Looking for a slightly different day walk in the Wellington region? Then the Makara Walkway could be it. It’s one of my favourite short walks in the area.
The Makara Walkway starts at Makara—a 16 km drive from Karori, over Makara Hill (watch out for cyclists).
Ohariu Bay is the starting place for the walk.
The best option is to walk around the beach, past Wharehou Bay, into Ohau Bay.
Both of these bays are popular with local fisherman and divers.
This is a fantastic piece of wild coastline, with a number of impressive rock formations and large number of seabirds—especially the loud and bright beaked oystercatchers.
Another plus with this walk is that it is sheltered from the cold southerly wind. So, even if there’s a strong southerly, the walk is still pleasant.
Having said that, it does get hammered in a Nor’wester, so check the wind direction and speed before you head off—there is very little shelter along the track.
Once you get to Opau Bay the track heads up the hill (a little steeply) to Fort Opau, which was garrisoned by 100 soldiers during World War II. There is also an historic Māori pa site.
The views from the top are breathtaking: 360° views, including Mana Island, Kapiti Island, the Tararua Range, Mount Taranaki, the Marlborough Sounds and the giant wind turbines from Project West Wind, which has its own network of tracks.
This point is also a perfect place to watch the sun go down, or come up, if you’re super keen!
Great views along the track
From here it’s a downhill walk back to Wharehou Bay, and a short walk back to Ohariu Bay and your vehicle.
Wind turbines in Makara
The secret reason I love this loop track is that I proposed to my wife at the top—in a spot where we could see all the places that we had been tramping together.
Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).
Today we profile Kris Ramm, a Science Advisor in DOC’s Marine Species and Threats team.
Some things I do in my job include… working with the fishing industry and other to reduce the bycatch of protected birds, mammals, sharks and invertebrates by commercial fisheries.
Giving a talk to commercial fishers on seabird mitigation – though it looks more like an air guitar competition
What this tends to mean is that I spend lots of time talking to fishermen about their interactions with protected marine species and trying to get them to think about how to reduce those interactions.
We also work a lot with fisheries observers training them in protected species identification so that we get better information about what is happening at sea.
This helps achieve DOC’s vision by… raising awareness and ultimately reducing bycatch of many of our protected species, including the less cute and cuddly ones like spine-tailed devil rays and basking sharks.
The best bit about my job is… getting around the country and talking to a wide range of people with a very wide range of views about marine conservation.
I get to have some very interesting debates with fishermen. A lot of the work is in explaining the value of these animals and just how fragile some of the populations are.
Because the work of the team is so varied I get to be a part of some really interesting and ever changing work.
Struggling up the final hill at the last Makara Peak Relay
The awesome-est DOC moment I’ve had so far is… any time I’m out in the field to help remember why we do this in the first place. Maybe tracking little blue penguins on Adele Island in the Abel Tasman National Park. Spending the entire night waiting and listening out for those little critters then trying to be as gentle as you can while they’re doing their very best to slice your hands up.
The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… I have to pick two for this, Gen Spargo and Nick Fisentzidis out on Kapiti Island, wrangling tourists and keeping the island’s flora and fauna safe and happy. I’ve never met two people more passionate about conservation.
On a personal note
The song that always cheers me up is… Graceland – Paul Simon. I’ve got a pretty varied music taste but somehow keep coming back to that (the whole album actually).
My stomping ground is… the south coast of Wellington. Amazing diving (if not a tropical temperature) and awesome mountain bike tracks in the hills above.
My greatest sporting moment was… wakeboarding on a plank of wood while being towed by a speed boat in Antarctica. We were down there on a fishing boat for three months so had to occupy ourselves somehow.
Attempts at wakeboarding in -20C water in the Ross Sea
In my spare time I… mountain bike… constantly… some would say obsessively, anywhere I can get and anytime I can get out. Riding the Heaphy Track earlier this year was a revelation about how much fun multi-day rides can be.
Loaded down and ready to head off on the Heaphy Track
Before working at DOC I… worked as a fisheries observer on a whole range of different boats. My fist trip was two months on a Russian trawler, where only one of the 80 crew spoke any English, which made for a pretty steep learning curve—as did a diet mainly consisting of cottage cheese and sour cream.
My trusty hound and riding/diving buddy
Deep and meaningful
My favourite quote is… Lead me not into temptation… I can find my own way.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… New Zealand is a nice place, you should go visit (that was 14 years ago).
In work and life I am motivated by… being outdoors. Doesn’t matter what I’m doing, just being outside and getting to enjoy this amazing country.
My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… get out into the water and experience what we have, if more people do that, more people care and the conservation just grows from that.
Question of the week…
What three appliances in your home would you not want to live without? Easy! Coffee machine, coffee grinder, sliding compound mitre saw (just because it’s awesome).