Wellington became the capital of New Zealand in 1865, replacing Auckland. It was chosen in part because of its more central location and harbor. It is the southernmost capital in the world.
We arrived early in the morning coming into Cook Strait which divides the northern and southern islands of New Zealand. Wellington is at the southern end of the northern island. While the “sail in” was not picture worthy, the skyline was rather nice. We were docked on a wharf not near the city center, so the ship provided a shuttle bus back and forth between the ship and city.
Doug and I took a ship’s excursion today to see the fur seals on a rocky beach outside the city. The local company was Seal Coast Safari. We drove through parts of the city on the way and saw the Parliament buildings, the Beehive being one of the most unique structures as it really does look like a steel beehive. [It was hard to get a picture without the stoplight while in the jeep.] Near our ship was the huge Westpac Stadium where the New Zealand Blacks play their rugby games.
We traveled by 4×4 with 8 of us in each vehicle. Ours were two long benches facing each other so we were all very close as we jostled into each other on our rugged ride. But before we headed out to the South Coast where the seal colony is situated, we went to the little suburb of Brooklyn to get a panoramic view of the whole city, bay, and hillside – quite breathtaking and vast.
As we left the city, we drove through the beautiful countryside and across a large coastal ranch (called stations due to their size) where we saw goats, cattle, horses, and a huge deer with its baby. Most of the roads were unpaved and pretty bumpy! We could also see the huge seismic fault going to the coast. When we were at the top of the mountain before heading back down the other side to the beach, we saw some of their wind turbines and their Hawkins Hill radar station for their radio/TV broadcasting that had to be enclosed due to the high winds a that altitude. This is what it looked like from the top of this mountain most of the time we were driving towards the beach area. This is the summit and the look down upon the beach where we were headed. And this is where the drive became more interesting – not for someone who wanted a smooth ride over paved roads. It was actually pretty fun, if you didn’t worry about the vehicle tipping over as it went over huge mounds of sand and rock.
As we approached the rock outcroppings on what is called Tongue Point, we began to see the first of our fur seals. There were not many here now because most of the males were with the females in the southern island of NZ for the breeding and birthing of the babies. The ones we saw today were more like the adolescent ones who were resting and eating to get stronger to be the next breeders. Here is one on the welcoming committee! But most of them were enjoying the sun and a lazy day and thus sleeping during our visit. We were told to stay 60 feet from them and not to get between them and the water. Water is their safety and if we scared them, they would race towards the water, knocking down whatever was in their pathway.
The view back along the coast from where we had just driven was really pretty with all the rocks in the foreground. It was beautiful spot – these seals know how to pick a great place to relax! This next picture is the view from the other side of the outcropping looking towards the straits and the island of Picton, where we are headed tomorrow – just about 20 miles away. And while all of us walked around snapping pictures of these wonderful fur seals, our guides were busy making us tea to go along with the date scones they brought with them. The neat thing about the tea was that our guide had picked two different kinds of leaves to add to our tea – one was a leaf commonly used by the Maori for medicinal purposes and the other was from the Manuka tree – which produces the medicinal honey. It gave the tea a great flavor.
It was hard to leave this lovely spot and the fur seals, but we got back in our vehicles for the bumpy ride back to the ship. We took the lower road back, so it was good to see the mountainside from the upper, middle and beach area.
Upon return to the city of Wellington, we were dropped off instead of coming back to the beach. We had the afternoon to explore the city on our own. Had a quick pita sandwich and then set off walking along the waterfront. It was a delightful day, and because it was Sunday, many families were out enjoying the day as well.
We went to Te Papa Tongarewa – New Zealand’s national museum. The name means “container of treasures” and this museum does house the treasures and stories of New Zealand’s land and people. It is very large with six floors. We did not have enough time to spend really exploring this and so we mainly spent time in their gift shop which was wonderful as well. Since we had seen the museum in Auckland with the history of the New Zealand, we felt we could just do a cursory overview of this one. However, if we ever return, it would be one of the first places I’d go back to and spend much more time.
We then headed back to Lambton Quay (where there are many stores – except they were not open that late on Sunday afternoon) where we could get the cable car to take us to Kellburn Lookout for a great view of the city. The Botanic Garden and a little café are there as well. On the way, we enjoyed seeing the buildings in the city – a real combination of old and new.
The cable car made a couple of stops on the way to the top. One was at Salamanca University. They had a huge green lawn area where we watched cricket being played. Finally at the top, we were rewarded with great views.
We then set off to explore some of the Botanic Garden which started on the top of this huge hill and went down towards the city via paths and walkways through various themed garden areas. We focused on the Australian plants primarily since we don’t see many of those back home! I’m not sure what this pretty pink flower was, but I really thought it was pretty, and I liked watching the bee enjoy it as well.
On the ship that evening, they had a special New Zealand Food and Wine Festival as an alternative to the dining room. It was a great meal with oysters, lamb chops, scallops, glazed salmon and of course wonderful kiwi fruit! The pool area on the Lido Deck was all decorated in keeping with the theme. It was a fun evening. We also went to the ship’s evening entertainment. It was a foursome called Black Tie. We had seen them on the 2010 cruise, so it was fun to see them again.
Because tomorrow’s port is such a short distance away, we didn’t leave Wellington until 11 p.m. So before going to bed, I went up to the top deck of the ship and snapped this picture of part of Wellington by night. It was a lovely evening to be out on the deck. A great ending to a busy and fun day.