Story: Wellington region

Page 16. Sport and leisure

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The hills, harbours and coastline of the Wellington region provide many opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Windsurfing and yachting

Wellington’s famous winds often create ideal conditions for sailing and windsurfing, especially on Porirua and Wellington harbours.

Diving and fishing

The rugged coastline provides excellent fishing and diving. The waters around Kāpiti Island form a marine reserve, established in 1991. Another reserve, Taputeranga, was established off Wellington’s south coast in 2008. Between Island Bay and Houghton Bay lies a ‘dive wreck’, the former frigate Wellington, deliberately sunk there in 2005. Diving and fishing are also popular at Makara and around Mana Island.

Historically, the region’s rivers have provided good trout fishing, especially the Hutt, Wainuiomata and Waikanae. But as bush was cleared from the river margins, catches declined everywhere.

At home in the hills

Wellington athlete Melissa Moon won the World Mountain Running Championship twice. In 2005, when the event was held on Mt Victoria, Wellingtonians Kate McIlroy and Jonathan Wyatt won the two senior races. Wyatt won the title six times in total.

Tramping and hunting

The Remutaka and Tararua ranges are popular. The Tararua Tramping Club (established in 1919) pioneered organised outdoor recreation. The Tararua Range, which includes more than 3,000 square kilometres of rugged country, is visited by up to 150,000 people each year.


Wellington’s steep, narrow streets make cycling difficult. An exception is the scenic road round the Miramar Peninsula, an extremely popular ride. But the rugged terrain does make Wellington ideal for mountain biking.


Wellington’s first cricket club was formed in 1841, and games were played at Thorndon Flat. From 1870 first-class and international games were held at the Basin Reserve, one of New Zealand’s finest cricket grounds. Since 2000 most one-day internationals have been played at the waterfront stadium.

Famous Wellington cricketers include the magical spinner Clarrie Grimmett, who played for Australia in the 1920s, and John Reid, a highly successful batsman and bowler.

Rugby and football

Since the early 1980s, football’s popularity has surged in Wellington, as elsewhere. On Saturdays, many more youngsters play football than the more traditional rugby. The region is represented in the national football competition by Team Wellington. The Wellington Phoenix play in the Australian A-league. 


Wellington’s golf courses range from modest municipal links at Berhampore and Makara to Heretaunga and Paraparaumu, which rank among New Zealand’s best. In 2005 Māori golfer Michael Campbell, from Tītahi Bay in Porirua, won the US Open – the first New Zealander to do so.


Brooklyn’s Renouf Tennis Centre is the region’s top venue. Its tournaments attract top local players and promising international competitors.

Horse racing

In 1841, New Zealand’s first horse racing event was held on flat land near Te Aro . Since 1906 Trentham racecourse, in Upper Hutt, has been the main racecourse. Today it is among the country’s finest tracks. The Wellington Cup, raced in January, is the Wellington Racing Club’s best-known trophy.

How to cite this page:

Chris Maclean, 'Wellington region - Sport and leisure', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 20 April 2024)

Story by Chris Maclean, published 9 Jul 2007, updated 1 Aug 2015