Wellington, Capitol of New Zealand

MS Volendam safely arrived to our first port in the North Island – Wellington, the new capitol of New Zealand and the center for culture and the arts with a number of restaurants, sidewalk cafes, nightlife and activities.  The city’s harbor was naturally formed by the flooding of a long-extinct volcano crater.  If you go for a walk, hang on to your hats when strong winds enter into the bay – the city was given the nickname “Windy Wellington” for a reason!

There are quite a few tourist attractions and we had a day to see as many as possible.

Here’s a shortlist of our top favorites, but before you go anywhere…pick up some “mojo” at Mojo, www.mojocoffee.co.nz along the Wellington Waterfront, at 33 Customhouse Quay, for some awesome java!

1.  Climb to the peak of Mt. Victoria for an expansive 360 degree views of the city and beyond.  Before ascending, you might want to stop at the  new and popular Plentifull Deli on 21 Majoribanks Street for a snack that will give you a surge of energy.  Wendy Morgan, Proprietor, has stirred up some delicious recipes made from the freshest ingredients and is now a favorite stop in the Hawkins Hill neighborhood.

2.  Experience the museum Te Puia – New Zealand’s premier Maori cultural center with interactive displays.  Many visitors come to Wellington just to see this museum since there’s no other collection like it in the world.  It’s full of Maori artifacts and has galleries with contemporary art as well.   www.tepuia.com

3.  See the old architecture of the Parliament Buildings and the Beehive, designed by British architect, Sir Basil Spence, one of Wellington’s well known and most distinctive buildings.

4.  Take the popular Kelburn red cable car that runs from Lambton Quay in the heart of the city for a 6 minute uphill ride to the Botanical Gardens that lookout to the city with sweeping views.  Walk the trail back down to the city and be sure to stop at the Lady Norwood Rose Gardens and Begonia House.

5.  Walk to charming Oriental Bay and stroll along the sandy beach and look up at Hawkins Hill where the Victorian homes stand tall on the steep hills that rise up from the harbor to Mt. Victoria.

6.  Shop on Cuba Street – a funky pedestrian street with boutiques, cafes and street musicians.

7.  If you have more than one day, head north to visit the Lower and Upper Hutt Valleys – the gateways to fantastic hiking and bike trails and other outdoor activities.

Our day visit to Wellington was too short, but we were excited to reach the next Port of Napier and enjoyed an amazing sunset from the Promenade deck on the way to our next destination.