Butterfly Creek lies in a peaceful valley just over the hills behind Eastbourne. Four tracks lead to the picnic area, of which the Kowhai Track is the easiest and most direct. A map of the area is available here.
By the time that Europeans arrived to settle Wellington in 1839, Maori regularly occupied the southern shores of Fitzroy Bay. Te Atiawa from Pitoni visited Parangarehu (just north of Baring Head) seasonally to fish and collect berries. It was also an important cultivation site. To reach the Pencarrow coastal settlements, Maori developed a network of routes along the eastern bay ridges. The current track of Butterfly Creek was one of these routes.
A 1939 addition of land to the Eastbourne Domain involved a swap of land between the Eastbourne Borough Council and local resident George Burdan in order to secure the popular Butterfly Creek picnic spot.
The name of Butterfly Creek is said to have emerged by around the 1930s. Although the origin of the name is not certain, one theory is that it came from a strange patch of lighter coloured vegetation in Gollans Valley which could be seen from the top of the Matipo Street track that was exactly in the shape of a butterfly. Although this shape was discernible through to 1951, it gradually lessened due either to bush fires or bush clearance.
The popularity of the Eastbourne Domain for holidaymakers increased when, during the Depression, unemployed workmen on relief schemes cut new walking tracks into Gollans Valley from Kowhai Street and Muritai Park. A third track was cut soon after leading from McKenzie Road.
Following on these improvements to access, the Council gave Alf Hollis permission for a kiosk to be erected near the junction of Butterfly and Gollans Creek which from 1936 sold tea, soft drinks and freshly made scones and cakes and sandwiches, the latter being carried in by Hollis and his wife. Fireplaces and toilets were erected and a camping site grew up in the area.
On Saturday evenings, campers would walk to the picture theatre in Eastbourne and return to their tents by torchlight. The kiosk remained in business for almost 20 years but after repeated vandalism during the 1950s, it was closed and then pulled down.
The Eastbourne park land has been largely maintained largely by voluntary assistance. From 1919, the possibility of appointing special honorary rangers was first discussed but the idea did not become a reality until 1933. From this date, the Eastbourne Forest Rangers have been actively involved in conservation, track maintenance, fire-fighting, search and rescue and guiding visitors.
Now part of East Harbour Regional Park , the land is owned by Hutt City Council and managed by Greater Wellington. Visitors enjoy the open beech forest on the tops and more lush vegetation in the valley itself with pukatea, kahikatea and nikau regenerating strongly. Several species of native orchid flower at different times of the year.