Sunday, 21 July 2013

Petone Foreshore

On our way back from our last ride (to Pencarrow), we noted that we should ride the Petone foreshore some time. We had originally thought that it wouldn’t be a very long ride, but it was surprising how far we could actually go. We knew we could get from Petone to Seaview without having to ride on any roads, and on our way to Eastbourne we noticed that there was a cycle path from Seaview to Point Howard. All together that would make a respectable distance.

The beach and foreshore had suffered in the 20 June storm, but we thought that most of the mess would have been cleared up by the time we would ride there. However, last weekend, there was another bad southerly storm, with winds gusting up to 165 km/hr, resulting in a number of flights and ferry sailings being cancelled, and of course more storm damage along the shores and beaches.

The western end of Petone Beach

Last Thursday, 18 July, we parked the car at the furthest end of the Esplanade, near the roundabout, and set off. It is wonderful how you discover places you never knew were there when cycling (or walking, of course). I must have driven around the roundabout and down the Esplanade hundreds of times, and never noticed this park.

Heading off to the right, towards the motorway, there was a path that was well strewn with storm debris. We tried going down it, but I soon gave up, it was just too rough. We met a woman walking a little fox terrier with a large black patch over his right eye, and I said to her “Is his name Patch?” “No”, came the answer, “he’s called Cat, he doesn’t know he’s a dog!”  Huh??

The path was just too rough (photo by John)

Back past the carpark, and onto a gravel path between the beach and the shrubbery that separates the park from the road. It looked like it had recently been cleared, with debris on both sides of it. Soon we came out onto the Esplanade’s foot-and-cycle path.

We rode past the Petone wharf, a lovely sight, with Matiu-Somes Island as a background. An information board, with photos of various dune plants, described the dunes restoration project. It seemed that this part of the beach had not been affected by storm debris. The dune grass looked quite healthy here, though it didn’t further along the beach.

Petone Wharf, with Matiu-Somes in the background
The dune grass looks quite healthy at this end

Before the Petone Rowing Club, a colourful mural illustrates the Māori legend of how a taniwha created Wellington Harbour. The legend tells us that the harbour was once a lake in which two sea taniwha, Whātaitai and Ngake, lived. But Ngake was restless and smashed his way through to nearby Cook Strait. Whātaitai tried to get out a different way and became stranded on dry ground. It is said that his spirit took the form of a bird named Te Keo, which flew to the top of Wellington’s Mt Victoria and mourned (tangi), hence the name of the mountain, Tangi te keo.

Ngake, the taniwha that created Wellington Harbour (photo by John)

In front of the Petone Rowing Club, there is a gap in the seawall, so that rowing boats can be taken from the boat-bay to the water. Apparently after the storm on 20 June, sand, logs and debris had completely blocked the boat-bay doors and footpath. Water entered the boat-bay too, and caused damage to flooring and carpets. On the following Sunday, club volunteers helped to clear all the mess away.

The cleared gap in front of the Petone Rowing Club (photo by John)

Plenty of logs and other debris remained on the beach, and a big yellow digger was sitting idle on the beach. I guess the driver had gone off to have his lunch.

Plenty of logs remained, still to be cleared

Repairs to the damaged seawall

Towards the far end of the Esplanade, there were roadworks going on – the road was being re-sealed. Our three-year-old grandson Oliver would have loved it. There were bulldozers, and trucks and steamrollers, and men in orange hi-viz vests, all things he’s been fascinated with since before he could walk! Being the school holidays, there were quite a few parents and kids about, watching all the activity.

Roadworks (photo by John)

Right at the end was the Hikoikoi Reserve, with a playground and a miniature railway. A circular mosaic community artwork and some quirky sculptures decorate the park leading to the playground.

Community art in the Hikoikoi Reserve

The miniature railway has been run by the Hutt Valley Model Engineering Society for nearly fifty years, and on Sunday afternoons children can have rides on the trains for a mere $2. Oliver would have loved that too, but sadly it was a Saturday when we visited there last summer, and he had to go  back to Auckland on the Sunday. He did enjoy the playground though.

The miniature railway in the Hikoikoi  Reserve (photo by John)

Here the road swings inland, but there is a track through the Hikoikoi Reserve that leads to McEwan Park, around a tongue of land forming the mouth of the Hutt River. The track ends up at the road again just before the bridge across the river.

Once across, we were in Seaview, where we had cycled before. The storm had seriously eroded the water’s edge, and damaged the relatively new foot/cycle path. The council had dumped large chunks of concrete and building rubble to protect the edge from further erosion. It looked as if the latest storm had ripped up a newly laid path, and the resulting broken slabs had been used to shore up the edge.

The council used building rubble to protect the shore from further erosion

Here they used slabs of broken path (photo by John)

The cycle path rounds the point and arrives at the Seaview marina. Here we saw a large yacht that had been knocked off its trailer, and was lying on its side. It’s been like that since the first storm. I guess it must be a bit of a headache to the owner, not to mention an expensive exercise, to try and set it upright again.

Oops! A headache for the owner? (photo by John)

The marina area is very attractive, all the yachts in the water look very photogenic. The dinghies on racks on the tarmac don’t look nearly so pretty, but I suppose that if you own a dinghy, you need to keep it somewhere.

Seaview Marina (photo by John)

From the end of the marina, a cycle/footpath, well protected from the winding road by a barrier, leads around to Point Howard. Here, a long wharf jutting out into the harbour is used by tankers delivering oil and petrol to Wellington. Big pipes along the water’s edge carry the oil to the big storage tanks in Seaview. Not surprisingly, there is no public access to the wharf.

The Point Howard Wharf, where tankers deliver Wellington's oil and petrol (photo by John)
The pipes in the foreground carry the oil and petrol to the storage tanks (photo by John)

We could not go any further than Point Howard, as there is no safe cycle path all the way around the winding road to Eastbourne. There is a narrow shoulder in some places, but it is on the water’s edge, and there is no barrier, so with my luck, I’d probably wobble and end up in the drink. A bit too hazardous to my taste, so we turned around. A brisk nor’west wind was making progress slow along Seaview.

Back along the Petone Esplanade, we stopped briefly at the Settlers Museum. This is a tiny museum celebrating the history of Petone. It was built in 1940 to commemorate the arrival of the first British settlers on Pito-one’s (Petone) shores in 1840.

The Settlers Museum

I had a quick look inside while John stayed with the bikes. There are two display rooms: one featuring dioramas of Petone in the very early days, ship’s models and very early photographs; the other room has an exhibition entitled “Tatou, tatou” which commemorates the historic meeting of Māori Te Atiawa chiefs and the first British settlers. It is years since I visited this museum, and this quick little squizz was not nearly enough time to do it justice. It warrants a return visit some time.

Models and dioramas document early Petone

Near the museum a coffee caravan was a welcome sight. 

Aah, coffee! (photo by John)

While enjoying our coffee, we watched two diggers cleaning up the beach. A small red digger was “combing” the debris out of the dune grasses planted along the edge of the beach. Quite a delicate operation. The large yellow digger was collecting large pieces of driftwood and debris into larger piles a bit further down the beach. We watched as it collected a big tree trunk from the water’s edge and added it to the pile. I wonder what they’ll do with the big piles. Maybe they’ll set fire to them? Or perhaps the driftwood will be used to make Fire Sculptures to be burned at the Petone Winter Carnival, which is due to be held on 3 August – only a couple of weeks away.

The red digger "combs" the debris out of the dune grass, the yellow digger rakes it all into a pile

Picking up a big log (photo by John)

Coffee finished, we headed to the Petone wharf, which is open for people to go down to the end. There were quite a few people there doing a spot of fishing, but as far as I could see, nobody had caught anything yet. I was intrigued with the special fishing rod stands, in the shape of fish heads, sticking up at intervals along the edge of the wharf. How very thoughtful of the council, to provide these for the anglers.

Petone Wharf

Fishing rod holders. Such a thoughtful touch ... (photo by John)

We decided to carry on a little further towards the motorway, past where we’d parked the car. We avoided the very rough path through the park that we had ridden earlier in the day, but followed the narrow road towards the Wellington Water Ski Club building. Of course, being winter, it looked very bleak and deserted, apart from some men who were picking up “things” with long-handled grippers from among the rocks. I asked what they were picking up, and they said “rubbish”. “Oh, good on you”, I said. I think they may have been carrying out a community service sentence.

Keeping NZ clean! (photo by John)

On the way back to the car, John took some nice pictures of the outlet of a stream, looking all tidy and peaceful, and of the strangely scalloped beach edge, looking all messy and debris-strewn.

The outlet of the Korokoro Stream (photo by John)

The storm carved the debris into wonderful shapes (photo by John)

Another enjoyable ride, 18kms in all. And – bonus! – all on the flat!

While we were in Petone, John wanted to quickly check out The Toolbox in Jackson Street. It’s a shop that specialises in secondhand and antique tools, and he loves a good browse in there.  I’m not so enamoured of boys’ toys, so I went across the road and visited the Dutch Shop, where I bought several yummy things that I really didn’t need, but love to have anyway. 



  1. Excellent, both story and photos. You're a great team. Did you know that the taniwha Whataitai was the origin of the name of the suburb Hataitai?

  2. I didn't until I looked up the legend. The story is attached in the link above the photo of the tanhiwha. Always fun to learn something new, isn't it? Thanks for your kind comments, Pat.