In 1865, Wellington became the capital of New Zealand, replacing Auckland, where William Hobson has established his capital in 1841. Wellington is the southernmost national capital city in the world, with latitude of about 41 degrees south. It is more densely populated than most other settlements in New Zealand, due to the small amount of building space available between the harbour and the surrounding hills. Because of its location in the roaring forties latitude and its exposure to omnipresent winds coming through Cook Strait, the city is known to Kiwis as “Windy Wellington”. And it certainly is!
Gerrit and I head into town. It’s a very busy city with lots of stores. I need to purchase a pair of deck shoes as walking in brown leather shoes has become tiresome. I purchase a pair in Hannah’s footwear. Antrim House was built for the founder of this store and it now is the NZ National Historic Places Trust. The mansion features fine kauri and totara panels, elaborate strained glass windows and an ornate fire place. We were unable to get to the mansion but heard later that it was amazing. I guess we can’t do everything!
But first we went exploring. The Wellington’s government complex consists of three main buildings, each reflecting the style of the period in when they were built. However, the “beehive” is the first thing we notice. The designer has borne the brunt of many disparaging remarks about his work. The unusual building houses the ministerial offices and is one of those strange architectural works that residents joke about, but view as a deep source of pride. Many Wellingtonians have described the structure as an “alien spaceship” – but they won’t let you miss it and you couldn’t even if you tried.
We pass St. Paul’s Church on Mulgrave Street. It is unusual in its substitution of local wood for stone. The church features superb stained glass windows. The interior with high wooden arches, is mesmerizing. (But no photos taken for some reason, mmnn)
Our longest stop is on the Kelburn Cable car. The ride is only six minutes long but goodness the views from the top are nothing short of spectacular. The sleek red car carries us up a sheer grade to the elevated Kelburn District and the Wellington Botanic Gardens. The gardens are magnificent an the views from the top breathtaking. There’s a wonderful museum at the top outlining the history of the cable cars. The current cars are run by computer but they still have a working original in the museum. We spent several hours touring the gardens and the sun dial.
Next to the Bond Store stands a waterfront that any city would be proud off. Restaurants, shops, walkways, roller skating parks, baby parks all for the use of the city residents and it’s visitors. Gerrit and I choose a wonderful Italian restaurant to have lunch.