Learn how to easily get to Mount Kaukau and see a video of this lookout walk that offers scenic views of Wellington, the South Island, and wind turbines.
The summit of Mount Kaukau lies at an elevation of about 430 meters (1,411 ft) above sea level and offers scenic views of Wellington City and Wellington Harbour, the South Island, and the eastern hills.
Mount Kaukau is part of the Northern Walkway and the Skyline Walkway, which run along a ridge from Johnsonville in the north to Karori in the south of Wellington.
The part of the Northern Walkway from the entrance off Simla Crescent to the summit of Mount Kaukau is a well-maintained trail that is a mixture of dirt, gravel, and steps. It goes through a forest before reaching open farmland at the top.
The Mount Kaukau walk is the second walk after the Mount Victoria lookout walk that I would recommend doing if you are short on time but would still like to get some of the best views that give a good overview of many of the characteristic features of Wellington such as its hills, its harbor, views of the South Island, and views of wind turbines.
How to get to the Mount Kaukau walk
There are five entrances you could make use of to get onto trails that lead to the summit of Mount Kaukau. From south to north, these entrances are located off Simla Crescent, Clarke Street, Woodmancote Road, Sirsi Crescent, and Truscott Avenue.
The walk described here starts at the Simla Crescent entrance of the Khandallah Reserve. It is the first entrance when coming from Wellington city center.
If you have a car, you can get onto State Highway 1 from Wellington city center, and follow signs to Ngaio and then to Ngaio Shops.
After passing a sign for Khandallah Shops on Khandallah Road, turn left, and cross the train tracks to get onto Simla Crescent. Drive 230 meters (0.1 mi) to find a small parking lot on your left.
South Island mountains as seen from Mount Kaukau
However, there is no need to rent a car to get to Mount Kaukau. If you do not have a car, catching a train would be the quickest and easiest way to get to the Mount Kaukau walk.
You can catch the Johnsonville Line train from Wellington Central Station to Simla Crescent Station.
The train ride lasts about 15 minutes and costs $5 one-way. After you get off the train at Simla Crescent Station, it takes about 4 minutes to walk 300 meters (0.2 mi) to the Simla Crescent entrance of the Mount Kaukau walk.
You can also catch bus 25 to the Clutha Avenue bus stop and then walk about 5 minutes to Simla Crescent. The bus ride takes about 25 minutes and costs $5 one-way.
Check out metlink.org.nz for the most recent fares and timetables for buses and trains.
Bus and train tickets can be bought when you enter the bus or train; there is no need to pre-purchase tickets.
Walking up Mount Kaukau
Once you are at the Simla Crescent entrance, you should see a map for Khandallah Park and Johnsonville Park on your left.
Pass the map, go straight in, and follow the trail, which will veer off a bit to the right.
The trail is bush covered and can get muddy after a period of heavy rain.
It should take about 2 minutes for you to reach a junction with a signpost for the Northern Walkway on your right, telling you to go left, up some steps.
The trail then curves before you arrive at a second set of steps. After this, you will start to encounter steps more and more often.
[Photo: Steps on the Mount Kaukau trail in Wellington (48 KB)]
Continue walking up the trail until you reach a sign at the junction of the Northern Walkway and a trail branch that leads to Clarke Street.
You should reach this point about 9 minutes after starting the walk. Go left at the junction.
After about 2 minutes, the trail will be in the clear for a while until you see a bench on your right, and then the trail will enter the forest again.
Thereafter, the trail will curve to the right and go up more steps before arriving into a clearing where there is a bench and where you can start to get views of the city and harbor, about 13 minutes after starting the walk.
Note that all views are limited by surrounding bush until you reach the final part of the trail.
Continue following the trail for about one minute or until you reach the next junction with a trail branch that leads to Woodmancote Road.
Go left at the junction where you must walk up steps to continue following the trail to the summit.
The trail enters bush again and continues alternating between steps and normal gravel.
After walking uphill for another 5 minutes or about 19 minutes after starting the walk, the trail will open up, and as you are walking up steps, look behind you to get views of the harbor.
Continue walking up the steps for about 9 minutes or until you reach a bench where you can sit down and enjoy the views. The bench is not far from the last junction that you will encounter before reaching the summit.
At the last junction, the main trail intersects with a trail that leads to Woodmancote Road and Clarke Street. Go left at the junction.
The trail levels off a bit before going up steps and entering bush again. You will pass a signpost for the Northern Walkway on your left, and then the trail will open up again after about 6 minutes from the last junction.
There are pine trees nearby, which smell very nice on a hot day. The gravel on this section is very rough, so make sure you wear sturdy shoes; trail running shoes would be good enough.
After about another 3 minutes, you should reach a sign on your left saying, Please take care during lambing (Aug – Oct) with a gate and a stile not too far from it. Climb up and over the fence via the stile to enter the green pasture.
You should reach this point about 37 minutes after starting the walk. Note that you will be walking on farmland from this point onward, so you can expect poo to be lying around. The grass on this section of the trail can be very slippery when it is wet, so take care.
It should take another 5 minutes to reach the summit, where there is a television transmitter and a lookout platform with a large round table – a direction finder – listing the names, directions, and distances to mountains and places surrounding the summit.
[Photo: Television mast at the summit of Mount Kaukau in Wellington (28 KB)]
The area surrounding the television transmitter and the lookout is privately owned, so please respect the landowners and their wishes.
The entire walk from Simla Crescent to the summit takes about 42 minutes.
When facing the harbor, look right to see the Kaikoura Range and the rest of the top of the South Island on a clear day.
In that direction, you should also be able to see the wind turbines on Wellington’s western hills.
[Photo: Wind turbines and the South Island as seen from Mt Kaukau (24 KB)]
Look in front of you and a little to the left to see Wellington City, the Miramar Peninsula, the harbor entrance, Pencarrow Head with its two lighthouses, and Baring Head further beyond.
[Photos: Wellington City as seen from Mount Kaukau (41 KB); Pencarrow and Baring Heads as seen from Mount Kaukau (26 KB)]
Turn left to see the eastern hills, then Matiu/Somes Island in the middle of Wellington Harbour, Petone (Lower Hutt), and Porirua Harbour.
[Photo: Porirua Harbour as seen from Mount Kaukau (32 KB)]
There are benches and picnic tables on the summit of Mount Kaukau where you can sit, eat, and enjoy the views. Just remember to bring your own food and water!
When you are done enjoying the views, retrace your steps back down to the Simla Crescent entrance. It should take you about 27 minutes to get back down or a total of one hour and 9 minutes to complete the walk.
Note that you could create a loop walk by continuing to follow the trail that goes right from the summit, and then walk back down via Old Coach Road.
However, Old Coach Road is not as well maintained as the trail you followed to climb Mount Kaukau.
The trail following Old Coach Road is quite rough, technical, and challenging to complete. However, Old Coach Road offers some nice and different views of the area.
Basic info for the Mount Kaukau walk
|Trail length:||3.3 km (2 mi) return from the entrance on Simla Crescent in Khandallah.|
|Walking time:||1 hour 10 minutes return|
|Difficulty:||Medium to hard|
|Trail type:||Gravel and dirt trail that goes through bush up a hill. There are steps in some places to make it easier to get up the hill.|
|Trail condition:||Good and well maintained but can get muddy or slippery after periods of heavy rain. There are several trails that go up Mount Kaukau and the one described in this article is the one that is maintained and in good condition. Other trails going up Mount Kaukau may be rough and sometimes difficult to walk on.|
|Fitness level:||Moderate to high. There are many steps to walk up and the trail can be steep in some parts, but in general, the walk provides a good mixture of steps, gravel, and sections that are not too steep. You can certainly get a good workout when walking up Mount Kaukau, and that is exactly why locals walk or run up the hill.|
|Best time to walk:||Summer may be the best season for good weather, but if you want to see snow on the Kaikoura Range on the South Island, which is visible from Mount Kaukau, winter or spring would be better. Just keep in mind that the ground can get slippery then.
|What you’ll see:||Scenic views of Wellington City and Harbour, the South Island, and the eastern hills. You will also be able to see many wind turbines on the hills around Wellington from afar.|
You can see and download a map for the Mount Kaukau walk from the Wellington City Council website [wellington.govt.nz].
Video of the Mount Kaukau walk
This article falls under Day Walks.
Note: Walking tracks and trails can be changed or get closed. The information presented here was accurate when it was gathered.