper, the other longer and gentler. It being the beginning of the day, we tended towards the shorter tracks knowing the day was going to be quite long as it was. Each parent had a kid to talk to on the way up and as long as they were talking, they were walking. It was great catch-up time for all of us.
If you thought the views from Johnsonville were great, then the views from Mt Kaukua were spectacular! We stopped at Mt Kaukau for our first proper break and had a few snacks.
Having reached the top of the ridgeline we were now exposed to the wind (and seeing firsthand the showers MetService had alluded to), so we boosted down the hill. The advice we had was correct, from there it did feel like we were heading downhill most of the time.
Walking along the western hill range, we passed farms to our right and the backroads of Wellington to our left.
The views were breath taking.
There were quite a few paths going down to various Wellington suburbs, so if we'd chosen to cut the walk short there were plenty of opportunities.
As we were passing the Crows Nest, the impending shower caught up with us. One thing about the Skyline that we'd found out is that there is very little shelter. So we donned our wet weather gear and pushed through, discovering a beautiful rainbow as it passed. Miss 8 lost her little mind over it, as did Mum.
We had lunch halfway up a more substantial climb behind Crofton Downs and pushed on into the farmland behind Otari-Wilton Bush. There were quite a few interesting spots on this part of the track including an old farmhouse and a valley full of rabbits that Miss 8 loved as much as the farmer likely loathed.
10,000 or 100 Rabbits :)
From there the track led us along the northern ridgeline of Karori, around the northern side of Johnston Hill and Karori Park.
Eventually we arrived at the Makara trailhead on the Makara Saddle.
Our initial plan was to walk down Makara Road to the bus spot at the end of Karori Rd and bus into the Wellington railway station, take the Johnsonville line up to Johnsonville station and walk back to the car from there. We had a party to go to though, so rather than continuing the adventure we jumped in an uber and headed straight back to the car.
Age of Kids: Miss 8 & Master 10
Walking Time: 4 hours (but our kids are pretty fit now so if you're slower maybe plan for 6 hours)
Difficulty: Difficult (due to the length and climbs)
Wet Feet : No
Amenities: There are a few seats but no toilets.
Dogs: Dogs allowed on a lead
Cellphone Reception: Yes
Be Aware: It's exposed, so bring appropriate layers and check the forecast before setting out, especially for high winds as the weather can get extreme. Bring good footwear, parts of the track were really slippery and by the end everyone's feet were hurting (we blamed it on the track as it's much harder on your feet than walking in a forest).
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