The tiered beach profile at Turakirae Head is of international importance, as it provides a record of beaches raised by the most ferocious of Wellington’s earthquakes over the last 7000 years. Between each ridge, the rocky areas would have formed part of the intertidal zone, before successive uplift by tectonic forces. This raw coastal landscape is accompanied by the pounding of waves against offshore rocks.
A primo seal watching location too, with marine mammals going about their daily business.
From Wainuiomata, follow Coast Road to a metalled parking bay on the right 300 metres before the coastline and road end. The start of the track is signposted.
Note: This is a shared track with mountain bikers.
Follow the road until it becomes unsealed and enters the Orongorongo Station. After passing through the gate (15 minutes), there is a covenant allowing crossing of private land. You are asked to stay seaward side of the fence. The track is coated in large pebbles at the upper reaches of the beach. Look to the left to best ascertain how the raised beaches form a tiered profile.
By following the fenceline and crossing another stile, you enter the Turakirae Scientific Reserve. This land is administered by DoC with no formal tracks. You will need to negotiate your own way through the upper pebble beach to sniff out the seals.
Although not as plainly visible from the beach as from the air, the series of beach terraces can be imagined stretching from the hills to the sea. The beach closest to the hills is now covered by scree and formed around 7000 years ago. This was uplifted another 3 metres 6000 years ago and a massive elevation of 6 metres followed 5000 years ago. The largest uplift occurred around 3000 years ago, when 9 metres was added. Considering the 1855 quake uplifted the beach by 2.5 metres, this must have been an unimaginable shake. Maori history tells of the Haowhenua Earthquake around 1500AD, which raised another beach close to the shore.
Analysis of core samples by geologists taken from behind the oldest and highest beach have uncovered remains of trees, freshwater shell detritus and skeletons of fur seals. Radiocarbon dating has been the most reliable method used to determine the dates of the events.
The vegetation assemblage includes the nationally threatened shrubby tororaro, which mixes with flax and pohuehue. The unmistakable feathered fronds of toetoe protrude through the reed beds.
A colony of around 500 New Zealand fur seals use the area around Turakirae Head as a winter haul-out site. The mostly male population feeds on the abundant fish shoals, which pass by the head. The fetid odour of the seals diet and oily skin permeates every breath in their vicinity.
North Island ▷ Wellington Region ▷ Hutt Valley
A great experience! Seals in free nature. Amazing! From the carpark, approximately two kilometres to walk.
Save up to 70% on campsite fees! Support conservation and experience the natural beauty of NZ. 74 Department of Conservation campsites, one convenient pass.
After 45 minutes walk along the coast, you can find a hidden colony in the rocks - very quiet place for watching seals in their natural living.
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 😍