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Wellington's Wonderful Windy City

© by Mike Keenan
 
Westpac Stadium seats 35,000; Andy Radka photo

Like Chicago in the US, New Zealand's capital, Wellington, surrounded by hills and a rugged coastline, is also known as the Windy City. The prevailing breeze arrives from the northwest, but the strongest winds are southerly. I notice wind speed and direction evident in the flag flown from "the Beehive," the Executive Wing of New Zealand's Parliament Buildings. Opposite Parliament at 15 Lambton Quay sits the Old Government Building, the largest wooden building in the southern hemisphere and the second-largest in the world, now the home of Victoria University Law School. Unlike Chicago, Wellington is a compact city with a stunning harbour and close-by outdoor recreational opportunities located mere minutes away.
     Here, you may readily immerse yourself in the performing and fine arts, sample an array of theatre, music, dance, galleries and museums. The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the country's principal attraction, is a must-see. "Te Papa," as it's colloquially known, means "our place," and it documents New Zealand's history through art and interactive displays. If timetable permits, try also to see the world-class New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and/or the Royal New Zealand Ballet. In your meandering, keep an eye out for the many contemporary public sculptures sprinkled throughout the city.

Cable Car; Ian Trafford photo   City harbour; Ian Trafford photo   Civic Square; Wellington Tourism photo   Natalie Keegan sculpture at the Kura Gallery; Natalie Keegan photo    Scorching Bay; Ian Trafford photo

     Named fourth best city in the world to visit by "Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2011," this exciting metropolis deserves to be explored, so what else should one see? Here are some suggestions:
     We find that a city tour is the best way to get acquainted with the sights and sounds of a new city. Enjoy such an experience with one of many local companies that offer such tours both on land and water. Another way to find one's bearings and enjoy an overview is to visit the Mount Victoria Lookout. From here, watch Cook Strait ferries sail into the harbour and airplanes fly in and out of Wellington International Airport - where landing in a strong cross-wind was quite an adventure for us. We later learned that most pilots adopt a powered approach, followed by a full reverse thrust and hard braked landing due to the shortness of the runway. It's a bit of a roller-coaster ride and an exhilarating welcome!

Sunrise; Rob Brown photo   Tana Umaga with dreadlocks,  a NZ rugby legend   Te Papa Musuem   The Boulevard Gallery, Te Papa    The Beehive; Kieran Scott photo

     Wellington is quite hilly, so take advantage of an enjoyable ride on the historic Wellington Cable Car which runs from Lambton Quay in the city's commercial heart to Kelburn and then past Kelburn Park and the Victoria University to the top of Upland Road, where the Lookout, Carter Observatory, Planetarium and Cable Car Museum are all located. (The cable car runs every ten minutes. Fees: $2.50 one way; $4.50 return; discounts for children, students and senior citizens over 65.) At the Botanic Garden, discover 26 hectares of unrivaled views, distinctive landscape, exotic forests, native bush, colourful floral displays and elegant specialist gardens.
     There is no danger of ever going hungry in this vibrant city where four of its top restaurants captured New Zealand's Best Restaurant Award in the last five years. It's safe to say that you will eat well while staying here! At the Fratelli Feast, we savoured three full courses at $35 each, and on Tuesdays the Library in central Wellington offered two scrumptious desserts for the price of one!
     To appreciate native flora and fauna, walk through ZEALANDIA: The Karori Sanctuary Experience, (adult $18.50, child $9), home to some of the rarest, most extraordinary wildlife on the planet, where one hears native birdsong and encounters a tuatara, a reptile found only in New Zealand. For a more dramatic look at the cosmos, try stargazing and check out the amazing planetarium show at the Carter Observatory, a state-of-the-art full-dome digital theatre, open 7 days a week from 10am until 5pm, with late night stargazing every Tuesday and Saturday until 9pm (weather permitting!).
     Wellington offers many great night spots. We recommend Motel, Library and Duke Carvell's Swan Lane Emporium, three eclectic venues where one is sure to enjoy contemporary music and camaraderie. During the day, head to Cuba Street for boutique shopping and the best coffee in town.
     Because it's the capital city, Parliament and head offices of government departments and large businesses dominate central Wellington, particularly in the northern end of the Terrace and Lambton Quay areas and the Thorndon commercial area. At noon, public servants eat lunch at several parks and open areas, particularly at Midland Park on Lambton Quay. After a major earthquake in 1855, much of the central city was built upon reclaimed land. The shoreline of 1840 is now marked by plaques along footpaths on Lambton Quay. There are several quays ironically now nowhere near the harbour. The harbour's former name was Port Nicholson.
     If you have time, check out Matiu/Somes Island in the middle of the harbour, once a quarantine station for immigrants, and later for animals. It was also an internment camp for "dangerous" individuals during both World Wars. The ferry leaves from Queen's Wharf and Day's Bay (on opposite sides of the harbour) and only at certain times will the ferry stop at the island upon request. Your best choice is to leave Queen's Wharf at noon and return at 2:30PM or 3:25PM. (Fee $18.50)
     Another "cultural" delight is to watch the world famous New Zealand rugger team, the "All Blacks" take on any unfortunate adversary. They perform their indigenous Haka ceremony at the start of the game, and one quickly appreciates the upcoming ferocity as players scream and beat their chests in the Maori dance. Although the All Blacks perform a fearsome-looking war dance, not all Hakas are warlike.
     On a more welcome note, the temperature here like most everything else, is truly inviting; it rarely drops below 0°C, even on a cold winter's night. Daytime winter temperatures are rarely lower than 8°C. During summer, the daytime maximum temperature rarely gets above 25°C.



Photo Credits
Tourism New Zealand

Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun. Click for Wellington, New Zealand Forecast


If you go
New Zealand Tourism: http://www.newzealand.com/ca/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wellington
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Wellington
About.com: http://goaustralia.about.com/cs/nznorthsights/a/wellington1.htm
Places of worship: http://en.wikipedia.org/...
Fiction: http://www.authors.org.nz/...

Travel Aid
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Maps (Google interactive map): http://maps.google.com/
Maps (Mapquest) U.S. & Canada: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp
Maps (Mapquest) World: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp?country=GB
Media Guide (local newspapers with current listings): http://www.abyznewslinks.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/
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