Activities at Matiu/Somes Island

Exploring the island

Matiu/Somes Island offers excellent views, bird watching opportunities as well as the chance to study other plants and animals enjoying the pest-free environment. You can also delve into the island's fascinating history or bring a picnic and stop at one of the tables. For a more in depth experience book a guided walk.

On arrival at the main wharf and toilets, you will be met by a ranger who will take you through the biosecurity checks. These prevent unwanted plants and insects arriving on the island.

After a short introduction to the island, you can start a walk. Take your time and enjoy the views as you climb up steep tar-sealed road towards the northern tip. You will pass the former Te Moana-a-kura pa site, and the memorial area and cemetery where some of the early immigrants who were quarantined on the island are buried. You reach the visitor centre and toilets at a height of 45 m after about 15-20 minutes.

Tracks and walks

Guided walks

Guided walks are usually taken by our volunteer Eastbourne Forest Rangers.

They cover the fascinating multi-layered history of the island as well as the historic and biodiversity conservation which is taking place now. The walks also increase your chance of finding some of the rare and shy wildlife.

  • Guided walks take approximately 2 hours depending on group size, fitness, time on the island and interests.
  • Walks start at 11:00 am on weekdays.
  • During summer weekends and public holidays, guided walks depart from the wharf at 11 am and 1 pm, depending on guide availability.
  • Anyone is welcome to join.


  • Weekend walks at 11 am for small groups (up to 12) can be booked online.
  • At any other time or for larger groups, guided walks must be booked at least two weeks in advance via the DOC Wellington Visitor Centre. Phone +64 4 384 7770 or email
  • Cost: $10 per adult, $2 per child. School groups: $2 per child, adults free. Payment by cash only.
  • Discounts are available for larger adult groups (11-20 people 25%, 20+ people 50%).
  • Minimum group number is three.

Bird and wildlife watching

A variety of native animals have been reintroduced to the island, including red-crowned parakeet/kākāriki, which are very visible and vocal around the island; reptiles, including the ancient tuatara; Cook Strait giant weta and Wellington tree weta, which have their own motels. Find out about the plants and animals on the island.  


You can camp on Matiu/Somes Island, but booking is essential. Find out about camping on the island.

Child/family-friendly activities

There are easy day walk tracks on the island as well as plenty of picnic tables and lookouts on offer for an enjoyable day out with the family.

Historic sites

Explore remnants from both world wars, historic quarantine buildings, the lighthouse, artefacts from the island's past, and pause at the monument to those who died while confined on the island. Find out more about the island's history.

Kayaking and canoeing

Matiu/Somes Island is a great destination for a day out paddling on the harbour. Find out about the rules for landing on the island before setting out.

Specialist activities: Photography 

Don't forget to bring your camera with you to the island as there are plenty of lookouts and viewpoints from where you can capture a panoramic perspective of Wellington city and surrounds. Keep your eyes peeled as you make your way along the tracks and you may be rewarded with a photo opportunity of a tuatara basking in the sun, a giant weta, or an inquisitive North Island robin!


Find out more


Follow the Outdoor Safety Code:
1. Plan your trip
2. Tell someone
3. Be aware of the weather
4. Know your limits
5. Take sufficient supplies

Alerts for Wellington/Kapiti places


Pōneke / Wellington Visitor Centre
Phone:      +64 4 384 7770
Address:   18 Manners Street
Full office details