Wellington Harbour is the
large natural harbour at the southern tip of New Zealand's North
Island. New Zealand's capital, Wellington, is on the western side of Wellington
The harbour was officially named Port
until it assumed its current name in the
the harbour is Te Whanganui-a-Tara
harbour of Tara). A Māori name for Wellington, Pōneke
often said to be a transliteration of Port Nick
this etymology is disputed.
Harbour is an arm of Cook
Strait, covering some 70 km², with a two-km wide entrance
at its southern end between Pencarrow Head and the Miramar Peninsula.
The harbour is of tectonic origin, and a major earthquake fault
lies along its western shore. At the northern end of the harbour is 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 on this plain.
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
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 on the flight path to low-lying Wellington
Airport. Another smaller bay popular for its beach and
cafes is Oriental
To the east of the harbour are several small bays, most of which
are populated by small coastal communities. The largest of these
suburban settlements is Eastbourne, east of the northern tip of the Miramar
Three small islands are 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
The entrance to the harbour can be quite dangerous, especially
since Cook Strait to the south is notoriously rough. Close to the
harbour entrance lies Barrett Reef
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 53 lives.
During the early years of European colonisation, Port Nicholson
became a focus for settlement. The original site chosen for what is now the
city of Wellington was at Petone, close to
the foreshore of Lower Hutt.
A settlement was established
there in early 1840, but the swampy land was unsuitable for
development and the settlement (originally called
but soon changed to Wellington) was moved to the
present site of Wellington later the same year.
Wellington Harbour is a significant port
serving the lower North Island, with the Greater Wellington
Regional Council-owned company Centreport recording around 14,000 commercial shipping
movements each year. The region's largest container port is in
Wellington city and there is a tanker
terminal at Seaview, in
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, has broad support from community
groups and local authorities.