The following two paragraphs are from the book "Around and About Wellington" by Elizabeth Viggers.
Red Rocks Scientific Reserve (Seals): This is a very good morning trip except in southerlies. A 4km walk or bike ride takes you round the south coast from Owhiro Bay to an outcrop of red rocks associated in Maori legend with Kupe.
Walk a little further through a distinctive cleft in the rock, visible for some distance, and immediately beyond the "pass" (and sometimes just before it) you find the seals in residence from about May to August. The basking rocks are polished from contact with their bodies, and they often let visitors approach fairly near, but it is best not to get too close. Beware of a strong fishy smell - it means you are nearer than you suspect. If the seals are not immediately visible, stop and look hard. It is surprising how well they blend in with the landscape. The track also leads to good views on the ridge.
My comments: It's about half an hour from Tawa to the car park at Owhiro Bay (through central Wellington and down to the south coast). We travelled there through Newtown and Island Bay, but returned along Happy Valley Road and Brooklyn. I hadn't noticed the bit in the book about it being a "good morning trip" - we didn't leave Tawa until after 2pm on a sunny mid-winter's afternoon. For that reason most of the coastline along which we rode was in the shade. However, with the hills where they are, I'm not sure that this stretch of coastline would see a great deal of sun anyway at this time of the year. Perhaps it would in the morning! We did enjoy the views of the passing interisland ferries and the snow on the South Island peaks which didn't appear that far away.
The ride itself was fun, mostly a shingle track used also by 4WD vehicles, trailbikes and walkers - of whom there were all quite a few. It was somewhat "bumpy" in parts with one stream to be crossed, terrain requiring a reasonably sturdy bike. The round trip is between 4-5 kilometres. It took us more than 45 minutes to get to the seals, but that was with a number of breaks along the way. The return leg was about 30 minutes' worth at a relatively casual pace, with a short stop or two.
The late afternoon sun shone on the seal colony itself. That made for happy seals (presumably) and better photos as far as I was concerned! I certainly never expected anything like the number of seals there were. From the rock on which I stood (the nearest critters being only a couple of metres away) I counted 36. Although my 10-year-old travelling companion reckoned it was closer to 50, I'll stick with my number! As you'll see in the pics below, they weren't displaying a lot of energy and, as they lazed around in the sun looking rather well-fed, I couldn't help the phrase "great lumps of lard" springing to mind. I've seen seals before, but never as many in one place (and I really didn't notice a great deal of smell!). Well worth the effort.