Today marks my last day in Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand. This city is amazing. The city is small and compact, making it easy to walk anywhere. The beauty of walking everywhere in Wellington means walking by the city’s many cafes. Rather than massive chains like Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, the vast majority of coffee shops in Wellington are locally owned and operated. In Wellington, coffee is a religion. The city is considered one of the coffee capitals of the world. Needless to say, I’ve been trying as many cafes as I can (Mojo’s Coffee, Pandoro Panetteria, Zumo Coffee, the Memphis Belle Coffee House, The Flight Coffee Hangar, Te Papa Cafe, and the Home Cafe) and they’re some of the many things I’ll miss about this wonderful city as I move on to the South Island.
Over the course of my time in Wellington, I’ve been furthering my research by interviewing Members of Parliament. The government here is really impressive and easily approachable, a few of the benefits of living in a small country. The Government is housed primarily in three beautiful buildings: The Beehive (Executive Wing), the Parliament House, and the Parliamentary Library. Wellington is very much so a government city – probably one of the reasons why I’m such a fan.
In addition to spending a lot of time at Parliament, I was lucky enough to see several of Wellington’s points of interest. I hiked to the top of Mount Victoria, a mountain overlooking the city of Wellington and the two smaller harbors that are the hub of economic activity for trade in the massive Wellington harbor. I toured Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand. Te Papa was absolutely incredible – easily rivaling the Smithsonian in Washington, just on a much smaller scale. The museum is heavily interactive and embodies the bicultural nature of New Zealand by presenting exhibits in English and Te Reo (the Maori Language). I took a trip in Wellington’s famous cable car that connects a suburb located much higher in the mountains surrounding Wellington with the central business district of the city below. The Wellington Cable Car has been in operation since 1902 and is considered to be a symbol for the city. The Cable Car was really cool – and that short five-minute ride up the hill led to awesome views of the city at night. Lastly, I toured the WETA Cave and WETA Production studios in Miramar, a suburb of Wellington. WETA is the film production company group associated with director Peter Jackson and is famous for producing (or helping to produce) films like The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit Trilogy, Avatar, King Kong, the Narnia films, and more.
In addition to those typical tourist attractions, I also managed to see a few of Wellington’s hidden gems. For instance, I toured the Old Saint Paul’s Church in Wellington. Old Saint Paul’s is a beautiful church created entirely of New Zealand timber and is over 150 years old. Interestingly enough, alongside the flags of the Royal Navy and the New Zealand Navy flies the Star Spangled Banner of the United States and a flag bearing the ensign of the United States Maine Corps. These flags are still displayed in the sanctuary of the Church in recognition of the Second Division of the United States Marine Corps that was stationed alongside New Zealanders in Wellington during World War II. Another awesome find was Unity Books, a massive bookstore in downtown Wellington that works to promote New Zealand literature and create staff-oriented picks to help shoppers find their next favorite book. The difference between this bookstore and every other bookstore? There are tons of employees walking around willing to suggest titles and strike up conversations with customers about their interests – creating a passionate following among Wellington residents.
I have had an incredible time in Wellington and have really developed a love for the city, but I’m excited to move on to the South Island. I’m flying to Queenstown, often named “the Adventure Capital of the World,” located in the South Island’s mountain range known as the Southern Alps. It’s supposed to be absolutely gorgeous and I can’t wait to get there, but as I leave Wellington I know it’s not simply a goodbye. It’s an “until next time.” See ya soon, Wellington.