Wonderful, Windy, Wellington

Wonderful, Windy, Wellington

I remember flying into Wellington on my first visit to New Zealand, back in 2002, for a two day work trip. At first sight of the jagged NZ coastline I assumed I was flying over the land around Wellington, at the bottom of the North Island. I also assumed, having not closely studied a map of New Zealand, that Wellington faced south across its harbour and directly into Cook Strait. My third assumption was that the Cook Strait had an east-west orientation, much like Bass Strait between Tasmania and Victoria, Australia.

Wellington - Google MapsOf course I was wrong on all three assumptions. Number one, the jagged pieces of New Zealand land I first flew over belong to the “Sounds” and small islands of the South Island. Secondly, Wellington faces north east into its harbour. And thirdly, Cook Strait runs North-West / South-East. This is probably all very obvious to a New Zealand 3rd grade student, but not to a geographically challenged Australian like me.

On 11th January 2020, with Maggie and a much wiser me onboard, cruise ship MV Noordam docked at Wellington’s cruise terminal around 8 am.

DSC06772View from Stateroom Balcony at 8.45 am – Sky Stadium to right, imported cars, export timber and container terminal (in background)

At 9.30 am we left the dock by coach for a tour of the city. Our first activity of this excursion was to take a ride on the famous cable car, from Lambton Quay in the CBD to Kelburn Lookout.

DSC06774DSC06777A ride that climbs 120 metres in 5 minutes


While it’s a short ride to the summit, with most of the views along the way obscured, the views from the top make it worthwhile. However, that day the wind was strong and the weather not ideal for photos.

DSC06792DSC06798DSC06810National War Memorial Carillon (near centre), Dominion Museum (centre), Victoria University of Wellington (partly obscured by trees), plus a hazy glimpse of the drab grey Cook Strait between the distant hills

Our next stop was the Botanic Gardens

DSC06836Lady Norwood Rose Garden, Wellington Botanic Garden

DSC06826Maggie at Peace Garden

DSC06832Mass plantings of Begonia and various other plants

DSC06859_1Fountain at centre of rose garden, with Begonia Glass House and Cafe behind

DSC06850Orchid or Cyclamen? I think Orchid

DSC06855Water Lily

As expected, we saw a very small part of the Garden. Then boarded the bus for the National War Memorial Park, Pukeahu.

50 metre tall Carillon 1932, atop / behind Hall of Memories 1964 + The bronze sculpture of Maori Elder, Hinerangi

DSC06900Hall of Memories

The centrepiece statue, “Mother and Children” depicts a wartime family providing comfort and hope for each other in the absence of a loved one.

DSC06906_1The Australian Memorial 2015

The red sandstone columns and red floor stones represent the heart of Australia, while the grey floor stones represent the New Zealand landscape. The interlacing of the grey and red stones, plus the “word” ANZAC in a black stone strip, symbolise the close relationship between both countries. Maori and Aboriginal artwork is also featured on some of the columns.


According to Wikipedia, the area now called “Wellington and its environs have been occupied by various Māori groups from the 12th century”. European settlement in the area began in late 1839.

Want to get a better view of Wellington and it environs? Go to Mt Victoria Lookout.

DSC06926Part of Wellington’s CBD

DSC06925Wellington’s working Docks

DSC06924Sky Stadium with cruise ship terminal to right; Aft view of cruise ship MS Noordam at terminal; InterIsland Ferry further right

DSC06933Harbour front CBD

DSC06931Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (just below centre of photo) we visited there later in the day

DSC06920Evans Bay (left), Wellington International Airport and Lyall Bay (right)

DSC06935A closer view of Evans Bay,  part of the airport and beyond to Fitzroy Bay / Cook Strait

The final destination of this excursion was Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

DSC06953Waharoa (Gateway) was carved for the New Zealand International Exhibition held in Christchurch 1906/07. Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington is now its permanent home.

DSC06960Close up view of Installation, Finale: Bouquet, by Australian artist Nike Savvas was inspired by the colours of the New Zealand landscape

DSC06961The installation measures 18.9m W x 8.7m H, and “appears like an explosion of confetti”. Thousands of colourful tabs are suspended creating “a festival of colour and movement”.

In case you’re wondering, Finale: Bouquet is made up of over 210,000 plastic tabs.

DSC06965Stained glass door depicts Ranginui, the sky father and Papatūānuku, the earth mother. The raising of the door represents the separation of heaven and earth. It was designed by Robert Jahnke

DSC06966This display meeting house is called Te Hono ki Hawaiki, which means the link with the ancestral homelands – created by Cliff Whiting (Master Carver)

The entire display house is carved from custom wood rather than the traditional Totara wood.

Each carved figure represents an ancestor. Unfortunately, in taking this photo I cut out Maui, a very important ancestor and the central figure at the crest of the house (due to an insufficiently wide-angle lens and insufficient space to move back).

DSC06974 copyThe carving of Maui that sits atop the display house – notice the ropes being used by Maui and his brothers to slow the sun, to make the days longer.

Maui is also one of the central characters in Disney’s 2016 animation film, “Moana”.

DSC06971New Zealand Jade rock

DSC06984North Island Brown Kiwi – female left & male right

I have one more confession to make. I used to believe that Auckland was New Zealand’s capital city.

After the signing of The Treaty of Waitangi  (Bay of Islands) in February 1840, Russell (also Bay of Islands) was declared the first national Capital. At that time Wellington hadn’t yet been declared a city. Although it became a city later in 1840.

DSC06976_1A copy of “The Treaty of Waitangi” displayed at the Museum of New Zealand

Then in 1841 Auckland became the capital of New Zealand. (Wow, before I was born I was right about this.)

However … in the early 1860’s it was feared that the then more populous south Island (where the gold fields were located) might try to become a separate British Colony. So in 1865, after a trial period commencing in 1862, the government decided to officially move the capital to a more central location, Wellington.

Ahh, wonderful, windy, winner, Wellington.

Of course this means the National Parliament and associated government buildings are in Wellington.

DSC06946“The Beehive” (left) a 1960s designed building housing Prime Ministerial and cabinet offices and (right) Colonnaded Parliament House Building

DSC06944The Parliamentary Library

DSC06943Old Government Buildings, the oldest wooden structure remaining in NZ and perhaps the oldest wooden office building in the world. It was built to resemble a stone palace 

Old Government Buildings was completed in 1876 and served as the home of Ministers’ offices, the Cabinet room and all Wellington-based civil servants for 56 years. Although it wasn’t completely vacated by government departments until 1990.

Our next port, Napier, is more than half way up the east coast of the north island of New Zealand. So we’d better get going. Will you join us?

Stay safe!


  • Norm
    Posted at 07:12h, 06 April Reply

    That working dock with the Stadium or Cake Tin in the background is where we camped during the Rugby World Cup. Couldn’t get much closer to town. It was cleared out of course.

  • alistairstravel
    Posted at 08:16h, 06 April Reply

    Thanks for your comment Norm. That would have been an amazing place to camp. Obviously there was a lot of work done by the Kiwi’s to clear the area for campers. How long were you at that camp site? Did you have much time to explore Wellington?

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