Learn what to expect and see a video of this semi-challenging walk up Colonial Knob that offers 360-degree scenic views of Wellington and two islands.
The summit of Colonial Knob lies at an elevation of about 468 meters (1,535 ft) above sea level and is one of the highest peaks you can climb around Wellington to get scenic views of the region.
From the summit, you can get views of Porirua City and Porirua Harbour in the northeast, Kapiti Island in the north, Mana Island in the northwest, the South Island in the west, wind turbines in the southwest, Wellington Airport in the far south, and Pencarrow Head in the southeast.
You could even walk from Colonial Knob in Porirua City all the way to Mount Kaukau in Wellington City if you wanted to and have the physical fitness to do so.
The trail up to the summit of Colonial Knob follows a gravel road, and you will have to cross several stiles on your way up.
The trail is also pretty exposed to the elements after you pass the initial part that is somewhat sheltered and lined by a forest.
Colonial Knob lies southwest of Porirua, which is one of the four cities that make up the Wellington Metropolitan Area. So the easiest way to access Colonial Knob is by going to Porirua.
You can start the Colonial Knob walk from several entrances, or you could even walk from Wellington City to Colonial Knob, but I am going to assume that you do not want to do the latter.
You can use one of the following three ways to get to Porirua and the Colonial Knob Scenic Reserve:
Porirua Harbour as seen from Colonial Knob
Porirua is not known as one of the safest cities in New Zealand, but Colonial Knob lies just outside the city itself.
In any case, if you go with a car, it might be better to park it on Raiha Street rather than in the parking lot off Broken Hill Road. Raiha Street is more open, wide, and someone would be less likely to vandalize your car there.
Getting to the Colonial Knob walk is quite easy if you catch a train, and you would not have to worry about anything happening to your car. I caught the train and walked when I last went there.
The walk described here starts and finishes at the Raiha Street entrance of the Colonial Knob Scenic Reserve.
You should find two signs on your right at the entrance: one is a disclaimer and the other one is a park map. There is also a bar at the entrance to prevent cars from driving up the trail, which is really a gravel road. You can pass this bar on the left.
Once you pass the bar, you will immediately see another trail going off to the right. Just continue walking straight ahead on the broad, well-formed gravel road and ignore all side trails.
Department of Conservation sign on Colonial Knob
The trail can be slippery at times due to loose rocks, so take care, especially when coming back down the hill.
Note that the trails around Colonial Knob are also used by cyclists, runners, and locals walking their dogs.
After about one minute, you will see a trail on your right and another one on your left, which together form a bike trail called Spicer Link. You could follow the left trail to walk to Spicer Botanical Park, which is said to be 40 minutes away on foot.
Soon after passing these two trails, you will see another one on your left that hooks up with the Spicer Link trail.
The road has a low gradient in the beginning as it meanders through a section surrounded by trees and where there is not much to see. After about 4 minutes of walking, it becomes a bit more challenging but not excessively. The trail then levels off before continuing to climb.
About 9 minutes after starting the walk, you will arrive at a junction where a trail goes off to the right and another one to the left. As you are walking up the hill, look back once in a while to get views of Porirua Harbour, which will start to open up behind you. Continue following the trail straight ahead.
About 2 minutes after passing the last junction, you should see yet another trail going off to the left. This is a bike-only trail called Tumeke. Continue walking straight ahead.
Approximately 16 minutes after starting the walk, you should reach a junction with a trail going off to the right, and immediately on your left, you should see a sign saying that it is 800 meters (0.5 mi) or 10 minutes back to Raiha Street, and 1.5 km (0.9 mi) or 40 minutes to the Broken Hill parking lot via the reservoir.
Continue walking for another 3 minutes to find a bike sign on your left and a trail going off to the left. Soon thereafter, there will be yet another bike sign on your left for the Crash Palace trail, which is a bike-only trail. You should reach this point about 23 minutes after starting the walk.
In addition, when you take a couple of steps further, you should see a Department of Conservation sign listing several distances and times. From this location, Colonial Knob’s summit is said to be 2.3 km (1.4 mi) or 1 – 2 hours away, and Raiha Street, 980 meters (0.6 mi) or 30 minutes away.
The Broken Hill parking lot via the summit is listed as being 5.3 km (3.3 mi) or 3 – 4 hours away. On the right side of the sign, there is a gate. Ignore it. Continue following the road, which will curve to the right.
After you pass the sign, look back to see some green hills. The views of these hills will open up as you continue to walk up the road. This section of the trail will soon become steeper and quite challenging to walk up.
The gravel is also rough, so make sure you wear good hiking shoes that offer traction and protection from sharp rocks. There is little to no shelter from this point onward, so if you decide to do this walk on a sunny day, protect your skin, and wear a hat and sunglasses.
About 15 minutes after passing the Department of Conservation sign and a trail that goes off to the right, there is a trail going off to the left that offers a shortcut, but continue walking straight ahead.
Soon you should be able to see a mast on top of the hill in front of you, and about 4 minutes after passing the shortcut, you should reach a gate with another Department of Conservation sign on the right side of the track, approximately 42 minutes after starting the walk.
The funny thing about this sign is that it lists Colonial Knob’s summit as being 2.5 km (1.6 mi) or 50 minutes away, while the previous sign said that the summit was 2.3 km (1.4 mi) or 1 – 2 hours away. Should the distance not decrease as we get closer to the summit?
Perhaps they just wanted the previous sign to have a positive psychological effect on anyone going up the hill, because the section that came after the sign was pretty challenging to walk up; or perhaps the previous sign followed the shortcut instead of the longer route. I don’t know.
After you pass the gate and sign, there will be several trails going off to the right. You can also see a small piece of Kapiti Island if you look right. Just continue following the road, which will curve to the left. The trail levels off a bit before going down and then up again.
As you are walking up, look left to get more views of the green hills. Before you go around the bend, remember to look behind to see Porirua and its harbor. You will soon pass a junction on your left, and when you look left, you should see more of the green hills.
Kapiti Island as seen from a lookout on Colonial Knob
At about 54 minutes into the walk, you will arrive at a gate and a stile. If the gate is not open, use the stile to get on the other side. About 2 minutes thereafter, you will reach a junction where there are two signs.
One of the signs says that Raiha Street is 2.3 km (1.4 mi) or 40 minutes away, and the Broken Hill parking lot via the reservoir is 3.1 km (1.9 mi) or one hour away from where you came.
The other sign lists Colonial Knob’s summit as being 2.1 km (1.3 mi) or one hour away to the left. If you go right, the distance is 1.8 km (1.1 mi) or 40 minutes to the Camp Elsdon parking lot, which is located near the second Raiha Street entrance for the Colonial Knob Scenic Reserve.
Take a short detour by going right at this junction. While you cannot see it as you are walking up the road, there is a lookout with benches perched on top of a hill where you can get good views of Kapiti Island and Porirua Harbour. This lookout is not far from the junction.
Just follow the trail to Camp Elsdon, pass the gate, and then immediately on your right, you should see a minor trail that goes up the hill to the lookout. It should take about 3 minutes to get to the lookout from the junction.
When you are done enjoying the views, retrace your steps back to the junction where the signs are located, and then go right to continue following the road up the hill.
As you are going around the bend, you should see a gate and a stile. If the gate is closed, use the stile to get on the other side. It should take you about one hour and 2 minutes after starting the walk to get to this point.
The trail then levels off before starting to climb again. Look left to see more of the green hills as you are walking up the road.
As you go around a sharp bend approximately one hour and 9 minutes into the walk, you should be able to see a piece of Kapiti Island and a little bit of Mana Island on your right.
When you get higher up the hill, look back because you should be able to see part of the harbor. And as you ascend more, you should start to see more of Kapiti Island.
Mana Island as seen from Colonial Knob
Soon you should also see a mast ahead of you on your left and reach a junction at about one hour and 23 minutes into the walk. From here you can go up to the mast and building to get views of mostly Kapiti Island.
Continue walking straight ahead. You will pass a couple of trails going off to the left. Ignore them and follow the well-defined track. Look right to see the South Island and some wind turbines on the western hills.
Approximately one hour and 34 minutes into the walk, you should reach another gate and stile. Immediately after you pass the gate, look right to see Mana Island. After you go around the bend about 5 minutes after crossing the gate, look left to see Pencarrow Head on Wellington’s southern coast.
After this, the trail becomes very steep. Take your time to pause and look around. You will be able to see Mana Island, Kapiti Island, and Porirua Harbour as you are walking toward the summit.
It should take you about 10 minutes after crossing the gate or one hour and 44 minutes after starting the walk to reach a building on the summit of Colonial Knob at 468 meters (1,535 feet) above sea level.
There is a sign on the building stating that Raiha Street is 4.4 km (2.7 mi) or 1 – 2 hours away, Camp Elsdon via Porirua Reserve is 3.8 km (2.4 mi) or 1 – 2 hours away, and the Broken Hill parking lot is 5.1 km (3.2 mi) or 1.5 hours down the hill.
There is a fence around the building with a thin strip of ground you can walk on. Be careful, though, if you venture out on the rim around the fence.
If you continue walking straight ahead after passing the building on your right, you will see another sign on another fence stating that Mount Kaukau is 11.1 km (6.9 mi) or 5 hours and 15 minutes away and that the Broken Hill parking lot is 3.1 km (1.9 mi) or 1.5 hours away.
Wellington's south coast as seen from Colonial Knob
If you look beyond the fence, you will see a black and white geodetic survey mark perched on top of a hill at an elevation of about 459 meters (1,506 feet) above sea level.
You can walk to this geodetic survey mark – it would take you about 3 minutes to get there – to get better views toward Wellington City, the southern coast, the airport, wind turbines, and the South Island. Note that all views are very distant, though, and that the Queen Elizabeth Park walk offers better and closer views of Kapiti Island than Colonial Knob does.
When you are done enjoying the views, retrace your steps back to the start of the walk. According to my timings, it should take you about one hour and 13 minutes to get back down to the Raiha Street entrance.
|Trail length:||8.4 km (5.2 mi) return from the Raiha Street entrance in Porirua.|
|Walking time:||3 hours return|
|Trail type:||Signposted gravel road with stile crossings. Mountain bikers also make use of the trail.|
|Trail condition:||Good. Because this trail is maintained by the Department of Conservation, it is well maintained. You will be walking up or down the hill most of the time, and the last part of the walk toward the summit is very steep. The gravel can be pretty rough, so make sure you wear sturdy shoes with a good tread to avoid slipping on the gravel.|
|Fitness level:||Moderate to high. The trail is very steep in some parts, so you will need good cardiovascular endurance to be able to make it up the hill. It is not as demanding as, for example, the Mount Roy track in Wanaka, though. So do not be intimidated by the distance or the time to walk up. My fitness level is average and I was able to make it all the way up with 15 kg of photo gear on my back.|
|Best time to walk:||You can walk up any time of the day, but morning hours are good for views of Mana Island and the South Island, while afternoon hours are good for all other views. Try visiting at either end of the day (early morning or late afternoon), because the lower the sun is on the horizon, the nicer the hills will look. However, allow for enough time for you to walk back down.
You may want to do this walk when the weather is quite settled and nice to get good views. Summer is probably the best season to do this walk, but because the sun can be harsh in summer, make sure you go with protection for your eyes and skin. Also try to aim for a day with not much wind.
|What you’ll see:||Scenic views of Mana Island, Kapiti Island, Porirua City, Porirua Harbor, and more distant views of Wellington City, Wellington Airport, wind turbines around Wellington, and the South Island.|
You can see and download a map for the Colonial Knob walk from the Porirua City Council website.
The following 2-minute video gives you an impression of what to expect on this hill walk up to the lookout on the summit of Colonial Knob in Porirua, north of Wellington on the North Island of New Zealand.
Note: Walking tracks and trails can be changed or get closed. The information presented here was accurate when it was gathered.
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