For my birthday weekend I needed to stay within a day’s trip of Wellington but I wanted to go somewhere epic! I mean a birthday only comes once a year and how many birthdays will I have in a foreign country?? Probably not many and this is my first! A friend told my flatmates and I about Putangirua Pinnacles, just a couple hours drive from Wellington along the eastern coast. The Pinnacles are also near the striking red striped Cape Palliser lighthouse so seeing some rocks and a lighthouse sounded like a great enough birthday adventure for me!
The Pinnacles are dramatically scenic and definitely my favorite place I’ve visited in New Zealand so far! The rock formations are amazing and I can see why Peter Jackson chose it as a filming location in The Return of the King. There are two tracks to hike at the Pinnacles: one is a walk along the streambed with the pinnacles towering above, and the other is a loop track that goes up to a lookout over the pinnacles. We chose the streambed route, but I look forward to returning and seeing what the other track has to offer too!
The streambed hike took us about 2.5 hours and though it’s a rocky track it’s not too strenuous. I’m not in the best hiking shape (yet!) and aside from the times we hiked up into the rock crevices where I struggled lol, the main track is very doable and will provide you with spectacular scenery!
After our hike at the Putangirua Pinnacles we drove about 30 more minutes north along the coast up to Cape Palliser lighthouse. Along the way we could see some seals hanging out on the rocks on the beach, though the main seal colony is further north past the lighthouse. Along the beach they were tons of campsites and surf spots that would be fun to hangout at with a picnic! Also on our drive up to the lighthouse we passed through the Ngawi fishing village where you can see heaps of bulldozers along the beach used for pulling boats in and out of the water because the winds are so strong there. Most of the bulldozers are painted and decorated and it’s fun to see them!
After the fishing village I started to see a glimpse of the Cape Palliser lighthouse with its famous red and white stripes. The cast iron lighthouse has stood guard on the cliffs since 1897 and though you can’t tour inside it, you can walk 261 stairs up the cliff to the base of the lighthouse and take in the incredible views of the beach and sea! Climbing those stairs was surely a struggle after our hike at the Pinnacles but it was so worth it! I had a great birthday full of beautiful sights which is exactly what I wanted for a birthday in New Zealand! 🙂