Tawatawa Reserve is a 64-hectare nature reserve in south Wellington, between Kingston and Ōwhiro Bay.
It features roughly 4km of tracks open to walkers and mountain-bikers and also has a very popular off-leash dog exercise area.
The reserve provides vital ecological connectivity: it borders Te Kopahou (which connects it to Zealandia), Manawa Karioi and Paekawakawa reserves, and is close to the Frobisher Street and Oku Street reserves, helping to create an ecological corridor from the city hills to the South Coast.
The highest point of the reserve is about 180m above sea level at the western end, where a Pouwhenua of Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata stands.
In the 1990s the land was set for housing development, but after the discovery of a bush remnant featuring diverse native trees and some of the largest, and therefore possibly the oldest, ngaio in Wellington, environmentalists lobbied for it to become a scenic reserve. You can find out more detail about its history on this page.
Tawatawa Reserve is now an ecological restoration project driven by the Southern Environmental Association (SEA) in partnership with Wellington City Council, which owns the reserve.
Since 1994, SEA volunteers have planted more than 50,000 plants and trees at Tawatawa; Wellington City Council and Conservation Volunteers New Zealand have planted more than 10,000.
SEA operates a native plant nursery at the reserve which supplies plants for Tawatawa and other nearby conservation projects. The nursery is shared with Conservation Volunteers New Zealand (CVNZ).
The reserve entrance is halfway up Murchison Street in Ōwhiro Bay. There’s a small carpark, but no bike parking. The number 29 bus stops outside the reserve.
You can find a detailed map on this website and a good description of the Tawatawa Loop Track here.
The 2.8 kilometre track takes about 1.5 hours to walk. It is an undulating track that passes some of the oldest trees in the reserve.
It is not suitable for wheelchairs or strollers, but it is suitable for little legs and four legs! The loop/bush track is also an intermediate mountain biking trail.
The tracks around the hillsides are not always easy walking, being steep in places, muddy in parts after rain and with tree roots to trip the unwary.
Due to a slip in early 2022, care should be taken where the path narrows, and people on bikes will need to dismount for a short stretch.
The main track around Tawatawa Flat is suitable for strollers or people using wheelchairs.