Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wellington is the capital of New Zealand, located on the southern tip of the north island. From Maori tradition, it was first named "Te Upoko o te Ika a Maui," meaning "the head of Maui's (a Polynesian navigator) fish (the northern island)." Te Whanganui aTara (the great harbour of Tara) is another Maori name for the area, after the founder of the first iwi (tribe) in Wellington, the Ngai Tara. In the present day, Maori with tribal affiliations stretching from the far North to the deep South live and work in Wellington, contributing to the cultural diversity of the city. The population of the city of Wellington (179,463) accounts for 4.5% of the total New Zealand population, and the surrounding areas of Wellington (448,956) contribute in total 11.1% of the New Zealand population. Wellington is the city most connected to the internet in the most "fully wired" country in the world.
Wellington is home to most national theatre, dance and perfomance companies, as well as the national museum, Te Papa, national archives, and national library. It is the center of the government and thus has buildings such as the Beehive, where governmental officials have their offices, and the Parliament Building. There is a National War Memorial commemorating all the New Zealanders who gave their lives or served in any war, along with the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, which contains the remains of an unidentified New Zealand soldier who died on the Western Front during World War I. Westpac Stadium is the main sporting venue in the city. It is the home of the football team the Wellington Phoenix, and also holds events such as concerts and cricket matches. The headquarters of WETA Workshop are also located in Wellington.
Wellington is surrounded by waterways including Lyall Bay, Evans Bay, Island Bay, Shelly's Bay, Port Nicolson, Lambton Harbour, and Oriental Bay, which has a spectacular man-made fountain in the center of the bay. Taputeranga Island is one of several islands located in the area, and has traditional significance in folklore. It is also surrounded by a marine sanctuary. The inter-island ferry leaves from Wellington and then heads to the south island. There are several surfing spots, beaches, and popular dive sites, including Barrett reef, formed in 1968 from the sinking of the Wahine Ferry, and less than a kilometer off the coast, the F69 dive site where the former Leander-class Navy frigate HMNZS Wellington was sunk to form an artificial reef.
Mount Victoria is smack in the middle of Wellington. Visitors can hike or drive to the top to get a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding area. There is also a path on the mountain where one of the scenes from The Lord of the Rings was filmed. Underneath the mountain there is a tunnel to go from one side of the city to the other. To the northwest of Mount Victoria, visitors can stop by the Carter Observatory by way of the scenic route of the Wellington Cable Car. A short walk from the Cable Car terminal can bring you to such interesting places as the Wellington Botanical Gardens, Kelburn Park, and Victoria University. Several universities are within the city limits.
To me, the city style is very reminiscent of a larger Mexican or Italian town, from the architecture to the city layout. While it seems relatively small by our standards, it has a lot to offer and to be discovered!

City of Wellington official site -
National War memorial -
Wellington Phoenix -
Te Papa National Muesum -
Wellington Cable Car -
Diving -

Cape Reinga, part of the "Northland," is one the northernmost point of New Zealand. It is here that the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean, which is visibly manifested in churning seas and high waves off the point. There is no population, but it is a popular tourist spot and a lighthouse 961 feet above sea level with a beam that can be seen 49km out to sea, built in 1941, is located on the point, and it is part of the Te Paki Recreation Reserve. At the northernmost tip of the cape is a gnarled pohutukawa tree, believed to be over 800 years old and to have never blossemed. According to Maori legend, the spirits of Maori deceased leap from this tree into the ocean to return to their ancestral homeland of Hawaiiki. There are several Maori archeological sites in the area.
There are green pastures in the area surrounding the cape, and the well-named 90-mile Beach is one way to get near to Cape Reinga. Giant sand dunes at the Te Paki stream are commonly boogie-boarded down to gorgeous beaches. A hike away is Spirits Bay, where horses graze in lush pastures and a variety of wildlife can be found. Each year at Spirits Bay in March godwits from all parts of the country assemble here for a 12,000km flight north to their breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra of Siberia and Alaska.

General information -
Some info with great photos -
Wildlife info -
Area info -

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