Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

New Zealand 2019 Day 2: Wellington Bus Tour – Mt Victoria Lookout & Botanic Gardens

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 7, 2019

As everyone knows, Wellington has a reputation for being very windy, with cold southerlies, often accompanied by lashings of rain.  But we have been blessed with beautiful weather, mild and sunny with a gentle breeze—and we know how lucky we are because we were told so by our tour bus driver.

As we usually do in cities we haven’t visited before, we took an orientation tour with Hop On Hop Off Guided Tours and our guide Dean was a mine of information about all sorts of things.  He says that Wellington owes its beautiful greenery to Australia, because as the hot air from the Red Centre makes its way across the Tasman Sea, any moisture evaporates—until it makes landfall and dumps it all as rain on Wellington. The forecast suggests that we might find out more about the wind tomorrow but for now it was a perfect day for visiting the Mt Victoria Lookout, with its 360° vistas all over the heart of Wellington.  The drive up there was interesting too because the narrow winding road features very pretty houses, mostly NZ timber, in what is said to be 1930s Californian styles.

Here’s the slideshow from the lookout:

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After that it was back on the bus, past the zoo and the Cuba Quarter—”the heart of Bohemian Wellington”, with cafés, bakeries, breweries and boutique shops.  (Wellingtonians are nearly as obsessive about their coffee as Melburnians are).

Wellington Cable Car 1We got off at the Wellington Cable Car and I just managed to get a shot of it before it took off down the mountain.  It’s actually a funicular railway, (so you’re never actually suspended in space) and Dean pointed out half a dozen private versions of funiculars going up and down the steep slopes from private houses.   But this one is a public one that commuters can take to work in the CBD if they want to.

There’s a Cable Car museum there too, but we admired only the lookout, and then took the walk down the pathway to the Botanic Gardens.

It was gorgeous.  Right in the centre of the city it was blissfully peaceful and quiet.  The style of gardens is traditional, and many of the plants are recognisable as exotics brought over by early settlers, but there are also unusual and endangered species.  Here’s the slideshow:


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The path curves round past the Lady Norwood rose garden, which is beautiful, but unfortunately protected from anyone getting close enough to smell the scent.  Lady Norwood and her Charles husband were great philanthropists: a self-made man, he funded all kinds of public amenities including a free ambulance service and a crippled children society.  When I Googled images of the rose garden the beds weren’t roped off as they were today, so maybe they’ve just sprayed with something?

We had the kind of lunch you expect to get in tourist venues like this, but Tim said his coffee lived up to the hype:).  It is getting harder and harder to get a nice sandwich for lunch: everything has got mayo and/or cheese all over it; you get masses of spinach instead of crisp lettuce; and everything has to be heated up (yuk) because it was made the night before and kept cold in a fridge.  Worst of all is that you can’t personalise these pre-made monstrosities: you can’t ask for No Dairy, or Pepper no Salt, or anything else.  It’s starting to make me grateful for Subway except that their bread is so soggy.  It’s a trend I hope will go away, it’s prevalent in Australia too.

OK, off my soapbox!

After lunch we strolled across to the Peace Park, created in memory of the atomic bombing of Japan in WW2.


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After that we sat idly in the sunshine, until the bus collected us for the last part of the tour. We saw the famous Beehive parliamentary building; the cenotaph; Old St Paul’s Cathedral (which fell victim to an earthquake safety notice*) and the Wellington and Te Papa museums which are on the agenda for tomorrow.

*NZ, as no doubt you know, suffers a lot of earthquakes, some of them catastrophic as at Christchurch. But fatalities are very rare here in Wellington because all new buildings have to withstand quakes as high as 9.5, and older ones are inspected after every quake and if the engineers say so, they have to be closed until they are re-engineered and declared safe. If they can’t be made safe, too bad if they have heritage values, they are pulled down because, they reckon, human life matters more.

Still, it is a bit unnerving to check out Wellington Quake Live and discover that the last quake was about five hours ago, just after we got on the bus. It was only about 2.1 on the Richter Scale, but still we have discussed the DROP, COVER AND HOLD ON strategy as advised in the hotel brochure and we’ll keep our fingers crossed!

10 Responses to “New Zealand 2019 Day 2: Wellington Bus Tour – Mt Victoria Lookout & Botanic Gardens”

  1. Robyn Watters said

    I had to think about why there would be a Japanese peace park reference but realised its because Wellington is the seat of govt. (I might add that the Glen Eira City Council has one but only because Glen Eira has a sister city arrangement which is different.) I love NZ, I’ve been there twice and want to travel the length of it again (first time I did it was a family holiday in 1971) and the second time it was for work.

    • Lisa Hill said

      Hello Robyn, lovely to hear from you:) (It’s always nice to hear from friends when you’re far from home!)
      Yes, I wondered about that too, but the Kiwis fought with the allies too, and were probably part of the occupation forces afterwards, just as Australian troops were.
      It’s very beautiful here. There are great swathes of greenery mandated by their constitution, and some of the architecture is gorgeous. Walking back after dinner tonight we saw a three-storey art nouveau building that was stunning. I must try to remember to go back there to get a photo of it in daylight.

  2. Well, I have been to Wellington before, but in 1974, so when we finally get there I’ll need to do that tour too. I love botanic gardens so enjoyed your slideshow.

    As for sandwiches, just be lucky you can eat them at all. We gf people can really struggle to find a light lunch – yes, I know you’re going to say those sandwiches aren’t light, but what I mean is a lunch that isn’t a full meal. They are nearly always sandwiches, foccacias, wraps, or if not that pizzas and pastas. Subway is a no-no for us. I do miss a really great sandwich, I must say, but it’s been over 30 years now so I’m (more or less!) used to it.

    I haven’t been to Te Papa, as that’s post my time in Wellington. One day. Meanwhile, I look forward to your next post.

    Oh, and re earthquakes, having lived for three years in the LA area we are well-versed in duck and cover, and we had our earthquake kits. Did they tell you the best places to duck – under tables, or, as I recollect in a doorway if tables and the like aren’t nearby. LA buildings are also built to withstand earthquakes, but I often wondered about heritage buildings. I don’t know what their philosophy is, but I think Wellington has it right.

  3. Lisa Hill said

    Thanks, will take on board the doorway as a spot for taking under cover. The advice about getting under cover is not really helpful in a hotel room: there isn’t a table, only a desk and I don’t think we could both fit under it. LOL perhaps the coffee table though being tall, I don’t think I can fit fully under it.

    re the food: we went to a trendy Asian place yesterday and left most of what we ordered uneaten. Almost everything else had chilli, or was fatty fried stuff. Fortunately our apartment has cooking facilities so at least we get a good breakfast. But I think we’ll do better tonight, we’re going to the Jano Bistro and the online menu looks good:)

    • Haha, oh yes, of course, then the doorway might be the go (though you’d better check online in case that theory no longer stands!)

      That’s a shame about the Asian bistro. I don’t like fried fatty food, but I do like chilli. I look forward to the report on Jano. We are off to Sydney in an hour and look forward to some good food too!

      • Lisa Hill said

        If you are blogging it, could you email me the link? I haven’t got your travel blog bookmarked here on my new laptop.

      • I will, thanks Lisa, if I blog it but I may not this little trip. I tend not to blog our quick Aussie city trips though I was just thinking this afternoon why not?

  4. sally906 said

    I agree about the sandwiches/rolls/wraps – I like lettuce – nice fresh lettuce. And sometimes I like mustard in my ham and salad not mayo. Most of all,I like choice and fresh made. Loving your NZ trip so far – happily armchair travelling with you.

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