Wellington Harbor, viewed from Mount Victoria

The D&O Diary’s antipodean sojourn continued this week with a quick visit to the pleasant and prosperous country of New Zealand. Readers who saw my description of our recent Australia visit know we enjoyed beautiful summer weather while we were there. Although I would never had thought it possible, the summer weather in New Zealand may have been even better, as the pictures below show.

Our New Zealand visit did not start out auspiciously. We were greeted with rain upon arrival in Auckland, and our first full day began with a soaking summer shower followed by several morning hours of rain. Our plan for the day had been to visit the island of Waiheke in the Hauraki Gulf, about a 45-minute ferry ride from Auckland. Despite the rain, the island ferry was packed and we had to stand in line for hours just to make the crossing in both directions — it turns out that we were visiting Auckland on Waitangi Day, the NZ national holiday celebrating the 1840 treaty signing between British authorities and Māori chieftains. It seems that many locals had decided to celebrate the holiday on Waiheke. Fortunately for us, the skies started to clear after the morning rain, and so in the end we had a pleasant albeit soggy visit to the island.

One of the great things about Waiheke Island is that at the end of seemingly every turning off the main road, there are small, quiet, mostly deserted beaches. Here is the beach at Oneroa.
Here is another of the Waiheke beaches, this one at Blackpool.
Waiheke is also famous for its wines. Due to the holiday, most of the wineries were closed when we were there, but walking through the hills we saw plenty of the vinyards.
The hiking paths also took us to a lookout on a hillside above Matiatia Bay, the harbor with the ferry landing
A quick introduction to the Waitangi Day holiday.

After our quick visit to Auckland, we took a short flight to Wellington, on the Southern end of the North Island. Wellington is the country’s capital — in fact, at 41 degrees southern latitude, Wellington is the southernmost national capital in the world. I have been to Wellington before, and I know from experience the weather there can be changeable and even raw. However, the sun shone brightly during our visit.

Wellington is build on a semicircular curve along its spectacular harbor. Here is a view of the harbor from the Botanic Garden.

Wellington has changed quite a bit since I first visited the city over 35 years ago, but underneath the city’s new modern veneer, the city’s charming and even quaint character remains.
One of the mandatory tourist activities in Wellington is to take the cable car up the steep slope from the central business district to the city’s lush botanic gardens.
Here is a view of the side of the harbor opposite the botanic gardens, taken from the top of Mount Victoria.
On our second day in Wellington, we took a bus from the city center to the Zealandia wildlife sanctuary, a wonderful place that has been carefully restored to preserve and protect native plants and animals.
Look closely and you can see something quite rare and unusual: a tuatara, a reptile once thought to be extinct on the NZ mainland.
Here is a takahē, a flightless bird that until recently was also thought to be extinct.
I managed to snap a picture of a kākā, a parrot native to NZ forests.
Summer in February is a great concept.
If you want a quick hit of summer, turn up the volume and listen to the cicadas and crickets at the top of Mount Victoria.
Here’s a location on Mount Victoria known as the Hobbit Hideaway, owing to the fact that a scene in the first Lord of the Rings movie was filmed there.
Here’s a quick YouTube video showing the scene from the Fellowship of the Ring that was shot at the Hobbit Hideaway
Here’s a different video I took showing the view of Wellington from Mount Victoria