Matiu/Somes Island

A Birdseye view of Matiu/Somes Island

The reason I haven’t posted recently is, that I had an unexpected road trip to Wellington with my daughter. She was filming in the city for a couple of weeks, so, I arranged to stay with my friend Jayne for a week. ‘Have you been to Somes Island?’ she asked me that first night, as we talked about what we’d like to do, or see. I originally came from Wellington and worked in the city when young, travelling from the Hutt Valley by train, which skirted the harbour and I came to know Somes Island well. In those days Matiu/Somes was known as a quarantine island. Day-trippers were unheard of, and its status only changed in recent years. The weather was hot and clear when I arrived at my friend’s, but wild winds and brooding skies blew in, and plans quickly changed.

Brooding skies above Matiu/Somes Island

Jayne lives in a great spot on hills above the CBD, where the weather and all its unpredictability can be viewed on a grand scale, (see image above). Anyway…Friday proved a perfect day, and so, we set off down the steps with water bottles, sun-hats and other necessities to Queen’s Wharf to await the ferry for the island. There were limited passengers allowed on the island, a Covid precaution, and so, while on the ferry we were all mask-clad, hot and keen to get to our destination, a 35minute trip away. I was thrilled to be going and pleased to arrive. No where is far on the island, and after a talk from a Department of Conservation volunteer about how we should care for ourselves and the environment, we went on our way.


We set off up the path free to wander in any direction. There was no rush, and no-one else walking nearby – so nice to have the area to ourselves most of the time. Seats were dotted everywhere, and we needed them often due to the sun and heat. Nice to stop, drink water, or munch on a sandwich, before moving on. Soon Jayne and I had reached an outlook. Bush was surrounding us as we viewed the city from the island. It was a very different view from any we had known.

A brief history – Over 1000 years ago, Kupe, a prominent Māori navigator, had named the island, but after European settlement in the 1880s the island was re-named Somes after the deputy of the New Zealand Company. In 1997 the island’s bi-cultural heritage was finally recognised, and thus it is now known as Matiu/Somes.

We were looking out to Wellington and down to a favourite resting place for the black-backed gull, a large lovely bird, who were currently nesting. As we walked alongside low-growing shrub, there was a rustle and squawking from parent gulls warning us to ‘Stay away!’

We wandered past a lush bucolic scene of a neat farm-let, painted white as if to match its tidy sheep. The four tī kōuka, or cabbage trees, were so healthy, sturdier than their mainland counterparts, but worth a photo for both of us. A far cry from the days of quarantine stations, for humans and animals, and internment camps during the World wars, that’s for sure. 

I am so pleased that Matiu/Somes Island has become available for us all to visit. It is made beautiful by its caretakers, who continue to protect the flora and fauna on the island, yet make us aware of its history. And thank you Jayne for suggesting the trip. It was a special day. 

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