Red Rocks & Island Bay

I’d been meaning to get down to Red Rocks for a while now, having heard about it from my buddy Harry. I’ll be quite honest, I went there with the intention of seeing one thing, and one thing only; seals.

The walk out to Red Rocks starts in Owhiro Bay, about 10 minutes south of Wellington and it’s largely flat (woohoo!). The walkway lies right on the shoreline and offers incredible views out to sea as well as up the stark hillside that borders the path. I’d describe the landscape as rugged, with huge chunks of rock jarring out into the ocean whilst mega waves pound into them, making for some amazing sights along the way. The hillside that sits on one side of the walkway varies from beautiful rolling hills, to steep cliffs, to huge sloping ramps of loose rock. The bay is a protected beach and as such, it’s forbidden to take anything from it; rocks, shells– PUT ‘EM DOWN!

It’s a very wild spot and I think we were spoiled for good weather on the day we visited, I can imagine the waves being quite frightening down there on a more windy day, if not just in terms of the sheer sound echoing off the cliffs.  I found it quite curious that there were several houses dotted along the route, it really makes me wonder who the heck would live down there?

As well as a great vantage point to watch the waves roll in, the walkway also offered a great opportunity to gawp over at the South Island, as the bay sits right on the border of the Cook Strait, which is the route taken by the ferries between the north and the south. Andreas and I were particularly pleased to spot snow capped mountains in the far distance, which after some vague map studying we think were the Kaikoura ranges..

Soon, we got our first glimpse of some red rocks and spied ONE lonely seal sleeping amidst them. As for the red rocks themselves, well, they were red alright. I wish I could shed some insight but to be honest, the idea of rocks doesn’t excite me as much as the idea of seals did, so we pressed onwards! For those of you that are interested though, “Maori folklore tells two stories relating to the colour of the rocks. In one, Kupe – the famous Polynesian explorer – was gathering paua (shellfish) here when one clamped his hand. He bled and stained the rocks red. In the other story, the red is the blood of Kupe’s daughters. Fearing for their father’s safety on a long voyage, they gashed themselves in grief over his absence.” There ya’ go.

After about an hour of walking over varying paths of sand and rock and one very minor incline, we reached the seal colony and it did not disappoint. There were HEAPS of seals, some as close as a couple of metres from the path. I think it’s amazing to see wildlife so close and I’m pleased to say that the animals were left largely undisturbed despite the sunny afternoon drawing in so many onlookers. If anyone got too close (and a couple of unsupervised kids did) the seals’ loud warning bark was enough to send them running away.

We took the opportunity to sit and enjoy our snacks, whilst sleepy seals sunbathed and dozed despite the chatter of excited humans all around. They’re amazingly lazy creatures on land and boy oh boy, do they stink of fish! I thought I’d get chance to spy on some seals and get some crackin’ pictures with my fancy zoom lens but unfortunately, the equipment had other ideas, and decided to malfunction without warning, rendering it unusable… bummer.

Soon, it was time to wander back to the car and our stomachs willed us to walk quickly on the promise of fish & chips for dinner! Back at the car, we took the five minute drive along to Island Bay, where we found the cutest little place called Salt & Batter, easily distinguished by its baby-pink shop front. Though I’m yet to be impressed by New Zealand fish & chips, this was a valiant effort, almost as good as back in the UK and wow, the portion of chips we got was HUGE! 

We scoffed the lot in the car as we watched the sky turn pink and then drove back through Wellington at dusk. Another great winter’s day here in New Zealand.

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