The Topp Twins – an exhibition

The Topp Twins – an exhibition for New Zealand is an exhibition celebrating New Zealand entertainers Lynda and Jools Topp.


Dame Lynda Topp and Dame Jools Topp are a openly lesbian, folk singing, comedy sister duo that have been entertaining New Zealand audiences for over 40 years.

They often perform as their celebrated characters, such as Camp Mother and Camp Leader, typical kiwi blokes Ken and Ken, the Gingham Sisters, Westie girls Raylene and Brenda, bowling ladies Mavis and Lorna, and socialites Prue and Dilly.


Camp Leader and Camp Mother


Ken and Ken


The Gingham Sisters


Raylene and Brenda


Prue and Dilly

The exhibition, which was designed by Te Manawa Museum in Palmerston North, explores the Topp Twins early family life, their political activism, their contribution to New Zealand music and entertainment, and how they created their characters.

It includes costumes and memorabilia from the Topp Twins personal collection, interviews and archival footage, and a replica of their touring caravan.

There is also the opportunity for guests to dress up in replica costumes of Camp Mother & Camp Leader, The Gingham Sisters, Raylene & Brenda, Ken & Ken, and Prue & Dilly.

The exhibition, which is on until 22nd September, is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm on the ground floor of the National Library, Corner Molesworth & Aitken St, Wellington.

It is expected to tour other New Zealand venues.







Weta Workshop

Weta Workshop is a special effects and prop company in Miramar, Wellington.


Weta Cave is a mini-museum / shop attached to Weta Workshop premises. The best is that it is is free to visit.

The shops sells a wide range range of collectables and merchandise from small items, such as magnets and stationary, to large scale replica’s of props from films Weta has worked on.

The mini-museum includes props from films including The Chronicles of NarniaDistrict 9The Hobbit trilogy, King KongLord of the Rings trilogy, and Meet the Feebles.

A short behind-the-scenes documentary on Weta Workshop screens in the theatre every 30 minutes.


20180331_095223_Richtone(HDR)      20180331_095431_Richtone(HDR)





Weta Cave is the departure point for two ticketed tours – Weta Cave Workshop Tour and Miniatures Stage Tour: Thunderbirds a Go. During the peak tourist season it is probably best to purchase your tickets online. I have read of tours being sold out when people have visited.

I did a combo tour but they also offer an evening tour with a three-course dinner and a Saturday hands-on experience with a Weta Workshop crew member. Check out the Weta Workshops’s Tours page for more information.

The Weta Workshop Tour is a 45 minute guided tour of Weta Workshop.

The tour moves through various rooms learning about the different prop and costume making processes. It is very interactive, there is opportunities to handle various materials and there is one area set up with various stations where you can touch the various products Weta uses.

Photographs are not allowed to be taken except for the last part of the tour where a Weta Workshop technician is working on a stage area.

When I visited a technician was working on miniatures for a private commission. Weta was designing a miniature village with approximately 50 models for a client’s pet guinea pigs to live in.


The Miniatures Stage Tour: Thunderbirds a Go is a 45 minute guided tour of the miniatures shooting stages for the television series Thunderbirds a Go.

A van will transport guests from Weta Cave to Pukeko Pictures studios, which is located around the corner on Park Road.

The tour covers the history of the original 1960s Thunderbirds television series, the concept art for the new series, and a look at some of the household objects used to make the miniatures (or bigatures as they are called at Weta).

The highlight is the scale models of Tracy Island, Creighton Ward Manor, and the Thunderbird Hangers used for filming.

As the same with the Weta Workshop Tour photographs are only allowed to be taken at the end. There is a Thunderbirds a Go set that has been especially built for the tour.

While at Pukeko Pictures look across the road to Park Road Post, the post production facility owned by Peter Jackson’s production company Wingnut Films.







As I mentioned Weta Cave, which includes the mini-museum, gift shop and short documentary is free to visit. There is plenty to see even if you don’t go on a tour.

Weta Cave is located on the corner of Weka Street and Camperdown Road, Miramar, Wellington. It is open 7 days (except Christmas Day) from 9am to 5:30pm.

Gallipoli: The scale of our war

Gallipoli: The scale of our war is an exhibition on at Te Papa focused on the Gallipoli campaign during the First World War.


The exhibition is told through real-life stories of eight New Zealanders – seven soldiers and one nurse. Each person tells a part of the eight month Gallipoli campaign.

The highlight of the exhibition are the large scale models of the eight featured New Zealanders. The models designed by Weta Workshop are 2.4 times human size. These figures took 24,000 hours to create, and they each weigh between 90kg and 150kg.

There is a short six-part series online, which is explores the behind the scenes process of creating this exhibition.

The exhibition, which cost $8 million to develop, also features other models, dioramas, interactive displays, and artefacts, such as uniforms, weapons, and personal diaries.

Gallipoli: the scale of our war is located on level 2 of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 55 Cable Street, Wellington. Exhibition is open daily 10am – 6pm until April 2019 and is free to visit.






The Great War Exhibition

The Great War Exhibition in Wellington commemorates the role played by New Zealand in the First World War.


The exhibition is housed in the historic Dominion Museum building above Pukeahu National War Memorial Park. The National Dominion Museum building opened in 1936 and housed the National Museum, the National Art Gallery, and the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts. In 1972 the Dominion Museum was renamed the National Museum. The National Museum now known as the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is now located on the waterfront.

Filmmaker Sir Peter Jackson has created this exhibition, which explores the story of the First World War.

The main exhibition is the Grand Hall, which covers the period from pre-1914 until the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Visitors will enter the exhibition via a pre-war Belgium street. After this we meet Will, a soldier and we follow his journey. The exhibition features dioramas, large-scale props, historical photographs, authentic artefacts and replicas, including a 10 tonne tank and a 11 tonne gun.











The second exhibition is the ANZ Room – Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story in Colour. This exhibition focuses on Gallipoli campaign. A highlight is the collection of black and white photographs, which have been colourised and a one hundred square metre diorama, featuring over 5,000 hand-painted figurines depicting the capture on Chunuk Bair on August 8th 1915.




There are also temporary exhibitions when I visited there was an exhibition on women’s involvement in war, which has now closed. Other past exhibitions included topics, such as Passchendaele, the Middle-East, and conscientious objectors.

A new sensory experience Quinn’s Post Trench Experience has opened since I visited.

There are 45 minute guided tours of the Grand Hall between 9:30 am – 4:30 pm. Guided tours are $25 for adults and children are $5. Otherwise general admission is $15 (children under 16 are free). There separate charges for the Trench Experiences, or a combo ticket option available.

I definitely recommend the guided tour and then going back through the Grand Hall at your leisure. I spent just under three hours exploring the exhibition.

The Great War Exhibition is open daily from 9am to 6pm until November 2018 at Dominion Museum Building in Pukeahu National War Memorial Park.

Pukeahu National War Memorial Park

Pukeahu National War Memorial Park is New Zealand’s national place of remembrance located in Wellington.


Pukeahu National War Memorial Park was created in the grounds of the existing National War Memorial to acknowledge the centenary of the First World War Gallipoli landings. It opened in 2015 ahead of the Anzac Day commemorations.

The National War Memorial was proposed by the Government in 1919. A competition was held in 1929 for the design of War Memorial, which was won by architectural firm Gummer and Ford.

The centrepiece of the War Memorial is a 51 metre high art-deco carillon tower, which was unveiled on ANZAC Day 1932. It was designed as a sister monument to the Peace Tower in Ottawa, Canada. The Carillon features 49 bells, which were made in England. The monument is constructed from New Zealand stone.

Located at the base of the Carillon tower is the Hall of Memories, a commemorative chapel, which opened on 5 April 1964.

In front of the Carillon is the Tomb of Unknown Warrior. In 2004, the remains of an unknown soldier were exhumed from the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery and moved to the National War Memorial. He is one of the more than 1500 New Zealanders killed on the Somme.

At 5pm each night in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior is the Last Post ceremony. The ceremony has been conducted every evening since Anzac Day 2015 and will until 11 November 2018.

The park, which opened in 2015, features several memorials to New Zealand’s allies. Opposite the carillon tower is the Australian Memorial, 15 red sandstone columns, gifted by the Australian Government.

Pukeahu National War Memorial Park is off Buckle Street, in Wellington.








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.


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.  


One year of blogging

“As much as I love international travel I think it’s important (and cheaper) to get out there and explore one’s own backyard. So I’m starting this blog to encourage myself to get out there and do more things on my days off. So join me as I begin my journey to see what this great country has to offer…”

I wrote these words exactly one year ago today – January 16th 2014.

Call it a New Years Resolution or just a goal. Last year I decided that I wanted to do more with my days off work and get out of the house. So I created this travel blog to encourage and document my adventures around my home country of Aotearoa New Zealand.

My first was a day trip to Hobbiton – the location for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. It was a great start and was definitely one of my favourite outings from last year.

At Hobbiton - January 17th 2014

At Hobbiton – January 17th 2014

Despite living in Auckland for 6 years I am embarrassed to admit I had never been to places like the Auckland Art Gallery, Bastion Point and the Botanical Gardens. This blog gave me a reason to go and cross them off my list.

Michael Joseph Savage Memorial, Bastion Point

Michael Joseph Savage Memorial, Bastion Point

I also had a reason to revisit places like Devonport, Takapuna, Birkenhead, Orewa, Auckland Zoo, MOTAT, Auckland War Memorial Museum and Wintergardens, and the SKY Tower.

When I had 2 or 3 days off work I tried to get out of Auckland. During the year I visited Coromandel township, Waitomo Caves, Hamilton and Wellington.

Boat ride through Mangawhitikau Glowworm Cave - Waitomo

Boat ride through Mangawhitikau Glowworm Cave – Waitomo

I could post when I liked, there was no pressure. Some nice people read my posts. I helped a couple of people along the way like the lady who wanted to know the gate closing hours for Michael Joseph Savage Memorial / Bastion Point.

I don’t know where this blog will go this year or where it will take me. My only plan is to do more than I did last year and enjoy myself.

Thanks for reading. Have a fantastic and prosperous 2015!

New Year Fireworks - SKY Tower

New Year Fireworks – SKY Tower

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.


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.


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.


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