The red rocks are unsurprisingly a bunch of red rocks a short walk out of Wellington’s suburbs that are home to a small seal colony during the winter months. The rocks are apparently leftover from ancient undersea volcanic eruptions – and their coloured red by iron oxide deposits.
A more exciting explanation for the rocks is available in some indigenous folklore however…There’s a Maori legend that says Kupe – a famous explorer – was gathering paua (abalones) along these rocks when he injured his hand and the blood that flowed stained the rocks red. Another legend attributes the colour to Kupe’s daughters cutting themselves and bleeding over the rocks as they grieved over their father’s long absence.
The seals that reside here are actually the rejects – the males who were unsuccessful in their attempts at wooing their female counterparts. Apparently its the females who are aggressive so this means it’s safer for you to walk around in close proximity – but of course they are wild animals so basic caution is advised.
It’s easier if you have a car – but you can catch the bus there if driving isn’t an option. Drive along the coast (you can start off in Lyall or Island Bay) until you can’t go any further. If you’re catching the bus check out the Wellington bus website here because the routes change depending on the day. Search for numbers 1, 4 or 29 all of which will take you to Island Bay from where you can walk along the coastline (2 kilometres/1.3 miles) to the carpark.
The walk is lovely any time of the year (it is an exposed coastline so if it’s a windy day layer up) but it’s best to do it in winter (May – October) so you can see the seals cause it just adds something special to the experience.
The walk is nearly entirely flat – just a short steep hill to climb right before you come to the area where the seals are so you can wear any kind of shoes even jandals. The footing is uneven in some areas so sneakers are a good idea if you have them with you. It will take you about 40 minutes each way and just a heads up – there’s no bathroom once you leave the car park.
Watching the seals sunbathing kinda makes you wanna sunbathe too so take a picnic with you – or at least some drinks to enjoy.
There’s not many places in the world where you’ll be able to get so close to seals for free while also soaking up some gorgeous scenery. Plus, you can impress everyone back home with your knowledge of Maori folklore!