Polhill Reserve Loop

The golden triangle of Transient, Highbury Fling and Clinical


Polhill Reserve is based in Wellington’s Aro Valley. It connects the suburbs of Aro, Brooklyn and Highbury. The Polhill Reserve entrance on Aro Street is our suggested start point  due to accessibility and refreshments.

Fun trivia: This was Chris McDougall’s (author of Born to Run) first run of choice within hours of arriving in New Zealand for the 2016 Writers Week, running with the Wellington Running Meetup Group through the trails on a sunny summer evening.

You have now found one of Wellington runners’ favourite playgrounds. Further paths in the area can be added on like Lego pieces for as many kilometres or hours as your hard working heart desires. We’ve begun with the essentials and included details on options.

Distance: about 7 to 7.5 kilometres
Elevation: about 300m up, and the same down
Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate trail. One of the sections (Transient) contains rocks and roots where you’ll want to watch your steps; the other two sections (Highbury and Clinical) are well groomed.
Estimated time: Anywhere from 45 minutes at high speed to a two hour plus meander.
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Start and End points: There are three possible access points for this run, which form the corners of our trail triangle. One of the beauties of this area lies in being able to meet fellow runner friends in accessible and easily identifiable places. These starting points are

  1. (Recommended) Polhill Reserve entrance on Aro Street, noted by the grassy area, picnic tables and large signs,
  2. George Denton Park in Highbury, with a children’s playground and next to the sanctuary fence-line and
  3. Ashton Fitchett Drive at the turn off to the track leading to the wind turbine.

Directions: When running this loop for the first time, we suggest starting in Aro Street and heading uphill on the Transient track. Follow your way up this trail and enjoy the work of the climb. You’ll come to a set of stairs on your left which you take, taking Ashton Fitchett Drive. Keep an eye out for breaks between the trees and make sure you look out over the harbour from here on the road. Continue west now on the marked middle path between the steps (where you’ve come from) and the four wheel drive track (this goes uphill further). This is Highbury Fling, which coasts along the edge of the reserve. Admire the noisy bird life, native bush and plush trail. You’ll pop out on the fence-line. Edge down the hill only a hundred metres or so, veering off toward the east (your right when downhill) to George Denton Park. Consider doing cartwheels on the grass. Then, follow the well made path on your furthest right down the hill. This is one of the newest trails in the area, Clinical, which has been built as a collaborative neighbourhood and community effort. Enjoy this cruise downhill (noting that mountain bikers will be coming upwards, but not down). You’ve earned it. You’ll pop out in Holloway Road. Run to the end of Holloway Road for less than a kilometre, and off on your right is Aro Street. You’re at home base. Your refreshments (coffee, beer, cake or water) are a few short steps down the road in the village. Enjoy.


This is a rocking area for facilities and fun times. Of note in Aro Street are:

  • Aro Cafe for exceptional coffee, a counter stacked with snacks and lovely staff who won’t bat an eye at you sitting outdoors in your running shorts
  • AroBake for delicious baked goods to take with you afterwards
  • Garage Project Pub and Brewery for refuelling of the craft brew variety. A couple of options here to either refresh immediately afterwards in the pub while in running shoes and neon coloured clothes (91 Aro St) or take artistic cans of goodness with you from the brewery (68 Aro St).
  • Logistically, there are toilets and a water station in Aro Park; and additionally there’s a water station on Aro Street at the Polhill Reserve entrance.


This route is easily accessible from the city. It’s a 20 minute walk from Civic Square up Willis Street and Aro Street; or, alternatively, Bus #9 goes from the Railway Station and stops right outside Polhill Reserve on Aro Street. There’s streetside parking on Aro Street.

Further options

Options to shorten are:

  • An out and back along one of the three trails. Highbury Fling is the shortest and easiest of these. You could park at either the George Denton Park end, or the Ashton Fitchett Drive end; and head from one end of the trail to the other before turning around.

Options to extend are:

  • Join the Zealandia Sanctuary Fenceline loop from George Denton Park. You will almost literally follow the fenceline around the edge of the Sanctuary (some areas zigzag away from the fenceline a little for kinder trails). This loop provides an additional 10-11 kilometres of running.
  • Continue along the four wheel drive track from Ashton Fitchett Drive/Highbury Fling entrance. Follow the fenceline for a short time (200 to 400 metres) before joining Car Parts, Car Parts Extension and Barking Emu. These will see you skirt around the side of the wind turbine to within sight of Wellington’s highest city peak, Hawkins Hill. As an out and back this would add an extra 8 to 10 kilometres.
  • Continue either up to Hawkins Hill, or down the Tip Track, or down the hillside to Red Rocks. This would best be turned into a one way venture if you continue to the Red Rocks coastline.