Red Rock Reserve

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Autumn was a bit quieter for us. After having spent the summer enjoying the sunshine and going out and about a lot, we toned things down a tad as far as sightseeing goes. After my Dad’s visit, and me finally findin a job we found we were exploring a lot less. But we have had a few days out, one such day was going to visit the seal colony at Red Rock Reserve. A trip I would highly recommend. Just a warning this one’s going to be picture heavy because I loved it. I took a million photos! (Not literally but… a lot!)

On the Esplanade looking west

Island Bay

To get there you need to take the number 1 bus from Wellington down to Island Bay. Which is itself worth a trip. It’s a beautiful little town right on the southern coast looking out over the Cook Straight, and really very pictureseque. (It also happens to be the finishing point of the Southern Walkway, if you’re in a hiking mood!)

To get to the Red Rock Reserve, go straight down the beach road The Esplanade, and follow it west. It takes about 40 minutes, and takes you around Owhiro Bay, which is a very sweet little inlet, and then takes you to the Redrock Reserve.

Owhiro Bay
Kinda black sand? This doesn’t do it justice to be honest!

Cars are allowed to go into the reserve, but it becomes a dirt track rather than a road. So 4×4’s are recommended. We saw a few cars struggling on the rubble and having to be towed out to be honest. I wouldn’t risk it if you’re not completely sure your car can make it. From there just follow the track/beach around. At some point during the track I found a gorgeous section of black sand, which was a first for me, pretty stunning.

Red Rocks

We kept following the track around and then began to spot every now and again, a little pebble or rock of bright red, until suddenly we turned a corner and there they were. Bright blood red, rocks, smaller than I had expected but the colours! My photos didn’t come out amazingly well because the shadows of the hills behind me kinda got in the way, but take my word for it, pretty goddamn beautiful! There are some pretty interesting Maori legends for explaining the colour of the rocks, but they think the colour comes from iron particles being present when they were formed by a volcanic eruption 200 million years ago. I love learning about stuff like that, it’s so humbling.


Red Rock Reserve
Red Rocks!
The Devil’s Gateway

And then after the red rocks, the track keeps going. I if you follow it around even further you’ll come to the Devil’s gateway, a stone structure that looks kinda creepy, and a bit dangerous as you can’t tell whats coming up the other side. The locals seem to know what they’re doing though. Lots of people would drive to the bottom and then send a passenger out as a lookout, it worked well for the most part.

Seals Galore!

And just over the other side of the gateway…the seal colony! It took me quite a few minutes to start spotting them. as they’re quite well camouflaged against the rocks. But once I got an eye for it I kept spotting them everywhere, and managed to get relatively close to a few of them. (I didn’t push it too much though, I read that around the time we visited it was just after the mating season, and the majority of seals there would be the males that had been unsuccessful at mating that year, so I was staying well back!)


This chap didn’t seem to be too bothered by me though. He opened his eyes a few times so was well aware that I was there, but just carried on soaking up the sun. It was pretty awesome too see wild seals, just chilling out in the wild, doing their natural thing.

Another great day out was had, and all for the cost of a bus ticket! I would suggest wrapping up more warmly as I did, that southerly wind that cuts across the Strait is bruuutal. But beautiful views and so worth the walk.

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