Tag Archives: Wellington

Wellington and a visit to the Dryburghs

A five minute walk from our overnight campsite took us to Mana railway station and 30 minutes later and a couple of $8 fares we were in Wellington – parking the van in the centre of the city would have been a nightmare so this turned out to be a really good move.  If you come from Europe you probably don’t go to New Zealand to admire the country’s historic architecture, but as it happens Wellington has some real nuggets tucked away and has done a pretty good job of conserving them.  First stop was the Old Government Buildings which at first sight appear to be constructed of a cream coloured stone but actually turn out to be wood  – for some time it was thought to be the world’s largest wooden building, but, wouldn’t you know it, the Japanese have something bigger. (Not a lot of people know that).

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A three minute trip by cable car from the heart of the central business district lifts you up a couple of hundred metres to a great viewpoint with views out over the harbour and out to the Cook Strait.  It also takes you to the highest point in Wellington’s excellent Botanic Gardens which must rank as one of the most interesting and best presented of all the public spaces we’ve seen in the many cities we’ve visited over the years. An hour spent sauntering down through the gardens and back into the city was time very well spent.

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The evening was spent with Jim and Heather Dryburgh, 3/5 of their lovely family and a couple of friends Paul and Tracy.  Jim and I worked together in Blandford about ten years back and we last got together during my brief stay in Wellington in 2007.  It was good to catch up on the missing years and to make new friends in the process – thanks Heather for a lovely meal and great West Coast hospitality.

Picton across to Wellington

The ferry from between the South and North Islands runs from Picton to Wellington and is pretty much like any cross channel ferry, but without the duty free and fewer French.  The journey takes around 3 ½ hours and we were fortunate in having a calm, sunny day for our ‘cruise’, so for the first hour or so we sat ‘topsides’ and watched as the ship manoeuvred itself up the narrow Queen Charlotte Sound and even narrower Tory Chanel and out into the Cook Strait.  The route passes dozens of isolated houses and tiny communities which appear to be completely inaccessible other than by boat; although some were obviously holiday retreats the majority were clearly homes – presumably if you live somewhere as inaccessible as that you really don’t want your neighbour to pop round for a chat or calling in to borrow a cup of sugar.

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Our arrival in Wellington coincided with rush hour and a traffic jam, but once we were out of the city we had an easy journey up to the freedom campsite we’d chosen on the west coast at Mana which is about half an hour out of the city.  Whether by discerning selection or sheer good fortune we once again stumbled on a nice quiet site with great views, (fairly) clean toilets and, as luck would have it, within five minutes walk of the railway station which we used the following day to pop back into Wellington for some sightseeing.  The campsite was also on the edge of a large and very well organised recreational area which was evidently the focus for just about any sport and outdoor activity you care to name – everything from dog obedience classes and Sea Scouts to kayaking  and cricket.  All part of the New Zealand lifestyle thing and very impressive.