With its waterfront promenade, chic residents, colorful cable cars, iconic landmarks, fascinating history, beautiful botanical gardens. sandy beaches, hilly streets, strenuous hiking paths, working harbor, world class museums, colorful Victorian houses, and spectacular views of the Cook Strait and Rimukata Range, Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, reminds us of San Francisco, a city we have always loved. A noticeable haze, created by the recent wildfires in Australia, brings to mind the fog that often engulfs San Francisco. Wellington sits near the North Island’s southernmost point on the Cook Strait. Strong winds through the Cook Strait give it the nickname “Windy Wellington.” We started our day with a guided tour that allowed us to explore the rich architectural history and cultural heritage of this wonderful city. Winding our way through the bustling port and metropolitan area, we were struck by the attention Wellingtonians have given to creating an architecturally rich city. Wellington’s “Seven Sisters” are a beautiful example of a New Zealand interpretation of San Franciscan terrace housing. These houses were all designed by Joshua Charlesworth, a prominent local architect. They are highly visible from Oriental Parade, and contribute significantly to the streetscape. The varied designs contribute significantly to the value, character, and sense of place on Oriental Parade.
New Zealand’s Parliament has several impressive buildings, including Parliament’s Executive Wing known as the “Beehive” due to its shape. Wellington also has many small, interesting urban parks. A fairly recent addition to Midland Park (2016) is “Woman of Words,” which celebrates the life and work of renowned New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield. The stainless steel figurative work is entirely laser cut with quotations from Mansfield’s journals and short stories. During the day the sculpture reflects the color, movement and ambiance of the surrounding area. At night, illuminated from within, the work becomes a lantern of silhouetted words. Many of Wellington’s beautiful historic buildings have been re-purposed for more modern use.
Another Wellington icon is its Cable Car. The Wellington Cable Car is a funicular railway in that connects Lambton Quay, the main shopping street, and Kelburn, a suburb in the hills overlooking the central city. The one way trip takes approximately five minutes.
We enjoyed a leisurely lunch at the idyllic Botanic Garden. The garden features protected native forests, conifers, lily ponds, plant collections, sculpture, a rose garden, begonia house, and seasonal displays, but the breathtaking flowers are truly the main attraction.
Later in the afternoon, we traveled to Tongue Point to view fur seals and other wildlife. Along the way, we viewed lots of wild goats (who were too fast for our photo lens!), horses, sheep. deer, and cattle. We also saw the famous Leaning Lighthouse, but here the main attraction is the seals. On the beach at Tongue Point, we watched singles, pairs, and groups of seals bask in the sun, and slither into the water for a swim. Various birds of New Zealand share the beach with the seals, and seem oblivious to their carrying-on.
Wellington is an incredibly diverse, interesting, and fun city. Nature is just a short distance away, making it a very vibrant, livable nation’s capital.