Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wellington: Capital fun in New Zealand's capital

Wellington's Harbor is the focal point of the city.
Located at the bottom tip of the North Island's fingers, Wellington is the jumping off point to New Zealand's southern half and the self-proclaimed "Coolest little capital." Downtown curves around a bay, rising like a tiara into the surrounding hills, which makes it a challenge at times for Levelers.

Tip: Fortunately, many of the city's gems are within three to four blocks from the waterfront where it is relatively level. Elevators make it easy to access upper floors.

Within that area, the don't misses include

Te Papa

Te Papa Tongarewa. Known to everyone as simply Te Papa (Tay-pappa), our house, it is the country's national museum and is a treasure trove of Maori culture and interesting visiting shows. The design is inspiring, the gift shop is great and the facility is free and open every day.

Wander around its waterfront to get the vibe of this fun city. Stop at the information center for friendly suggestions about the rest of the city and it accessibility.

MV Agusta F4 Senna and autographed Rolling Stones' guitar

Hungry? Stand in front of Te Papa with your back to the waterfront, look to your left across the street and make a beeline to the Museum Hotel and Hippopotamus on Cable Street. First, owner/developer/man about town Chris Parkin's art collection of New Zealand talent on the hotel's first floor is well worth a wander. Even cultural philistines will appreciate the classic motorcycles and the guitar signed by the Rolling Stones.

Take the elevator to Hippopotamus, pause to take in the bright and cheery decor and harbor view then prepare for one of the best meals in Wellington.

Definitely try one of mixologist Guy Jacobson's creations; his Pimm's Cup is a delicious work of art as are his themed menus. Chef Laurent Loudeac handles New Zealand's bounty with French sensibility and the eye of an artist. 

The art scene is an active one here. For contemporary, try Page Blackie and Avid Gallery , across the hallway from one another in the Cuba district.

For more traditional fare head to Tinakori Road in the Thorndon area, Wellington's first suburb.

Tip: Tinakori Road is flat but land on either side rises or falls steeply. It will give you a closeup look at the private cable cars that make life possible for many a Wellington resident.

Sir Michael Fowler in his galler
While there, do stop in Michael Fowler Gallery and spend some time with Sir Michael, a retired architect and Wellington's former mayor who is credited with bringing residents back to downtown. The handsome convention center is named in his honor and he's a charming raconteur.

The Botanical Garden is nearby.

Tip: The rose garden and Japanese garden are on the level but the sculpture garden is a long, steep trek. I got as far as the Henry Moore piece and decided not to continue. Those who did said it was pretty but not a must-do.

Must and should do's beyond city center are many. Here are some of my recommendations.

Wellington from Mt. Victoria
• Drive up to the Mt. Victoria Lookout.

• Take a Lord of the Rings tour (see ) and if you have a fan of Peter Jackson's epics in the family, you'll be their favorite relative if you bring them a souvenir from the Wela Cave ( No. 2 bus takes you almost to the front door; $3-$4 vs. $25 by cab).

• Experience Maori culture. You can find out about tours at Te Papa and the information center, but if there's a program at Arohanui Ki Te Tangata, the Meeting House of Goodwill to all Men, I recommend it.

• Zealandia: the Kaori Sanctuary Experience is your best chance to see New Zealand's fascinating, endangered wildlife in person.

• Take in the scenery and chat up the locals on a drive around some of the beaches and bays: Breaker Bay, Moa Point (decent shelling), Island Bay, Lyall Bay where the surfers congregate. Maranui Cafe and Queen Sally's Diamond Deli are popular hangouts.

And if you happen to be in town when WOW, the World of Wearableart Awards Show is on, GO. You will never see anything else like it. 

WOW, it's Wearable Art


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March 12, 2012 at 7:44 AM
samuel marsden said...

"Te Papa Tongarewa" means "the place of treasures of this land" is a museum and art gallery of Wellington New Zealand. Now a days its operating in two parts one focuses on past activities and other focuses on future.

August 5, 2013 at 1:42 PM

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