“Take only photographs, leave only footprints.” is what the tourist leaflet instructed and we now understand why. Matiu (or Somes) Island is a beautiful conservation reserve set in the middle of Wellington harbour which we have been meaning to go to for ages. It is the perfect spot for a half day trip of peace and quiet but is close enough to home that we didn’t need to pack the kitchen sink.
We woke up one Saturday morning, saw the sun, packed a picnic and headed for the wharf armed with only the nappy bag and a baby carrier. Due to earthquake damage Petone Wharf was out of action so we drove along the coast to Days Bay and caught the East West ferry from there instead.
We have had surprising number of near misses when it comes to catching ferries…one of the most traumatic and memorable was watching Jeremy jump onto the rapidly closing ramp of a car ferry bound for Athens (which was rapidly gaining speed) to avoid being stranded on a Greek island for a few days…I, safely on board, thought he was also until I heard the commotion as people watched him launch himself aboard! There are worse places to be stranded I suppose.
Within about 15 minutes of boarding the ferry we were docking at the predator-free historic and scientific reserve. The only thing to do there is to enjoy the views and stroll around until catching a later ferry back to shore. There is a small visitor centre, toilet facilities and walking tracks. That’s it. And it is bliss!
The walking track around the island takes about 75 minutes and there are loads of beautiful picnic stops all along. The most picturesque include those overlooking the lighthouse and right up at the summit overlooking Wellington Harbour. If you fancy seeing a Weta or Tuatara, spend the night camping here! We’ve added that to our list to do too.
We took it in turns to carry Sophia in the baby carrier as she is seriously piling on the pounds these days (good girl!). The one we bought can either be worn as a front pack or a backpack and she can sit front facing or rear facing. Plenty of pit stops kept her happy; she could toddle around, watch the sheep and see how many complete strangers she could get to smile by waving incessantly!
In the 1870s the island was used as a quarantine island for immigrants and the memorial on the north of the island commemorates those who died. In the first and second world wars it was used as an internment camp, then from the 1970s it was an animal quarantine island. Today the island is inhabited by a few caretakers and their families and is proudly pest-free. The Department of Conservation are re-establishing wildlife and fauna back to the island and visitors go through a mild quarantine inspection as soon as they arrive. It’s basically a safety talk and involves having a quick look through your bags and checking your footwear.
We had parked our car near Days Bay Wharf and got back to shore in plenty of time to enjoy a paddle, an ice-cream and enjoying the stunning ocean views. The frozen berry ice cream was pretty incredible. Next time we might even hire a kayak or jump off the pier like all the cool kids 🙂