A Guide to Exploring Wellington's Historic Bunkers

 

Wellington's old bunkers are just waiting to be explored.

It's an awesome weekend activity, especially if you're into checking out epic views or wandering around abandoned places.

Check out the map at the bottom for all spots mentioned.

Jump To:

1. Wrights Hill Fortress
2. Fort Ballance
3. Moa Point
4. Massey Memorial Bunkers
5. Breaker Bay

1. Wrights Hill Fortress

Trying to find the best views in Wellington? This spot is a must.

Built in the 1940s to protect Wellington from a possible Japanese invasion, Wrights Hill is perfectly positioned for epic 360 degree views over Wellington and out to Makara.

There's great walks around Wrights Hill. My favourite is the Lookout Loop Walk - which tracks around the outside of the fortress up to the main lookout.

Being next to Zealandia there's often NZ birdlife - so keep an eye (& ear) out for native Kakas soaring overhead.

In the late 80s the fort was in a state of disrepair, but thanks to the Karori Lions, and now the Wrights Hill Fortress restoration team, the entire complex is now in an explorable state (when it's open that is).

The fort is mostly underground, and this opens up for tours just 5 times a year - totally worth a visit.

  1. Waitangi Day - February 6
  2. ANZAC Day - April 25
  3. Queens Birthday - June (first Monday)
  4. Labour Day - October (third Monday)
  5. December Open Day - December 28

The tour costs $8 for adults, $5 for kids & $20 for a family (last updated 4/17). More info on the open days here.

Fun fact: This gun could fire a 172kg shell 30km (all the way to Plimmerton).

Fun fact: This gun could fire a 172kg shell 30km (all the way to Plimmerton).

2. Fort Ballance

Fun fact: It's one of the few remaining examples of an NZ cement building from the 1880s (and was a new-ish building technique at the time).

Even though the fort is technically a Category I Historic Place, it's haphazardly used for a bunch of different activities including: street art, parkour, airsoft, fire spinning & urban exploring.

Getting there: You can park at the bottom of the walkway here, then it's a 10min walk up the path to the fort.

More info: There's actually an entire Wikipedia page on it - if learning about old Wellington forts is your thing. Also, this blog post by Slightly Intrepid is very informative.

 

3. Moa Point

For the best view of the airport & out to the South Island, head here.

^ Spin me round to see the view! ^

 

Get here as the sun's setting for one of the best sunsets Wellington has to offer.

There's also basketball hoop on the walk to the Moa Point fort, so bring a ball! It's also an epic spot for parkour, if (like me) that's what you're into.

Getting there: You can park here, then it's a 5min walk to the bunkers. Or you can catch the number 43 or 44 bus from Courtney place (by Blair street) to the end of the line. Click here for timetable. This will take you to a 5min walk away from the bunkers.

More info: Help! I couldn't find any historic info about Moa Point, if you have any resources about it, let me know!
 

4. Massey Memorial Bunkers

Probably the most hidden of Wellington's bunkers, providing an awesome view over the harbour towards the city. The bunkers were also constructed in 1885 in response to the Crimean War and the subsequent growing Russian pacific fleet. 

Originally known as Haswell Battery, it was renamed after William Fergerson Massey (NZs prime minister during WWI) was buried there in 1925. Massey died in office while service as Prime Minister. They went all out for Massey (and subsequentially his wife) they lined the gun pit in marble and turned a large portion of the bunkers into a memorial. All up it cost £15,000 which is the equivalent of $1,634,000 in today's dollars.

Definitely check out the Memorial before heading up to the bunkers.

The remaining bunkers are a 10min walk up the hill on the path behind the memorial, then up the grassy knoll, you'll see bunkers at the top of the hill in front of you.

View from the bunkers

View from the bunkers

Getting there:  Parking is available at the bottom of the trail here. The track to the Memorial can be a little hard to find, but it's across the road from the marker on the map.

More info: There's heaps of information about Massey Memorial on the Heritage website.

5. Breaker Bay

On the cliffs of one of the most underrated Wellington beaches - the Breakers Bay bunkers are a great spot to check out.

There's 3 different battlements to explore - all built with the intention of protecting the entrance to Wellington's harbour.

Historically, there was a Pa on the ridge above the beach. There's an acknowledgement of it at the top with some additional info, which doubles as a great picnic lunch spot.

FYI: Breaker Bay is a nudist beach, so if you're not comfortable with nudity, maybe this isn't for you. 

I don't have any nice photos of these forts, all I've got is this oddly satisfying video kicking a rugby ball off the top bunker.

Getting there: Parking is available at the main Breaker Bay carpark.

More info: Check out the Wellington City Council's page on Breaker Bay.

 

Got your own favourite bunkers?

Let me know and I'll add them to the list!

Here's a map with the locations of all of the bunkers mentioned.

 

What are you doing still reading?!? Take a wander through Wellington's history and #GoBunkers!

 
Tim Dorrian