Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Wellington South Coast

During Queen’s Birthday Weekend we had glorious weather which lasted until the following Wednesday. We managed to go for three rides in four days. The first one, on Saturday 31 May, was along Wellington’s south coast.

We parked at the airport end of Lyall Bay. It was just about lunchtime when we got there, so we decided to check out the new-ish café “The Spruce Goose” first. The situation of this large café is perfect, as it overlooks both the beach and the airport runway. The building was once the home of the Wellington Aero Club, and it was moved to the present site last year. It has since been done up and the café opened for business in early December.

It was extremely busy, and the downstairs was pretty well packed, as were the terraces at each end of the building. But one of the staff showed us upstairs, where there is another large airy room with a deck and a fabulous view.

The view from the Spruce Goose’s deck towards the airport runway …

… and towards Lyall Bay Beach (photo by John)

The upstairs room at the Spruce Goose (photo by John)

The coffee was good, but the service quite slow as it was very busy. It was nearly 1pm by the time we left the café and set off on our ride along Lyall Bay, in the direction of Owhiro Bay.

On such a clear day the South Island can be seen from all along the south coast. Following a recent cold snap, there was snow on the top of Mt Tapuaenuku (or Tapuae-o-Uenuku) which dominates the Inward Kaikouras. At 2885 m, this mountain is the highest peak in NZ outside the Southern Alps. NZ's most famous mountaineer, Sir Edmund Hilary, reminisced that, in 1944, this was the first mountain he ever climbed. He referred to it as “Tappy”.

The South Island with Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku, seen from Island Bay. Taputeranga Island is in the foreground (photo by John)

At Houghton Bay, the road climbs a bit above the coastline, and there is a lovely view over the beach. This is a popular surfing spot, but there were no surfers today. John took several photos of the waves rolling onto the beach to try and capture that perfect curve of froth.

The surf rolls onto the beach at Houghton Bay (photo by John)

The road comes down to almost beach level again, and by the carpark, we found a new memorial. It is one of the propellers of the Royal NZ Navy frigate HMNZS Wellington, which was decommissioned in 1999, and scuttled off Houghton Bay in 2005. The wreck sits at a depth of about 21m, so that it is accessible to scuba divers. The propeller was installed in this position in December 2013.

The propeller of HMNZS Wellington at Houghton Bay (photo by John)

It didn’t take us long to get to Owhiro Bay. The carpark at the entrance of the Red Rocks track was quite full, and there were lots of people driving, walking and riding trail bikes on the track. It is not a track I would like to bike on, so we turned around and went back to Lyall Bay. It had been a pleasant 16 km ride, which took less than 1.5 hours.

The rocks off Island Bay at low tide. The headland in the distance on the left is Baring Head, on top of which you can just make out the lighthouse (click to enlarge) (photo by John)

Seagulls on the Island Bay seawall

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