When you walk from Island Bay to Owhiro Bay you more or less stumble over the white-painted lighthouse on the land-side of the road (The Esplanade) along the bay.
The lighthouse is used as a Bed & Breakfast, with kitchen and bathroom on the first floor, the bedroom on the middle floor, and the sitting room on the top floor.
Rates are NZ$ 180 during the week, and NZ$ 200 on Fridays and Saturdays (as Dec. 2009).
If you are interested to stay there, here are the contact details:
Phone/fax (04) 472 4177
Mobile phone 027-442 5555
Address: 326 The Esplanade, Island Bay, Wellington
Postal address: P.O.Box 11275, Wellington, New Zealand
The same people also offer a stone tower named The Keep as accommodation, close to the Lighthouse (116 The Esplanade). Same contact details.
On photo 2 you see the lighthouse from across the water.
When you walk through the township of Island Bay and along the shore, you do not get aware of its roots and history. It is one of the oldest settlements in the Wellington region. In the early days it was just a weekend resort – whatever that was in the 1800’s. In the early 1900’s an Italian fishing community developed there, and since then it has been a favourite area for Italian immigrants, surely for the recreational and fishing values of a suburb so close to the sea.
Surely Island Bay is one of the best dining places for fresh seafood. Also a diving centre has developed there.
What I found strange is the lack of restaurants and cafés along the shore. There was just one eatery along the Esplanade, The Bach Café, and you would not even spot it when you arrive by bus, as it is located around the corner on the way to Owhiro Bay.
The place is somehow separated in two, one is the seaside part with nothing but a small park, a maritime research centre, a lot of sand and wind, and the other part further inland is the heart of the township, with restaurants, cafés and shops. After my long walk I could not be bothered to walk that far for a coffee. And I could not be bothered to get off the bus in Island Bay’s centre either. Too much hassle after my walk. Next time. Perhaps.
Things I have not checked out yet are a Buddhist monastery that is located on the western hills, with a golden Stupa, and an interesting 13-storey marae.
On photo 2 you see the welcome sign at the west end of Island Bay, close to the lookout seat.
The best-known shipwreck in the Wellington region is the one of the Wahine which sank on 10 April 1968. 189 people died. The twin screw turbo-electric vessel of 8,948 tons initially struck and crossed Barretts Reef, and ultimately capsized beside Steeple Rock at Seatoun. You find remains of the ship in Seatoun at Frank Kitts Park on the Waterfront in Downtown Wellington. (A lot more information about the sinking of the Wahine on my Wellington page.)
But there are also many shipwrecks off the coast at Owhiro Bay. Examples are the Cyrus March, a three masted barque that sank in 1874 of 317 tons. It lies 60 metres off-shore on the western side of Owhiro Bay.
The Progress, an iron steamer that sank on 1 May 1931, also lies on the western side of Owhiro Bay, just 50 metres from the Yung Pen that capsized on 12 December 1982. Ironically enough the name means: “Good Luck Forever”.
20 metres off the rocks lies the Wellington which sank on 7 March 1869.
At the intersection of the Happy Valley Road and The Owhiro Bay Promenade you find this relatively new artwork, a Maori Head scarved into beautifully coloured local rock.
Beside the head you find the welcome sign of Owhiro Bay, the Gateway to the South Coast.
As said in many other places, in Wellington you find works of art everywhere.
Those famous rocks are half way between the carpark at Owhiro Bay and Sinclair Head. The boulders are a product of undersea volcanic activity. You can see them on a walk through the Owhiro Bay Quarry to the NZ fur seal colony.
In winter many seals can be found around Sinclair Head. Although the Seal Coast Safari providers “guarantee” seal sightings year-round the Department of Conservation point out on their website and on the signs at the Owhiro Bay carpark that the seals chill out there in winter only.
The Red Rocks were formed about 200 million years ago during underwater volcanic eruptions. The raised shore platform with its pillow lava is well preserved and very accessible.
The following information is from the DoC website:
”The purple coloured pillow lava erupted onto the sea floor and instantly cooled. The red colour is caused by finely dispersed iron oxide (haematite). The green colour is caused by the clay mineral, chlorite. Red and white banded rocks contain silica. Eventually all of these rocks were compressed, tilted, uplifted and eroded to form the exposures we see today. On both sides of Red Rocks greywacke sandstone and argillite siltstone are found. The City Council bought and closed the 80-year-old quarry in 2000. It has since been recontoured and is progressively being planted with appropriate native species.”
This three metre bronze shark sculpture named Frenzy stands in front of the shower and toilet block of the carpark at the entrance of Te Kopahou Reserve.
It was created by the the late New Zealand-born sculptor Colin Webster-Watson (1926 – 2007). It was dedicated on 23 August 2008.
Colin Webster-Watson created this work when he was living in Rome in the 1970’s. For many years it was on public display in his adopted home of Palm Springs (California) before he brought it home to New Zealand. There he gifted Frenzy to the City of Wellington.
If you look very closely you might spot the Interislander ferry to the right of the tail fin.
This dune would not exist, had not the Island Bay Coast Care group of volunteers had become involved in protecting and looking after it. The group came into life when they noticed a bulldozer on the dunes clearing a patz through the vegetation to put in a boardwalk. They successfully put pressure onto the Wellington City Council to change this project into a dune restoration effort.
Since then the area has been fenced to protect the dune plants from being destroyed by people walking on them. The Council also provided plants to replace those damaged by the bulldozer. The dune care group and the Greater Wellington and the Wellington City Council now work together. Goal is to restore the dune to a more natural state.
Since 2003 the group has held public working bees, removing invasive weeds and planting pingao and spinifex. Those are hardy grasses, so called foredune plants, that catch sand and help to build and stabilise dunes. Other grasses and plants you find on the dune are shore spurge, shrubby toraro and New Zealand iceplant. For their efforts the group won a Conservation Week Merit Award in 2007.
The dune is only a small (and last) remnant of a large dune area that once extended back to Severn Street – that’s a long street half way down to Owhiro Bay. When the roads were put in the dune was destroyed.
Most of this information is from this website:
This seawall was completed on 22 November 1937.
It was built because Island Bay suffered severely from sand drifts in Southerly storms.
You can well imagine how far the sand might have reached before the wall was built. The dune went up the hill.
When I was there on a beautiful but windy day, sand piles had formed on the footpath behind the wall. Well, this is windy Wellington ;-))
This small reserve is located opposite the bay with a Band Rotunda, skateboard area and playground. There are also public toilets.
You more or less walk straight through it when you get off the Island Bay bus at the terminal in Reef Street.
Kimi the Bear and I climbed on a lookout tower in the shape of a ship’s crow’s nest to enjoy the views from higher altitude.
Funny enough, the views from the the Esplanade were more impressive than from the little lookout tower in the park :-)
The island sits only a stonethrow away from the coast off Island Bay. It shelters Island Bay from the swells of the rough Cook Strait that separates the North and the South Islands.
The full Maori name would be Tapu Te Ranga Motu.
Literally translated Tapu Te Ranga means: The Sacred Rising. This refers to the shelter the island gives to the land.
Before the European settlers arrived, the people of the Ngai Tara and Ngati Ira Maori tribes lived on the island. It was a place of refuge, protected by a stonewall around the pa (settlement).
Legend says that Tamairangi, the wife of Ngati Ira chief Whanake, sought refuge here when Ngati Ira were attacked in the tribe's final battle. When the island was besieged and defeat was imminent, Tamairanga and her children escaped in a canoe before they could be caught and killed, and sought refuge further up the coast at Mana Island.
Since December 2006 the waters off Island Bay are a protected marine reserve. Taputeranga Island is part of it.