“ Cable car in Wellington city centre, NZ. Goes up to the observatory. „
The Wellington Cable Car is an iconic transport system that has been operating in the capital city of New Zealand since the start of the 1900s. It is one of Wellington's most popular tourist attractions. The cable car is frequently used by commuters, students and of course, tourists, and can transport up to 100 passengers at a time. The Cable Car offers a quick connection, between the central business district (Lambton Quay) to the top of city in Kelburn. At the end of your 5 minute journey, you have "climbed" 119 metres to your final destination, Upland Road Station where you can access the botanical gardens and see some picturesque views of the city and the harbour.
Wellington in the 1890s was the fastest growing city in New Zealand. The expanding workforce wanted to live close to the shops and offices at Lambton Quay but such accommodation was scarce. At the same time, the hills directly above the city centre were mostly scrubland and farms. To address the housing shortage The Upland Estate Company was formed in 1898 to turn the hills directly above the city into a new suburb (Kelburn). The new suburb would need easy access, so a tramway was chosen for a quick and direct link between the suburb and the city. Construction of the original cable car started in 1901 and work was carried out night and day. The three tunnels along the route, with some running underneath houses, were blasted and dug with pick and shovel using prison labour from The Terrace Gaol. The tramway was opened in 1902, and by 1912 a million rides were taken a year. In 1933, electricity replaced steam as the power for the cars, and in 1978, the old cars were replaced by an entirely new Swiss designed system. This system has been running for the past 30 years or so. Under the current system there is a single track with a passing loop. As one car is pulled down the 1:5.06 gradient the other car is pulled up the hill.
GATEWAY TO THE TOP OF WELLINGTON:
The journey to the top is smooth, quiet and leisurely. At peak times in either direction, you may struggle for a seat, but the short journey time means that you do not suffer for long. The first couple of stops are unspectacular, the first one a car park for commuters and the second gives access to some of the homes that are a short hilly walk from the Terrace. The third stop, Salamanca station is more scenic, and you begin to realise how high up you have travelled. The views are also interesting, you can see the dominating green sports park, Kelburn Park and also the Victoria University campus in the distance. The cable car is often used by students for convenience, and a significant number of students live around the surrounding area in halls of residence and flats.
After a short journey time of 5-10 minutes depending on passenger volumes, you have reached your final destination, Upland Road Station. This is your stop for accessing some excellent views of Wellington harbour. The view is not quite as impressive or as high as that seen from Mount Victoria, but is more easily accessible from the main CBD. Also, the cable car is quite cheap, scenic and a less strenuous way of reaching one of Wellingtons high "points". This is worth considering on a warm Summers day. The cost of an adult return is $5.00 (approximately £2.30). Full details on prices are given below.
Going by cable car is also a simple way of visiting the free botanical gardens. I recommend you visit the gardens by cable car, your walk will be predominantly downhill, which is a big incentive as Wellington is notoriously hilly. The gardens are perfect for a leisurely walk in Summer and contain a mix of native plants, trees and outdoor sculptures. These include the sundial, druids hill listening device, the Lady Norwood rose garden and the waterfall and peace flame.
Asides from the botanic gardens and the welcoming views, Kelburn village is also a 10 minute walk away. Kelburn is a good destination if you are after a spot of brunch as it is home to a few cafes that offer a good variety of meals. There are also a range of restaurants available too which are worth considering as the cable car operates until 10 PM, 7 days a week.
Last, but by no means least, you can also take a wander around the cable car museum at the top. This museum tells the story of New Zealand's only remaining public cable car system. A visit is well recommended, and the museum has won the New Zealand Tourism Industry award in both 2006 and 2007 for visitor activities and attractions: culture and heritage tourism.
The cable car is an affordable, scenic and smooth ride to the top of Wellington. I would thoroughly recommend taking a ride, and combining your trip with a walk around the botanic gardens, or brunch in Kelburn. The main advice I would offer, is make sure you go on a nice sunny day. As the saying goes, "you can't beat Wellington on a good day". And of course, don't forget your camera - you won't be disappointed.
The Cable Cars run every 10 minutes
Monday to Friday: 7am to 10pm
Saturday: 8:30am to 10pm
Sunday & Public Holidays: 9am to 10pm
One Way Return
Adult $3.00 $5.00
(Children 5-15, under 5's Free) Students must show valid NZ student ID $1.00 $2.00
SuperGold Card Holders
(2 Adults & up to 4 Children) $14.00
© CJG, 2010.
Cable car in Wellington city centre, NZ. Goes up to the observatory.