Having been traveling around New Zealand for 2 weeks, I was excited to visit the capital. I really loved it here and thought it surpassed Auckland.


Member Rating 0 out of 5 by noushi on March 27, 2005

Named after a boot, Wellington also gets a lot of bad jokes about its wind problem too, but don't let that put you off. It may be smaller than Auckland, but it has so much more to offer.

With the opening of the long-awaited Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand, the waterfront is alive again. The Courtenay Place neighborhood has one of the best bar, cafe, and restaurant scenes in the country, and some say there are enough restaurants per capita to rival New York City.

My rented car was useful for exploring hillier areas beyond the city centre. At the southern end of town, above Oriental Bay, a climb up Mount Victoria lookout gave a spectacular 360-degree view of the city, the harbour and - on a very clear day, apparently - the South Island.

Thorndon to the north is the oldest suburb, with picturesque streets of wooden houses, antique shops, cafes, pubs, the timber-vaulted Old St Paul's Cathedral and the writer Katherine Mansfield's childhood home.

From there, I kept driving around the harbour for 20 minutes to Eastbourne, a seaside village with a lively main street and all-day dining at Brasserie 16. The drive had a pleasing innocence, along a winding waterfront with sharply rising hills and wooden beach houses where elderly residents still live amid the wealthy weekenders. I finished the day with dinner back in the city at Pravda, an elegant room whose red leather banquettes, chandeliers, and Soviet signage belie a casual atmosphere and simple food with interesting wines from around Martinborough and Hawkes Bay.

The architecture of Wellington has been compared to San Francisco, the harbour to Seattle, and the surrounding hillsides to Tasmania, but this vista is neither American nor Australian. Wellington has one of the most individual and distinctive cityscapes. It is also a powerful city, housing NZ's government in a controversial building nicknamed the Beehive.${QuickSuggestions} Pluck runs like a seam through Wellingtonians. Their city sits on one of the most twitchy faultlines in the world. To my horror, on a visit to Te Papa's Awesome Forces exhibition, I discovered that, in the three days I had been in town, there had been half a dozen small quakes, including one measuring a respectable 4.4 on the Richter scale. Yet, rather than panicking every time the ground shakes, the fearless locals count the tremor-ripples in their goblets of local Pinot Noir and order another.${BestWay} Everything is so compact that walking would probably be the best way to get around. Taxis are also very reasonable--well, compared to London prices.

Wellington YHA

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by noushi on March 28, 2005

Starting on a positive note, this is a favorite stop for tourists; families; and school, cultural, and sports groups who appreciate space, cleanliness, and comfort at an affordable price. Once again, location is the prime attraction, and rooms are well situated. A complete refurbishment was carried out in 2001, doubling the size of the establishment, and in 2003, they were hard at work again sprucing things up; you'll see nice little touches, such as hammocks and old armchairs in the wide corridors. Internet and postal services are available, and a group lounge acts as a great social spot. There is a well-equipped kitchen and a supermarket just across the road. All transport and other YHA bookings can be made on the premises.

However, we moved after 2 nights here. The YHA is indeed in a great location and very convenient to all shops and nightlife, but this is one of the noisiest places we have ever come across. For starters, it's on an intersection and opposite a fire station, so believe me, at 2am, if there's a fire somewhere around, you will hear about it first. We hardly got any sleep while we were here, hence we have now moved - and we were on the fifth floor! If it wasn't fire engines that woke us up, it was the traffic. You need to decide before coming here what's more important to you, sleep or location.

Wellington YHA
Cambridge Terrace and Wakefield Streets,
Wellington, New Zealand

Karori Wildlife Sanctuary

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by noushi on March 30, 2005

Okay, this was not what I expected. The flyer at the YHA was misleading in the fact that I thought you would be able to see other things than just bugs, birds, and trees. However, it was a very memorable evening. For $45 NZ, Nigel will you pick you up from the centre of town and drive you to the sanctuary. You need to know, which I soon realized, that you will only really enjoy this tour if you are fascinated with birds/ducks and trees; otherwise, I'm telling you, you will not enjoy it like the other enthusiasts on the trip. Bring a good pair of boots that you don't mind getting dirty and that are comfy, as you do a 3km walk in the dark that lasts around 2 hours. There are no lights illumating the park; you do have flashlights, but really, we didn't see much at all. It didn't help matters that it then decided to pour down with rain (the tour doesn't stop for rain), so walking around in the dark, getting soaked, is hardly an enjoyable way to spend an evening.

We walked up a zig-zag path to reach a dam, where we were told we could have a good view and hear some bird calls. However, the rain had turned the path into mud which soon became slippery, and when we went over a few small bridges, there were no handrails--just some rather steep drops on either side, and considering that, by now, it was pitch-black, I was holding onto my boyfriend's hand for dear life. When we reached the dam, again, it was too dark to really be able to appreciate any views. I'm sure it would be great if you did the daytime tour, but at night, the views and setting are completly wasted on you. As for the bird calls, which I confess I was not really interested in (by this point, I was only interested in getting dry and hoping I would not slip on the way down), Nigel did tell us what birds we were hearing, but for a lot of the time, there were buttons he pressed on machines which replicated the birds' calls, and you could do this yourself. It only costs $8 NZ to enter the park, rather than doing the $45 tour, so you make a good saving and can just press the buttons yourself.

All in all, I wouldn't recommend doing the nighttime tour; you don't get to see much. The park is indeed pretty, so it would be good to see it in the daytime. But the 45 bucks wasn't really worth it, and I would have thought that, when they say you will see wildlife, you would be able to see stoats, possums, or maybe a few imported koalas. I didn't realise that wildlife here was just birds and insects.

Karori Wildlife Sanctuary
Waiapu Rd
Wellington, New Zealand, 6005
+64 (0)4 920 9200

The Beehive and Parliamnet Building

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by noushi on March 31, 2005

Wellington is home to New Zealand's government. The parliament buildings started to be built in 1912, but building was delayed due to World War I, and they were completed in 1918. This Edwardian, neoclassical building was never completed. You will notice that the main entrance steps are off center, which is because the southern wing of the parliament buildings was never built. Instead, the proposed site for this is now taken up by the Beehive built in 1981. It is named the Beehive because of its external shape. The parliament grounds are immaculate and great for photos.

Most public tours run on the hour, departing from the ground-floor foyer of the Parliament House at the following times: Weekdays from 10am to 4pm (the last tour departs at 4pm), Saturday from 10am to 3pm, and Sunday from 12 to 3pm. It is free and well worth your time.

You will see parliament and legislation chambers, the Grand Hall, the Maori Affairs Room, and more. The guides are great and tell some amazing stories of events that occurred here, as well as behind-the-scenes info that the public rarely hears. Another interesting fact you will learn about is the foundation of the building and its state-of-the-art earthquake shock absorbers, which are a New Zealand invention apparently.

The Beehive and Parliamnet Building
Lambton Quay and Molesworth Street
Wellington, New Zealand

Te Papa National Museum

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by noushi on April 5, 2005

I am not very fond of museums normally, but this is a MUST-SEE! This is a great museum and a good place to take kids. You will learn almost everything there is to know about New Zealand, including its history and culture from the very beginning to the present. You will see an exhibit about New Zealand's natural forces, including earthquakes, volcanoes, and plants and animals. Bush City is an outdoor exhibit that recreates New Zealand's natural habitats. A great exhibit is dedicated to the Maori culture, and other exhibits include the history of immigration to New Zealand, the significance of sheep to the country, and an art gallery.

Te Papa is definitely worth a visit. Forget just looking at objects behind layers of glass, as Te Papa has a look-and-touch kind of setup with lots of buttons and knobs to press and flashy lights. The stay-in exhibits are interesting to view and read information about, but the main attractions can be the short-term exhibits, such as Lord of the Rings, which ended earlier this year. You pay for such exhibits and some of the rides. The Virtual Bungee is great fun, as was the virtual sheep-shearing.

General entrance is free, but there are donation boxes if you’re feeling generous. It will take a good portion of the day to view all levels of the exhibits; don’t be fooled and try and rush everything within an afternoon. You will find something really interesting, and just as you get into the story, you have to go. There are a number of cafés and restaurants in Te Papa on every level, so you can stop halfway for a snack, lunch, or dinner. Also, there are shops in Te Papa, so you can purchase an everlasting memento of Te Papa.

Te Papa Tongarewa
55 Cable St
Wellington, New Zealand, 6001
+64 (4) 381 7000

Mt Victoria

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by noushi on April 10, 2005

This iconic mountain (196m) is one of Wellington's best lookout spots, affording spectacular 360-degree views of the city and harbour and across to Hutt Valley and the eastern harbour. From the car park, walk up a short flight of steps leading up to the lookout; here are some good views of the city waterfront and docks. Next to the car park, at the top, is the Byrd Memorial honouring US aviator and explorer Richard Byrd, the first man to fly over the South Pole. If you haven't got access to a car, you can catch bus no. 20 (Mondays to Fridays) from the train station or Courtenay Place. You can also walk up as part of the Southern Walkway.With the city spread below you around the harbour area and the suburbs clinging to the hillside, the view from the top of Mount Victoria is worth the effort.

One more thing to add is, if you are a Lord of the Rings fan, just before you get up to Mount Victoria, when you are on Alexander Road, there is a car pack to the left. You will see a steep path that drops into trees; this is where the scene Get off the road was filmed.

Mount Victoria
Alexandra Lookout Road
Wellington, New Zealand, 6001
+64 0(4) 802 4860 (V


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