Somes Island

Monday was a public holiday here in New Zealand. In Wellington Harbour there’s this Island called Matiu/Somes Island. It’s just out there in the middle of the harbour and not many people really know what it’s all about. So I went out there by myself and had a look.

I caught the Dominion Post Ferry out to the Island at Noon. The ferry ride cost me NZ$16.50 return, which is rather cheap. The ferry is a cat – two hulls, and has room for a max of 96 people, including crew. It was nice and calm going out, and I stood on the upper deck watching Wellington shrink away as we approached Somes. We arrived and it started raining gently… oh man.

As soon as we got on the island we got our bags checked for mice and other vermin, as the Island is a Conservation Sanctuary. There are native Tuataras, and birds and stuff, so they don’t want any mice or cats or ferrets getting on the island.

After that we were pretty much free to explore the island, as long as we stuck to the tracks. The island, being in the middle of the harbour, is shrouded in mystery. In the early settler days it was used as a quarantine for farm animals and pets being brought into the country. In WW1 and WW2 it was used as an prison for possible infidels (ie, suspected spies) , and there are the remains of gun emplacements on the island which protected the harbour entrance from any enemy ships – not that any actually came.

The island has a mish-mash of plant-life on it. There are coastal plains, forests, cliffs, and farm land for grazing – there are resident sheep on the island. The island has numerous buildings on it, and the Dept of Conservation has houses on it for their staff. Also there were labs and research facilities, along with workshops and a generator room.

There is a small automated lighthouse on Somes Island too – SmileyChris can see it blink from his room. It’s not that big at all actually. Puny in comparison with some of the other lighthouses in Wellington. Something interesting was a set of disused rails that led down the hill to the rocks – there was a small motor housed in a box at the top. I guess they used it for lifiting stuff on the island.

The weather turned crap, and actually started to hail. Some people got drenched as they did the circuit track around the island (awesome views from almost every point of the island, with an ultimate 360° view from the trig point at the topmost)

I got back on the ferry, and it went over to Days Bay. Oops. I had a return trip from the island to the mainland. So to get back from Days Bay I had to pay another $7.50 – Make sure you get back on the ferry at the time it says on your ticket. The ferry goes from Queens Wharf -> Somes Island -> Days Bay -> Somes Island -> Queens Wharf.

All in all, the trip was awesome, and I highly suggest you check it out if you’re in Wellington, especially if the weather is better that what I experienced.