The final stop on The D&O Diary’s Asia Pacific tour was in Wellington, New Zealand, for a weekend visit and a quick day of Monday meetings, before heading home. Wellington is New Zealand’s capital city, located at the Southwestern tip of the country’s North Island. At 41 degrees southern latitude, the country is roughly about as far south as New York is north. Interestingly, Wellington is the southernmost capital city in the world. The city’s beautiful harbor is ringed by mountains; Mount Victoria rises above the city’s central business district.
I have previously visited Wellington but things have changed since my prior visit now more than 30 years ago. There has been a great deal of development in the downtown area, with ranks of new modern steel and glass office buildings now facing the harbor. The thing that got my attention on this visit was the earthquake threat. New Zealand of course suffered a serious, damaging earthquake in 2011, centered in Christchurch, on the South Island. There was a further earthquake this past November. Though the more recent earthquake was also centered on the South Island, the effects were felt in Wellington. Quite a number of buildings in the city were damaged. Many businesses near my hotel are still closed because of earthquake damage, and a street a few blocks away was closed off due to damage to a building on the street. When I checked into my hotel, the proprietress gave me extensive earthquake safety instructions. She wasn’t kidding around. She got my attention.
My free time in Wellington and the weather were out of alignment. During the period when I was free to explore, the weather was cool and windy. I understand that it is often windy in Wellington, to the point that the city is generally known as “windy Wellington.” The winds gather speed in the Cook Strait and blow ashore in great gusts. I did walk around in the wind and rain, but the conditions were far from ideal.
Wellington is not a huge city. With a population of about 400,000 spread along the harbor and through the surrounding hills, the city is compact and walkable. It has a great area of ethnic restaurants and pubs along Courtney Place and Cuba Street. On Saturday night, there was a street festival in Cuba Street, with food stalls and music. It was particularly blustery that night, so it was not a great night for hanging out (as the picture below suggests). But on Sunday evening, when it was a little bit warmer, the Courtney district was a great place just to stroll and take in the scene.
As luck would have it, the day on which my meetings were scheduled was an absolutely beautiful summer day. I spent most of the day indoors. I did have some time to walk around before and after my meetings. In the morning, I climbed Mt. Vic and took some great pictures of the city and the surrounding environs, as reflected in the picture at the top of the post and below. It is too bad there isn’t a soundtrack for the pictures taken in woods; the woods were full of the buzzing, whirring, clicking of cicadas and crickets.
Somewhere just beyond the horizon in this picture is New Zealand’s South Island, taken looking south across the Cook Strait.
In the afternoon after my meetings, I took the famous Wellington Cable Car, which runs from Lampton Quay to Kelburn. The city’s Botanic Gardens are accessible at the top of the cable car run. There are great views from the Botanic Gardens back across the city to Mt. Vic.
Wellington is one of those great places that is a long way away, but worth visiting when you get there. I regret having allotted such a short amount of time for this visit – it did take more than thirty years for me to visit for a second time. Just the same, it is a great place and I am glad I had to chance to see it again and look around a little bit. I also have to admit in the end I was very happy to head home after a very long journey.
More Pictures of Wellington: