A diverse coastal loop track that delivers far beyond what its suburban location might suggest. By Ali Middleton
The 800ha Miramar Peninsula lies at the south-eastern end of Te Whanganui-a-tara/Wellington City. Once an island, its rocky coastline, sweeping beaches, steep cliffs and small pinnacles and caves reflect the geological influence from two severe earthquakes that raised the isthmus to form the peninsula.
The Eastern Walkway traverses the main ridge from Tarakena Bay in the south to the Pass of Branda. The walkway was a project by the Eastern Suburbs Lions Club and the Wellington City Council, and was opened 1982. It’s been rerouted and upgraded since then and passes mainly through regenerating native forest. Along the way are excellent views of the peninsula, the harbour entrance and Cook Strait. Native birds include tūī, pīwakawaka, tauhou / waxeye, kōtare / kingfisher and kororā / little blue penguin. Due to the success of recent extensive predator eradication on the peninsula, kākā, kākāriki, kārearea, and raukawa geckos are also returning.
There are marker posts along the walkway at the numerous exit and entry points. Follow the signs to Pass of Branda (or Tarakena Bay if walking in reverse) to stay on the walkway.
From the car park, the track begins with a short climb up steps to the Atatürk Memorial. This plinth on the cliff commemorates Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, defender of Gallipoli and founder of the Republic of Turkey. Continue north along the open gravel walkway until you reach a marker post. A sealed path and gentle slope is an alternative to the steps leading to the memorial and joins the walkway at this point. Take the right track, signposted to Sidlaw Street and Pass of Branda.
The track narrows here as it climbs briefly into the bush. It then undulates along the eastern side of the ridge. A seat here is a welcome spot to take in the expansive views across Breaker Bay to Point Dorset, Pencarrow Head and Baring Head. Barrett Reef, the site of the Wahine shipwreck disaster in 1968, can also be seen where it lies close to the shore of the peninsula.
A set of stairs leads to the ridge and a junction (and exit point) to Sidlaw Street. Head right (north-east) here along the ridge until you reach the next junction, where there is an option to exit to Beacon Hill Road. Keep right to stay on the walkway, where steps drop briefly beneath the houses of Beacon Hill – including the Beacon Hill Signal Station that monitors shipping at the harbour entrance.
At the next junction (Signallers Grove exit), stay right, heading briefly south before turning north-east and skirting along the hillside before dropping reasonably steeply to the road at the Pass of Branda.
To loop back to the car park, turn right to walk along the coast road around Breaker Bay. At the end of the houses, the footpath ends so it’s across the road to the seaward side to pick up the coastal track at Wahine Memorial Park. This leads to Palmer Head and the car park.