Everyone should be a tourist in their own town from time to time. We don’t live on one of the high hilly ridges that make Wellington’s topography so famous – though we used to.
When we first arrived in Wellington we rented a place in Haitaitai, on Mt Victoria, overlooking Evan’s Bay.
We’d watch the airplanes flying into Wellington airport – head on into a southerly wind.
We walked up and over Mt. Victoria into the city for work every day, leaving the view of the Miramar Peninsula behind as we climbed over the ridgeway and down into the city.
I often used to sit, when time allowed, enjoying the view over the harbour and Matiu-Somes Island – just like Sophie, now six, is doing in this photograph. That was many years ago – when I thought I had just over a year to experience New Zealand. I never could have envisaged returning to live, as a married woman, gaining New Zealand residence and being blessed with three daughters – all born in Wellington.
Years later, we bought our first home in the hilly suburb of Brooklyn, overlooking Mt Victoria and the city. It was a spectacular view.
Both houses were placed on the ‘wrong’ side of the hill though – in a position as to escape the evening sun. We enjoyed seeing beautiful sunsets (and enviously watching folks on the opposite hill bathing in the late summer rays). We didn’t mind too much – as we were young, carefree adults without children in those days. Our evenings were our own. We could take a drive to a sunlit beach or viewpoint for an impromptu picnic, or stop late in the city after work for a drink in a sun bathed bar.
It was years later, when we became parents, that we started to yearn for a little more evening sun. We couldn’t afford a family home on top of one of the ridges of Wellington – and needed something with a little easier access (many houses with the best views have several flights of steps to climb – and we certainly couldn’t afford one with a private cable-car!); so we opted for a house with a driveway, no steps to negotiate and a flat section for the children to bike around the house – and no view.
What our family home lacked in a view, it made up for with sunlight and shelter from the famous winds of Wellington. What’s more – we found a home within walking distance of the beach, surrounded by trees. We never had far to go for a beautiful scene and simply driving around Wellington, with all its twists, turns and undulations, is always a treat for the eyes.
But this Friday, with visitors in Wellington from Napier, I drove to the highest vantage points of Wellington for a panoramic view.
First stop, Mt Victoria Lookout. This is a great vantage point – easily accessible to visitors. Buses run to the top and there are various walking and mountain bike tracks meandering through the forested town belt (a few famous Hobbits have hid in those trees!). There’s the main lookout, with great information boards about the surrounding geography, and a second lookout – which I love for the depth of view it gives over the harbour, the airport and Matiu-Sommes Island.
The second place we stopped to view the city was higher yet – from the Brooklyn wind turbine in Wellington (New Zealand’s oldest operating wind turbine).
There’s a great post on how to walk to the top, from Wellington city centre, on the New Zealand Travel Insider website. We were fortunate to have the car and drove to the top, after collecting my oldest daughter from school. She was so happy to be running around on a Friday feeling ‘on top of Wellington’!
Her youngest sister, Alice, was delighted too – especially when she discovered some water to splash in (she’s almost always wearing gumboots!).
The incredible view stretches out far and wide over greater Wellington and beyond. To the west of Wellington city is Makara and the West Wind, Meridian Energy, wind farm, which is open to the public and set on a beautiful coastal stretch.
To the south is Wellington’s beautiful south coast, which looks out to the South Island and the snow peaked Kaikoura mountain ranges (though all you can see in this photograph is Alice with her feet in water and Happy Valley beyond – where there is also a large landfill!).
Along the south coast the suburbs of Ohiro Bay, Island Bay, Houghton Bay and Lyall Bay hug the coast line. It’s popular with surfers, fishermen, divers, families and artists.The waters of Wellington’s south coast are now a marine reserve (Taputeranga) and further along, from Ohiro Bay is the scenic Red Rocks coastal walk and seal colony.
North and East is Wellington city itself, Wellington Harbour, surrounding hills and mountains.
A visibly high mountain is that of Mount Kaukau (the summit is 445 metres above sea-level), which has beautiful walking tracks. Spectacular views of the city, harbour and the Rimutaka and Tararua Ranges can be experienced from the summit. On a clear day Mt. Tapuaeoenuku and the Bryant Range in the South Island may be seen, whilst northwest is the Porirua Basin and the broad expanse of the Tasman Sea. We didn’t have time to trek to the top of Mt Kaukau with our visitors on this occasion – but there’s always another time!
For me it was wonderful to see Wellington city and its surrounds from on high and a good reminder to get out a little more from the comfort of home (I’m a happy little hobbit at home these days!). The girls loved the experience too, as I’m sure our guests did.
Thanks to Jen (who I know through her Snapshots blog) and Billy for visiting us – and prompting the tour guide hidden within me to pop out from a comfy hobbit hole!
Linking this post with ‘Love Where You Live‘ on my friend Meghan’s blog: