Short walks around Wellington: Baring Head

Department of Conservation —  11/02/2016

You might have seen the Baring lighthouse in the distance as you stand on Wellington beach front, but have you explored the trails? DOC Senior Policy Advisor Paula Warren shares her recommendations.

My favourite walk at Baring Head:

My favourite walk at Baring Head is up the farm road to the ridge, then turn left and follow the markers along the ridge to the lighthouse.  Most of the walk is through farmland dotted with divaricating shrubs, with fantastic views over the coast and down the steep escarpment (clothed in rare grey scrub vegetation) to the river.

At a fairly slow pace, it’s about an hour from the bridge to the lighthouse.  The times on the council signs are fairly generous. With less time, you can follow the road over the hill to Fitzroy Bay beach, which is a lovely wild coast, and easily reached in 30 minutes.

View from lighthouse terraces down to Wainuiomata river mouth. Photo: Paula Warren

View from lighthouse terraces down to Wainuiomata river mouth. Photo: Paula Warren.

A day at the beach:

The climbing rocks below the lighthouse is a great place to go on a day trip. Big stacks of rock were uplifted in the last earthquake and are now surrounded by sand rather than water.  There are sheltered spots from the wind, and the scenery is fantastic! You can get up to the lighthouse by climbing up the sand scree and following sheep tracks along the edge of the little gully on the left – recommended for the fit and agile.

Getting there:

If you follow the coast road through Wainuiomata, you eventually get to a new section of regional park at Baring Head, just before the coast. Park at the first carpark (which has a toilet).  There’s also another carpark at the coast.


Abbie and Jane get blown away by the wind. Photo: Paula Warren

Abbie and Jane get blown away by the wind. Photo: Sarah McRae

Track tips:

Pick a walk to suit the wind conditions.  In particular, I would avoid walking up the river valley into a northerly – it quickly becomes fairly miserable.  A strong northerly will also result in you being sand blasted on the southern beach near the river, but under the lighthouse the beach is completely sheltered in that wind.  The ridge walk is fairly exposed, so in a strong northerly walk back from the lighthouse via the road, which is a bit less exposed. There’s private land right next to the lighthouse, extending down to the coast, so take notice of any private land signs.

The river mouth is either closed with a deep lagoon behind it, or open with a braided river behind it. Whether it is safe and easy to cross changes constantly.  If the river mouth is partly closed, it may only be safe to cross when the tide is low, particularly if there is a big swell coming in.

Get involved:

Paula was on this walk as a member of Friends of Baring Head. DOC crew headed to the trails out of work time to pick up rubbish and pull out any horned poppies they saw along their walk.  So dedicated!

The trails around Baring Head are not DOC managed tracks, but the protected area was made possible in part thanks to financial contributions from DOC.

Find a short walk near you. Head to, take your pick and get outdoors this summer!


One response to Short walks around Wellington: Baring Head


    Hello, a great read, I am enjoying these short walks posts.