Last Updated: 21st Sep 2023


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Tawatawa Trails

Wellington, Wellington

Submitted by Cate Shave

Last Updated: 21st Sep 2023


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I've done it Done


Grunt Factor: 12 ?

Gnarl Factor: 21 ?








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Trail Map

Type of Run

Urban fringe


Undulating, some big hills

Dog Friendly

Native bush

Open farmlands

Open ridges/tops

Run Makeup


Gravel Road

Farm Road / 4WD Track

Easy Single Track

Average Uphill Gradient: +13.1%

Average Downhill Gradient: -13.1%


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Estimated Times to Run







Starting at the entrance to the driveway of Tapu Te Ranga Marae, you head up the driveway and take the track to the right of the Manawa Karioi Ecological Restoration Project's display board. Follow the 4-wheel drive track up past the top horse paddock (so keep dogs on a lead until well past this point). Follow the trail curving around the west edge of the horse paddock, and take the trail to your right where it forks at the corner of the paddock.

Carry on up the track until you come to a gate/stile - this marks the start of the Tawatawa Reserve. Go through the gate, and take the trail to your left marked City to Sea Walkway. Follow this up over the hill, and just before it hits Frobisher Street take a sharp right back into the Reserve along the 4 wheel drive track. This will take you past the point where you entered the Reserve, and on to where the reservoir is. Take the stairs to the right of the reservoir, and then the trail that heads into bush to the left of the next set of big stairs - this is the Tawatawa Bush Track (but there's no sign).

Follow this trail through bush around the valley, until it forks - take the right fork (the Akiraho Track) which will switchback all the way up to the ridgeline. When you hit the ridgeline you'll go through a small gate, follow the trail round to your right and through another gate about 20m on. Then follow the trail to the left when it forks again which takes you around the hill above Owhiro Valley. On your left will be the Whārangi Track down to Happy Valley Road - you can follow this down and back up to add 2.5km and some hill practice (this is also part of the WUU2K course).

Once you come back up the Whārangi Track turn left and follow the ridgline past the powhenua sculpture (on your left) and through another small gate. Cross the grassy paddock (look out to Cook Strait to your right) and take the gravel track to your hard left and down about 30m until you hit the end of Quebec Street. Go through the gate, and then immediately a hard right and down some stairs, which takes you back onto a trail that heads on through more bush. When the track splits (you'll see the golf course down to your left, and the marae to your right) take the hard right track which carries you on around the hillside.

You'll rejoin the Tawatawa bush track just at the base of the big stairs you passed earlier - 140 steps, great for stair repeats! Instead of taking the small stairs to your left that you came over earlier, follow the trail that takes you around the right of that small hill and back to the reservoir. Pass back to the gate where you entered the Reserve, but this time take the track down to your right. Partway down the hill the track splits and you want to take the hard left track, which will take you back down to where you began at the marae (after crossing a small stream).

The trail begins in the grounds of Tapu Te Ranga Marae, winds up through native bush cared for by the Manawa Karioi Ecological Restoration Project, heads into and around Tawatawa Reserve, and passes the distinctive powhenua sculpture of Maori Chiefs by Bruce Stewart up on Tawatawa Ridge. It also traces a small part of the WUU2K course.

There is normally plenty of parking in the street, or the surrounding streets. Best not to leave valuables in sight in your car (as with anywhere really, just be sensible). Easy bus access from town - catch the number 1 or 4 out to Island Bay and just after you go down the hill into Island Bay (with the skate park/mountain bike track/golf course to your left and the Wakefield soccer pitch to your right), push the bell to get off. The bus will stop just past the roundabout - cross over the road and head up Dee street, at the end of that short street take a left onto Eden and then an immediate right onto Danube. The trail starts at the end of this short cul de sac

6 km

15 minutes




Some tracks are named and marked, others aren't. Because the South Coast is often in sight, that's a good orientation clue. The tricky bits to watch for are where the track splits just at the corner of the horse paddock above the marae (you want to take the right track that follows around the edge of the horse paddock), and getting on to the start of the Tawatawa Bush Track because it's not marked (you will have just come over a short run of stairs, and see a much longer run of stairs in front of you - the track you want is not the hard left at the bottom of the short run of stairs (cause that will just take you back to the reservoir - you'll follow that one when you come back later to this same point - but the next one to your left which will take you around the edge of the hill the bigger run of stairs comes down.)

Perfect throughout.

Thermal leggings, Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Cellphone, Map

None - you must carry your own. There is a concrete water trough up by the powhenua sculpture that dogs can drink out of (make sure you use the one marked for dogs, not the baths which are the horse troughs)

Pretty muddy in places after rain, as much of the track is dirt.

There are horses in the area - especially at the top of the Akiraho Track and the powhenua sculpture. There are also ducks, chickens and horses around the marae, so make sure you keep dogs on a lead through all those areas.

Blue Belle Cafe
142 The Parade, Island Bay
Great coffee and pies!!

Floyd's Cafe
130 the Parade, Island Bay
Great coffee and breakfasts

Empire Cinema
214 The Parade
Fantastic gelato!!

Trail Legend

Joe Benbow

Joe Benbow

has completed Tawatawa Trails once in the last year.

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Trail Reviews

Wonderful run. Take a map and GPX though!

Tony Sharpe

July 21, 2023

Loved the ~8 km of rolling, undulating singletrack. Didn’t love the stairs that were slippery in places. Unfortunately it was very slow going in places with deep muddy patches and overgrown (thigh high grass). Very pretty through tree tunnels and a view spots where you got a spectacular view of Island Bay and the Cook Straight. The switch backs up from Happy Valley road is part of the WUU2K route for those that want to train on it….!

David Hosking

November 30, 2022

Great one for dogs as they can be off lead for much of the trail, apart from where the horse grazing is. Much easier to find your way around now they've added the track markers too! We started and finished at the Happy Valley Road, like Richele suggested which made it more accessible for us.

Joe Benbow

July 1, 2020

My local, so I have to rate it at 4 stars - I love the opportunity to run with my dog off lead, and the many different trails in the area allow you to piece together a nice run no mater how much or little time you have.

Cate Shave

July 31, 2019

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