I wanted to visit the Wellington Museum. For some reason, the timing never seemed to be right. That changed yesterday.
Leslie and I walked to the train station near our home and rode the light rail to the central Wellington railway station. Exiting the train, we walked to the waterfront and then mainly south toward the museum. Just before gaining the harbor, I stopped to photograph the Hotel Waterloo building. The building, finished in 1937, has a definite art deco style. It is one of several art deco style buildings in the Wellington CBD.
The first business we walked by was MADINZ. It is a store selling New Zealand tourist items and collectibles. What caught our eye were the two Shih Tzu dogs inside by the front door. When we walked in, the younger of the two, Oscar, became very excited. Leslie stopped and petted Oscar. As we began to wander around the store, the dog settled down. The items for sale were very high quality. We did not buy anything only because we already have a lot of New Zealand souvenirs.
As we walked farther, we came to the building at 1 Queen’s Wharf. It is an old harbor office building dating from 1896. Maybe the most well-known business there today is the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts. We did walk in and take a quick look at the items on display at the Academy. We did not spend much time because much of what we saw was too modern for our taste.
At the south end of 1 Queen’s Wharf, in between that building and the Wellington Museum, one can see a set of entry gates to the wharf area. The gates date from 1899. I found the seal on the entrance to be quite whimsical.
Finally, we had reached our goal; the Wellington Museum. The museum is in the 1892 Wellington Harbour Board Head Office and Bond Store. It is a Victorian-style building designed by the same architect as 1 Queen’s Wharf. The bond store was a warehouse that stored goods imported to New Zealand as the customs fees and paperwork process was complete.
As with so many of the museums in this country, there is no set entry fee. There is simply a place to leave a donation. The quaint museum does an outstanding job of taking one through the maritime history of Wellington from the mid-to-late nineteenth century up to today.
The ground floor houses exhibits in a timeline fashion, highlighting many years past. A few of the exhibits that caught my eye included replica crown jewels, a 1958 diorama, and several peace sign emblems. The gems were reproductions made for display at the 1939-1940 Centennial Exhibition. I do not recall the significance of the diorama other than it depicted 1958…say no more. The peace signs date from 1982. They were part of the nuclear-free New Zealand protests at that time. The protests came to a head with the visit of the USS Truxtun. The United States at the time would neither confirm nor deny any nuclear capabilities of the cruiser. Decommissioned in 1995, we now know the boat was nuclear powered. The Truxtun was the last U.S. ship to visit New Zealand until the USS Sampson visited in 2016.
The first and second levels delve into the maritime history of Wellington, New Zealand. The most poignant area of the museum deals with the Wahine sinking on April 10, 1968. The movie in the museum is painful to watch. At least 51 people lost their lives that day. An additional two died later, bringing the toll to 53. The disaster happened during one of the worst cyclones to ever hit New Zealand.
As Leslie and I walked up the stairs to the Attic level of the museum, I stopped to take a photo of the diagonal bracing of the building. I may very well be the only person ever to do that!
The Attic is a beautiful, hands-on portion of the museum. I believe we enjoyed those exhibits the most. If we had visited the Wellington Museum earlier in our posting, I am sure we would have returned. It is well worth the visit.
Leaving the museum, it was time for lunch. We ended up at the München Food Hall and Bier Haus. We both opted for a rueben sandwich on rye and a liter of beer. Yes, you read correctly, a full liter of beer each. That may not have been the best decision we have made lately… Regardless, I thought the food was excellent.
When we left the restaurant, I wanted to walk to a photography store nearby. On the way, we passed near Wellington’s Civic Square. As we got closer, I remembered that a new Ferns orb sculpture was erected the previous day. I walked into the square, and sure enough, the orb was there, suspended above the square. It is an impressive sculpture. The artist is Neil Dawson. He had a similar sculpture in place earlier, but it was taken down. This new sculpture has a stronger internal structure.
After visiting the photography store, we walked back to the Wellington Railway station to catch a train back home. The railway building is another from the art deco era. It dates from about 1937. The front of the station is easily recognizable by the tall Doric columns at the main entry.
We found a train leaving in about five minutes. We got on and rode the 20-minutes or so to our train station. Then it was a short walk home. All totaled, we walked about four miles, so we were both ready for a nap even though it was late in the day.
Yesterday, Leslie and I wanted to take a walk. It just so happens that I had looked at the Red Rocks area the day before. Mr. Google indicated it was nearly 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) from the parking area at Owhiro Bay to the Red Rocks formation. Since that was about one mile less than our recent walk toward the Pencarrow lighthouses, I thought it would be a pleasant walk for Leslie and me.
As we drove to the southern end of the North Island, we saw large clouds building. We were not sure what the weather might have held in store for our walk. When we arrived, we saw the clouds were across Cook Strait, hugging the South Island. As I parked the car, we saw a man walk from one of the camping vehicles out onto the rocks at the seashore. He stood there, soaking in the view toward Sinclair Head. He looked tiny and insignificant in comparison to the scene before us.
It was a chilly morning because the breeze was coming from the south – the Antarctic south. That translates into the Antarctic. Regardless, we were sure all would be fine once we began our walk.
Our first obstacle was a stream crossing the “road.” It was fairly deep, maybe 18 inches or so at the deepest point. It was also wide at this point, as much as four or five times the width of the road. We encountered the stream about 100 meters from the parking area. That made me glad we decided to walk and not drive.
We were some of the very first that morning to walk on the road. It was very serene. We almost felt alone in a vast wilderness. As we had thought after walking some ways, we began shedding some of our cold-weather gear. It was not bad when the sun was out, but if we found ourselves on the shady side of a hill, it did cool down considerably.
Not long after setting out, we saw an Interislander ferry out in Cook Strait, making its way to Picton on the South Island. We also noticed a fishing boat going back and forth. We were both curious to know what they were trying to catch.
The beach became rockier as we continued along the trail. If we had been beachcombing, I am sure we would have found lots of paua shells. They love rocky shorelines. At times, it did feel like we were walking on the beach. The road was very sandy. There were several points along the way that made me glad, once again, that we were not driving. I am reasonably sure we would not have made it back without some towing assistance.
The road was wet, so where it was hardpacked gravel, there were numerous potholes filled with water. There were two other points where we had to ford small streams. Neither of them was as sizable as the first. The other surface we encountered was water washed rocks, each about four inches in diameter. It looked like river rock that had been trucked in and dumped along the road. I am sure that was to overcome some of the more difficult, sandy portions. There was even one stretch of a couple-hundred meters that was covered in seaweed. That really smelled bad.
As we walked along, some people did pass us on foot. Periodically a vehicle passed us. One couple asked as they passed if we were going to Red Rocks. Of course, we said yes. The woman went on and on about how colorful the rocks are. They also added that if we continued for about a kilometer beyond Red Rocks to Devil’s Gate, we should find some seals. That extra distance was not originally in our mind, but we both mulled it over as we continued to Red Rocks.
When we arrived at Red Rocks, a family was sitting there. They had been ahead of us on the trail. The family was a man and woman with three very young children. I guess the oldest might have been six. We were surprised they were able to walk so far. Approaching them, Leslie asked if they wanted me to take their photo. They were happy with the offer. They posed while I used the woman’s cell phone to capture the shot.
Finished with that, we marveled at Red Rocks. They are only in this one location along the coast. There are not endless meters of the rock, but rather a very concentrated area. The stones are there as a result of the subduction of two tectonic plates; the Pacific Plate and the Australian Plate. As parts of the plates washed away over the eons and other portions were pushed up, the red rock formations became visible. The rocks are between 200 and 250 million years old. I am glad we were able to see them. They were stunning. We were also lucky that we arrived while the sun illuminated the rocks.
In several places along the beach, we saw private baches. I am sure they have continually wonderous views of the Cook Strait; however, they appeared quite primitive. I did see one that had a satellite dish, but the others did not even seem to have electricity. Neither of us aspires to live off-the-grid, so we do not plan to buy one anytime soon.
From our vantage point at Red Rocks, we could see Devil’s Gate. We looked at each other and said what the heck! So, the march continued. As we walked on, a couple of 4X4s went by us. We saw them drive up and through Devil’s Gate. That was when we first noticed just how steep and rough that portion of the road was. There is absolutely no way our vehicle would have made it through the “gate.”
Shortly before we got to the “gate,” a man passed us; walking with his very young daughter. On his back, in a backpack-contraption was his even younger son. They walked on through the “gate” while we continued up the grade. Nearing the top, I had to stop and offer a hand of assistance to help Leslie up; it was that steep. On the other side, it was steeper yet. Both of us had to go very slow and carefully.
Once we were on somewhat more stable land, we saw the seal colony. The man with the two children asked us if we were visiting. We told him we were. His advice to us was there was no need to walk much farther along the beach. He said there usually are not more seals beyond this point, Sinclair Head. We heeded his advice and spent our time looking at the seals there.
The seal colony at Sinclair Head does not match the numbers of the seals we have seen at Cape Palliser. Regardless, they were just as easy to see and access. There was one seal in particular that rose from a nap long enough to yawn and then lay back down. Obviously, the seal’s back needed to be scratched. The seal rubbed its back over the rock for a couple of minutes.
When we tired of watching the seals, we made our way back up the incline to the “gate.” When we got to the point where we could see through the gate, we realized just how far we had come. I know our car would not have made it, but I sure wished it was there.
Just at the base of the incline on the other side, we saw some vehicles approaching. I decided to wait for the cars to drive through. I wanted to get some photos. As one can see from the sign beside the “gate,” even the authorities deem the passage “extreme” requiring “suitable driving skills.” They even refer to the road as a “track.” That is a very descriptive word.
Two of the vehicles just contained a driver each. They seemed to be friends. Both cars parked at the base where the incline begins. One of the drivers jumped out, ran to the top of the “gate” and stood there to guide the other driver. That first vehicle was a VW Toureg. He did not make it up and over on his first try. The car slid back about halfway down the incline. On the second try, he did make it over. That driver came back to the top to guide the other. The second vehicle, a Toyota, made it over on his first try.
During this activity, Leslie sat on a boulder near the road. Suddenly, I noticed there was a seal very near to where she sat. Neither of us had seen it before. We probably would have stepped on it as we left if I had not spotted the animal. I took the opportunity to take some more photographs.
At one point, the seal raised and coughed a few times. One of the things I noticed when this happened was just how big the teeth are. It would not be a good idea to get too close to one of those wild seals.
During our walk back, there were many more people and many more vehicles. Because of the narrow road at points, it was a challenge to navigate. I think we both thought we would never make it back to our car. We just kept putting one foot in front of the other.
Ultimately, we did make it back to the car. From the parking area, I took a photograph of Devil’s Gate. We both could only marvel at just how far we had walked.
Going back through my older photographs, I noticed I had not shared a drive along one of our favorite places in Wellington; the Miramar Peninsula. On this particular trip, I decided to stop and capture a photograph of the “Windy Wellington” sign. The sign is on a hillside shortly before one can turn onto the seaside road that encircles the peninsula.
“Windy Welly” is a moniker that many may have heard, but just how windy is Welly? Is it windier than the “Windy City”; Chicago? From all sources I have checked, it appears that Wellington is, in fact, the windiest city. The table below makes a comparison, including several of the cities in which we have lived. These statistics are from Wind Finder. Try the site to check on other towns of personal interest.
Average Annual Wind Speed
Wellington, New Zealand
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Grand Junction, Colorado
La Paz, Bolivia
The average annual wind speed seems so insignificant. So, what is the record wind speed in the same locations? Now, these are some numbers! Bear in mind a category 1 hurricane begins at 74 mph or 119 km/h. Based on that, the record wind speed in Wellington equates to a category 2 hurricane! The records are from the almanac section found on My Forecast.
Record Wind Speed
Wellington, New Zealand
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Grand Junction, Colorado
La Paz, Bolivia
Luckily our day was not blustery in the least. It began as a bit overcast but cleared to a beautiful day.
The first community one passes through is Shelly Bay, a collection of World War II-era buildings. Some are in disrepair while others have found new life as a café or an art gallery. Other than taking photos, we did not stop on this trip. It has a lovely charm.
Our next stop on this trip was Point Halswell and the lighthouse. Lighthouse seems a rather grandiose term. It is a small, automatic beacon. At the point there were several seagulls around, periodically diving into the water. As I got closer, I could see there was a fish carcass just under the surface near the shore. The seagulls plunged in grasped the body, and with the whip of their head, they tore off bits of flesh. It was fascinating to watch.
Kau Bay was our primary destination that morning. After finding a place to park, we walked down to the beach with our folding chairs. We had never been to that beach before, but we were up for some beachcombing. We found a surprising amount of sea-glass on the pebbly beach. When we had our fill, we sat in the folding chairs and observed the world. We are so fortunate to be able to live in such a beautiful country.
Our next stop was the beach at Scorching Bay. It is a lovely public beach. At the beach is a small café, the Scorch-O-Rama. Other than stopping once for some bottled water, we have never sampled the offerings. Before we depart, we need to try breakfast there just once. Some friends go frequently. They say it is terrific.
We were not the only people out that day. We saw joggers, bicyclists, people fishing, scuba divers, and surfers. The peninsula seems to have something for everyone.
When we stopped at Moa Point, we were very near the south end of the runway at the Wellington International Airport. I heard a jet taxiing. When I looked up, I saw a jumbo jet from the Islamic Republic of Iran. The plane was a huge Airbus A340, no wonder it looked so big.
Other than the occasional aircraft distraction, we busied ourselves with beachcombing. At Moa Point, we are always assured of finding paua shells. The shells we found range in size from about one-inch to nearly eight inches. Neither of us knows what we are going to do with these when we leave. Regardless, it sure is fun to collect them!
We decided to take a long weekend at Castlepoint, New Zealand. We wanted to stay in a bach since we knew many of those would be right on the beach. A bach (pronounced “batch” without the “t”) is like a cabin or summer home. We had heard of them, but we had never stayed in one. I visited the website Bookabach to find our accommodation. We decided on a two-bedroom bach, on the beach, with stunning views of the Castlepoint Lighthouse. The only things we had to bring were our linens and groceries. Other than that, everything is provided by the bach owner.
The small town of Castlepoint is a little more than a two-hour drive from Lower Hutt. The journey is not bad; although, Leslie would disagree because of Rimutaka Pass. She really dislikes that pass.
Castlepoint lies along the east coast of the north island. If one is looking for wild nightlife, this is probably not the place to visit. There is one coffee house/grocery, the Castlepoint Store (they are called dairies here) and one hotel/restaurant, the Castlepoint Hotel and Guesthouse. It is also known as the Whakataki Hotel. On our way into town, we stopped at the hotel for a coffee.
September is the beginning of spring in New Zealand, so the weather can be dicey. We indeed found that to be true. It was cold and rainy for much of our visit. Regardless, we had a fun, relaxing weekend. It seemed more like a fall afternoon than a spring day.
We whiled away some of our time by quietly sitting in the bach, reading, or doing art projects. When we looked up, we were looking out of a large picture window, right at the lighthouse.
Except for some raindrops periodically hitting the bach, it was tranquil. It was also rather chilly inside. There were some space heaters available, but we did not turn them on too high. We would rather be comfortably cold than excruciatingly hot.
Part of what made the environment so relaxing was the water. I mean both the ocean and the rain. I have never been able to put my finger on the reason why, but something is soothing about the sound of water to the human spirit. It seems to “soothe the savage beast.” I could sit, watch, and listen to the ocean and the rain for hours. The smell of the sea and the rain added to the experience and the overall relaxation. I love Colorado, but I have come to love the islands of New Zealand too.
On our first afternoon, we walked along the beach in front of our bach. There was a lot of activity because there was a fishing tournament in full swing. We watched one man for a while as he set his bait, cast, and then reeled the line back to shore. He said he had caught a couple, but he did not think they were anything to write home about.
The fisherman told us the tournament was drawing to a close. He said there would be a large gathering at the Wairarapa Sports Fishing Club to celebrate the winners and have a fish-fry. He suggested we stop by and partake. We opted not to since we did not feel comfortable. Besides, we had our heart set on dinner at the hotel.
The ocean swells were reasonably strong. At times, the fishing boats out disappeared from view as they bobbed up and down. Leslie and I were both glad we were on terra firma.
Since the fishing tournament was ending, people were beginning to bring their boats to shore. It is always fun to watch people launch and recover boats. They drive out onto the beach with a tractor, point the trailer into the surf, and either launch or recover. I assume the small bay is too unprotected to have an actual marina. Also, once a marina is in place, then it requires time and energy to operate and maintain. So, I am sure the locals think the tractor and trailer method is much preferred.
Because of the weather, we opted to not climb to the lighthouse that first afternoon. For dinner that evening, we went back to the Castlepoint Hotel. The dining area was a combination of a bar, diner, and pool hall. There was a more formal dining room to the left as one entered, but everyone seemed to opt for the other. I am sure a big reason why was the roaring fire in the woodstove. We had a glass of wine and a good ol’ stick-to-your-ribs dinner.
Back at the bach, I sat up my tripod to try to get some photos of the lighthouse in action. It was a cloudy, misty, and cold evening. I think that made for a good picture.
The next morning, we drove a little farther north along the coast. In about 15-minutes we came to the Mataikona Rocks. One of the Kiwis in the hotel the night before had recommended we visit. They were an unusual formation. We arrived as the tide was coming in. That limited how much of the structure we could see. The compositions are layers of sandstone that have been upthrust when tectonic plates collided.
It was still a mostly cloudy day. However, now and then, the sun would poke through. That made for some excellent photographs.
On the way to the Mataikona Rocks, we drove past a beautifully green paddock. It was part of a sheep ranch. One could see dozens of sheep and lambs. The shades of green in this country are hard to explain adequately. They are just so brilliant.
Near the Mataikona Rocks was a little-used trail along the beach. Along the path was a sign regarding Paua taking and the relevant regulations. I found that very interesting.
After some additional exploring and beach-combing, we drove back to the bach. Before departing Lower Hutt, we packed some groceries…and wine. That evening we ended up barbequing some beautiful steaks. I am sure part of the reason they tasted so good was the picturesque beauty all around us. The patio of the bach had a small overhang. I moved the barbeque under that for protection from the weather.
The following morning, our last day there, I woke up early. I checked outside and saw that the sky was relatively clear. I had never taken photographs of the stars. I decided to try it. I can tell I will need a lot more practice to get a perfect shot. That said, I did end up with one shot that I liked. Without very much light pollution at Castlepoint, it is incredible all of the stars one can see.
Many of our friends from work have been to Castlepoint. For those that have not been there, I highly recommend the trip. It was so lovely to relax and not be running from one tourist site to the next. We felt very relaxed when we returned home.