A cycle trail that will take riders past the Wellington region's biggest fur seal colony is being opened today.
The Rimutaka Cycle Trail, a 115km route that starts and finishes in Lower Hutt, is being launched by Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key this afternoon.
The first three stages of the cycleway run from the Petone foreshore, over the Rimutaka Ranges into Wairarapa, through Featherston, and down to Ocean Beach.
A fourth stage, which is yet to be completed, will run from Ocean Beach to the Orongorongo River in Wainuiomata.
Among the highlights is the picturesque Turakirae Head, which is home to the largest New Zealand fur seal colony in the Wellington region.
The trail, which takes riders two to three days to complete, will be promoted as a great ride as part of the Government-launched Nga Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trail.
Positively Wellington Tourism chief executive David Perks said the new trail was expected to be a strong tourism drawcard for the region.
"Riders travel through everything from a river valley and bush-clad hills, to lakeside farmland and a rugged southern coastline,'' he said.
"The Rimutaka Cycle Trail is well signposted, offers a good mix of cycling grades and is located on the doorstep of the country's capital. No other cycle trail in New Zealand is this close to a major city or transport hub.''
The project was a collaboration between the Wellington and Wairarapa tourism bodies, local and regional councils, the Department of Conservation, and iwi and Rotary groups.
A proposed second phase of the project would see the trail link from Pencarrow to Eastbourne, where a ferry could be caught back to Petone or Wellington city.