Difference between revisions of "Wellington"
Revision as of 07:54, 17 September 2006
Wellington  is the capital city of New Zealand. It is a harbour city nicknamed the Windy City. It advertises itself as "Absolutely Positively Wellington". Motto "Suprema a situ", which claims site supremacy with some justification.
Greater Wellington region
The Greater Wellington region is far bigger than just Wellington City. The old Wellington Province used to cover much of the southern half of the North Island, including the Horowhenua, Manawatu, and Wanganui regions. Now the region commonly (and officially, in Local Government Act terms) called Wellington includes:
There are 3 other cities that are so close to Wellington that they effectively form a single large urban area; in population order they are:
Wellington is called the city of the wind; and you will figure out why whatever time of the year you go there. In summer the winds may be hard, but not unpleasant at all. Wellington has one of only two airports in the world where the pilot needs an extra licence to land due to the common shear winds.
Wellington is not the largest city in New Zealand but is, for its inhabitants, undisputedly the best. While there is some friendly rivalry between the major cities, it is arguably recognised that Wellington has a more interesting CBD and is not as spread out as Auckland.
Wellington has very bizarre street names, many roads in the downtown area are called 'quays' as much as they may be quarter of a mile inland, and many other roads are named after people's last names which means you end up with names such as 'Bunny Street' and 'Stout Street', like the locals, you get used to them.
Wellington is overshadowed and belittled by Auckland and Christchurch, Auckland is twice its size and is looked upon by other New Zealanders to be another place altogether so Wellington doesn't get the same tourism. Christchurch takes much of Wellington's glory as it is rapidly developing and serves as a industrial, residential and commerical hub for the whole south island, so although Wellington is significantly larger (Christchurch residents believe they are of equal size), Christchurch and Auckland create more attention than Wellington.
Despite this however, Wellington is well known for being a beautiful city which mixes a vibrant city centre with nature in such a small area. It is also renowned for being the base for Peter Jackson's recent movies, such as the Lord of the Rings series and King Kong. A lot of filming and special effects were done in the Wellington area.
Because it is the capital city, the New Zealand Parliament and the head offices of many Government Departments and large businesses occupy central Wellington.
Much of the central city is built on reclaimed land that was raised up after a major earthquake in 1855. More land has been reclaimed since then. The shoreline as it was in 1840 is marked by plaques in the footpaths on Lambton Quay (hence the street name). There are several Quays which are now nowhere near the harbour. Also note that unusually, the large bay in Wellington is called 'Port Nicholson' and the smaller bay surrounded by the city is called 'Wellington' or 'Lambton Harbour'.
Earthquakes have played a major part in forming the whole Wellington region - the exposed face of the Wellington fault being prominent as the line of hills adjacent to the harbour between Thorndon and Petone. There are several major earthquake faults in the region, some of which slip a metre or more in one jump every few centuries. Building regulations have meant that most of the older city buildings have been either demolished or strengthened in the last 20 years or so. Small and moderate earthquakes occasionally rock Wellington; so if the earth seems to move for you, it may not be just your imagination: stay indoors unless a "warden" or similar authority advises evacuation, and take shelter against potentially falling objects wherever you are. Afterwards, you can check the epicentre of latest quake with Geonet.
Wellington is known as the Windy City. Since records began, the longest period without significant wind is less than three days. The prevailing wind is from the northwest but the strongest winds are southerly, which are generally accompanied by driving rain. The wind speed and direction can be told by the flag being flown from the Beehive. A large flag is flown only on calm days, a small flag is flown when windy days are expected, while a tiny flag is flown when storms are forecast.
The temperature in Wellington rarely drops below 0 degrees Celsius, even on a cold winter's night, while daytime winter temperatures are rarely lower than 8 degrees Celsius. During summer, the daytime maximum temperature rarely gets above 23 degrees Celsius. Away from the seaside, in inland valleys, frosts of up to -10 degrees Celsius have been recorded and snow has been known to fall and settle on the nearby mountain ranges for a few days after particularly nasty southerly storms.
Wellington International Airport is located at Rongotai, about 5 km from the central city. It sits on an isthmus between the Miramar peninsula and Mount Victoria. The southerly approach is over Cook Strait, while the northerly approach is over the harbour.
Wellington airport is a major transit point for domestic travellers. There are frequent flights to Auckland, Christchurch, Palmerston North, Rotorua, Hamilton, Nelson, Blenheim and many other destinations. International flights from Australia arrive about twice daily, though the evening flight arrives after midnight when most facilities are closed.
Landing at Wellington Airport in a strong cross-wind can be an adventure, and most pilots adopt a powered approach for landing. This tends to create a rollercoaster ride, so make sure your seatbelt is securely fastened.
There is a regular Airport Bus known as the Flyer that departs from the south end of the domestic terminal. Taxis and covered carparking are directly outside the domestic terminal.
There are regular ferries between Wellington and Picton, see www.interislander.com or www.bluebridge.com, connecting with buses and the train to Christchurch. Cruise ships from overseas often stop in Wellington.
There are only two major roads into Wellington, but they are the top two: State Highways 1 & 2.
There is a daily train service between Wellington and Auckland. There are daily commuter services from Palmerston North and Masterton and a generally half-hourly suburban commuter service to Johnsonville, the Hutt Valley, Porirua, and Paraparaumu on the Kapiti coast.
Getting around the central city is easy on foot. The city is very compact and fairly pedestrian-friendly.
There are also plenty of buses some of which are electric trolley buses. You can buy an all day central Wellington Daytripper bus pass for $5 ($10 for up to 4 people). If you take a bus trip into the city suburbs, it will cost you about two or three dollars. Timetables and route maps at http://www.metlink.org.nz .
The train is the best form of public transport to use between the city and the Hutt Valley or Porirua. The easiest way to travel between the Hutt Valley and Porirua is usually to go by train via Wellington (and you don't save money by getting off at Kaiwharawhara).
If you are driving into Wellington on the weekend, metered car parking is free for two hours on Saturday, thre is no time limit on Sunday. The Lombard Parking and the James Smith parking buildings are no longer free on the weekends.
Taxis cost $2 for flagfall plus $1.70 per kilometre. Executive Taxis has professional service and a larger cab at $1.80 per kilometre. There are sometimes budget taxis for cheaper rates. The taxi companies in Wellington are not as useless as they are in other countries and they do tend to arrive more or less when expected.
Currently, renovations are being performed on the Lambton terminal, and the hours have been cut back. Until about September, the last run will be at 7pm.
At the top of the Gardens, there are several attractions. The Cable Car Museum has two of the old cars in semi-restored and fully-restored condition and some of the original Cable Car machinery from the system that was replaced in 1978. The Lookout has a great view day or night, and the large map next to the round tree usually has a few pamphlets with maps of the Gardens. The Carter Observatory is a stones throw from here. This is the perfect place to explore the Gardens from, or wander back to the city.
Wellington has a lot of restaurants and cafes, in fact Wellington has more cafes bars and restaurants per head than New York City. Malaysian food is surprisingly popular and available in most areas. You can also get good Lebanese kebabs anywhere in the city. Fish and chips is the best value food but you usually get better quality in the suburbs.
More or less traditional:
Fish and chips: Every suburb in Wellington has a good fish and chip shop. You just have to know which ones are the best.
Wellington has a bustling nightlife, concentrated along Courtenay Place, one of the major streets running from the CBD. It runs through Te Aro and ends in Mt Victoria (Interestingly, the nightlife along this strip causes this street to have the highest population density in all of New Zealand on Friday and Saturday nights).
In most establishments, drinks are remarkably affordable (~NZ$6), and cover charges are either nonexistant or minimal. In some of the better clubs reasonable dress standards apply, however in the day the mood is usually extremely causal, with even barefeet occasionally accepted (a common kiwi choice on hotter days)
Away from Courtenay Place in the CBD district (Lambton Quay) there are many after work bars frequented by office workers, however this area becomes deserted in the later hours, and thus these establishments usually do not provide all night partying.
Some of the popular bars on Courtenay Place include Shooters, Coyotes, Establishment, Kitty O'Sheas, and many more. Cuba Mall also features some cool and more alternative bars, including Good Luck Bar and The Matterhorn.
Typical in most New Zealand cities, Wellington is reasonably safe at night, however common sense should prevail. This is especially relevant on Friday and Saterday nights, as in any city.
The nearby Hutt Valley and Porirua have a number of interesting sights and beaches. Plimmerton, for example, has seen future world windsurfing champions training, and Edmund Hillary practised rock-climbing at Titahi Bay before conquering Everest. Further afield, the South Wairarapa has become one of New Zealand's wine growing regions.