"Island and Owhiro Bays: Gateway to the Seal Coast" Island Bay by Kakapo2

Island Bay Travel Guide: 24 reviews and 83 photos

It has taken me six visits to Wellington in 18 months - and four of them were multi-day stays - until I finally made it out to Island Bay and from there to Owhiro Bay. And be sure, they are also the destination(s) of my next visit. My plan is to go on the Sea to City Walk which leads from Owhiro Bay to Karori Park.

So these are definitely my favourite places in the outer suburbs of Wellington that are so easy to reach by bus.

I do not know if you know that the southern tip of the North Island is further south than the north of the South Island. You might not get aware of this at those two bays either - but I am sure there is no better place to view the South Island. There is even a theatrical lookout seat at the western end of Island Bay from where you can enjoy the view of the South Island's north-eastern ranges, in particular the snow-capped peaks of the Kaikoura Ranges - which you see on the photo above.

If you walk from Island Bay to Owhiro Bay - or just sit somewhere along the coast, for those who do not intend to walk your heels off, as I always tend to do - you see the Interislander and Bluebridge Ferries commute between the islands. If you look back to Island Bay, you see the airplanes coming from the South Island swoosh past between the hills. Wellington's airport is right behind the hills that separate Island Bay (and twin-bay Houghton Bay) from Lyall Bay. What you do not see a lot are foreign tourists. And you do not even see a lot of people if you do not come during the New Zealanders' holiday season. I enjoyed the solitude of my sunny November day, the strong Wellingtonian winds against me - but such an easy peaceful holiday feeling.

Funny enough that I went to Island Bay with totally different intentions. I had seen a very unique marae on the internet and went to the Visitor Centre at Civic Square to get a bus timetable to Island Bay and to investigate further. The lady had no idea, so I asked what else there would be of interest at Island Bay, and how it was out there.

Yes, she said, nice landscape and some nice cafés. Ok, I thought, if it is not so very special a nice coffee is never bad, and I said I could ask for directions to the marae on site. I always prefer to have a look myself, so I can make up my own mind. And so I took the bus from the city centre to Island Bay. The ride did not take longer than 20 minutes. That is another of those fantastic things in Wellington. Even places that seem far away are really close and easy to reach by public transportation.

Well, the day was so fantastic that I did not get to see the marae nor did I test the cafés. They are in Island Bay's centre which is not really near the seaside, and strangely enough there is only one café on the waterfront, but nowhere near the terminal bus stop. Well, perhaps they are afraid the wind would sweep the foam off the lattes, who knows. The café I spotted on the waterfront was next to the lookout seat just at the western end of Island Bay.

The further I walked the more fascinated I was. The closer I came to Owhiro Bay the more breathtaking the landscape and the views were. There was a lighthouse on the way, and the further you went, the more basic and seaside-like the houses were. I watched oystercatchers and gulls bathe in a tiny freshwater river that flows into the sea, and sparrows and starlings plucking the feathers the big birds lost in the water, from the surface and carry them to their nests. Then just cottages which did not look much more than fishermen's huts, and finally nothing but nature. Well, and you always see at least one messy backpacker van at the most scenic spots. The two males I spotted at the sealed road's end had their music howling into the air, and were crocheting.

The road from this point is unsealed and only recommended to 4WD's, and closed on Sundays. It is the start of the Seal Coast Safari, and the point you see at the horizon is where seals are hanging out from March to October. So during the other months the trip might only be a safari but without seals. The walk from the carpark to this point is three hours return, so not really a big deal. I will do it if I am in Wellington on a beautiful day during the months listed for seal sightings.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Not overrun by Tourists, spectacular Scenery
  • Cons:-
  • In a nutshell:A Dream Destination, especially Owhiro Bay
  • Last visit to Island Bay: Nov 2009
  • Intro Updated Dec 20, 2009
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Comments (1)

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    Jan 4, 2010 at 11:51 AM

    How lovely to explore such a beautiful destination. I couldn't think of no better way to spend a day on Island Bay!


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