Wellington Walks: Somes Island

The East to West ferry docked at Queens Wharf in Wellington, New Zealand.

When I saw a for round-trip ferry tickets to Somes Island, I immediately bought it for Daniel and me. It has been on our list of places to visit since moving to Wellington.

Somes Island, also known as Matiu Island, sits in the Wellington Harbor. In fact, it’s so close to the city that I still had 3G on my phone. (This wasn’t the case for Kapiti Island.) But still far enough away to escape the sounds of the city.

somes island from mount kaukau wellington

According to Maori legend, the island was discovered by Kupe, the first Polynesian navigator to reach New Zealand. He named the island after one of his daughters, Matiu.

Mokopuna Island seen from Somes Island in New Zealand.

The Europeans came along some years later and renamed it Somes Island. Since then it has served as a human quarantine station for both immigrants and animals. Along with a period as an internment camp during World War II.

Now, the island is a place where you can enjoy a nice summer’s walk and some unique Kiwi nature.

After the twenty minute ferry ride from the Queens Wharf, we arrived at the island where the park ranger gave us a run-down on what sort of wildlife we may encounter on our visit (in order of likely to unlikely): skinks, sheep, red crowned parakeets, penguins, and geckos.

The park ranger didn’t lie about the skinks. It hadn’t even been 15 minutes until I spotted one hiding underneath a pile of wood.

Skink seen on Somes Island.

I thought it was pretty cool when I first saw it. But then I realized they move much like a snake. (And I’m terrified of those.) A lot of the walk was spent looking down trying to spot any skinks. We noticed dozens of them and you see them every few feet, which is really disconcerting. For some reason I could picture hundreds of them slithering from the bushes to attack us. Not the most pleasant thought.

A common skink in Wellington, New Zealand.

It doesn’t help that they look completely evil. Just waiting, watching.

common skink on somes island

Due to the size of the island there’s not a lot to do apart from skink spotting. You can hike around the coastline in an hour of gentle walking.

Looking for skinks on Somes Island.

The majority of the coastal walk is above the cliffs giving an impressive view of Wellington Harbor.

Viewpoint on Somes Island in Wellington.

As we walked through the trees we would hear the chattering of parakeets from time-to-time, another of the cool animals living on the island. Soon enough one stopped in front of us to pose for a photo.

Red crowned parakeet in New Zealand.

Further on we saw possibly the world’s least impressive lighthouse.

The lighthouse on Somes Island in Wellington, New Zealand.

Deciding we had had enough of the coast, we headed up into the interior of the island. Climbing up the hill to the island’s summit – I call it a summit, but it only took five minutes to get up there. The walk to our house in Northland was much more taxing later in the day.

Unfortunately, the day was ridiculously windy (no surprises there). So much so, that we struggled to take a photo on top of the island. Added to this was the fact that a territorial seagull clearly wanted us gone. It swooped up and down, stopping inches from our heads in an attempt to scare us off.


This really just gave Daniel an opportunity to take photos of it. I had already started making my way down because I didn’t want a repeat of the aggressive cows incident.

Here is one of his favorites. It’s out of focus, but a good indication of how close it was getting. (Look at those CLAWS!)


We headed back to the ferry via the visitor center and some sheep that were happily munching away.

Sheep on Somes Island in New Zealand.

Once back at the ferry terminal, we realized we still had an hour and a half to spare on the island. So we did what anybody else would do–we walked around the whole thing again! If you wish to experience this for yourself, simply scroll back to the top of this article and read the whole thing one more time.


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