New Matiu/Somes Interactive Tour online

Matt Barnett —  26/07/2010

Noticed that little island in the middle of Wellington Harbour? Not sure whether it’s worth a visit? Didn’t even know you could go there?

Matiu/Somes Island, Wellington Harbour.

Matiu/Somes Island, Wellington Harbour

Well Matiu/Somes Island Scientific and Historic Reserve is open to the public 364 days of the year. Now with the Matiu/Somes Interactive Tour you can check it out before you go! 

Matiu/Somes Island lighthouse

Matiu/Somes Island lighthouse

Before I joined the Department of Conservation I wasn’t sure what the deal was with Matiu/Somes Island. One person told me there were heaps of lizards and a lighthouse – not much else. But then I didn’t have the benefit of the interactive tour to get a taste of what’s really there.  

I know I’m the Wellington community relations ranger, and I don’t use this word lightly, but Matiu is an AWESOME place with a lot more to see than just lizards and a lighthouse! You can see for yourself by following the link and having a virtual wander around to glimpse some of the things that make it such an important place for helping to conserve some of our endangered species, habitats and historic heritage. 

The historic caretakers cottage

The historic caretakers cottage

The team at Beek developed the Matiu/Somes Virtual Tour using 360° panoramic views to maximise the interactive experience, allowing you to ‘stop’ at the click of a button and look all around at some of the views and features, explore information panels and discover some ‘hidden’ attractions, including Wellington’s iconic little blue penguin and the gentle giant weta – one of the world’s heaviest insects.  

Blue penguin

Blue penguin

You can even enter some of the buildings to explore and get a real sense of some of the island’s history. See if you can spot the World War II anti-aircraft gun… 

Now if you’re a bit of a natural cynic like me you might be thinking why do I need to bother going to the island if I can see it all from the (relative) comfort of my own chair? Well, for a start you don’t get to take the Dominion Post Ferry ride (look out for feeding penguins on the way) or meet the friendly island rangers – who are always happy to answer questions and spin you a yarn or two about island life. 

You can also stay the night on the island in one of two houses available to rent or at the campsite, dotted with majestic cabbage trees with a stunning view down the gully towards the southern part of the harbour. Another thing you can’t do online is take a nightwalk where you’re almost guaranteed to see penguins and if you’re lucky and very quiet a tuatara or two – the only surviving reptile of an order that roamed the earth 200 million years ago. Tuatara are also regularly seen in the daytime, along with a host of other animals including seven species of skink and gecko and many people’s favourite – the chattering red-crowned parakeet (kakariki). 



Tempted to take a trip over? 

For more information check out Matiu/Somes Island on the DOC website.

Matt Barnett


I've been community relations ranger in Wellington for 3 years. I'm an honorary Kiwi (married to a Kiwi with 2 Kiwi kids), came over from England in 1998, managed a wine shop, did a psychology degree and taught English before joining DOC. There's thousands of people wanting to get out and about and involved in conservation in Wellington and I enjoy helping them to do just that!

6 responses to New Matiu/Somes Interactive Tour online

    Williem Aerounds 23/01/2013 at 4:10 pm

    I love your blog..


    I found the Matiu/Somes virtual tour to be underwhelming mainly because of poor design and usability. Some user testing and QA work could be beneficial before doing more.

      Matt Barnett 30/08/2010 at 4:25 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Gary. I think the tour’s a great tempter for those thinking of visiting the island – and we’re very grateful to the team at Beek for letting DOC use this tour free of charge.

      Do you have any suggestions as to how the design and usability could be improved?




      Sorry you had a negative experience using the Beek guide and so sorry we haven’t responded sooner. Since the launch of the version of Beek you can see on the Matiu/Somes Island tour we have worked with consumers to improve the product and are planning a launch of the new interface within a week.

      We would love to get in contact with you to ask for a more detailed view of your opinions if that would be possible. Feel free to send an email to


    Hey guys!

    This is great, I hope people are taking a look. DOC should work with these guys and do as many of our islands/places as we can. So sweet to be able to take a stroll around Matiu/Somes.


      Matt Barnett 13/08/2010 at 12:51 pm

      Thanks Sam. Yes will be interesting to see how many viewers it’s getting. There’s already whispers about other DOC people keen to have their own interactive tours created.