Eastbourne and Days Bay
Discover colourful cafes and art galleries, sunny seaside neighbourhoods - plus bush walks with harbour views and the iconic Pencarrow Coast
Houses perch on hills to make the most of water views, swimmers jostle for the best shady spots and compare notes on their favourite bays, and waterfront tracks attract runners and cyclists year-round. Life around here is all about the harbour.
The coastline of suburban bays and Eastbourne, beautifully sum up the area’s obsession with the ocean. These bays have been a magnet for day-trippers and holidaymakers since the 19th century, and these days it’s easy to head to Eastbourne and Day’s Bay for your ideal warm-weather adventure.
Naturally, the best way to get from Wellington City to the Eastern Bays is on the water itself. The East by West Ferry whisks you over the harbour from downtown Wellington in just 20 minutes, and the idyllic views from on board are a great taste of what’s to come. You can always take the bus too - the numbers 81 and 83 head right there.
As you approach, you’ll spot the small, picturesque village of Days Bay, with charming cottages scattered along the waterfront at the bottom of dense green slopes. Hop off and fuel up for a day of adventuring. Chocolate Dayz’s chocolate milkshake is a non-negotiable when you’re in this part of Wellington - this Days Bay cafe is a local institution, its shakes and dazzling harbour views attracting those in the know for years.
Head to Wildfinder Pencarrow to grab a bike - depending on how much pedalling you want to do, commit to a mountain bike or choose an e-bike for some extra assistance. Cycle about half an hour along the dramatic coastline to Pencarrow Lighthouse. Once home to New Zealand’s only female lighthouse keeper, it’s now a destination where you’ll enjoy some seriously stunning views out along the harbour. You can even see right across the Cook Strait to the South Island on a good day. If exploring on two wheels isn’t your thing, The Boatshed also has single and double kayaks or stand-up paddle boards for hire.
This area inspired one of New Zealand’s most iconic short stories, At The Bay by Katherine Mansfield, whose childhood was spent holidaying in the area. In 1922 she described “the big bush-covered hills in the back”, and little has changed in the century since: these verdant hills are still ripe for exploring. East Harbour Regional Park has a myriad of established tracks through native forest to pick from, ranging from challenging hikes to relaxed strolls. For those with plenty of energy, head to Butterfly Creek for a walk that offers brilliant views before descending into a lush valley.
After all that hiking, you’re bound to be ready for a swim. The wharf at Days Bay has been refurbished for the obligatory wharf jump, for a relaxed paddle or capture that perfect pontoon dive photo nearby for Instagram. Because of Wellington’s unique geography, where the harbour is cut like a keyhole into the bottom of the North Island, its harbours are surprisingly calm (especially for a region renowned for its wind). Resisting the clear, still water will be your biggest challenge here.
After you’ve dried off, the classic post-swim snack is a real fruit ice cream from the Boatshed, but the Eastern Bays also has some great spots for more substantial meals. Eastbourne’s The Still Room balances a quaint village feel with some seriously good food, local craft beer and wine. The sunny porch is the ideal spot for a sundowner and a platter of treats from around the region. And picnickers, take note: nearby Marmalade Deli is known for its cakes, pastries and breads, with everything available for takeaway to eat on the waterfront.
By the time the ferry departs back to central Wellington, you’ll be wishing you didn’t have to leave. The long sunsets are known to keep beachgoers hooked on their recurring last drink as one the last places to see the sun in the region. There’s plenty of bed and breakfasts along the shores and self-contained accommodation with magnificent views.