Red Rocks

Where: Owhiro Bay, Wellington
Distance & Time: 8km there and back, between 2-3 hours depending on stops
Take: Sunscreen, togs if you’re feeling brave, snacks
Amenities on route: Bathroom and carpark at the start of the track.
Cost of the walk: Free


I don’t know of many capital cities where you can drive 10 minutes from the city centre and see seals. And not just one seal, but heaps of seals, sunbathing themselves on rocks and generally just being rather adorable!

Red Rocks and Mt Victoria are the two ‘Wellington Walks’ that nearly every Wellingtonian would recommend to visitors to our city. They both give completely different views of the city, and both take around two hours to do.

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There were a couple of people out snorkelling in the marine reserve the day we walked.

If you’re going to do Red Rocks, my one recommendation is that you do it on a day with no southerly winds, unless you feel like bearing the full brunt of the winds that can tear around Wellington! While we chose a day that looked as though we should have been wearing shorts and a tshirt, it was misleading as the slight breeze still meant we had to wear a hat and merinos!

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The start of the walk. Don’t let the sun fool you, the wind made this a cold walk for the first hour

The other bonus about this walk is that it is flat, so it’s suitable for people who can’t walk hills easily (or just don’t want to!) There’s also people taking babies in buggies, people on bikes, and loads of people with their dogs. The path is wide enough for everyone, and occasionally you might even have a four wheel drive come along, as those lucky few who have the extraordinary privilege to live along here head home/into town for supplies.

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One of the super cute baches you’ll pass on this walk. They’d get the most phenomenal views, but lose the sun really quickly during the day. 

If you’re not good at balancing or rock hopping there are a couple of places here where you may get your feet wet. You have been warned! I managed to walk there without getting my feet wet but on the way back I misjudged my jump and landed with one foot in the water, thankfully it wasn’t that much further to the car!

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Looking back towards Wellington’s south coast.

Just under an hour into walking, you’ll come across the actual red rocks. It’s best to see these on a sunny day as the colour really stands out against the vibrant blue of the ocean. Paul got me to climb one of the red rocks for photos (after first making sure there were no seals around that had made that rock their sunbathing spot for the day) and then google photos made it into this magical gif for me!

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Excited to be on top of the red rocks

Amy’s Advice – take sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses with you on this walk. There is absolutely no shade and you will be out there for 2-3 hours. Also, do not walk this in a southerly as you’ll absolutely freeze!

You could turn around here and head back but if you did, you’d be missing out! There’s some quite cool things to observe on this walk, including rock pools, the baches that look as though they’ve been there since my grandparent’s time (and probably have!), the interesting rock formations, the view to the South Island , especially so in winter when you can see the snow on the Kaikoura ranges, and the view back towards Wellington and Cape Palliser.

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Being with a geologist has started to rub off on me “these rocks look cool, I’ll take a photo”

But if you keep going you’ll soon be rewarded with your first view of a seal! Actually, depending on how good your eyesight is and what time of year you visit, you may see one earlier than now, but this is when we saw our first one. He was just chilling on the sand, nonchalant about all the people walking past him 20m away. I have it on good authority the seal is a he, because the sign on this walk told me that it’s the male seals that come here to chill out.

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First seal sighting of our walk!

Depending on what direction the wind is blowing, it’s highly likely you will smell the seals before you see them too. They have a bit of an aroma about them. While you’ll see a few outlier seals before cresting the small rise, it’s quite neat as soon as you get over the rise, there are SO MANY seals chilling out here. It makes it a bit more of an entry, which is quite neat.

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Just over this rise were all the seals!

The seals blend in so well with the rocks that while you may think you’re only looking at one, slowly but surely more will come into your line of vision. It’s like some weird kind of seal magic eye. Or what I presume a seal magic eye would be like as for the life of me, I could never see the pictures in magic eye images when everyone else could.

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Look closely

It’s obvious that some of the seals have their favourite patch and any other seal that tries to come close will be barked at pretty quickly! My favourite part was watching a couple of seals playing together in one of the sheltered pools – they just look so smooth in the water, compared to on land.

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How many seals can you see? 

Even though this is a there-and-back walk, heading back doesn’t feel boring because the view is different and you’re not in such a rush to get to the seals anymore! And hopefully, if you go on a day like we did, you’ll have the wind behind you meaning you’ll get a wee extra push to help you get home sooner!

The photos of me were taken by Paul, with a couple of the scenic ones taken by me!

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