On the rugged south coast of Wellington, a 30 to 40 minute coastal walk leads from Owhiro Bay to the Red Rocks (Pari-whero) - an area of national significance with fascinating geology and Maori history.
The Red Rocks are ancient pillow lava formed 200 million years ago by undersea volcanic eruptions. Small amounts of iron oxides give the rocks their distinctive colouring.
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.
In 2002 the New Zealand Historic Place Trust registered four baches (simple beach houses) at Red Rocks as historic areas. The baches, built in the early 1900s, have been kept in original form by their proud owners.
The coastal walk continues on to Sinclair Head, where there is a New Zealand fur seal colony. From May to October the colony is populated by bachelor males who were unsuccessful in their attempts to win the rank of breeding male in the colonies of the South Island. The absence of female seals and their young means this colony is less aggressive than some. However, seals are affected by stress and people are asked to keep a reasonable distance from the young males.
There are a number of historic places on route and further around coast and some excellent views from gun emplacements and lookouts built during the major wars of 1900's. The entrance to the walk is no excellent, with good car parking and displays in a converted quarry truck and plant shed. Motorbike and vehicle proof gates are locked all weekend.
To get to Red Rocks, aim for Owhiro Bay. You can catch bus number 1 to Island Bay and get off at the last stop and walk around the coast via the Bach Cafe and Owhiro Bay Parade. This adds a 2 kilometre walk before the start of the walkway. The are buses to Happy Valley, number 4, during the week which take you closer, as does the Southern Shopper bus (number 29) which takes an awkward route from the Hospital, through Newtown, Berhampore, Kingston, Brooklyn and Happy Valley to end at Island Bay shops.
*Please note there are no buses to Happy Valley / Owhiro Bay in the weekends, before 7am or after 7pm.