Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Exploring, eating, and drinking our way through Wellington

On Sunday, we visited the Te Papa Museum on Wellington harbor, one of the country’s major tourist attractions. The building itself is beautiful; light-filled with large atriums and lots of glass that brings in light and offers views of the city and the waterfront. 

There’s a special exhibit right outside the front entrance that takes you one floor down and offers a peek of the building’s foundation, which was built on special spring mechanisms that would allow the building to sway, and hopefully not crumble, in the event of an earthquake.

There is no admission fee at Te Papa, but we start our visit inside with a one-hour guided tour with Marilyn, a museum volunteer. She walks us through and points out some of the major attractions and her recommended “don’t miss” exhibits. The museum is centered around teaching visitors about the New Zealand people and their cultures, as well as the country’s geology and history. 

One of the special exhibits that Marilyn suggested we experience took place in a simulated antique shop, called “Golden Days”, which offers a 15-minute film that offers a very broad overview of New Zealand history. As events unfold on the screen, some of the items in the antique shop “come to life”: a caged bird sings, cannons fire, toy soldiers march, and a player piano rolls out a tune.

A shout-out to our blogger friend Gwan – we thought of you during this exhibit, and wonder how many of the events depicted in the film would remind you of your time in New Zealand! Have you been to this exhibit? 

If you visit Te Papa, there are two museum attractions that the three of us would agree not to waste your time or money on: don’t buy tickets to the special motion rides that are supposed to simulate New Zealand adventures (bunjee jumping, motorcycle racing) and a submarine ride to an deep-sea volcano. Both offer lots of bouncing around, but offer no insights or information that couldn’t be presented in a more traditional exhibit.

Tonight, we are spending the night at The Museum Hotel, a beautiful, modern hotel filled with unique paintings, sculptures and other pieces of artwork. After our visit to Te Papa, we go back to the hotel and rest a few hours before showering and changing for dinner. It’s Peter’s birthday, so he gets to decide where we eat. 

We first stop at Matterhorn on Cuba Street for a cocktail, a very hip basement bar and restaurant, before we head further up the street to a lively, casual restaurant called Scopa, which offers pizzas and pastas. We split a bottle of wine and a small garlic pizza as an appetizer. I got the most delicious pasta dish for my entrée, which had wide noodles, chicken livers, beans, and a light cream sauce. 

After dinner, we walked up the street to Scotty & Mal’s, a watering hole, where we meet some fun locals and close out Peter’s birthday in style.


  1. Can't tell you how much fun tagging along on your vacation has been so far! Looking forward to more... And the food sounds great!

  2. Happy Birthday, Peter! I guess that I was premature with my birthday greetings before.

    So, if the pavlova wasn't Peter's b'day cake and there aren't any photos of a b'day cake after dinner, did he have one? The reason that I'm asking is because I can't get that massive coconut creation that was Mike's b'day cake out of my mind.

    Gwan is currently admiring the men and fast cars at the F1 test trials in Barcelona, so I'm not sure that she saw this post about the museum.

  3. I did indeed get the chance to take time out from men and cars to catch up blogging this evening, thanks for the shout out! I'm not sure if I've seen that particular exhibit - although I lived in Wellington in 2008 I don't think I ever made it in to Te Papa while I was there! I did visit Te Papa in about the year 2000, I remember things along the same lines, but not that specific exhibit (or having to pay to go on rides, although I do remember a very good 180 degree film fly-through of NZ history, did you see that?)

    Happy birthday! Matterhorn is indeed a cool place to start the celebrations!



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