Newest Review: ... was a large, busy, area full of trendy bars and restaurants. These certainly looked like lively places and the arty looking people pat... more
Wet and windy but entertaining nontheless
Wellington (New Zealand)
Member Name: larsbaby
Wellington (New Zealand)
Advantages: Te Papa museum, Cuba Street, Botanical Gardens
Disadvantages: The weather!
On our holiday in New Zealand, myself and Ms Larsbaby's next stop after Auckland was the capital city of Wellington. Thanks to the scenic Overlander train, we saw some nice views on the 12 hour train ride. Once there we had a good look around in the time that we had.
We stayed in Wellington for 2 days and it rained most of the time, unfortunately, which cut our options to look around a bit. With the help of the Lonely Planet though, we tried to see as much as we could.
When we arrived after the train journey we were pretty hungry, and so skipped our usual restaurant trip and headed straight for a shopping mall and cinema, to an all you could eat Asian buffet as the restaurant was clearing up for the day. Great value and we stuffed ourselves silly with Thai curry, spring rolls and rice. Onto the hotel then, which was the excellent Copthorne hotel by the waterfront. This hotel looked pretty new and had impressive rooms. One of the most expensive and renowned restaurants in the city was across the road, a bit out of our price range though. The immediate area around here was by the waterfront, and the nearby Macs Bar and Restaurant offered us a great night of microbrewery beers and tasty bar food.
Around Courtenay Place there was a large, busy, area full of trendy bars and restaurants. These certainly looked like lively places and the arty looking people patronising them looked like the kind of media city types you see in any capital. They had that look to them that suggested they considered themselves and the city the centre of the world. There seemed to be a range of places here, from fancy cocktail bars to down to earth pubs. I liked the look of the restaurants, which seemed varied and bustling.
Shopping on Lambton Quay was interesting, which was the main shopping area including a historical arcade. Here you could also find many tourist shops. We got chatting to one guy working in one of them and explained how we had a friend who'd emigrated. "So any chance we can snag you 2 then?" he asked. I don't think he was quite prepared for the emphatic "no!" we replied with. Not that I didn't enjoy the place, but a holiday is one thing, moving there quite another.
I really liked Cuba Street, which seemed to be another trendy area but perhaps a bit more down to earth that Courtenay Place. Here we had an excellent fish and chip lunch in Wellington Trawling Sea Market, followed up by a tasty cappuccino and white chocolate cheesecake at Espressoholic down the road. Cuba Street seemed a popular dining, drinking and shopping area and I felt a really good vibe there. There are certainly several interesting looking cafes, bars and restaurants highlighted in the Lonely Planet guide.
The pretty and extensive Botanical Gardens are also worth a visit, with various trails marked out that you can follow. At the top of the hill which you reach by cablecar is the old cablecar museum interesting, which has the history of the cablecar which is preserved and restored there. This was one of the original cablecars and had seats on the side facing out, open! This was working until the 1970s. It's a pretty old car and it's interesting to see the old cable winching room, which has been restored for the museum, and how the system actually worked. I'm not sure how well known this is but I'd certainly recommend it for a visit.
The highlight for me was the amazing Te Papa, The Museum of New Zealand, which we spent a large amount of time in, hiding from the rain. A huge, interactive museum, it had many exhibits about natural history and Maori culture. I found it fascinating (and disturbing) to find out about how imported species have wreaked havoc on the local wildlife. One very clever screen was set up as a departure board in the style of an airport and showed all the imported species as well as native ones that have become extinct. There is also a very funny short film about the Karkapo parrot, once commonplace but now an endangered species that has had its 124 or so survivors relocated to predator free island, where they are monitored and encouraged to breed. One thing I was fascinated to learn about was the Moa, an extinct, flightless bird that was effectively eaten out of existence by the original Maori settlers hundreds of years ago. There is a mock up of an ancient forest, showing what this might have looked like, with native birds and sounds. Did you know that the only mammal native to New Zealand is the bat? Pretty amazing! No wonder there were lots of flightless birds like the Kiwi and Moa, filling that particular ground niche. Pride of place though was for the giant squid, a preserved squid caught by some local fishermen relatively recently and donated to the museum. Groups of schoolparties came and went to gawp at the impressive specimen, which is exactly what we did.
Although we didn't have so much time to explore and the weather wasn't great in the springtime of November, I still liked Wellington and its various attractions. It's worth visiting for Te Papa alone, and it has a lot to offer in terms of nightlife. It certainly didn't quite hold the appeal of Auckland, but had enough in its own right to be considered worth coming to visit.
Summary: Worth a visit for Te Papa alone but still an interesting place
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