Is Wellington the coolest capital? We thought it was a pretty cool place for a couple days. Here are some interesting tidbits-bits thanks to mywellington website.
1. Wellington, is the southernmost capital in the world.
2. Wellington is packed with over 400 cafes and restaurants.
3. Legend has it that ‘The Beehive’ was in fact designed on the back of a napkin as a joke.
4. Lambton Quay is 100-200 metres from the harbour. It got it’s name from being built on reclaimed swamp land following the upheaval of a mass area of land out of the harbour, during a major earthquake in 1855.
5. With the steep streets throughout the city, Wellingtonians are known to be some of the fittest New Zealanders, with 11 percent of local residents commuting by walking.
6. Almost all of Wellington’s residents live within three kilometres of the coastline.
7. Wellington replaced Auckland as the capital city of New Zealand in 1865.
8. In 1893, the parliament in Wellington passed the ‘Electoral Act 1893’ which made New Zealand the world’s first country to give women the vote.
Before leaving the Hawke’s Bay region towards Wellington, we made a winery stop. Stephen had carefully picked this winery (Alpha Domus) since they made a bubbles (sparkling wine). We had a chance to chat with the winemaker and added to our growing collection of NZ wines. When we visited NZ 20 years previously, we were 4th year medical students and just didn’t appreciate the wine scene. This visit….we are making up for that mistake!
During our drive, we started to make use of the LOTR guidebook. It directs you to the locations of shooting sites from the trilogy. Many of the locations are former sites or not reachable without a tour/guide, but it is a fantastic start. All of the sets were taken down after completion of movie. Hobbiton was built for The Hobbits and that entire set was left (that stop is later on our trip). Even though sets are no longer present, the landscape is still present and will instantly bring one to key moments in the movies. We purposely watched the movies with the kids over Christmas. Here are a couple websites showing locations: Backpacker Guide, New Zealand Guide.
We rented a house for this stay, “House of Chocolate”. Much to the kids approval, it provided a wonderful candy stock and milkshake machines. The house was also stocked full of All Blacks paranephelia. The kids were convinced the owner must have been a former player (but not so). The location was just a few minutes from the central business district. The house was a perfect size for the four of us. We had a nicely stocked kitchen so cooking meals was easy (we ended up canceling a dinner reservation to stay home one night) and we had a large table for meals and game playing. The TV was large enough that we could watch movies. The hot tub was another great feature. We were in Wellington for several days and we had an unplanned extra day, so we had plenty of time for exploring. Our original ferry crossing was delayed one day due to weather. Luckily, we managed to stay the additional night at the house. Currently, this house is our favorite! Wellington was a wonderful stop for a couple days. The weather was better than expected (Windy Wellington) and we were able to just wander around and explore.
We spent quite a bit of time exploring the waterfront and nearby streets. It is located in the central hub of the city. It is an easy walk along the Queen’s Whart to Frank Kitts Park with plenty of cafes/restaurants and people watching to keep one entertained. We missed the Saturday market on our trip since it was closed due to the holidays but we did find a farmer’s market on the weekend. We were entertained with the diving tower on the waterfront. There were several structures with bridges/towers over water for “plunging” into the water along the waterfront. As you walked along the wharf, you could easily find find, rays, and jellyfish. We were able to walk from the waterfront to Cuba Street which is filled with boutiques, cafes, and hip restaurants. We visited Cuba Street a couple different times for lunches. The side streets were always filled with different street performers.
We cheated and drove the kids to the top of Mt Victoria (196 meters high). We had a narrow window of blue sky (per the weather app) and I wanted them to appreciate the city views. The blue skies ended up staying with us the whole day! The views were wonderful that afternoon. Stephen and I ended up “running up” Mt Victoria on an overcast and cloudy day and didn’t get to see nearly as much. The Byrd Memorial sits at the top, a tribute to an American aviator who made the first flight over the south pole in 1929 (from New Zealand). Within the trail system on Mt Victoria is the filming location of “Get Off the Road” (I will discuss that run on the running blog).
There was a a game store near to the house we had rented. It offered table space for games, food, and beverages. We spent a rainy few hours playing some new games and old ones that we left back at home. There were so many games that we didn’t get to try and the kids kept wanting to go back again! We did end up adding a couple small games to our traveling collection of games. How many games does a family of four need for a year? Pandemic dice game, Seven Wonders (new acquisition), Machi Koro (original version and new acquisition of the expansion pack), Sushi Go, Pandemic Iberia (sent back to the States), Dragon dice game, timeline card game, and a firecracker dice game.
We are pretty careful with our museums. If we visited museums in every city the kids would revolt! But TePapa was a must see. It had a great exhibit showcasing the Maori history and culture which was an entire floor of the museum. The exhibit spanned the Maori history from discovery of New Zealand to current times. E addressed the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand in a history paper. S wasn’t as much interested in Maori history but was intrigued by the colossal squid (1091 pounds!) that was found in a fishing line in Antartica. The entire process of the discovery, research, and preservation of the find was shown with a short video which I watched at leasat a couple times. We paid for the visiting Lego exhibit (of course). Several famous sites that we had seen this year were created in bricks such as the Egyptian Pyramid and Taj Mahal. There was a special exhibit showcasing the military disaster of Gallipoli (WW1). We are used to viewing the World Wars through the lens of America- our involvement, our losses, our victories. However, every NZ town has had a war memorial with names for both wars. It is surprising to read a couple dozen names from a very small town. It was a very honest exhibit highlighting the small successes and huge failures of the Gallipoli Campaign from the NZ perspective. It was so crowded on the first day that it was hard to enjoy, but we came back the next day for a second tour. Even after 2 visits to TePapa, we barely scratched the surface of this massive museum.
Zealandia is an eco-sanctuary located in Wellington. A huge valley has been fenced to allow protection of more than 30 native birds. The fence completely surrounds the park to keep predators away. It tells a great story of NZ conservation efforts and is showing promising results. Supposedly there are over 100 kiwi in the park, we didn’t see any since it was daytime during our visit. We did see countless birds (and heard them) such as saddlebacks and takahe.
Next stop….South Island!