Red Rocks Track

Red Rocks Track

Te Kopahou Reserve


18 Rankers Reviews

17 Face-to-Face

Your Nature Guide

Marios Gavalas's avatar

Marios Gavalas

Author And Researcher

Nau mai, haere mai

Nau mai, haere mai

I'm Marios, delivering the best of Aotearoa's nature walks to your device.

I've personally walked hundreds of New Zealand's tracks and spent months in libraries uncovering interesting information on New Zealand/Aotearoa. And you'll find a slice of that research on this page - enjoy!


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Wind swept - Red Rocks Wellington
Lazing around - Red Rocks
Seals at Red Rocks


9 km return | 2-3 hours return

The stunning views east on the lower section of the track are composed of receding headlands dwindling to white-capped reefs. These point south, directing attention to Pencarrow and Baring Heads, with Cape Palliser in the far distance.

Goats peer around rocks and scurry down impossibly steep faces on being sighted. They are in their element in this terrain.


The Access to Hawkins Hill wind turbine is on Ashton Fitchett Drive in Kowhai Park. From the city, follow Victoria Street, Brooklyn Road, Todman Street and Karepa Street.

From the parking area at the wind turbine, follow the sealed access road past the Airways VHS TX site and castle-like building (45 minutes). The track starts through the gate on the left.


Red Rocks are purple-coloured remnants of undersea volcanic eruptions which took place around 200 million years ago. When basaltic lava bubbles made contact with cold water, the outer skin of molten magma cooled, whilst the enclosed molten rock continued to flow under pressure. It penetrated a weakness in its encasing shell of rock and exploded like a water-filled balloon, forming a pillow shape. Red Rocks are stained red due to the presence of iron oxide and contrast with the pistachio green rocks tainted by chlorite.

After the second junction with the Tip Track, the coastal views open up, with the 4WD track at the base of the cliffs running like a thread between the rugged rock faces and the frothing water. Red Rocks are immediately apparent.

Te Kopahou Reserve lies to the south-west of the city. It’s deeply dissected bulbous form is topped by Hawkins Hill (495 metres) and its substantial height is used by Meridian Energy for a wind turbine and Airways for an aircraft navigation station.

The rounded caps of the ridges drop sharply to deeply gouged valleys, with the main spurs truncated to triangular bluffs. The Wellington Fault runs through the reserve forming Long Gully, to the west of the main ridge. The reserve ends abruptly at the sea, with vertical cliffs tumbling to the numerous offshore reefs and rocks. These astoundingly sheer cliffs fall over 200 metres in a horizontal distance of only 300 metres. The Coastal Tracks to Red Rocks and Sinclair Head explores this rugged stretch of coast.


The location is unusual for its collection of flora. 159 indigenous species have been recorded on the hills with a high proportion classified as threatened.

The coastal zone exhibits flora that has evolved to suit Cook Straight’s unique conditions, with a mixture of coastal scrub, flax, tussock and scree. Deforestation has destabilised the slopes and frequent slumping occurs. Tauhinu, speargrass, coprosma propinqua and large leaf pohuehue colonise the scree. Unusually, the coastal cliff plant and invertebrate communities show similarities with South Island sub-alpine communities.

The main hill slopes were previously covered in tawa forest with large rimu and rata. On the slopes with higher exposure to salt laden gales, a smooth, wind resistant canopy of kohekohe, with a karaka, ngaio and titoki understorey would have prevailed.

Today, the main coloniser of the bare ground is the shrub tauhinu, which is not palatable to farm stock and is spray resistant. The associated gorse is a nitrogen fixer and helps establish better soils, although it takes longer for the native bush to overtop than bracken or tauhinu. Later an embryonic forest of manuka, kanuka, mahoe, five finger, coprosmas, hebe and broadleaf scrub will emerge.

On the windy tops, swards of native grasses, speargrass and silver tussock provide habitat for the rare flightless speargrass weevil, the common gecko and common skink. However since the introduction of goats in the early 1980s, the speargrass has been devoured by the voracious eaters with a commensurate decline in habitat for the invertebrate populations.


Feature Value Info


Wellington City Council

Local government organisation


North IslandWellington RegionWellington


  • Walking
  • Free


Showing 13 reviews of 18.

Tom Bennett's avatar

Tom Bennett


Ranking: 10/10

Amazing walk, well sign posted, uneven terrain makes it challenging, saw one seal.

Reviewed over 4 years ago

Maarten's avatar



Ranking: 7/10

Long track along the coast. We have seen the Red Rocks and the seal colony - beautiful place but for some people the track might be too long for what you get.

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in November 2016

Agathe Ledein's avatar

Agathe Ledein


Ranking: 9/10

See wild seals! Just one word for that - unforgettable. But I am wondering why there are red rocks and grey rocks?

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in October 2016

Craig Workman's avatar

Craig Workman

United States

Ranking: 10/10

Lovely walk along the coast. Some fat seals at the end and a great walk into the hills halfway in.

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in October 2016

Thank You - to the thousands of travellers that have contributed to our Top Voted NZ Activities Map - it's free from Rankers.

Lewis Cole's avatar

Lewis Cole


Ranking: 7/10

Beautiful beach and scenery.

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in March 2016

Rocio Lucero's avatar

Rocio Lucero


Ranking: 10/10

Nice track with seagulls around. A bit windy!

Reviewed almost 6 years ago and experienced in February 2016

Gael Nicolle's avatar

Gael Nicolle


Ranking: 7/10

Beautiful beach, very busy, lots of 4 x 4 show offs. A great walk to a small waterfall and lovely local people!

Reviewed almost 6 years ago and experienced in February 2016

Clara Guinard's avatar

Clara Guinard


Ranking: 10/10

This is a very beautiful walk close to the beach and you can see some seals if you are patient and it depends on the season.

Reviewed almost 6 years ago and experienced in March 2016

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Kev Zarka's avatar

Kev Zarka


Ranking: 8/10

Very windy but very nice and a seal reserve.

Reviewed about 6 years ago and experienced in December 2015

Coral Dawson's avatar

Coral Dawson

United Kingdom

Ranking: 10/10

Really cool place, I love how it is so wild. I wouldn't want the track to get any better as it would be too busy.

Reviewed over 6 years ago

Lara Baetz's avatar

Lara Baetz

Ranking: 9/10

Easy walk (30-40 minutes one way), with impressive rock formations. Careful on hot and windy days! Wear long trousers because of the sand, which gets blown on your legs.

Reviewed over 6 years ago

Romina Bolz's avatar

Romina Bolz

Ranking: 3/10

The walk was too long and the Sea-lions were too far away.

Reviewed about 8 years ago

Alexandra Kupper's avatar

Alexandra Kupper


Ranking: 10/10

Easy walk on the beach, 4-5 KM and a chance to watch seals on the rocks.

Reviewed over 8 years ago

DOC Managed

Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍

Cymen Crick's avatar

Cymen Crick