You’ll find Kaitoke Regional Park after a quick drive from Wellington’s CBD – about 45 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the city lies a beautiful rainforest with great walking trails and a Lord of the Rings filming site.
Yes indeed, this is where Rivendell (the elf kingdom) was filmed in Peter Jackson’s LOTR movies… and when you see just how green and lush the area is, you’ll understand why. All of the actual props from the movie have since been removed, but if you’re a fan of the films it’s pretty neat to see where some of the action took place.
That being said, our favourite part of the park isn’t the movie site. What we love most about the location is the forest – technically a rainforest – which has a lovely river running through it with swimming holes aplenty. Oh, and a great photo-worthy swingbridge.
An all-around pleasant, easy walk is the Swingbridge Track, which takes about 35-40 minutes roundtrip. Start from the parking lot and go over the swing bridge – from here, you’ll walk through the rainforest under a canopy of rata, rimu, beech and fern trees. Breathe in the fresh air and the scents of the earth and the running water nearby – and listen to the calls of the tui birds frolicking amongst the trees. Sigh… pure heaven.
Continue on the loop trail, back to the parking lot – it’s nearly impossible to get lost. There are a couple of river access spots along the way, after you cross a second bridge. If it’s a nice day, though, we recommend going to another swimming spot once you get back to your car – if you drive a bit further up the road in the park (basically until you reach the end of the road, or another 2 minutes or so by car), there are a couple of lovely river pools – bring a book and relax for a bit! Dip, sun, read, repeat – the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon.
Although if it’s not a nice day out, Kaitoke looks beautiful basked in moody lighting, too. It’s a great place to explore rain or shine.
Once you’ve had your fill of the forest and are on your way back to Wellington, stop at Brewtown in Upper Hutt, aka craft brewery central. Take your pick between Boneface Brewery or Panhead Custom Ales – you seriously can’t go wrong with either! Both have incredible beers and delicious food to go with your beverage.
Our favourite brew at Boneface is “The Juice,” a dry hopped gose, while Panhead’s “Supercharger” APA is always a good choice – although we often love their seasonal on-tap options, such as an incredibly refreshing blackcurrant sour we had there recently. Or try a handful of beers via a taster sampling – you might find something you never knew you’d like.
Boneface has great nibbles (think house fries, pizzas, and green-lipped mussels) while Panhead’s food has a Southern (USA) spin – their brisket is absolutely to die for. As are Boneface’s hot wings, actually… there’s honestly no way to choose!
You could always try both (especially if you have a DD)… just sayin’.