We landed in Wellington shortly after noon and our Super Shuttle dropped us off at our hotel shortly before 1:00pm. Our plan for the afternoon was to visit the one place in town we knew was open on Good Friday: Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand. And our room on the 10th floor of the hotel had a magnificent view of the Wellington waterfront including the museum, which was only two blocks away.
The view from our hotel. The Te Papa museum is the tan building above the orange roof of the house below us.
The Copthorne Hotel on Oriental Bay is built right up the steep slopes of Mt. Victoria. They told us we were on the 10th floor but the main building is only seven floors high. You take the elevator to the 7th floor, cross the lounge to the 7th floor street entrance and take another elevator up on what is really a separate building. So we were really on the third floor of the building above the hotel.
From our bedroom window we had a view of the street and houses three floors below us.
We received a complementary upgrade to a suite.The bedroom in back had a view of the side street and the lounge in front had the view of Wellington Harbor.
Another view of the lounge (and Te Papa).
We did our unpacking and then walked the two blocks to the museum. We were not disappointed. The museum building itself was probably the second most interesting building we saw in our stay in Wellington (I’ll let you know tomorrow what the most interesting building was). The exhibits on the fourth floor were especially fantastic and we learned a lot about the Maori culture there. Oh, one more thing about Te Papa: the admission is free!
We walked by a garden and park on our way to the museum.
The Museum Hotel across the street from the museum once stood on the ground where the museum now stands.
There's a large plaza in front of the museum.
The first floor of the museum contains a gift shop,a lot of floor space and a large escalator to the second level. On levels two, three and four there are a lot of exhibits on the flora and fauna of New Zealand.
I thought the colossal squid display was a little creepy but kids seemed to love it.
One of the New Zealand history exhibits on the fourth level. The major exhibit on the fourth floor was called E Tu Ake Standing Strong and no photographs were allowed. The exhibit contained both ancient and contemporary Maori art and it closes next month in preparation for a world-wide tour. I believe the first stop is Paris later on this year.
There are several places where you can see multiple levels of the building.
One of the most interesting displays in the entire museum. This map shows the settlements of Australia, Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia over thousands of years. We learned that New Zealand is the last major country in the world to be inhabited by man. The Maori didn't get here until the 12th century.
Views from inside the museum. Our hotel is to the right in the first panel, halfway up Mt. Victoria.
In this view our hotel is on the right.
The Museum Hotel across the street.
The Waitangi Treaty, New Zealand's most sacred document, stands 20 feet high on the fourth level. The entire treaty is just three paragraphs. It was signed on February 6,1840 but largely ignored until the various Maori protest movements of the 1970s. Now there is a public holiday -- Waitangi Day -- celebrated every February 6th.
Another view of the Museum Hotel. There's a famous restaurant here called Hippopotamus and we thought about eating here but decided instead on a little bistro a block away on Wakefield Street. It was rather early in the evening and we had the whole place to ourselves. 60s music was playing in the background (naturally) and we felt right at home. The manager / waitress / hostess was very pleasant. When I asked her about her nationality, she explained proudly that she was part English, part German, part Maori and all Kiwi!
We went back to our hotel after dinner and relaxed the rest of the evening. It was nice having two televisions. I watched a rugby game in the lounge while the wife caught up on the Royal Wedding buzz and other news in the bedroom. We both agreed our first day in Wellington was, as the Kiwis say, lovely.