The Hutt Valley borders the north side of Wellington Harbour, just minutes away from the central city. It feels like the capital city’s big backyard – full of open spaces to explore. Stop for a cool drink at one of Petone’s many new eateries on the harbour foreshore, and you’re greeted with stories that will take you back to the beginning of New Zealand. Saddle up for a ride around the Rimutaka Cycle Trail from Petone, and you’ll uncover more traces of New Zealand’s rich heritage – ancient Māori settlement sites, European colonial history, and the legacy of stone and steel from the days of steam-powered rail.

When European settlers arrived in 1840, the lush bush coating the hills extended all the way down to the beachfront. These gullible early settlers had been sold the idea of an easy escape from big-city Britain (made even dirtier since the Industrial Revolution) by The New Zealand Company, based in London, which offered settlers from Britain a new lease of life. Instead they were rewarded – after an arduous 120-day sea journey – by a primitive colonial village that was often flooded. In fact it was flooding that eventually forced the abandonment of the original site for the town at Pito-one (Petone). After its relocation across the harbour to Thorndon and Te Aro, uncertainties over land sales continued to dog the makeshift community.

Checking out life of Te Atiawa people who settled in the Hutt Valley long before the European settlers arrived

Petone is the Anglicised version of the Māori name Pito-one meaning the ‘end of the sand’. Other more recent translations of this name include ‘belly button’. This is quite apt considering it was the birthplace of European settlement in central New Zealand.

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