Wild coast, seals and a cycle trail
Turakirae Head Scientific Reserve has the Wellington region's largest New Zealand fur seal colony on 7000 years of raised beach terraces
This is a special and spectacular place to visit. You quickly feel a sense of awe from the continually moving environment and nature all around you. The roar of thundering waves along a rugged rocky shore bounces off steep weathered hills rising high up out of the coastline. It's name means the headland (rae) where the mountains come down (turaki) to the sea - and is home to some rare plants, seals wintering over and earthquake-raised beaches.
After a drive out through the Wainuiomata river valley, it takes about 45 minutes to walk to Turakirae Head, often used by rock climbers fine tuning their sport and cyclists finishing the Remutaka Cycle Trail. It's remoteness is also a bonus for night-sky photographers with the hills sheltering the sky from the residual glow of urban lights.
Up to 500 New Zealand fur seals stay at Turakirae Head each winter. This colony began in 1950 and has steadily increased since then to become the largest on the south Wellington coast.
The reserve is also home to a variety of native birds and reptiles. You'll see banded dotterels, caspian terns and variable oystercatchers plus skinks and geckos if looking a little closer.
Walking up from the southern most point on the reserve you can appreciate the earthquake raised beaches now seen as long terraces of small rocks - 2.5m above sea level from the 185 earthquake, 8 metres up from AD1460 the third beach at about 16 metres uplifted about 3000 years ago.
Feel the power and resilience of mother-nature with thundering waves, steep hillsides and earthquake terraces and rocky shores - it's spectacular day or night, rough or calm
Drive about 20 mins from Wainuiomata along Coast Road and follow the signs to Turakirae Head and Remutaka Cycle Trail car park at the end of the public road. Park beside the Ōrongorongo River and walk along the road and over the Ōrongorongo River Bridge and through a gate immediately after the bridge to your right. Follow the seaward side of the fence to the reserve.
Know before you go
Access to Turakirae Head is through Ōrongorongo Station which is a working farm and private property.
- Take another layer of clothing in case.
- Keep to the seaward side of the fence.
- Access is by foot only, vehicles of any type are prohibited.
- Dogs are not permitted.
- Fires may not be lit anywhere in this area because of the high risk to dense and dry vegetation.
- Never approach seals too closely, and do not get between a seal and the sea. Use a zoom lens to capture those friendly faces.