Monday, June 3, 2013

Wellington, New Zealand,

Wellington, New Zealand, Oceania

By Ryan Morris-Reade

Wellington is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city, surrounded by rugged coastline and the towering Rimutaka
mountain Range, locally known as the Rimutakas. It is New Zealand’s capital city (also the southern most capital of the world), and it’s New Zealand’s second largest city, although with a combined urban population of roughly 395,000, it isn’t actually very large at all.

The best time to visit is in Spring, Summer and the beginning of Autumn, which run from early December to late March. Visiting in Winter isn’t recommended as the weather can be cold and miserable for long stretches, with torrential rain and driving winds. While the city is famously known for its strong winds, and it can get very windy at times, it generally isn’t so bad in most areas. The winds are at their worst in the CBD, where in the 1970s many of the tall buildings were built with little regard for designing wind breaks into the structures, resulting in tall smooth buildings that allow the wind to flow down unhindered, causing mighty gusts that tear away umbrellas and sometimes sweep elderly people and children alike off their feet.

Wellington City is the cultural and creative hub of the Wellington region, with loads of art gallery’s, trendy cafés and comfortable bars. One of the best places to start exploring is Cuba Mall, the pedestrian street in the centre of the city, just south of the CBD. Cuba Mall runs for a few blocks and is littered with restaurants, bars, cafés, gallery’s, buskers and street preformers, op-shops and fashion boutiques. A good place to come and have breakfast in the morning and watch the interesting and colourful variety of people flowing past. Many of the cafés make excellent coffee and offer New Zealand’s unique cuisine, a mixture of styles from around the world.

One of the great things about Wellington’s small size is the ability to get around easily. If you don’t mind walking, you can reach many places on foot, and the public transport is fairly decent, with buses running all over the city (a lot of them electric), and a few trains to
the further, northern reaches. Don’t expect a bus every five minutes though, some of the less popular routes will only have a few buses a day, some might have a bus only once an hour, some might even stop completely on Sundays, so pick up a free timetable from one of the government tourist centres and be prepared.

Not far from Cuba Mall, right on the edge of the Wellington harbour, is Te Papa, New Zealand’s
national museum and art gallery, which is well worth the visit. Most of the museum is free, although some sections do have a small cover charge. From there you can walk along the waterfront, which is dotted with restaurants and bars, all the way to the only train station, a large and grandiose old building. You can take a day trip by train over to Porirua and the Hutt Valley, a part of urban Wellington and small cities in their own right. Or take a train up north to the Kapiti Coast, which is still part of the Wellington region, and it has some stunning beaches with views across to Kapiti Island.

On the West coast of the city there are some beautiful beaches, and at many of them it really doesn’t feel like you are still in the city at all. Take a bus, or even walk the scenic path through the town belt from Aro Valley, to Island Bay, a peaceful and pretty suburb in the west, right on the coast. If you take a left you’ll find lots of small, quiet bays, some of them hidden amongst jagged, rocky outcrops, with clear water and great swimming (it can be cold), diving and even surfing in some spots on a good day. To the right, things start to get rocky and quite wild looking, until at the end of the road you come to the impressive Red Rocks walkway, at the end of which you can often see penguins and maybe even seals.

If you have a vehicle and are into hiking, take a drive up north along the Kapiti Coast, and from there you can access a range of small day walks and larger multi-day hikes in the Rimutakas. You can also find huts and camping grounds where you can set up a base if planning on doing a few walks. The government’s D.O.C. (Department of Conservation) Website has detailed information on all of New Zealand’s national and regional parks, including maps, accessibility information, camping faculties, photos and lots of other useful advice.

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