Be impressed by Seaside Architecture
Such a house and wall would surely be a shocker or even considered an eyesore in other areas of the city.
But I thought it is well suited to its location at the near the Happy Valley Road intersection, not only because the painting on the garage wall features Neptune and a mermaid, as well as a seagull, and advertises Fresh Fish Daily.
Let’s say, it is design gone wild.
Most houses in Owhiro Bay are very simple, many are unpretentious weatherboard houses, some of them only stained and not painted, weathering with wind and rain. I am also sure that most of them were not built by professional builders but either poor or enthusiastic people who were attracted by the proximity of the sea, and people who tried to make a living from fishing.
The eastern and western ends of Owhiro Bay are just made up of a single lines of houses right along the coastal road. Only in the centre newer and often more expensive houses have been built on the slopes of the hills.
Photo 2 shows the houses lining the western part of the Owhiro Bay Road.
On photo 3 you see another quirky weatherboard house in the style of piled boxes.
Photo 4 shows a boat integrated into a facade.
The house on photo 5 has a horse decoration.
Anybody Want a Freshwater Bath?
I was amazed at the shore- and small birds’ love of a little stream that flows into the sea at Owhiro Bay.
All species of seagulls and Variable oystercatchers could not get enough of the freshwater and bathed extensively. Whole flocks of Black-backed gulls and their brown-feathered young kept themselves amused.
Also starlings and sparrows flew in. The starlings kept on working after their swims, collecting the feathers the bigger birds had lost in the water and carrying them away in their beaks for nest-building. The Black-billed gulls were more interested in more solid building materials.
I will post a travelogue with more photos of the bathing birds.
Watch Disappearing Airplanes
Somehow it is breathtaking to watch airplanes approaching Wellington Airport from the south.
It is also exciting to sit in those airplanes, with water all around you. If the pilot lands too early the plane falls into the waters of Lyall Bay, if he lands too late the plane falls into the harbour, and if he drifts to the left or to the right the plane crashes against the mountains on both sides of the airport. Add the constant wind of Wellington and the rough conditions of Cook Strait which is littered with shipwrecks you get the picture.
If you watch the airplanes from Island Bay they head straight for the mountains – but before they crash they disappear behind the mountain range, and somehow make it safely down to the airfield.
The location also explains why so many flights in and out of Wellington have to be cancelled due to fog and low cloud that just needs longer to clear.
I will post a travelogue with more airplane watch photos.
Put yourself in the Picture without Tripod
Walking alone with Kimi the Bear in tow I took some photos of myself with tripod but this house in Owhiro Bay offered a perfect opportunity to do it without special attachments. A time to reflect about the beauty of nature… ;-)
Please do not rate this tip!
Photos 2 and 3 show the house.
Study the Coastal Plants
A splash of colour on the naked red rocks. Isn’t it amazing how nearly every environment has its own plants that thrive in even the most hostile conditions? Phenonemons like the blooming desert.
Plants growing along the coast must have the ability to cope with salt and gales. Such typical plants are the shrubby and hardy Coprosma repens, also called mirror plant, and Hebe elliptica (also: coastal koromiko). They are tough and rough and have small leaves. You will also a lot of plants that cling to the rocks, grow in the tiniest crevasses, and develop aerial roots that grow down to the soil.
But there are also succulents which cover the ground and make it look as if the soil were fertile.
Often you see the reddish purple blooms of Carpobrotus edulis which was introduced from South Africa, or the yellow flowered shore groundsel Senecio Lautus. That is more sun yellow and the leaves of the blossoms are thinner than of the plant you see on my photo. "My" plant is a Gazania (Treasure flower) which also originates from South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Tanzania and Angola. They are naturalised in New Zealand and make a splendid colour carpet on the bare rocks and sands.
The view of my photo is towards the western part of Owhiro Bay. When you walk around the corner at the horizon you reach the carpark at the start of the Coastal Walk.
- Hiking and Walking
Learn from Watching the Cook Strait Ferries
During your walk along the coast you will almost certainly spot the ferries – the Interislander and the Bluebridge - that cross the Cook Strait between the North and the South Island.
They make you more aware than anything about the fact that the north of the South Island is further north than the south of the North Island. Otherwise the ferries going south would travel away from you, and the northbound ferries would travel towards you. But the ferries more or less accompany you during your walk from the east to the west and vice versa.
As I walked from Island Bay to Te Kopahou Reserve past Owhiro Bay and back, I was long enough on the road to see ferries of both companies travel north and south resp. east and west.
If you need more information about those ferries you find it on my New Zealand transportation page.
- Sailing and Boating
- Hiking and Walking
Take a Seat…
This seat at the western end of Island Bay – opposite the Bach Café and next to the Island Bay sign - offers splendid views of the South Island’s northern mountain ranges, in particular of the Seaward Kaikoura Ranges. They are often snow-capped until mid summer.
Take a seat and a break, and soak in the beautiful scenery of rugged coastline, coastal plants, shorebirds, breathe in the salty air, and let the wind rustle through your hair.
On photo 2 you can have a closer look at the mountain ranges of the south. Also see my intro photo if you are interested in this splendid view.
On photo 3 you can see me enjoying the views.
- Hiking and Walking
Get on the Coastal Track
This track is the major part of the Seal Coast Safari offered by tour operators.
To walk from the carpark/quarry gate at the western end of Owhiro Bay to Sinclair Head takes about three hours return. The distance is 8 km in total.
The Coastal Track follows the coastline from Owhiro Bay, past the old Owhiro Bay Quarry and Red Rocks (Pariwhero), to Sinclair Head (Rimurapa). Rimurapa (1983) and Pariwhero (1972) were made scientific reserves and are administered by the Department of Conservation (DoC). The land north of the 4WD track, from the quarry to Sinclair Head, is administered by the City Council.
Sinclair Head is a so called haul out area for New Zealand fur seals during the winter, a place where they bring themselves in good condition and recover from the stressful breeding season. The colony numbers get up to 80. Most seals there are male. Those bulls weigh about 160 kg. Breeding season is from late November to January.
If you have a 4WD vehicle and want to drive on the Coastal Track please be aware that you share it with people walking on it.
Off-roading is not allowed.
The recommended speed is 10 km/h.
Be reminded that the track is closed for vehicles on Sundays from 9am to 6pm.
- Hiking and Walking
- Road Trip
Walk in the wonderful Te Kopahou Reserve
This spectacular and large reserve along the south coast of Owhiro Bay starts at a carpark about one kilometre from the centre of Owhiro Bay, at the western end of The Parade.
There is no public transportation. If you have no car you either have to walk 2.5 kilometres from Island Bay or about one kilometre from the bus stop at the Happy Valley Dairy in Owhiro Bay.
Te Kopahou Reserve covers 600 hectares of land that reaches as north as Karori (famous for the Wildlife Sanctuary, and this again is not really far from the Botanic Garden). Here you find a good number of walking and mountain biking tracks, diving, surfcasting and beachcombing areas.
The reserve includes Sinclair Head where you can find NZ fur seals in winter, interesting flora, geological sites like the Red Rocks, and historical sites like four baches (primitive NZ holiday homes) from 1907 to 1930, examples of a by-gone by still very much cherished era in New Zealand, as well as the Brooklyn wind turbine. The views are outstanding from most points, and ever-changing.
The best walks surely are those from the carpark at the entrance to Sinclair Head and back, and the City to Sea walk which starts right here and leads to the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. Add another half hour, and you end up right in front of the Beehive and Parliament.
As said, the pedestrian and vehicle entrances to the start of the Coastal Track are at the west end of Owhiro Bay Parade.
Parking is available in the car park at the west end of Owhiro Bay Parade on the seaward side. The road beyond the quarry is not suitable for cars but okay for 4WD’s.
The gate is closed on Sundays to all vehicles from 9am to 6pm.
On weekdays you can take the No. 29 Southern Shopper bus to Owhiro Bay. There are also occasional # 4 buses to Happy Valley. On weekends the Southern Shopper does not operate, so you have to take the # 1 Island Bay bus to the Terminus at The Parade and walk 2.5 km to the start of the coastal track.
Sinclair Head is the land's end on the left side of the photo.
- Road Trip
- Hiking and Walking
Hands on at the Island Bay Marine Education Centre
You find the Island Bay Marine Education Centre in an orange painted building, located on a rocky outcrop to the east (so to your left if you face the sea, standing on the Esplanade).
Although it is raising its profile it is not yet overrun with visitors. But due to public demand the Bait House Aquarium is now open every Sunday – apart from the fact that it is closed over the Christmas period, re-opening on Sunday, 10 January 2010...
They have many marine displays and a so-called touch-gently tank where you are allowed to touch marine creatures.
The live habitat displays are home to almost 500 species of live marine plants and animals. The centre claims their collection of live marine life is the most extensive one in New Zealand.
The centre is open on Sundays from 10am to 3pm, with the above mentioned exceptions.
Admission is a NZ$ 2 donation.
More information (they also offer educational programmes for school groups, etc.) on their website:
The building is the so-called Bait House which was close to being demolished because it was in a run-down state for a long time. This solidly constructed building was erected in 1949 as a storage place for bait for the fishing fleet that moored in the bay.
Whereas the Marine Education Centre in the Bait House is well accepted, there has been huge controversary about the plan of this organisation, the non-profit Wellington Marine Conservation Trust, to erect a three-storey educational and tourist aquarium a bit further east, at Te Raekaihau Point (“The headland that eats the wind”, between Houghton Bay and Lyall Bay). Wellingtonians went on the barricades, most furious over ramming such a huge block onto an unspoilt rugged beach. The project, supported by the Wellington City Council, is not only opposed for spoiling the landscape, obstructing views and building carparks, but also for creating light pollution with a late-night café, a fast food restaurant, and a lighted parking lot. Te Raekaihau is famous for clear views at night. It has become a well-known spot for watching aurorae (Aurora Australis). Let’s see how this story goes on.
A regular environmental event called Three 'Scapes is held at Te Raekaihau Point every Full Moon, usually the day before, to allow seeing the moon with the sun in the sky together, of course only if the view is clear.