Beautiful Wellington Harbour and hills from the Botanical Gardens
6th – 9th December 2013
Our flight to Wellington was fairly early, so we decided to catch the train to Sydney the night before and stay at a hotel close to Central Railway Station. Our accommodation was a 5 minute walk from the station, and was opposite the beautifully rejuvenated Capitol Theatre – I checked what was happening at the Capitol, discovered it was a preview of “The Lion King” and was able to get two decent seats in the stalls. Decided to keep it as a secret for Tay. We both loved the show, colourful, vibrant, full of action and great music. It was the day we learned of Nelson Mandela’s death, at the end of the show the African cast members sang some songs as a tribute to this great man – I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.
We were up at 5am the following morning, showered and organised our bags, then off to the Station. It is only a 10 minute train ride to the airport, so we were there in plenty of time to have breakfast and relax before our flight. Mascot Airport is always a hive of industry, the time goes quickly while you watch the passing parade. And then it was time to board, excitement rising!
It is about a 3 hour flight to Wellington, and although I wasn’t worried, I knew the landings could be difficult in the Wellington winds that come off the Southern Ocean. Our descent seemed fairly normal, but as we neared the airport runway the plane suddenly started to ascend. The pilot announced that they would be “calculating a different path”, everything was OK and we would soon be safely on the ground. Tay at least didn’t seem too concerned.
Once we landed it was over to the car hire office, sign in, collect our GPS and keys….and we were ready for our adventure. We had booked in to the Bolton Hotel, were on the 11th floor and had great views across a park and part of the city. We had “lost” two hours, it was early afternoon when we arrived. Deciding to do a walking tour of the city we set off firstly toward the city centre. Wellington is very hilly, we discovered one of the many stairways to the lower level of the CBD, and spied a Starbucks coffee shop. Our meal times were all askew with the change of times, so we chose a muffin and coffee/coke to enjoy before setting off again.
Tay’s favourite cafe (left) and Mason’s Lane in Wellington
When my friend Jan and I were touring New Zealand many years ago we worked for a month at the Midland Hotel on Lambton Quay in the middle of the city. Sadly that landmark has now disappeared but has been replaced by a beautiful park that attracts many visitors and office workers
Discovering another stairway, we climbed up Masons Lane and set off to see the Parliament buildings that were close to our hotel. We actually saw the rear of the buildings and some of the spectacular and unusual statues in the grounds.
Parliament and Beehive buildings (left) and unusual statues in grounds of Parliament buildings
That night the Observatory was open until 10pm and the Planetarium opened at 8pm, we decided to walk to catch the cable car to the top of the Botanical Gardens, with a short walk to the Observatory. With daylight savings, it was still quite light when we ascended to the top, and had some lovely views of Wellington and its harbour spread out below.
Cable car arriving at the lower station (left) and Observatory and Planetarium in Botanic Gardens
The Planetarium show was great, sitting on reclined comfortable chairs we gazed up into the universe while we listened to the commentary and learned about the planets, stars, Milky Way and lots more, we both enjoyed the evening. It was much cooler walking back to the cable car, and by the time we reached the station at the base we were getting a bit hungry. A small supermarket was still open so we stocked up on some nice cheeses and a dip with crackers and headed back to the Hotel. The refrigerator held such goodies as small bottles of wine (for me) and chocolates and soft drink (for Tay) so we were all set to enjoy our impromptu supper.
Next morning we had breakfast at our Hotel, then drove to the Harbour to see what was happening at the markets. There was a huge variety of foods available, and the aromas were so enticing – pity we had already had breakfast!
The food markets at left, and the busy produce markets seen from the Te Papa Museum
The wind was really starting to pick up as we walked to the Te Papa Museum close by. There were some great interactive displays and we were particularly interested in the beautiful Maori meeting house and the glass window. From the upper floors of the museum we could look down on Oriental Bay and the fresh produce markets which were so colourful and amazing
The colourful Maori Meeting House and dazzling glass window in Te Papa Museum
Opposite the museum is the amazing Art Museum Hotel. It is one of the largest buildings to have been moved from one site to another. Weighing an estimated 3500 tonnes, this reinforced concrete building was moved from its original site, now the location of Te Papa, to a site some 180 metres down and across a major road. Read more here. The hotel has an unusual and eclectic collection of art works and furniture and is an amazing place to visit.
Art Museum above, and at left some of the unusual art work and at right a beautiful chandelier
It was such a wonderful sunny day, but the city lived up to his name of “Windy Wellington” and the wind had increased to a speed that would almost blow you over! We walked back to the car past some quaint boathouses and a marina, and headed back to the hotel for some respite from the weather.
Yachts and quaint boat houses on Wellington Harbour
That afternoon I was keen to see Zealandia and Karori Sanctuary, an eco-attraction and groundbreaking restoration project (below): a nature lover’s paradise and a sanctuary by the city! I was able to get some nice photographs, and was amazed at the height of some of the trees – but the high winds got the best of me and I headed back to the hotel. Perhaps Tay had the better idea of staying wind-free and spending an hour reading one of her books!
An early start was planned for the next morning, we wanted to see Wellington come to life from the height of Mt Victoria. It was of course a winding drive to the top, but well worth it for the beautiful view. We had heard of Cuba Street and its cafe strip, but had not been able to find it. We set the GPS to get us out of the city, saw a cafe and decided to pull over for breakfast As I looked out the cafe window I noticed the street sign “Cuba Street”, so we had found it after all! When we finished breakfast I took a short stroll along the mall to see the quirky water bucket statue and some other unusual street art.
A quirky water fountain (right), and eye-catching street art in the Cuba Street Mall
And then it was time to head north to Napier.