After a nice stay at the Hilton Lake Taupo, we continued our journey further south, towards Wellington, the nation's capital. Although distances aren't great, its not like driving on the US interstate highway system. Roads are typically narrow and often windy, with the occasional one lane bridge. These features plus driving on the left made traveling the roadways an interesting challenge for this American.
One lane bridge sign. Commonplace in rural NZ
As through much of New Zealand, we saw a lot of beautiful scenery and occasionally some humor along the way.
Sign on back windows says, "Sorry we're so slow...but how bloody fast can your house go?"
mountains of Tongariro National park along Highway 1
After a few hours on the road from Taupo, eventually arrived in Wellington. I seem to have an affinity for university towns. I was born in one, and I consider myself a native of another, Madison, Wisconsin. Wellington had a great vibe, lots of little local restaurants, plus the natural beauty of a waterfront area and mountains around.
There were not any hotels in Wellington that I had enough points to redeem for. There is an Intercontinental, and several Accor properties. We booked a room in a new Quality Hotel on Cuba street, a pretty neat area, with lots of restaurants and other local establishments nearby. I apparently didn't take any photos of the hotel, but I will tell you that it was a perfectly nice place to stay, for our short visit to Wellington. After we checked in, we went off to explore the city center.
First stop on our walking tour was at the beehive and other parliament buildings.
Interesting architecture at the home of New Zealand parliament
Our walk continued, and we hiked up a hill and some stairs, and visited the Wellington Botanic Garden. The Gardens are quite nice, with a mix of native trees and plants, plus a large rose garden. It was a popular place for walkers and joggers.
From the gardens, we caught the cable car back to the city center. It reminded me a little of the Peak Tram in Hong Kong, although Wellington doesn't quite have the same chaos that Hong Kong does. The population of the local area is less than 400,000, but it is still the second largest city in NZ.
view from Wellington Cable Car
The cable car stops in the city center, and we then headed to the waterfront.
A great spring day to explore Wellington.
After walking around for the afternoon, a person can get thirsty, and along the waterfront we saw Mac's Brewbar, and had to stop in for a pint. They had some excellent beers and some interesting interior design.
We eventually walked back to our hotel to relax a bit before dinner. We actually settled on a Mexican place, the Flying Burrito Brothers. I guess I was having withdrawals from North American flavors. The food was actually pretty tasty, and the margaritas were excellent.
The next day, our time in Wellington was almost over, and next on the agenda was a trip to the South Island. Rental cars are not allowed to cross the Cook Strait, so we had to drop off our car near the ferry terminal, and then would pick up a new car on the other side. There are 2 separate companies providing ferry service. They actually depart from separate terminals in Wellington. We settled on Interislander since that is where the Hertz station was. There are multiple sailings each day, but the trip is 3 hours so it requires some pre planning, and tickets are cheaper with an advance purchase.
Our trip was a bit delayed, possibly due to high winds, but it wasn't that big of an issue, and the scenery along the way was quite pretty.
views from the ferry
Our first stop was in Blenheim which is centrally located in the Marlborough region noted for their vineyards, and in particular some of the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world. We spent several days touring Marlborough, then made our way over several days along the west coast then to Queenstown. We stayed in B&B's along the way, but I will report back on our time touring the South Island soon.