If you’re sick at looking at all of those perfect snow-capped mountains, lush rolling hills and paddocks full of woolly sheep you’re surrounded by in New Zealand, then the Putangirua Pinnacles are the perfect escape. These pinnacles are cold, hard proof that New Zealand rocks! (heh, sorry)


  • Otherworldly views
  • Leave the crowds behind
  • Feel like you’re on a film set

Scouting Around Down South

Just outside Wellington, at the very bottom of New Zealand’s North Island lies a relatively undeveloped and completely otherworldly landscape known as the Putangirua Pinnacles. Often overlooked in favour of the North Island’s more popular sites like Tongariro, Taranaki and The Coromandel, this little conservation park ended up being one of the most epic places I visited in the north.

Lord Of The Pinnacles

If you’re a fan of The Lord of the Rings, then you might recognise this spot from a couple of scenes in The Return of the King. It’s referred to as the Way of the Dead and it’s easy to see why this spot was chosen to represent Tolkien’s vision.

Huge rock pinnacles jut randomly from a stony riverbed, and unlike most other natural pinnacles I’ve witnessed, many of these towering structures are topped with lush green ferns. There’s no defined track once you reach the pinnacles, which leaves it up to you to pick a path and explore every tiny crack and crevasse.

It’s All About Timing

Whilst far less popular than other North Island attractions, this spot does still attract a fair crowd, so it’s best to time your visit carefully to ensure you have this landscape all to yourself. The hike starts at Putangirua Pinnacles Campground, which is a great place to pitch your tent for the night. It’s an easy 1.5km walk along the riverbed to the base of the pinnacles – then a further 500m or so to really get amongst them.

The peak time to see the pinnacles is in the glowing afternoon sun. Sunrise viewing is another option if you’re an early riser. And if you’re super keen, it’s worth the effort to make the trek at night to see the pinnacles come alive under the night sky – just make sure you’ve already done it in daylight or you’ll never find your way out!

Essential Gear

  • Sturdy walking shoes
  • Head torch (You’ll want to check this place out as night as well)
  • Camera

How To Get There

Putangirua Pinnacles Scenic Reserve is located in Aorangi Forest Park, 13km along Cape Palliser Road from the Lake Ferry turn off, about one hour drive from Martinborough. If coming from Wellington, you’ll have to head north on Highway 2 until you reach Featherston. From there head into Martinborough and down Lake Ferry road towards Cape Palliser.


  • Walking
  • Photography
  • Astrophotography
  • Camping
  • Dressing up as a hobbit

Skill Level


Distance Covered

4km return