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I love Wellington.
I love its crowded streets and the feeling that all of those houses and shops were haphazardly poured between the hills and the harbour. I love the Wellington airport descent and its ability to make people treasure how short life is; the spontaneous applause upon landing if the Southerly is particularly strong. I love that the mayor bikes everywhere in an impeccable outfit covered by a large fluorescent vest. I love Wellington despite the fact that for every latte consumed at one of its numerous cafes someone around the world is wondering why the city is named after water proof footwear.
The reason I am writing this is that for many of you this may be your first summer in Wellington and you may be less than enthused by the nation’s capital. You might not be fond of its brutality towards umbrellas and snobbery towards coffee/things that more than five people like. You might not be keen on the idea of spending summer in a place where New Year’s Eve temperatures regularly stay in single digits.
For you, dear naysayers, I have compiled this list of my personal favourite things about this city during the warmer months in an attempt to convince you that you don’t need to leave Wellington to have a summer holiday. Haere mai everyone—from the sprawling metropolis of Hamiltron, City of the Future, from the West, East and North coast, from blink-and-miss towns, the Taranaki and deep South, the King Country and Canterbury. A warm welcome, even to you Aucklanders, haere mai.
Thorndon has lots of potential for cheap summer entertainment despite its reputation as a posh suburb. At the moment the tulips are in full bloom at the Botanic Gardens and have been arranged in honour of the Rugby World Cup to resemble the flags of various participating nations. I have difficulty making out the flags in some of the gardens but the South African tulip display looks particularly flag-like. During the evening you can spot glowworms in the gardens or get a unique view of Wellington by climbing to the top of the circular hedge opposite the cable car. If you like swimming outdoors, but aren’t brave enough to swim in the Wellington harbour, Thorndon Pool opens on the 22nd of this month.
The Thorndon Fair takes place in December on Tinakori Road with jewellery, clothing, arts and crafts and food stalls. Every year around 25,000 people attend this event which has a gold coin entry charge to raise funds for Thorndon School.
Free concerts are held in the SoundShell over January. Last year Bella Kalolo, Lisa Tomlins, Sam Hunt, and Jess Chambers performed among other local and national acts. There is a nice relaxed atmosphere with a bubble machine and light display in the surrounding gardens. During February, outdoor movies are played from a large screen in The Dell on Sundays. The Dell is tucked behind the rose gardens and cafe in the botanic gardens. Past movies include such classics as Eagle vs Shark and Amelie.
Oriental Bay, Waterfront Area
Celebrations for Diwali, the festival of lights, are being held at the TSB Bank Arena on the 15 and 16 of this month. The festival involves Indian and South East asian food, performances, and cultural demonstrations including a Bollywood Dance Competition. Entry cost ranges from a gold coin donation to $5 depending on which day you go.
For some exam stress relief, you could give ice skating a go at the temporary rink on Queens Wharf. This is $15 for students and runs until the end of October. Other warmer weather Oriental Bay activities include swimming out to the fountain or sampling every Kaffee Eis ice cream flavour by the end of summer—nothing says colour blocking like three scoops of gelato.
The Italian Festival is scheduled for November 6 with live music stalls selling Italian products, cooking demonstrations and dance shows ($10 entry) at the Westpac Stadium. A group of traditional Italian flag wavers who have won 30 tournaments in the past 45 years are travelling to Wellington from Faenza, Italy for the event.
Homegrown 2012 takes place on the Wellington Waterfront on February the 18th. The line-up includes Concord Dawn, The Black Seeds, Shihad, Kora, Blacklist, The Adults and many other kiwi bands with further announcements still to come. Tickets can be purchased from Ticketek for $95 plus booking fees.
Sirocco, the quaint Kakapo who attempted to mate with the head of a zoologist during a Stephen Fry documentary, is now housed at Karori Sanctuary just up the hill from the botanic gardens. Unfortunately you will have to begin saving your pennies now if you want to visit him as entry for adults costs the kingly sum of $39.50 and there is no student price. The cheaper option is to view Sirocco through TV3’s live webcam feed which airs from 8.30pm each night.
The Wellington Fringe Festival hits the streets in February bringing interactive, entertaining and strange performances to the city CBD. A range of theatre, comedy, music, dance and visual arts acts take place over the month. Despite some speculation that the Wellington City Council was considering removing funding from the Festival and Carnival, the events will still be Council-funded, although they are now delivered by the newly established Creative Capital Arts trust. The Cuba St carnival is a great event involving diverse sections of the community and people with flats that look over the parade route become popular at this time of year.
Somes Island is managed by DOC and has a flourishing population of native wildlife due to the pest eradication programme they have in place. You can catch the ferry out to Somes for $17 return and camp overnight on a DOC campsite for $10 per person. There are kitchen facilities and a flush toilet in a building next to the camping area.
If camping isn’t your thing, then the Forest and Bird hut can be rented. While it says its a hut, it’s really a perfect little cottage perched on an island in the middle of Wellington harbour. It is more expensive to rent at $200 per night, but if you’ve got eight people then that’s only $25 per person. I particularly like the Somes Island’s lighthouse, the brightly coloured parrots that fly around the place and looking out at the halo of surrounding city nights in the evening.
Hataitai and Kilbirnie
The Kilbirnie Recreation centre is holding a roller disco on the 12 November from 8pm to 11pm. Why not celebrate the end of exams by dressing up and making a fool of yourself on wheels? Entry is $15 (including skate hire) and there are prizes for best dressed.
One Love, an event celebrating Bob Marley’s birthday, is held at the Velodrome in Hataitai on Waitangi Day each year. Radioactive decided not to hold One Love this year due to the cost of rebranding its station and the uncertain economic climate. However, the station intends to hold One Love again in 2012 which is good news for dub and reggae fans across Wellington.
There are many things I like about Brooklyn—it has the best fish and chip shop in Wellington and is also home to a fantastic movie theatre called the Penthouse. The Penthouse was built in 1933 for a local family at a time when the name was more likely to make people think of an upper level apartment than a raunchy magazine. It once had a resident cat and is on a street which has perhaps my favourite street name in Wellington—Happy Valley Road. If you want a scenic place to eat your fish and chips, then you can trek up the Brooklyn hill to the windmill. From there you get a panoramic view of Wellington and can see the mountains of the South island on a clear day. Until the freak weather this winter, the windmill was one of the few places in Wellington that would get snow in central Wellington during really cold weather.
The Island Bay festival takes place each year in mid February. It begins with the Blessing of the Boats, a tradition originating from the South of Italy where boats are blessed by a Priest at the beginning of each boating season according to the belief that this ceremony would protect the crew from harm at sea. The Blessing of the Boats ceremony has been carried out since 1933—a year in which four men, including three Italians, drowned when their boat sank in the Cook Strait. During the festival, local musicians play at the Band Rotunda which is close to the waterfront and looks out on a view that Rita Angus depicted in her famous painting, ‘Boats, Island Bay’.
Further around the coast to the west is a gravel road which leads to the seal colony of Red Rocks and makes for a nice bike in summer. Just around the corner to the East of Island Bay is Houghton Bay which is a good surfing location for experienced surfers. Houghton Bay also has a calmer beach that is popular during summer for swimming, snorkelling and general lazing. Lyall Bay, close to the airport, has surf conditions that suit a range of abilities and several places where you can hire boards and arrange lessons. The Maranui Surf Club has bounced back after a devastating fire in 2009 and continues to do a great Tradesman’s Breakfast on Tuesdays—$16 for a Big Bay breakfast and coffee.
The organisers of the Newtown Festival describe the event as putting “the Unity Back in Community” and I think this sums it up nicely. People from all over Wellington come to the festival to see a range of cultural, music and dance performances and browse the street stalls. It is one of the most diverse events on the Wellington calendar and the scale of the Festival is impressive considering its not-for-profit nature.
Cricket at the Basin Reserve is another tradition at the heart of the Wellington summer. The site evolved from a lagoon to a swamp during the 1855 earthquake, and then to a cricket pitch following a successful petition by local residents. It’s a cosy ground with stray sixes occasionally making their way into the traffic which circles its perimeter. The Twenty20 matches which are usually over in about two to three hours are good for those people who prefer cricket in small doses, but the Basin also hosts multi-day tests and domestic first-class matches for the cricket purists among you.