5 Rankers Reviews
4 Penguin Watching
10 Seal Watching
If you are keen on seeing an elephant seal, Okia is probably your best bet. Be sensitive and respectful. Keep your distance.
At high tide the beach access may not be possible.
From Portobello head towards Tairoa Head then take the first right into Weir Road.
Okia is signposted to the left along Dick Road.
Cross the stile and follow the farm track to the junction. To the right is a 10 minute detour up the little pyramid (for the best views) or continue on the main track.
At the next junction, left is a loop track which heads to the beach and right is the main access (but be careful to head left at the first yellow-topped pole as there is a network of tracks across the dunes.)
The track undulates over sometimes boggy hollows and dunes to the beach.
Return via the same track or head left at the beach to return via the loop track.
Marker poles where the track joins can be inconspicuous.
The pyramids are made of hard basaltic rock.
Pingao is New Zealand’s natural dune binding grass, but has been displaced by the more aggressive Australian marram grass. The rich stems resemble spun gold in the late afternoon sun and Maori used termed the stems ‘weavers gold’, as it was used in their tukutuku panels.
47 bird species are recorded in the area.
Fur seals (Arctocephalus forsteri )were almost driven to extinction at the beginning of the 1800s, but numbers now seem to be recovering. Sealing was a disgusting job. Like a battle charge, gangs would disembark and attempt to intercept the wave of frightened seals before they reached the sea, directing one swift blow to the tip of the nose. A good sealer had to be quick, agile and strong. Brandishing wooden cudgels they would terrorise an area, heaping the skins under a suitably conspicuous tarpaulin before moving to the next colony.
Different markets called for variations on how the skin was treated. The Chinese market preferred carefully prepared skins, where the subcutaneous fat was scraped away by a ‘beamer’, the flipper holes sewn up and the skin dried. This was carried out in ritualistic fashion by 10 one foot long pegs secured in regular positions about the skin.
The rocky shores would have been stained with the blood of many merciless killings. Rotting carcasses would be strewn like war victims. Indeed the whole picture must have resembled a battle scene. Men who found employment as sealers were often rough and carried hidden baggage.
Seals are known as pinnipeds (wing footed) because of the webbed flippers instead of paws or feet. Streamlined bodies and blubber keep them warm (hence their hunting for fur). Their ears, nose flaps close when diving. They feed on squid, octopus and hoki.
Bull sea lions (Phocarctos hookeri) are absolute monsters, tipping the scales at 400 kg. You don’t want to get in the way of one, so be especially vigilant if passing between them and the sea – their escape route. They prefer to slumber on the sand, unlike fur seals who use the rocks as their mattresses. The sea lions are often observed flipping sand onto their backs in an effort to keep cool.
Yellow-eyed penguins (Megadyptes antipodes) weigh around 5 kg and stand around 70 centimetres tall. They breed in southern parts of New Zealand and Sub-Antarctic Islands in spring. Chicks are reared during the summer in nests constructed of flax. During the February moult, birds are vulnerable. Be Aware. Observe their behaviour and don’t hassle them for a photo. You have another home to go to. This is their home, so use your manners. Numbers are in serious decline.
Elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) are the super heavyweights of the seal world. It is normal for a bull male to weigh in at 3.5 tonnes, a full 2.5 tonnes heavier than the females. At 4-5m long these behemoths are the largest lumps of blubber you will find on land. Their engorged proboscis stuck on the front of their faces does nothing for their looks, but apparently makes males roar louder. Perhaps in their armoury of wooing techniques, as personal hygiene is never that flattering for any animal that predominantly eats fish. They range over most of the Southern Ocean areas and populations are in decline. Likely because we humans are eating all the fish. They are deep sea feeders and can spend nearly 30 minutes underwater on a single breath, diving to over 800m. If you should encounter one, remember they are wild animals and don’t take kindly to having lenses shoved in their faces. And if they decide to belly flop, you are a goner.
The small pyramid is Te Matai O Kia and evidence of Maori occupation on the seaward side includes middens, adzes and bones. Some date back over 500 years.
The name victory Beach remembers the ship Victory, which foundered on this coast in 1861 on its voyage from Melbourne to Dunedin. The chief mate, George Hand was later charged with drunkenness and breach of duty. No lives (or mail) were lost. The old flywheel is still visible at low tide.
South Island ▷ Coastal Otago ▷ Dunedin
Not a hugely interesting walk to the beach (through the salt marsh) but the pyramids are cool. We climbed the little one on the way there and the view was gorgeous. The beach is downright stunning. We were the only ones there, just golden sand for miles and miles.
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Do not pay for seeing penguins! At Victory Beach you get a nice walk to the beach around pyramid shaped volcano. On the beach you can see sea lions in the evening and yellow eyed penguins.
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Nice small hike that leads to a beautiful Victory Beach, an isolated beach with sea lions and seals.
Really nice beach and you meet sea lions very very close!!
Lonely beach, hooker sealion - be cautious!
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 😍