We all know that Wellington is one of the coolest little capital cities in the world and whilst there is lots to do in and around the city, sometimes there’s nothing better than turning up the radio, winding down the windows and heading out for a drive.

If you are down in Wellington, you’re in luck. As well as being an awesome city to hang out, Wellington also has more than its fair share of scenic drives. From the craggy coastline to the lush forests, there’s plenty of variety to be found in the scenic drives around Wellington.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, we’ve got you covered. Here are 8 of Wellington’s best scenic drives for you to get out and explore this year.

1.      Martinborough Wineries and Lake Wairarapa


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Martinborough is a fantastic place for a day trip from Wellington and the drive to get there is one of the most scenic drives in and around the capital. Setting out from the city, you will head north through the Hutt Valley and climbs up through the spectacular Remutaka Range where you will enjoy some breath-taking views of the wide river valley below.

Featherston is a great place for a stop off and a spot of morning tea and is located about an hour from downtown Wellington. From here you can take SH53 which will take you directly to Martinborough in about 15 minutes, however, this post is all about scenic drives so instead, we recommend you hang a right at Featherston and complete the full circuit of Lake Wairarapa. There are plenty of places to stop off around the lake to stretch your legs or have a picnic.

The extra loop will take you around 45 minutes but it’s well worth the detour. Once you hit Martinborough, you can spend a few hours exploring this stunning little town, take a wine tour or simply relax and unwind in the beautiful surroundings.

2.      Waiohine Gorge and Masterton


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The drive from Wellington to Masterton follows a similar path to the Martinborough route, except when you get to Featherston, you will carry on north on SH2. It’s a very scenic drive as you head north and would typically take you around an hour and a half from the city to Masterton.

Whilst we are all about the drive, it’s also good to stretch the legs from time to time so a great detour on the route up to Masterton is a visit to the Waiohine Gorge.

Just past Greytown, you will hang a left towards Daletown and then follow the signs for the Waiohine Gorge Road. This is an unpaved road so please drive with care but after around 10kms you will come to a car park and from here, you can access three tramping trails all of which present stunning views of the Waiohine Gorge.

After this little detour, it’s only a short hop to finish up your drive to Masterton where you will find a quaint little town with a lovely park and some really cool cafes.

3.      Cape Palliser


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One of the most iconic and scenic drives from Wellington is the drive out to Cape Palliser. Again, this drive will see you heading out towards Martinborough and through Featherston, however instead of taking SH53 to Martinborough, you will instead cut back south and east around the eastern shores of Lake Wairarapa all the way down to the coast at Whangamoana and Palliser Bay.

From here, your route hogs the spectacular coastline all the way to Cape Palliser and the famous Cape Palliser lighthouse.  The drive is a real highlight, however, once you get out to Cape Palliser, there are plenty of things to keep you entertained before the drive home. From the iconic lighthouse to the seal colony and magnificent walks, Cape Palliser is a great place to spend the day. Getting here will only take you just over 2 hours from Wellington, leaving you plenty of time for exploring as well as plenty of time for stop-offs along this amazing route.

You can, of course, combine a trip to Martinborough with a visit to Cape Palliser and a short detour on the way back will give you time to explore Martinborough as well.

4.      Lyall Bay and Red Rocks


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According to 992Wellingtonian on Trip Advisor, the best coastal scenic drive in Wellington is between Lyall Bay and Red Rocks. It’s a drive that will only take you around 25 minutes, but it is a truly spectacular piece of coastline.

According to Wellingtonian, the route will take you past a house in the shape of a lighthouse where you will find some great rocks to explore. You will also find an excellent playground at Island Bay which is perfect for the little ones.

There’s also a Marine Education Centre and the Maranui Café is one of the most popular in the Wellington area. Once you get to Red Rocks, there is an information centre at Owhiro Bay and a great walking track. If you walk along the beach you will end up at a fur seal colony which is really cool.

The surfing is really good around this area of the coast and Houghton Bay is a popular spot for surfers.

5.      Remutaka Forest Park


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If you are looking for a day out that includes both a stunning scenic drive and a day of tramping in some of New Zealand’s most pristine forest, then the Remutaka  Forest Park is a destination to add to your list.

As with a lot of the scenic drives in and around Wellington, this scenic drives takes you north up SH2, however, you will take an early right turn just past Lower Hutt following the signs for Wainuiomata. This drive is a horseshoe from Wellington and will take you on the inland around Wellington Harbour.

The easiest place to park up is at the Catchpool Valley carpark. From here, you will have access to some amazing walking and tramping routes as well as some great places to stop off for a picnic.

The Remutaka Forest Park will only take you around 35 minutes to get there making it a great destination for a nice easy scenic drive and a day out exploring the forest.

6.      Eastbourne


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Eastbourne is another short 30-minute drive from downtown Wellington and follows a similar horseshoe route to the Remutaka Forest drive, except the drive to Eastbourne hogs the coastal road all the way up the west and east sides of the Wellington Harbour.

The drive down from Lower Hutt to Eastbourne will take you through bay after bay, each as spectacular as the next before you end up in Eastbourne. The road is littered with colourful galleries and quaint cafes which are perfect for a morning tea stop off.

The Wahine Memorial is worth a look which is a short walk beyond Eastbourne. From here, you can also access the Pencarrow Lighthouse trail which is great for walking or biking. Bike hire is available at The Bike Shed at the start of the trail and that makes for a great day out with spectacular views.

7.      Paraparaumu


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The Kapiti Coast is one of New Zealand’s most spectacular sections of coastline and is easily accessible from downtown Wellington. A good place for a day trip out is Paraparaumu Beach which is just a short 45-minute drive from central Wellington.

As well as the spectacular beach, Paraparaumu is also home to one of New Zealand’s best golf courses which is a must for golfers visiting Wellington. The stunning links course offers up magnificent views of the coastline and Kapiti Island as a backdrop.

From Paraparaumu, you can also access Kapiti Island – a predator-free island located about 5kms off the mainland. Kapiti Island is one of New Zealand’s oldest and most important nature reserves, and a place rich in human history. You can also choose a day trip or an overnight tour where you might be lucky enough to see Kiwis in their natural habitat – a real New Zealand experience.

If you want to drive beyond Paraparaumu, the drive further north is just as spectacular and there are heaps of great beaches to explore including Otaki and Waikawa.

8.      Miramar Peninsula


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If you are short on time but still want to get out for a scenic drive, the Miramar Peninsula is still within the city limits but feels like you are a million miles away from our capital.

It’s just a short 15-minute drive from downtown Wellington to the start of the Miramar Peninsula and it’s perfect if you are heading out to the airport as it’s on route. Head up the west coast of the peninsula to Shelly Bay and check out the famous Chocolate Fish Café.

The world-famous Weta Cave is also located on the Miramar Peninsula which is definitely worth a stop off but if you’re here for the scenic drive, then it will take you around 30-45 minutes to drive all the way around the coastal round around the peninsula which is a truly stunning drive.

Surfers will enjoy a stop off in Lyall Bay and you can explore some old army bunkers on the walking track above Breaker Bay beach.


Wellington is home to some of New Zealand’s most scenic drives whether you are looking for a coastal retreat or an inland adventure so pick up one of our awesome rental cars from our Wellington branch and hit the road.

If we’ve missed off your favourite scenic drive in Wellington, drop us a line and we will add you to our list!