Fort Opau

The high cliffs and spectacular views that are features of Makara have for centuries provided the people of the area with good vantage points for the defence of their land. A Ngati Ira pa site lies on the promontory at the western end of Fisherman’s Bay, and gun emplacements at the top of the cliffs mark the position of Fort Opau, which was garrisoned by 100 soldiers during World War II. The fort was operational until June 1944 when the guns were removed. On a clear blue sky day you can get some fantastic views of the South Island.

List Status Unofficial
Elevation 201 m (659 ft)
Location/List North Island, New Zealand
Region Wellington
Location Coordinates 41° 13′ 27″ S, 174° 41′ 50″ E
Nearest Town/s Makara, Johnsonville, Wellington
LINZ Topographic map/s BQ31 Wellington
Geology Sedimentary
Recommended Route
Duration Help.gif 2-3 hours (Return)
Distance 3.8 km (2.4 mi)
Start/End Points Makara Beach
Difficulty Help.gif Easy
Track conditions Help.gif Track, Marked Route
Season Help.gif November to July (closed 1 August to 31 October for lambing)
Sights Views, Historic buildings, Maori heritage
Hazards Mist, High winds , Sheer drops

Google Earth Map

Our Recommended Route

After parking your car virtually on the beach, walk to southern side of the road end and down to the Makara Walk sign. Continue on for about 10 minutes along the coast and you’ll see the steep track heading up the grassy slope. There’s another signpost here to guide your way, and a marker pole about halfway up this first steep section. Bear to the right at the marker pole, and you’ll soon reach the cliff tops and glorious views. To the right, up on the headland, is the Ngati Ira pa site. To reach Fort Ohau, head up the steep track to the south, and then follow the cliff tops until you reach a stile. There are numerous sheep and human tracks along these cliffs, but you can’t go too far wrong as you are sandwiched between a fence and the cliffs. However, in misty or windy weather, it would be wise to stay close to the fenceline and away from the edge! Across the stile and you’ll see a couple of marker poles leading down to the lower WW2 gun emplacements. Have a good look around before heading up to the top bunker and the summit of Fort Ohau. Allow about 1 hour to reach the summit from the carpark, and less on the way back down.

Route Options

If you have an aversion to backtracking, you can do the full Makara Walkway loop circuit. From the top gun emplacement, head back down the slope and on to the grassy 4WD track. Go past the three huts on the right, and stay on the 4WD road until you get the DOC sign and intersection. Take the right 4WD road here, and follow it for about 30 minutes until you reach the coast again. From here it is a bit of trudge along the stony beach (for 90 minutes) back to the carpark. Keep an eye out for the narrow track that sometimes runs along the top of the beach, as this makes for easier walking than on the loose shingle. In a brisk northerly, this coastal walking could be a bit of a slog for those that are more accustomed to climbing up peaks!