Northern Explorer to Wellington

The Northern Explorer is a long distance scenic tourist train that runs from Auckland to Wellington.

Northern Explorer at Hamilton

Northern Explorer at Hamilton

The train travels 681 kilometres (423 miles) from Auckland to Wellington via the North Island Main Trunk.

The Northern Explorer departs on Monday, Thursday and Saturday at 7:50 am from Britomart Transport Centre and Papakura at 8:40 am. The train stops at Hamilton, Otorohanga, National Park, Ohakune, Palmerston North and Paraparaumu before a scheduled arrival in Wellington at 6:25 pm that evening.

If departing Britomart passengers check in at the Kiwi Rail Scenic Counter at the ground (street) level of Britomart Transport Centre. The train normally departs platform 4 at Britomart. After boarding passes are issued passengers can check their luggage in with staff at the rear of the train.

Check in at the Kiwi Rail Scenic counter, Britomart Transport Centre

Check in at the Kiwi Rail Scenic counter, Britomart Transport Centre

The train has 3 passenger cars A, B, D. The C car is a café car serving meals, snacks and beverages. KiwiRail Scenic Journeys currently serves prepackaged meals from catering company Wishbone. Staff can heat up meals. The meals are reasonably priced but as it is a full day trip it would be advisable for passengers to bring some of their own food, particularly if travelling with children.

Speaking of children the café also sells activity packs that include playing cards, colouring-in, origami and other activities to keep them occupied and entertained.

The first car is an open viewing car, offering the best opportunity for photos and a breath of fresh air.

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Cafe car, Northern Explorer

Cafe car, Northern Explorer

View from outdoor viewing car

View from outdoor viewing car

There is an excellent automatic onboard commentary, which plays at certain points of the journey. Headphones, which plug into a seat jack are provided. The commentary is provided in English and Mandarin.

The views offered on the Northern Explorer are a plenty, including green lush farmland, bush and native forest, the mighty Waikato River, small picturesque country towns, the National Park and its snow capped mountains, and rocky coasts.

An engineering marvel is the Raurimu Spiral, near National Park, that was built in 1898. The Spiral allows the train to climb the 132 metre height difference between the Whanganui River and the Volcanic Plateau. The train travels 6.8 kilometres in a spiral, a distance that would only be 2 kilometres long if travelled in a straight line.

View of Waikato River, just past the township of Taupiri

View of Waikato River, just past the township of Taupiri

National Park

National Park

South Rangitikei Viaduct

South Rangitikei Viaduct

Sun setting as the train approaches Palmerston North

Sun setting as the train approaches Palmerston North

Wellington Railway Station

Wellington Railway Station

The train returns from Wellington on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Departure from Wellington is 7:55 am; arrival time in Auckland 6:50 pm.

The Northern Explorer is an excellent way to see this country at a slower and more relaxed pace. The train trip from Auckland to Wellington is longer and more expensive than other forms of transport but the journey is the attraction, and one well worth making.

 

Disclaimer: My employer paid for my travel on the Northern Explorer. Neither my employer or KiwiRail Scenic Journeys are affiliated with this blog post. Opinions are my own.  

 

Wellington Zoo

Wellington Zoo is a 13 hectare zoo park in the Wellington suburb of Newtown.

The Zoo was opened in 1906 by then Prime Minister Richard Seddon after he was gifted a young lion and has since grown to a park that now boasts over 100 different species from around the world.

The Zoo is open daily, except for Christmas Day, from 9.30am to 5pm. Last entry is at 4.15pm. Adults are $21, Children (4-14) are $10.50. There is $16 concession available to students, seniors, community service cardholders and YHA members.

The zoo is less than ten minutes drive from the city. There is limited free parking onsite. The No. 10 bus from Wellington Railway Station and the No. 23 bus from Mairangi via Kelburn and Lambton Quay stop near the zoo.

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Pelican at Wellington Zoo

Like all zoos, Wellington Zoo offers various daily zoo kepper talks. I attended talks on monkeys, giraffes, vet clinic and a bird show in the Wild Theatre.

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Zoo keeper talks

Zoo keeper talks

The Zoo also offers Close Encounters were visitors can get up close and personal with animals. The Zoo offers encounters with cheetahs, lions, giraffe, red panda, meerkats and lemurs. Prices start from $95 per person.

After visiting the Zoo visitors can check out the shop, which includes paintings by chimpanzee Jesse.

Wellington Zoo

200 Daniell Street, Newtown

9.30am to 5pm, daily

Te Papa

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is the national museum of New Zealand, located on Cable Street on Wellington’s waterfront.

Te Papa Tongarewa roughly translates as “the place of treasures of this land.”

The Museum was established in 1992 by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Act 1992. Te Papa had its official opening on 14 February 1998.

Te Papa is open every day from 10am till 6pm, and until 9pm on Thursdays. Entry is free but there may be charges for special exhibitions and activities. For information on parking please check their website.

The museum covers six floors of interactive exhibits.

The Awesome Forces exhibition on level 2 explores New Zealand’s geological history showing how our landscape has been shaped by erosion, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. A highlight is an interactive shake house where visitors can experience an earthquake.

Visitors can experience a stimulated earthquake in the shake house.

Visitors can experience a stimulated earthquake in the shake house.

Also on level 2 is the Mountain to Sea exhibition where on display are over 2500 animals and plants. On display in 6 metre long case is a 495 kilogram squid. Visitors can experience the squid’s underwater habitat in a 3D show.

The theme of our powerful landscape is continued on level 3 in the exhibition Blood Earth Fire, which explores our ever changing landscape. A short documentary film Our Place screens, in which people show the place that is most important to them.

Those wishing to learn about Māori history can head to the Mana Whenua, Te Marae, Whiti Te Rā! The Story of Ngāti Toa Rangatira (local iwi Tribe of Wellington), and Signs of a Nation (Treaty of Waitangi) exhibitions on level 4.

’Te Aurere Iti’, a third-size scale replica of a voyaging canoe

’Te Aurere Iti’, a third-size scale replica of a voyaging canoe

In the Passports exhibition guests can explore the stories of some the communities that migrated to New Zealand. Tangata o le Moana: The story of Pacific people in New Zealand explores the people from the Pacific Islands that came to call New Zealand home.

Also on level 4 visitors can learn more about New Zealand in the 20th century with the Slice of Heaven exhibition. A highlight on display is the skeleton of celebrated race horse Phar Lap (1926 – 1939). While Te Papa has his bones, The National Museum of Australia in Canberra has his heart and the Museum of Victoria in Melbourne has his hide mounted on a model.

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Phar Lap

The national art collection of Te Papa is housed on levels 5 and 6. The galleries are constantly being updated and changed so there is always new works on display to see. There is also an interactive art studio space on level 5 for budding artists.

There are also two cafes onsite, the Te Papa Cafe on the ground floor, which is open from 9am to 5pm and Level 4 Expresso, which is open 10am to 5:30pm, with a late closing of 8:30pm on Thursday.

For shopping there are two stores the Te Papa Store on level 1 and the Te Papa Kids’ Store on level 2.

 

City Gallery Wellington

The City Gallery Wellington is an art gallery located in Wellington’s Civic Square.

City Gallery Wellington housed in the old Wellington Public Library building

City Gallery Wellington housed in the old Wellington Central Library building

The Civic Square is a yellow terracotta brick square that is linked to Wellington’s waterfront by the City-to-Sea pedestrian bridge. The square is surrounded by four Civic buildings – the Michael Fowler Centre, the Wellington Town Hall, the Central Library and the City Gallery.

The City Gallery was established in 1980. This year the City Gallery celebrates 21 years in Civic Square. In 1993, the City Gallery moved into its current premises, the old Wellington Central Library Building. The Central Library Building, which was built in Art Deco style, was constructed between 1935 and 1940. The Central Library moved to its current site on the edge of Civic Square on Victoria and Mercer Streets in 1991.

The City Gallery open every day from 10am till 5pm, except for Christmas Day. And of course entry is FREE.

What is fantastic about the City Gallery is because it is does not have a permanent collection its exhibition programme is ever changing. I visited last year in September and again last month. As I write this, new exhibitions have already opened this month.

Oddooki (2008) Seung Yui Oh

Oddooki (2008) Seung Yul Oh

 

Seung Yul Oh's interactive inflatables

Seung Yul Oh’s interactive inflatables

 

Möbius Strip (2006), Cerith Wyn Evans

Möbius Strip (2006), Cerith Wyn Evans

 

Cerith Wyn Evans

Cerith Wyn Evans

Museum of Wellington City & Sea

The Museum of Wellington City & Sea is located on Queens Wharf in the historic Wellington Harbour Board Office and Bond Store building on Jervois Quay.

Museum of Wellington City & Sea housed in the historic Bond Store

Museum of Wellington City & Sea housed in the historic Bond Store

The building, which was built in 1892, was designed in French Second Empire style by architect Frederick de Jersey Clere.

The museum got its start in 1972, when it opened as the Wellington Harbour Board Maritime Museum, housing the Harbour Board’s collection of artifacts and recounting Wellington’s maritime history. With the conclusion of the Harbour Board in 1989 the museum was transferred to Wellington City Council.

Following the creation of Te Papa, as New Zealand’s national museum, it was thought that a museum that focused specifically on Wellington’s local history was needed. So in 1999, after an extensive restoration project, the maritime museum reopened as the Museum of Wellington City & Sea.

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The Bond Store, Ground floor

The museum is open every day, except for Christmas Day, from 10am to 5pm. Entry is free.

The museum is divided into three floors.

In the Telling Tales exhibition on the ground floor visitors can follow a timeline of significant events of 20th century Wellington. A highlight is the display of a replica of the crown jewels. These were made for the 1939 Centennial Exhibition.

Replica of the Crown Jewels

Replica of the Crown Jewels

The first floor explores Wellington’s maritime history. Children will enjoy Jack’s Boathouse, where they can climb aboard a dingy and man the helm of a ship.

Jack's boathouse

Jack’s boathouse

Also on the first floor is an exhibition dedicated the Wahine Disaster, in which 51 people died when the Lyttelton to Wellington interisland ferry sank in the entrance to Wellington harbour on April 10th 1968. A short documentary film with news footage from the day screens every 30 minutes.

Artefacts recovered following Wahine Disaster

Artefacts recovered following the Wahine Disaster

On the second floor visitors can learn more about Wellington’s early history and what life was life then.

Also on the second floor is A Millennium Ago, a short film with hollographic effects that screens every 30 minutes. In the 12 minute film actor and broadcaster Joanna Paul tells the Māori legends of how a Taniwha created Wellington’s harbour and how Maui tricked his grandmother into giving him fire.

Museum of Wellington City & Sea

Queens Wharf
3 Jervois Quay

10am – 5pm every day, except Christmas Day
Free Entry

Embassy Theatre

The Embassy Theatre is located at the eastern end of Courtenay Place on Kent Terrace.

The Embassey

The Embassey

The theatre, which was originally called De Luxe was built in 1924. In 1945 its name was changed to The Embassy. It has been renovated several times over the years. The most recent was for the world premiere of Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003.

The building has an impressive interior that includes a marble staircase with tiled walls and floors. Even the bathrooms look impressive.

Marble staircase

Marble staircase

There is also a snack bar and Blondini’s Cafe and Bar on the upper level overlooks Courtney Place.

While the grey clouds outside turned to rain I watched James Napier Robertson’s second feature film The Dark Horse, starring Cliff Curtis and James Rolleston.

Wall poster advertising 'The Dark Horse'

Wall poster advertising ‘The Dark Horse’

Embassy Theatre

10 Kent Terrace

 

 

Reserve Bank Museum

The Reserve Bank Museum, which is located on the ground floor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand building examines New Zealand’s economic and banking history.

Reserve Bank of New Zealand

Reserve Bank of New Zealand

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is located at number 2 The Terrace (corner of The Terrace and Bowen Street). The Museum is open to Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 4pm. Over the summer months, January and February, the Museum is open on Saturdays from 9:30am to 4pm.

On display in the 130 sqm one room museum are a range of artefacts from Reserve Bank’s history including rare notes and coins.

One of the most popular exhibits is the MONIAC (Monetary National Income Analogue Computer), an analogue computer invented by New Zealander Bill Phillips in the late 1940s. It is designed to calculate the effects of changes in the economy. There are demonstrations on the first Wednesday of every month between 12:15 and 12:45pm.

These cancelled bank notes weighs 20kg and had worth 1 milion

These cancelled bank notes weigh 20kg and had a value of 1 million dollars

Finest bank wax that and various Reserve Bank seals

Finest bank wax and various Reserve Bank seals