Wellington is just across Cook Strait from Picton, the Interislander ferry takes about three hours to get there but for us on Explorer of the Seas it was an overnight journey. A few days later we attended a Q & A session with the Captain and some of the senior officers and a passenger asked why it had taken us so long to get there. I loved the answer which was “We are on a cruise.”
We arrived in Wellington very early though and after a short bus ride from the freight terminal (more stacks of timber) we reached the Visitor Information Centre where volunteers were waiting to meet us and help us find our way to wherever we wanted to go. We only had until about four o’clock in the afternoon to see as much as we could of Wellington and believe me that is nowhere near enough. Naomi and I both wanted to ride on Wellington’s famous cable car and as it was Sunday and we’d heard there were markets on the waterfront we wanted to see those as well.
We were directed to the waterfront by way of an interesting bridge which the lady from the Visitors Centre told us was designed by a Maori artist. It is a public artwork and was opened in 1994. We liked it very much.
We passed by a statue depicting rugby players. New Zealanders really love their rugby. Last year New Zealand hosted the rugby World Cup which they won.
Down on the waterfront we found one market which was just setting up, it seemed to be mostly produce and craft, the other one which I had read was more of a bric a brac market was supposed to be in a nearby building. We found the building but not the market so it appears we were misinformed again. I took some photographs anyway although it was a little bit overcast and dull.
Next we made our way through the city to the terminus of the cable car near Lambton Quay. There was already a long line of people waiting to ride on it. When I say long I mean the queue stretched out to the street. Unfortunately, although we didn’t have too long to wait it did mean that the car was very crowded and it was not easy to take pictures. After a short trip we arrived at the upper terminus and spent some time taking pictures of the cable car descending and then went to visit the Cable Car Museum next door.
A nearby cafe was our next stop for lunch and then we went for a walk in the adjacent Botanical Gardens. We didn’t try it because we had return tickets but you can walk back through the Botanical Gardens to the city. It’s all downhill so easier than going the other way. I definitely want to do that next time I am in Wellington. We passed the Carter Observatory and an interesting structure called “The Sundial of Human Involvement”. It works by using a series of fixed points around an ellipse and then it takes a person standing on the right day and month within a figure eight on a brass slab to point out the correct time. In effect you become the hands of the clock. It sounds weird but we tried it and it works. Neither of us had ever seen anything like this before but when I googled it just now several came up including some in Australia so apparently Wellington’s is not unique.
We enjoyed the view of Wellington from the Botanical Gardens and explored a little before heading back to the Cable Car as we knew our time was short.
The cable car was not as crowded on the way down so we were able to enjoy the ride seated. Naomi was lucky enough to bag the front seat as she had her video camera. She was able to record most of the journey down to the city. I’m still waiting to see the movie but she tells me it came out quite well which she was pleased about because the camera was new for the trip.
As we were now in the CBD we walked around some of the main streets admiring the old buildings before stopping for a cold drink then we made our way back to the waterfront. It was now very bright and sunny and Naomi was keen to revisit some of the places we’d passed earlier when she felt it was too dull for filming anything. We had a wonderful stroll through the waterfront precinct where many of the old buildings house cafe’s and businesses. Lots of people were out and about making use of the space. We passed two gaily painted pianos which were available for the public to play. I have heard of these street piano’s, I think they have appeared in cities all over the world but again this was the first time I’d seen any.
It is very hard to describe how a simple walk could be so enjoyable but I fell in love with Wellington that afternoon. I love the architecture, the water, the quotations that I saw painted on various buildings and the way that the people seemed to enjoy their city. Even the dogs were having a good time.
There are two museums located at the waterfront, the Wellington Museum which is housed in an old Bond Store on Queens Wharf and showcases the history of the Wellington region and at the other end the very modern looking Te Papa Tongarewa which is the National Museum and Art Gallery of New Zealand. Everyone says that the Te Papa is a “must” when you visit Wellington. I like visiting museums but on this visit we chose not to go because had we visited the two big museums we would not have had time to see anything else. There are also ferries that go to other parts of the city and local trains which we would love to take so another visit to Wellington is going to be a “must”.
When we reluctantly headed back to the Visitor Information Centre to browse in the gift shop before catching the shutle bus back we were surprised to find that there was another cruise ship in town. It turned out to be “Radiance of the Seas” a younger and smaller sister of our Explorer of the Seas. We’ve seen Radiance before in Sydney but it was a treat to see the two ships together on the wharf and to sail past her when we left at around five o’clock. Our last sight of Wellington was one of a small orange boat enthusiastically doing “donuts” before leaving us. A fitting end to a very happy day.
For those of you who would like to know more about the places we visited or Wellington in general here are some links to explore.
City to Sea Bridge – http://www.sculptures.org.nz/tours/civic-square/city-to-sea-bridge
Kupe Sculpture – http://www.sculptures.org.nz/tours/waterfront-tour/kupe-statue
Wellington Botanical Gardens – http://wellington.govt.nz/recreation/enjoy-the-outdoors/gardens/botanic-garden/visitor-information
Wellington Museum – http://www.museumswellington.org.nz/wellington-museum/
Te Papa Tongarewa – https://www.tepapa.govt.nz/