I arrived in Wellington at 5pm on Thursay 13th February after a six hour Intercity bus ride from Turangi. Some of these journeys are long but they tend to include stops every couple of hours for a 'comfort break' and the scenery is very diverting if you can stay awake. I booked my accommodation for the entire trip about two weeks before I left Australia but nonetheless it was very difficult to find a bed in Wellington. It turned out that there was a three day cricket international and a music festival going on in the city during that weekend so some people who arrived without booking anything couldn't find a bed anywhere. Another good reason to do your travel research properly!
I spent the first night in the YHA hostel in a four bed female room with en suite on the 6th floor. The view was amazing and I did wonder how much it would have cost me had I been in a normal hotel. The hostel is close to all the action of bars, restaurants and shops and has good amenities and I would have been happy to stay there for my three nights in the city if there had been space. I spent my first evening checking out the waterfront which has a great boardwalk and where all the old wharves and sheds have been developed into a buzzing restaurant/bar area. On Friday I had to move to the Downtown Backpackers which is a period building and in need of some serious renovation but on the plus side it is located right across the road from the station (great for an early start on Sunday morning) and which has super friendly and helpful staff. I did have the bonus of a single room, and a bathroom which I only had to share with the room next door, and they gave me a NZ$20 refund because my TV couldn't get a signal. As it turned out this was a much quieter location and it was closer to some of the things I wanted to see. I was able to leave my uber heavy bag with them just after 9am and get a good start on the day. For NZ$4 I took the cable car up the 394ft hill for coffee in the restaurant at the top and got some great views of the city from there. There is also a Cable Car Museum at the top with some very interesting and informative film about the history of that transport within the city. It turns out that there are over 400 privately owned cable cars in Wellington and there was footage of interviews with some of the people who had installed them for domestic use. There is a relatively small area of flat ground near the water all around the bay and most of the houses are built into the slopes. For some of these their cable car is the only access and some houses have been built utilising only the cable car as a fork lift to shift all the building materials up to the site. One couple put in a cable car when their labrador couldn't manage the steps anymore and he is taken for walks by first being taken downhill in it. Hats off to dog lovers ?.
The entrance to the Botanic Gardens is also located at the cable car stop and the walk down through these back to the city is quite lovely. At the bottom are rose gardens and a begonia house with an impressive collection. You can join the 'City to Sea Walkway' at this point and it continues down through Bolton Street Memorial Park which is an actual graveyard that was bisected by a major road build. The skeletons that were dug up during this process were re-buried in a mass grave with a memorial plaque and the headstones were placed in the appropriate section of the remaining graveyard. The original Sexton's Cottage, built in 1857, is still standing and is thought to be the oldest building in Wellington and the original chapel which was lost to time has been copied. I poked my head into both the Catholic and Anglican cathedrals, which are situated virtually next door to each other, but I thought the exteriors of both were really ugly and the interiors lacking in any kind of atmosphere. By contrast Old St Paul's Cathedral, 1865, is very special. I did a tour round the House of Parliament Buildings (New Zealand did away with the upper house in 1950) including 'the Beehive' which is the Executive Wing and which incorporates restaurants, a bar,a gym, a swimming pool and a theaterette. We also visited the Parliament Library, a gothic building, and were taken into the basement to view the 'base isolating' structures that have been put in place to protect the buildings from future earthquakes up to scale 7. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photographs in any of these buildings so no interior pics for this one.
I had earmarked Saturday for Te Papa the national museum of New Zealand, because everyone I met had told me it deserved four or five hours but it didn't open until 10am so I hiked up the 640ft Mount Victoria and it was worth it for the views although when I saw how short the airport runway was I was pretty glad I wasn't using it.
Te Papa is every bit as good as everyone says it is and I spent several hours here before wandering back along the waterfront in time to catch a ferry which visited four places around the bay and allowed me to see the city from the water. At NZ$22 for a 60 minute round trip it seemed like a bargain.
Before I went back to the hostel for dinner, and to pack for my early start the next day, I spent an hour listening to some of the free music on the waterfront. Wellington is a lovely mix of a city and I really enjoyed my couple of days there.