Chicago is known as the Windy City – but another place can claim the title to be the Real Windy City.
The last part of our New Zealand trip would involve a trip to the most southernmost capital city in the world and the windiest city by average wind speed.(completely true!) – Wellington.
In keeping with the common theme for placenames encountered on this trip it was named in 1840 after a friend of the New Zealand Company and the Anglo-Irish (he was born in Dublin) victor of the Battle of Waterloo (1815)- Arthur Wellesley – 1st Duke of Wellington. Before that it is believed that Maori Settlers moved into the area around the 10th Century.
It was later chosen to be the Capital City of New Zealand – replacing Auckland – due to strategic geographical considerations – it’s harbour was huge and most importantly it would be closer to the Southern Island and its vast gold wealth.
It was a short drive from the airport to our apartment on Cable Street in Wellington Harbour. We would be conveniently located, close to the Te Papa Tongarewa National Museum , the Harbourside Markets and a lot of good nightlife spots a few streets back.
That first afternoon we decided to strike out into the city and head straight for a vantage point to gather a sense of the surroundings.
Down an alleyway and then around by Wakefield Terrace and Cambridge Street brought us to the Embassy Theatre – the location of the premiere of The Lord Of The Rings: Return of the King and the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey movies.
From there it was a slow long hike up the steep Majoribanks Street. At the top of the street is an entrance to a park.
Not any old park – but the Wellington Town Belt – a series of walkways, parkland and a nice climb to the lookout on Mount Victoria. It provided us with a great afternoons exertion and then some great views across the city as the sun began to settle down for the night.
At the Summit is a sharp looking memorial to polar explorer Richard E. Byrd. Interestingly though – Byrd was an American Admiral and not a New Zealander. The Memorial erected in 1962 honours not a local hero but one whose exploits were in the area. Byrd used Wellington as a departure point for many of his Antarctic expeditions.
With the sun setting in fast we scarpered back down the slopes and made it back to the city.
For dinner we went for some pan-asian at Dragonfly on Courtenay Place and lucked out by getting a table in the courtyard. It was a very funky place with swish decor and Japanese anime being projected onto the outside walls.
The next morning we navigated the streets of Wellington over to Cuba Street to have brunch at Fidel’s Cafe. Cuba Street is a pure dichotomy. Cheap Eateries rub shoulders with fine dining degustation restaurants. Street Art vies for your attention alongside high-end art galleries. It has a feel of the ‘only pub in town’ where every walk of life just gets along. A part of that quirkiness is the interpretation of the name. Some establishments, like Fidel’s have taken to it being named after that island in the Caribbean sun.
It is actually named after a British settler ship called The Cuba that arrived here in 1840.
Fidel’s is right at home here – a 1950s themed restaurant dedicated to the Cuban way of life. They say the Revolution will not be televised – but here it comes with a coffee and some eggs.
After breaking our fast the dynamic duo split up. John was away out west to Maupuia, across Evans Bay (More on this excursion in our next blog post) while Karen spent the afternoon at the National Museum of New Zealand – Te Papa Tongarewa.
Opened in 1998 – the ‘Container of Treasures’ is New Zealand’s premier museum attraction.
At the time of our arrival there was a major temporary exhibit called Gallipoli- The Scale of Our War.
Joining forces with Weta Workshop (Movie Creative Company) they created a narrative around the Gallipoli Campaign during World War 1 through the eyes and experiences of 8 individual New Zealanders. They also created huge lifelike sculptures (2.4 Scale) , 3D Painted maps and models to bring it all to life.
Part of the exhibition showcased a photo album Captain John Rose of the Wellington Infantry Battalion.
This album contains 243 original photographs taken by Captain (later Major) John Murray Rose, who sailed from New Zealand in 1914 with the Main Body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
After serving in Gallipoli with the Wellington Infantry Battalion, as commander of the Machine Gun section. He saw further action in France, where he was seriously wounded. His album contains many images of troopship life, scenes of ‘soldier-tourist’ activities in Egypt, and extraordinary scenes of front-line activity at Gallipoli.
After Te Papa we continued walking along the harbourfront via the Saturday Markets before making our way to the Wellington Botanic Gardens.
Being this is Wellington – there was a quirky way to get into the Botanic Gardens – via Cable Car from Lambton Quay. Taking 5 minutes this took us up the hill to Kelburn and the park entrance.
Opened in 1902 these two cable car carriages are responsible for moving a million people a year.
Like Taronga Zoo in Sydney you can get the Cable Car to the top and then work your way down. The gardens contained plenty of conifer plants and trees, an experiment back in the 1800s to see which species would take to the climate. The Gardens themselves date back to 1868 and whose first manager was a Scottish geologist called Sir James Hector.
At the bottom of our journey through The Gardens we came upon a cemetery. The Bolton Street Cemetery is Wellington’s oldest European burial site and is sandwiched between the rest of the gardens and the motorway below it.
Our last sight of the day was to walk past the New Zealand Parliament House – a large Edwardian building on Lambton Quay. The main stand out feature of the building is the executive wing – The Beehive.
Designed in 1964 by Sir Basil Spence it is an icon of Wellington and New Zealand and features on the $20 dollar note.
We started the evening with a rooftop drink at Dirty Little Secret – a secret rooftop container bar overlooking Courtenay Place, before we returned to Cuba Street – we had rendezvous plans at the Black Dog Brewing Co. Karen’s sister Laura had friends from Ayr living in Wellington – Krissy and Cassels so we met up for a couple of drinks there and then grabbed some food at Chow Tory .
We ended the evening back at the Library Bar and enjoyed some jazz/funk music (think Herbie Hancock and the Headshrinkers) – to cap off our last night here.
As our last morning was Sunday morning we would be able to catch the Wellington’s oldest and most popular market – the Harbourside Market. It was literally across the street so we did not have far to travel.
Fresh produce, market stalls, food vans, live music and a couple of fishermen selling fish right off the boat made us jealous that this market is not back in Sydney.
After the market it was a short taxi ride to the airport and our Easter Break to New Zealand was over 😦
Somewhere as creative and quirky as Wellington definitely had Street Art. Here is a sample of the snaps we were able to take while we were here.
Map and locations can be found using this link.