Cape Palliser – a stunning drive

Cape Palliser Lighthouse Photo credit: wairarapanz.com
Cape Palliser Lighthouse is a shining beacon for boats

We often get asked for recommendations for places to head out for a day trip when people come to visit us at the Willis Wellington. After exploring the vibrant city, people want to get out and explore the local area and one of the top tips we give people is to take the coastal road to Cape Palliser. This is one of New Zealand’s great driving roads as you first head north around Wellington Harbour and through Lower and Upper Hutt before heading back east and south through beautiful forest land until you hit the coast road where you can’t fail to be blown away by the endless views.

Rich Maori history

The drive to Cape Palliser will take around 2-2.5 hours and with plenty to admire on the way, allow longer but it is definitely worth the drive. This area of New Zealand has a rich history of early Maori occupation and the heritage sites that are dotted all the way along this stunning drive are worth a stop to learn more about this stunning and remote part of New Zealand. Learn more about the dramatic landscapes that you are travelling through before you hit the coast road which offers up unstoppable views of Palliser Bay. The beaches here are some of the most beautiful in New Zealand and again worth a stop for a stretch of the legs and to admire the stunning views where you can see across to the South Island on a clear day.

Cape Palliser Lighthouse

There are 253 steps up to the Cape Palliser Lighthouse. Photo credit: teara.govt.nz
There are 253 steps up to the Cape Palliser Lighthouse. Photo credit: teara.govt.nz

One of the biggest attractions at Cape Palliser is the beautiful lighthouse which was installed in 1897. It’s possible to climb to the top of the lighthouse but this one is not for the fainthearted – there are 250 steps which will leave even the fittest people breathless but don’t worry, the views are worth it and you may just be left breathless for a second time!

Palliser Bay was the location of over 20 ship wrecks in the 19th century and stood atop the lighthouse, it’s easy to see why as the dramatic coastline takes no prisoners. The need for the lighthouse was an obvious one and it still stands today as a guiding beacon, keeping ships safe at night.

Fur Seal Colony

The fur seal colony at Cape Palliser is the largest in the North Island. Photo credit: Rosino
The fur seal colony at Cape Palliser is the largest in the North Island. Photo credit: Rosino

Another big attraction at Cape Palliser is the fur seal colony which is the North Island’s largest. The best times to visit the seal colony is in the breeding season from mid-November to mid-January. These fur seals are a sight to behold – they are huge and New Zealand fur seals have pointy noses, long whiskers and external ears. Their bodies are covered with two layers of fur giving them the protection they need year round. When the pups are born, they move straight to solid foods before weaning and they grow quickly. Like any youngsters though they love to play and this is part of the joy of coming to visit at breeding time – the site of seal pups playing together is pretty awesome.

If you want more information about Cape Palliser, make sure you speak to our friendly staff who will be more than happy to talk to you about the drive and what you can expect when you get there.

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