Wellington Botanic Garden

The Wellington Botanic Garden is 25 hectares of protected native forest, exotic trees, themed collections of plants and outdoor sculptures, located only minutes from downtown Wellington.

Wellington Botanic Garden

Wellington Botanic Garden

The Botanic Garden has a rich history. Back in 1844, The New Zealand Company set aside just over 5 hectares of land for the purpose of a botanic garden. The Garden was established in 1868 and was managed by the New Zealand Institute. During 1870s another 20 hectares of land was added to the Garden. Since 1891, the Wellington City Council has managed the Garden.

I visited the Garden via the Cable Car, from Lambton Quay. The No 3 Karori bus from Lambton Quay stops outside the Founders’ Entrance. The public carpark is adjacent to the Lady Norwood Rose Garden with vehicle access through the Centennial Entrance. Parking limit is two hours.

Founders Gates

Founders Gates

After visiting Carter Observatory I walked down through the Australian Garden towards the Treehouse Visitor Centre. The Visitor Centre is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm. During the months of November to April it is also open on weekends from 10am to 3pm. There is a lift from the Treehouse which takes visitors to the Gardens below. This is operational when the Visitor Centre is open.

View from Treehouse Visitor Centre

View from Treehouse Visitor Centre down to the Soundshell Lawn

From the Treehouse Visitor Centre I walked down through the scented garden to the duck pond, where mums and toddlers were feeding the ducks, before exiting through Founders’ Gates and reentering through the Centennial entrance and walking past Lady Norwood Rose Garden to the Begonia House.

Being that it was winter when I visited garden staff were busy in the rose garden preparing for the flowering season that begins around November. There are 110 rose beds set out geometric design with columns on three sides.

The Begonia House, a Victorian style glasshouse, contains tropical temperature displays all year round, allowing visitors to enjoy colour during the winter months. Also at the tropical end there is a large lily pond.

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Begonia House

Begonia House

Also located in Begonia House is the Garden Shop and Picnic cafe. The Garden Shop is open daily from 9am to 5pm, October to March and from April to September the House is opened 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday (closed Tuesday), and 10am to 3pm weekends. The cafe is open every day, except Christmas Day, from 8:30am to 4pm.

After exploring the Garden, I walked through Bolton Street Memorial Park back to the city.

Bolton Street Memorial Park Gates

Bolton Street Memorial Park Gates

Bolton Street Memorial Park is home to Wellington’s eldest cemetery dating back to 1840. The cemetery closed to burials in 1892, except for burials in family plots, and the cemetery was transferred to Wellington City Council. The cemetery closed between 1968 and 1971, when part of Wellington’s motorway was built through a section of the cemetery. During this period, 3,700 burials were exhumed and relocated.

New Zealand’s longest serving Prime Minster Richard John Seddon is buried in Bolton Street Memorial Park. His grave is marked by a large monument. A statue of Seddon stands outside Parliament Buildings.

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Carter Observatory

Carter Observatory stands at the top of the Botanic Gardens and is a short walk the Cable Car.

Carter Observatory

Carter Observatory

It also possible to access the Observatory from Upland Road. Buses stop on Upland Road and there is pay and display parking on Upland Road next to the Cable Car.

Carter Observatory is open every day from 10 am except Christmas Day. During the school term the Observatory closes at 5pm Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. There are late nights on Tuesdays and Saturdays with a closing time of 9:30pm. On Sundays the observatory closes at 5.30pm.

During school and public holidays the observatory is open until 5:30pm every night with the late nights on Tuesday and Saturday.

Prices for the Southern Skies Exhibition are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, students and Community Service cardholders, $5 for children aged 4 to 16.

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The exhibition galleries explore our solar system and the key New Zealanders who have contributed to astronomy. Visitors can learn about the Māori names for planets and how early Māori used the stars for navigation. There is a theatre that screens two short films on loop about Maui and an introduction to Matariki, the Māori New Year.

There is a small library with astronomy related booked dating back to 1770. The library also has information on Captain James Cook’s observations in 1761 of the Transit of Venus.

The dome, which is visible for the outside of the building, houses a 23cm refractor telescope. This telescope was made between 1886 and 1867 by Thomas Cooke and Sons and has been at the Observatory since 1941. There are public telescope viewings on Tuesday and Saturday nights, weather permitting.

Cooke Telescope

Cooke Telescope

Prices for Planetarium shows, which include the exhibition are $18.50 for adult, $13.50 for seniors, students and Community Service cardholders and $8 for children aged 4 – 16. There are family pass options available.

The planetarium shows are firstly a screening of a digital film, which is followed by a live presentation with one of Carter Observatory’s astronomers looking at New Zealand’s night sky. Planetarium shows generally run for approximately 45 minutes.

There are a variety of digital films screening each day. I watched ‘Dynamic Earth’, a 24 minute film narrated by actor Liam Neeson, which explored the Earth’s climate system.

A tip, it’s best to sit towards the back of the theatre in the middle so you can have a good view of the theatre’s dome.

A board at the entrance to the Observatory advertises Planetarium show times but guests can check the website for specific show times.

Wellington Cable Car

The cable car has been an iconic part of Wellington’s landscape for over a hundred years.

Wellington's iconic cable car

Wellington’s iconic cable car

Wellington Cable Car, orginally called Kelburne & Karori Tramway Company formed in 1898. The company was sold to Wellington City Council in 1947.

The Wellington cable car runs from its CBD terminal on Lambton Quay to the top entrance of the Botanic Garden and the Kelburn lookout. There are three stops along the way, Clifton Terrace, Talavera Terrace and Salamanca Road (stop for Victoria University of Wellington).

The new Kelburn terminal opened 27th February 2014

The new Kelburn terminal opened 27th February 2014

The cable car runs every ten minutes from 7am to 10pm Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 10pm Saturday, and 9am to 9pm Sunday and Public Holidays (closed Christmas Day).

Adults are $4 (uphill – oneway), $3.50 (downhill – oneway), $7 (return). Children are $1.50 (one way) and $2.50 (return). Snapper (Wellington’s public transport card) concessions are available to passengers travelling through Lambton Quay.

Kelburn lookout

Kelburn lookout

The Cable Car Museum is located at the top beside the lookout. The museum is located in the original winding house and is open every day, except Christmas day, from 9:30 am to 5pm. Entry is free.

There is a gift shop and short documentary films on the history New Zealand trams and Wellington city are screened throughout the day.

On display in the museum are two of the three original grip cars. One has been beautifully restored to it’s original 1905 condition and the other to how it would have looked in the 1970s, when it was retired from service. Also in the museum are the giant wheels and original winding gear the pulled the cable cars.

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Grip Car 1, how it would have looked in the 1970s when retired from service

Grip car 3, restored to its 1905 appearance

Grip car 3, restored to its 1905 appearance

After visiting the cable car museum it is an east walk to the nearby Carter Observatory and Planetarium and a nice downhill walk through the botanical gardens back to the city.