The following information on the Kowhai Walk has been taken from the official brochure on the walk. Copies of the brochure are usually available from the Information Centre.
This short 15 minute walk gives spectacular views of the City, and includes a number of historic buildings.

This walk is approached direct from the Cable Car Lookout, running ahead of you when your back is to the city view. The walk is clearly marked by kowhai flower tiles set in the path

(Walk marked in yellow)

The dome is built on the turret that once housed the range finder for the disappearing gun. It contains an astrolabe, an instrument used to measure the altitude of stars and planets.

The leaves of NZ flax (Phormium tenax) were traditionally used by Maori for clothing, matting and containers. In European times, flax
formed the basis of a large industry producing rope, fabric and fibre products. Synthetic fibre production caused the demise of this industry but the current resurgence in traditional Maori crafts has increased interest in this useful plant.
This collection contains varieties of flax selected by Maori for qualities such as strength, softness, durability and colour. The original plants in this collection are from Taranaki and were planted in 1870 as part of a national trial carried out by the New Zealand Flax commission. Newer plantings in 1991 are from the national collection established by Renee Orchiston from Gisborne.


The Dominion Observatory was built in 1907 with additions in 1926. It was used to determine accurate time using astronomical observations. Note the slit (now closed over) in the roof. This allowed stars to be observed along a north-south axis enabling time to be determined to an accuracy of a quarter of a second. This information was disseminated using coloured lights on a mast.

Later, radio signals were used as a cheek, and signals sent out by radio, but astronomical determinations of time continued into the 1950s. The building is currently used as a technical workshop by the Seismological Observatory of the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences.

The semicircle of concrete marks the site of an artillery battery which occupied this site from 1896 until 1904. The battery was one of five built in Wellington in response to a fear of attack by the Russian Navy. The battery was equipped with a disappearing gun. The recoil of the explosion, drove the gun back into a pit so it was not apparent to the people being fired upon. The underground tunnels (not open to the public) still indicate the locations of the original Shell Store and Cartridge Store.

The enclosure is operated by the Meteorological Service of New Zealand Limited. The instruments in this enclosure and those on the top floor of the adjacent Met Service building measure rainfall, air temperature, sunshine, air pressure, wind speed and direction, earth
temperatures and evaporation. The earliest meteorological readings in Wellington were taken from February 1841 until January 1842. Observations were sporadic until February 1862,
when recording started at an observatory near Bolton Street. Since then there has been a continuous record of daily rainfall and temperatures in Wellington.
The observation site has changed a number of times since 1862 commencing at the present site, in January 1928.

New Zealand's National Observatory owes its origins to a bequest left by Charles Rooking Carter. The Observatory was opened in 1941 with its principal instrument an historic 9 inch (23 cm) refracting telescope.
During the 1960s, funding by the late Ruth Crisp was used to build a new two-story library and office wing, and purchase a 4 1 cm Boiler and Chivens telescope. Known as the Ruth Crisp 'Telescope, it was installed in the Observatory's second dome. In 1992 a visitor centre was constructed. This included the Golden Bay Planetarium, relocated from downtown Wellington.
The Observatory has four distinct functions:

• Conducting astronomical research on variable stars, star clusters, galaxies, astronomical optics
and the history of astronomy.
• Providing astronomical education for schools and teachers.
• Providing a regional public astronomy service through seminars, displays, public nights, publications and planetarium programs.
• Assisting in the preservation of New Zealand's astronomical heritage by acquiring astronomical instruments and archives.

Open 10.00 am - 5. 00 pm daily, and Tuesday and Saturday evenings. Closed Christmas Day.



The movement of shadows produced by the apparent movement of the sun has been used for thousands of years to tell the time. Devices that use the length of a shadow or its position to divide the time between sunrise and sunset into units of time are known as sundials. There are many different types of sundial, the most commonly seen being the horizontal sundials used to beautify gardens. This sundial is a type of horizontal sundial which uses a series of fixed points located around the circumference of an ellipse. A person is used to produce the shadow by standing on the time of the year marked on a figure of eight located in the centre of the ellipse.
This sundial is accurate to within a few minutes and no corrections have to be made for daylight saving. This is because the bronze indicators on the granite columns are moved twice a year.
This sundial was constructed to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Plimmer Family in Wellington. Funding was provided by the
Charles Plimmer Trust.
There are two other sundials in the Botanic Garden.

• An Armillany Sphere on the Sound shell Lawn
• A standard horizontal sundial in the Herb Garden


This Observatory, originally known as the king Edward VI 1 Memorial Observatory was opened in 1912. The Observatory was owned by the Wellington Philosophical Society and was well used in the 1920s. and 1930s for astrological observations. Public viewing nights were held weekly. The name changed unofficially to Thomas King Observatory during the Second World War in honour of its principal benefactor and his contribution to New Zealand astronomy.
Since that time little use has been made of the Observatory. During the late 1970s. the Astronomy Section of the Wellington branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand carried out repairs on the and building but continued deterioration meant the telescope had to be removed in 1992.

The NZ Native Kowhai in flower
after which this walk is named

This building was constructed around 1990 to house the original steam-powered winding machinery used to pull the cable cars. The upper story was used to repair and service the cars.

Situated opposite the Cable Car Lookout, the Skyline Cafe offers lunch and afternoon tea menus seven days a week (from 11.00 am to 4.00 pm). At night the Skyline doubles as a function centre.


The Downhill Walk is discussed in a number of sections.

Starting at the Cable Car :

Walk 1 Grass Way
Walk 2 Main Garden
Walk 3 Rose Garden and Begonia House
Walk 4 Bolton Street Memorial Park

Other walks

Walk 5 East Way and Norwood Path
Walk 6 Kowhai Walk

Walk 7 Sculptures