Three models were used to look at the Southern Ocean Ross Sea sector circulation and hydrography. Two were climate models of low (1°) to intermediate resolution (1/3°), and one was an operational high resolution (1/10°) ocean model. Despite model differences (including physics and forcing), mean and monthly variability aspects of off-shelf circulation are consistently represented, and could imply bathymetric constraints. Western and eastern cyclonic gyral systems separated by shallow bathymetry around 180°E redistributing water between the wider Southern Ocean and the Ross Sea are found. Some model seasonal gyral transports increase as the Antarctic Circumpolar Current transport decreases. Model flows at 900 m at the gyral eastern end compare favourably with float data. On-shelf model depth-averaged west–east flow is relatively consistent with that reconstructed from longline fishing records. These flows have components associated with isopycnal gradients in both light and dense waters. The climate models reproduce characteristic isopycnal layer inflections (‘V’s) associated with the observed Antarctic Slope Front and on-shelf deep water formation, and these models transport some 4 Sv of this bottom water northwards across the outer 1000 m shelf isobath. Overall flow complexity suggests care is needed to force regional Ross Sea models.