Wellington Harbour

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Looking north-east over Wellington Harbour from above Cook Strait
left to right: Lambton Harbour, Miramar Peninsula and the Entrance Wellington Harbour, New Zealand, Nov. 2009.jpg
Looking north-east over Wellington Harbour from above Cook Strait
left to right: Lambton Harbour, Miramar Peninsula and the Entrance

Wellington Harbour is the large natural harbour on the southern tip of New Zealand's North Island. New Zealand's capital city, Wellington, is located on its western side. The harbour, the sea area bounded by a line between Pencarrow Head to Petone foreshore, was officially named Port Nicholson, [1] until it assumed its current name in 1984.

North Island The northern of the two main islands of New Zealand

The North Island, also officially named Te Ika-a-Māui, is one of the two main islands of New Zealand, separated from the larger but much less populous South Island by Cook Strait. The island's area is 113,729 square kilometres (43,911 sq mi), making it the world's 14th-largest island. It has a population of 3,749,200.

Wellington Capital city of New Zealand

Wellington is the capital city and second most populous urban area of New Zealand, with 418,500 residents. It is located at the south-western tip of the North Island, between Cook Strait and the Remutaka Range. Wellington is the major population centre of the southern North Island, and is the administrative centre of the Wellington Region, which also includes the Kapiti Coast and Wairarapa. Its latitude is 41°17′S, making it the world's southernmost capital of a sovereign state. Wellington features a temperate maritime climate, and is the world's windiest city by average wind speed.

Pencarrow Head Headland in Wellington, New Zealand

Pencarrow Head, also known as Pencarrow, is a headland in the Wellington Region of New Zealand and the name of the surrounding area. It had a population of 549, as of the 2013 New Zealand census.


In the Māori language the harbour is known as Te Whanganui-a-Tara the great harbour of Tara. [2] Another Māori name for Wellington, Pōneke, is said to be a transliteration of Port Nick (Port Nicholson). [3] [4]

Te Whanganui-a-Tara is the Māori name for Wellington Harbour. The term is also sometimes used to refer to the city of Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand, which lies on the shores of the harbour. "Te Whanganui-a-Tara" translates as "the great harbour of Tara", which refers to the rangatira Tara, who Māori tradition says visited the area in the 12th century and decided to stay.

Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script to another that involves swapping letters in predictable ways.


Lambton Harbour and
Aotea Quay Wellington reclamation animation.gif
Lambton Harbour and
Aotea Quay
Aotea Quay, Queen Mary 2 'Queen Mary 2', Wellington, New Zealand, 26th. Feb. 2011 - Flickr - PhillipC (4).jpg
Aotea Quay, Queen Mary 2

Wellington Harbour is an arm of Cook Strait, covering some 76 km², with a two-km wide entrance at its southern end between Pencarrow Head and Palmer Head on the tip of Miramar Peninsula. It has a maximum length of over 11 kilometres and a width of 9.25 kilometres. The harbour has an entrance over 1.6 kilometres wide from shore to shore and as it is surrounded by hills over 300 meters high, it provides sheltered anchorage in a region where wind velocities may exceed 160 k.p.h. The depth of water over the great bulk of the harbour exceeds 20 metres or 10 fathoms. [5]

Cook Strait strait between the North and South Islands of New Zealand

Cook Strait is a strait that separates the North and South Islands of New Zealand. It connects the Tasman Sea on the northwest with the South Pacific Ocean on the southeast, and runs next to the capital city, Wellington. It is 22 kilometres (14 mi) wide at its narrowest point, and is considered one of the most dangerous and unpredictable waters in the world.

Miramar Peninsula

The large Miramar Peninsula is on the southeastern side of the city of Wellington, New Zealand, at the entrance to Wellington Harbour, in Wellington's eastern suburbs. According to Māori legend, it was formed when the taniwha Whaitaitai beached as he tried to escape the confines of the harbour.

Lambton Harbour 2007 Wellington Port from Mt Vic.jpg
Lambton Harbour 2007
Aotea Quay 2008 Aotea Quay and the Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand, 23 Feb 2008.jpg
Aotea Quay 2008

The harbour is of seismic origin, and a major earthquake fault lies along its western shore. At the northern end of the harbour lies the narrow triangular plain of the Hutt River, which largely follows the line of the earthquake fault to the north-east. The city of Lower Hutt is located on this plain.

Lower Hutt Place in Wellington, New Zealand

Lower Hutt is a city in the Wellington Region of the North Island of New Zealand. Administered by the Hutt City Council, it is one of the four cities that constitute the Wellington metropolitan area.

The central city suburbs spread around the hills overlooking the west and south-west of Wellington Harbour and its two large bays: Lambton Harbour and Evans Bay. Lambton Harbour is surrounded by the reclaimed land of Wellington's central business district and contains the majority of the city's port facilities. Evans Bay is an inlet between Mt Victoria and the Miramar Peninsula that serves as a flight path to low-lying Wellington Airport. Another smaller but popular bay, for its beaches and Cafes is Oriental Bay. To the east of the harbour lie several small bays, most of which are populated by small coastal communities. The largest of these suburban settlements is Eastbourne, directly to the east of the northern tip of the Miramar Peninsula.

Wellington International Airport airport in Rongotai, New Zealand

Wellington International Airport is an international airport located in the suburb of Rongotai in Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand. It lies 3 NM or 5.5 km south-east from the city centre. It is a hub for Air New Zealand and its subsidiaries. Wellington International Airport Limited, a joint venture between Infratil and the Wellington City Council, operates the airport.

Oriental Bay suburb

Oriental Bay is a suburb of Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand. Located close to the Central Business District on Wellington Harbour, it has the closest beaches to the central city and is thus a popular spot both for living and for visiting.

Eastbourne, New Zealand Place in New Zealand

Eastbourne is a suburb of Lower Hutt city in the southern North Island of New Zealand. Its population was 4,665 people in the 2013 New Zealand Census.

Three small islands are located in the harbour. To the south, close to Eastbourne, is Makaro / Ward Island Further north, close to the centre of the harbour, is the larger Matiu / Somes Island, to the north of which is the tiny Mokopuna Island

Mākaro / Ward Island island

Mākaro/Ward island is one of the three small islands in Wellington Harbour, at the Southern end of the North Island, New Zealand.

Matiu / Somes Island island in New Zealand

Matiu/Somes Island, at 24.9 ha, is the largest of three islands in the northern half of Wellington Harbour, New Zealand. It lies 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) south of the suburb of Petone and the mouth of the Hutt River, and about 5 kilometres (3 mi) northwest of the much smaller Makaro/Ward Island.

Mokopuna Island island in New Zealand

Mokopuna Island is a small island in Wellington Harbour, New Zealand. It is about 200 metres (219 yd) on its long axis and about 80 metres (87 yd) across. It lies immediately north of the much larger Matiu/Somes Island, from which it is separated by a channel about 50 metres (55 yd) wide.

The entrance to the harbour can be quite dangerous, especially since Cook Strait to the south is notoriously rough. Close to the harbour's entrance lies Barrett Reef, its rocks breaking the water's surface at low tide. It was here in 1968 that the inter-island passenger ferry Wahine grounded during a storm, with the loss of 51 lives.

Early history

Earlier names of Wellington Harbour

Lambton Harbour 1840

Wellington Harbour and its waterfront have gone by many names. The earliest known name for Wellington city, derived from Maori legend, is Te Upoko o te Ika a Maui or "the head of Maui's fish". [6] Te Whanganui a Tara is another name Maori gave the area – a name said to come from Whatonga's son Tara, whom his father sent down from the Mahia Peninsula to explore southern lands for their people to settle. It literally means "the great harbour of Tara". [7] Port Nicholson allegedly received its name from Captain James Herd, who sailed into the Harbour of Tara in 1826 and left it with its first European name, calling it after Sydney's Harbourmaster Captain John Nicholson. [8] Colonel William Wakefield allegedly named Lambton Harbour in 1839 in honour of the Earl of Durham, who had the family name of "Lambton". [9]

Reclamation of Wellington Harbour

To increase the amount of usable flat land for Wellington city, the reclamation of Wellington Harbour started in the 1850s. [10]


Ferry MV Kaitaki in the Harbour MV Kaitaki, Wellington Harbour.jpg
Ferry MV Kaitaki in the Harbour

Wellington Harbour is a significant port serving the lower North Island, with the Regional Council-owned company Centreport recording around 14,000 commercial shipping movements each year. Wellington Harbour, [11] the region's third largest container port, is located in Wellington City proper [12] and there is a tanker terminal at Seaview, in Lower Hutt. Wellington harbour ferries first began operating at the end of the 19th century and regular crossings from central Wellington to Days Bay continue today. The harbour is also used by inter-island ferries, linking Wellington to Picton.
A project to develop a walking and cycling route around the harbour, the Great Harbour Way, is gathering momentum.

See also

Related Research Articles

The Hutt Valley Campaign was a brief round of hostilities in the lower North Island of New Zealand between indigenous Māori and British settlers and military forces in 1846. The campaign was among the earliest of the 19th century New Zealand wars that were fought over issues of land and sovereignty. It was preceded by the Wairau affray and followed by the Wanganui campaign and was triggered by much the same pressures—the careless land purchasing practices of the New Zealand Company, armed government support for settler land claims, and complex intertribal tensions between local Māori. The three conflicts also shared many of the same combatants.

Wellington City Council territorial authority in the Wellington urban area of New Zealand

Wellington City Council is a territorial authority in New Zealand, governing the country's third-largest city by population, behind Auckland and Christchurch. Wellington City consists of the central historic town and certain additional areas within the Wellington metropolitan area, extending as far north as Linden and covering rural areas such as Makara and Ohariu. The city adjoins Porirua in the north and Hutt City in the north-east. It is one of nine territorial authorities in the Wellington Region.

Otago Harbour The natural harbour of Dunedin, New Zealand

Otago Harbour is the natural harbour of Dunedin, New Zealand, consisting of a long, much-indented stretch of generally navigable water separating the Otago Peninsula from the mainland. They join at its southwest end, 21 km (13 mi) from the harbour mouth. It is home to Dunedin's two port facilities, Port Chalmers and at Dunedin's wharf. The harbour has been of significant economic importance for approximately 700 years, as a sheltered harbor and fishery, then deep water port.

Miramar, New Zealand suburb in Wellington, New Zealand

Miramar is a suburb of Wellington, New Zealand, south-east of the city centre. It is on the Miramar Peninsula, directly east of the isthmus of Rongotai, the site of Wellington International Airport.


Seatoun, an eastern suburb of Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand, lies on the east coast of the Miramar Peninsula, close to the entrance to Wellington Harbour, some seven kilometres southeast of the CBD. The suburb sits on an exposed promontory close to Barrett Reef, a dangerous area of rocky shallows upon which many ships have foundered, most notably the inter-island ferry TEV Wahine in 1968.

Lyttelton Harbour Inlet in the Banks Peninsula, on the coast of Canterbury, New Zealand

Lyttelton Harbour / Whakaraupō is one of two major inlets in Banks Peninsula, on the coast of Canterbury, New Zealand; the other is Akaroa Harbour on the southern coast.

Lyall Bay bay and a suburb in Wellington

Lyall Bay is a bay and a suburb on the south side of the Rongotai isthmus in Wellington, New Zealand.

Ferries in Wellington

Ferries within Wellington's harbour carry commuters and tourists on Wellington Harbour and form a part of the Wellington public transport system. They operate between central Wellington, Days Bay, Seatoun, and Matiu/Somes Island. Until 2016, services also ran to Petone on weekends. Historically they also served Lowry Bay and Rona Bay—the ferries belonged to the Eastbourne Borough Council from 1913 to 1950—and briefly, until 1913, Miramar and Karaka Bay. The development of road connections around the harbour's edge, particularly once they were paved during the 1920s, reduced the importance of ferries to the city's transport network, but regular services still run.

Te Āti Awa Māori iwi (tribe) in Aotearoa New Zealand

Te Āti Awa is a Māori iwi with traditional bases in the Taranaki and Wellington regions of New Zealand. Approximately 17,000 people registered their affiliation to Te Āti Awa in 2001, with around 10,000 in Taranaki, 2,000 in Wellington and around 5,000 of unspecified regional location.

The following lists events that happened during 1826 in New Zealand.

Muaūpoko Māori iwi (tribe) in Aotearoa New Zealand

Muaūpoko is a Māori iwi on the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand.

Ngāti Tama Māori iwi (tribe) in Aotearoa New Zealand

Ngāti Tama is a historic Māori iwi of present-day New Zealand which whakapapas back to Tama Ariki, the chief navigator on the Tokomaru waka. The Iwi of Ngati Tama is located in north Taranaki around Poutama. On its northern boundary are the Tainui and Waikato/Maniapoto tribes, and on the southern boundary is Ngati Mutunga. The close geographical proximity of Tainui's Ngati Toa and Ngati Mutunga explains the long, continuous, and close relationship among the three Iwi.

Shelly Bay is a bay on the Miramar Peninsula of Wellington, New Zealand. The New Zealand Defence Force owned the land on Shelly Bay for 124 years until 2009. Shelly Bay was where most of the scenes depicting "Skull Island" in the 2005 film King Kong were filmed.

Reclamation of Wellington Harbour

The reclamation of Wellington Harbour started in the 1850s, originally to increase the amount of usable flat land for Wellington city. Reclamations in the 1960s and 1970s were to meet the needs of container shipping (containerisation) and new cargo handling methods. Reclamation has added more than 155 hectares to Wellington.


  1. New Zealand Gazette: 1984 (204) p.4798 New Zealand Geographic Board
  2. David Allan Hamer & Roberta Nicholls, (editors). The Making of Wellington, 1800–1914, Victoria University Press, 1990 ISBN   0-86473-200-7
  3. F. L. Irvine-Smith. The Streets of My City, Wellington New Zealand, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington New Zealand 1948.
  4. Tony Deverson and Graeme Kennedy (Ed.) The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN   9780195584516
  5. A. H. McLintock, (editor). Port Nicholson (Wellington Harbour), An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, published 1966. ISBN   978-0-478-18451-8
  6. http://www.newzealand.com/travel/media/features/maori-culture/maori-culture_wellingtons-maori-history.cfm
  7. http://www.wellingtonwaterfront.co.nz/history/index.htm
  8. http://www.newzealand.com/travel/media/features/maori-culture/maori-culture_wellingtons-maori-history.cfm
  9. http://www.wellingtonwaterfront.co.nz/history/index.htm
  10. http://www.wellingtonwaterfront.co.nz/history/waterfront_reclamation/index.htm
  11. http://www.gw.govt.nz/Wellington-Harbour/
  12. http://www.centreport.co.nz/latest-news/centreport-continues-its-big-ship-agenda

Coordinates: 41°17′S174°50′E / 41.283°S 174.833°E / -41.283; 174.833