Eastborne and Petone from above. © Phillip Capper

Loved by the locals: Lower Hutt

1. Pooling resources

Perhaps in honour of its former status as a floodplain, Lower Hutt is extraordinarily well endowed with swimming pools, with no fewer than six. Each has its attractions, but a personal favourite is the Wainuiomata Summer Pool. Not only is it out of the way (Wainui itself is out of the way, and the pool itself is in an out-of-the-way part of Wainui), but it has a fabulous, 80-metre open-air hydroslide that you ride through the bush at breakneck speeds on neoprene mats. This is quite apart from the pools themselves, which are glorious on a hot summer’s day, especially if you come prepared to use the free barbecue facilities and the lawn for a picnic.

Old school kiwi fun with @ollie_sliper @oscarsliper @theo.potter #sliperfamily

A post shared by Mark Sliper (@marksliper) on Jan 31, 2017 at 6:21pm PST

2. Out on the street

Petone’s main street, Jackson Street, has become one of the better places in the Wellington region to go shopping. It boasts a wide variety of shops, from some of the big barn style places – the Warehouse, Kathmandu – to much smaller, niche kinds of outlets. There’s no better place to pick up a few loud, Pacific-patterned shirts or plastic leis than Langi’s Island Styles. You can get authentic Dutch liquorice or gouda cheese from The Dutch Shop, or a range of obscure spices from The Spice Rack. You can visit The Toolbox second-hand tool shop, and apply your wisdom and imagination to determining the function of the unknown antique tools they often have on display.

3. Orongorongo Valley

Anyone who has ever bravely decided to take their young family tramping, only to find at the end of a long and trying day listening to children bitching about the gradient, the insects, the heat, the cold, the blisters, the lack of a wireless signal etc that the tramping hut at their destination is full will appreciate the genius of the Wellington Regional Council in permitting the booking of a set of huts on the eastern bank of the Orongorongo River.

It’s a brisk (not demanding) walk to get in there from the carpark just south of Wainuiomata, but it feels like you’re several days’ march from anywhere.

The steep, bush-clad walls of the valley enfold you and the river, and the huts, while basic, have everything you’ll need. It’s the perfect way to introduce children to life offline.

4. Days Bay days

Wellingtonians have loved Days Bay from the get-go. It’s been the picnic spot of choice for generations, lying as it does directly opposite the city across the harbour. A succession of ferries have plied the route (a commuter ferry does the job these days), and it’s possible to drive around there, too. The sandy beach is good for swimming and for doing a spot of beachcombing, while the expansive domain across the road is a popular place to spread a blanket and play beach cricket. There is a summer pool at Eastbourne, not far away, and by driving further, you can get access to the walking/cycling track around to the Pencarrow Head lighthouse. Magic, on a good day.

5. Matiu/Somes Island

It’s hard to imagine when you go there these days that people were once held on Matiu/Somes Island against their will. It served as an internment centre for foreign nationals at the paranoid height of the Second World War, and as a quarantine facility for imported stock besides, but these days, it’s a wildlife refuge and an important breeding site for seabirds. You can visit, with permission and provided you leave all your rodents back on the mainland. A regular ferry service goes there, and you can even stay.

Camping is permitted and you can spend a happy day exploring the old quarantine and military sites, and an evening contemplating the lights of Wellington across the water.

A post shared by Reuben Neely (@reuben.neely12) on Apr 23, 2017 at 8:59pm PDT

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