Posts Tagged ‘Wellington’
Wellington is not only a cool city with a vibrant art scene, but the place where you catch the ferry (The Interislander: www.interislander.co.nz/ ) to get shuttled from the North Island to the South (you get dropped off in Picton). For the privilege, you pay about NZ$220 (currently about US$130)—about NZ$55 per person and NZ$116 for the car, so it’s not cheap! For some reason I totally dorked out on this and was incredibly excited about the idea of driving our van onto a ginormous boat.
They loaded us onto the lower deck of the boat along with other cars, camper vans, and even semis! And they really pack you in there…we were shocked by how accurately they could determine how many cars and trucks could fit on the lower deck since they don’t really know what you’re driving until you show up.
The boat is very large and luxurious (actually, for no particular reason, it reminded me a lot of the huge spaceship in Wall-E, even though there weren’t hovercrafts or anything). There is a large sitting room, where televisions were playing the Ellen Degeneres show (incidentally, I wonder how it is for Kiwis…all the major movies that they see are in another accent), and they even have a theater where they show movies (though we were advised by Patty not to watch this because it makes you seasick). We were actually quite surprised by how calm the ride was, especially since it was storming outside. But then again, neither of us really get seasick so we’re not reliable sources of information on this front. On the way to the South Island, you meander through a number of bays around several little islands and peninsulas. It takes you 3 hours to get across and all in all it was a very nice way to spend the afternoon, especially since the weather was bad out.
When we arrived in Picton, we drove our van off the boat into…an incredible storm. I mean, it was really coming down. Our plan was to drive from Picton to Nelson that night, where Bob lives. Bob is a friend that we met on the plane from LAX to Fiji (and he was on our flight from Nadi to Auckland too). He is an ex-pat of sorts; he lives part of the year in Colorado, part of the year in Maine, and part of the year in New Zealand. Not too bad a program, if you ask me! He invited us to visit him when we passed through Nelson, and we readily agreed.
There was just one problem: it is about 2 hours from Picton to Nelson, and though the boat effectively sheltered us from the weather, once we got off the boat, we realized it was bad—really bad. This is the worst weather Jeremy or I have ever driven in. Not sure if you will be able to see in these photos, but there were entire fields that were flooded over. Out the window there? Yeah, that’s normally all GRASS, not water.
We were really relieved once we made it to Bob’s house. It took a little longer than expected and we considered pulling over a few times, but we made it. The best part? Apparently this is a normal-sized storm for Kiwis. I guess that’s why they are such hearty folk.
A note from H&J: We’re experimenting with how we approach/organize these blog posts. If you have an opinion one way or another as to what works, please let us know! Otherwise, thank you for your patience while we get the hang of this blogging thing while we’re on the road.
After our scenic drive down the 45, Jeremy and I were jonesing for some beachside camping for the night. We were headed for Martinborough, which is a small wine-producing region about 1.5 hours east of Wellington, but we pulled over for the night since Martinborough was still 3 hours away. Our map showed that Otaki Beach, which is about 60 km north of Wellington, had a holiday park where we could stay so we pulled off the main road to settle for the night. I believe you can officially mark this as the point at which we became holiday park snobs. After our gorgeous beach-side camp spot in New Plymouth, the holiday park in Otaki, while perfectly adequate, was not close enough to the beach for us (two blocks away from the shore rather than directly wave-side). So, we decided to find a nice spot along the shore and “freedom camp.” This is what Kiwis call it when you just pull over to the side of the road and settle in for the night, and we haven’t done a lot of it since our van doesn’t have a toilet or shower. But hey, life’s too short for two-blocks-from-the-beach camping.
In general, it seems that the further south we go, the nicer the holiday parks get in terms of location, amenities, etc. At this point, the holiday park in Raglan seems almost like a dump compared to some of the other locations we’ve stayed in!
For our first time freedom camping, we did a pretty darn good job picking a spot. We sat on the beach, cooked our dinner, and watched the incredible sunset over Kapiti Island. We’ve subsequently seen this exact same scene replicated in art prints and paintings! Hey, when it’s good, it’s good.
The next day we headed straight for Martinborough. This area is mostly known for its Pinot Noir, but like Marlborough (on the northeastern side of the south island), it also produces a pretty darn good Sauvignon Blanc.
It was a very different experience tasting here vs. the Northern California wineries. First of all, the wineries are tiny here! You can walk from vineyard to vineyard (though we were the only people doing so), and some of the wineries are as big as the Napa Valley parking lots! Overall, we didn’t love the Pinots here…they tasted young to us, almost grassy. And while we don’t usually like the super-bold Napa or Sonoma valley varietals either, we wished there was a little more richness to the wine in Martinborough.
We tasted at Schubert Winery and the popular Ata Rangi, but the one standout was Alana Estate, where we stopped for lunch as well. They had a 2006 Pinot and a 2008 Pinot they were tasting, and both were incredible. I was skeptical about the 2008 since I am usually suspicious of wines produced in the same year you are tasting them, but for a hot summer day, Alana’s 2008 Pinot was perfect. The food here was great too.
BTW, we stayed at Martinborough Village Camping (www.martinboroughcamping.com), which was fantastic. Though it was not beachside, the grounds were in a beautiful rural setting, and the place was super clean and well kept.
The next day, we headed for New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington. Wellington is a super compact little city (they advertise that you can walk from one end of the CBD—Central Business District—to the other in 20 minutes), and it is known for having a thriving arts culture. As you can see, they really do pack those buildings in there:
Our first day in the big city, we checked out Te Papa museum (www.tepapa.govt.nz/), which is a museum about the history, art, and culture of New Zealand. The exhibits and signage are all in English as well as Maori, which I thought was really cool. The art floor is really well curated, and I loved seeing historical colonial vs. Maori art and how each influence the other. The interesting thing was that colonial art from New Zealand was executed in pretty much the same way as it was in Europe (just with a different landscape), whereas Maori art immediately began taking on some European flavor. There was some really interesting modern art in the museum as well.
We also really enjoyed the floor with native Maori art. The photo below was taken in a reproduction of a Maori hut:
The city of Wellington is really cool. We walked up and down Cuba Street, which is a long street full of vintage shops, design stores, and boutiques full of refashioned clothes—very similar to the Haight. I LOVED this street, though it was a bit torturous, as there were tons of cute clothes and design-y type curios but I couldn’t buy anything. In particular, I loved Iko Iko (cute design store), Hunters & Collectors (amazing vintage shop), Madame Fancy Pants (all handmade goods), and Frutti (really amazing refashioned clothes).
The coolest part about this cool city was its proximity to an amazing coastline. Jeremy and I drove along the shore out of the city, along several different bays. When we got to the end of the road, there was a large park with hiking trails and an incredible rocky shore. Jeremy and I kept saying that if Wellington was in California, a gorgeous place this close to the city would be overrun with people (on a Sunday, no less!). But the beach was practically empty. Jeremy went for a run down one of the trails and I hung out, checking out the tidepools.
We adore Wellington and of all the places we’ve been to in New Zealand so far, this is the one place we could see ourselves living. Hmm…maybe when we retire?