Seals on the South Coast

Every winter hundreds of bachelor seals arrive at the South Coast of Wellington. The seals make the South Coast their winter bachelor pad as they were not so successful at finding love at the top of the South Island during summer. Awwww. It is possible to see the seals from June every year until around late September before they head back out towards the South Island to try to find love in Spring.

It’s an easy walk out to the colony but wrap up warm in your best puffy jacket. The South Coast can be biting and the first half of the walk is in the shade along side a quarry face. Avoid doing the walk on Saturdays – also known as they day where young male Wellingtonians drive there dads 4 x4’s like maniacs up and down the coast. If you head out on Sunday the road is closed to all vehicular traffic making it the walk or trail run of choice in Wellington but first you need to get to the road end at Owhiro Bay. There is a bus 4 (Mon-Fri only) that heads out to Happy Valley Road and you can walk 10 mins along Owhiro Bay parade or grab the bus 1 and get off at the last stop at Island Bay and walk out to Owhiro bay. It’s about a 20 -25 minute walk from Island Bay.

From the car park you’ll make your way through the gravel and sand path with views of the rough South Coast ocean.  If it’s a fine day you’ll catch a glimpse of the South Island and in winter the snowy peaks of the Kaikoura Ranges. It’s nearly all flat walking but wear good shoes as the gravel and sand can be quite ‘sinky’. You’ll come across a few rugged and simple huts that are now registered as historic sites under the historic places register. They are privately owned and during our walk all but one was in use with the chimney’s smoking away. Near the green hut with the red roof you’ll come across an inlet. You can keep your feet dry if you head up the inlet and a very kind person had installed a sturdy plank.

There is a section of the trail that is called Red Rocks reserve which is named for the obvious red and maroon coloured rocks that dot the corner of the trail. Legend has it that Kupe the Polynesian explorer was gathering paua here when one clamped his hand and stained the rocks with blood. Continuing on from red rocks the trail moves out of the shade and just before the track heads uphill seals start to appear on the left and lots of them. Most are chilling out doing yoga poses and catching the sun. They can be hard to spot at first as they blend in very well with the rocks. These guys are huge! and clearly spend their time eating and sleeping. Other seals are just off the rocks swimming and fishing. You’ll see their flippers among the seaweed and its easier to spot them in the water from the top of the small hill between the two rock formations. The seal colony continues on to the other side of the hill. Big careful though as the seals are everywhere and don’t seem too fussed about all the humans. We startled one that was way too close to the road but he just went back to sleep.

Theres a lovely sunny spot towards the end of the colony to have a picnic lunch and you can see out to the lighthouse that was installed after the S.S Penguin disaster of 1909. You can keep walking out to the wreck site which is eerie and extremely windy. The view is mostly jagged rocks but beyond that you get a nice view of the Queen Charlotte Islands on the South Island and some of Makara further around the coast. On the way back we saw some idiot  trying to get a selfie or sealfie rather. He was carrying a large stick which he  clearly intended to use to swat at the seal if it lunged. He was getting way to close and the seal was visibly getting upset. We stood around glaring at the guy until he looked a bit embarrassed and moved on.  This is one of the few seal colonies so close to the city so please enjoy the seals but do not harass them. Keep your distance and enjoy from a far.

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