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

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.


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


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.

20140820_104857      20140820_104734      20140820_104906      20140820_105004

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.


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.


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.


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.