Oriental Bay is often called the Riviera of Wellington and, indeed, there is something of that famous stretch of French coastline about it. There’s a suggestion of Juan Les pins in the sweep of beautiful beach, the pontoon and the pines. There’s a little of Nice’s Promenade des Anglais in the sea wall, the benches and the wide footpath. There’s a touch of St Tropez in the yachts moored at Clyde Quay Marina and the flotilla of white sails out on the harbour. There’s a hint of Cannes, too, in the gleaming white apartment buildings along Oriental Parade.
Most of Oriental Bay, however, is absolutely, positively and uniquely Wellington. The Freyberg pool is a local architectural icon as well as a memorial to champion swimmer, World War II General and NZ Governor General Bernard Cyril Freyberg. The Carter Fountain, which plays off shore, wind permitting, four times a day, remembers its donor, prominent Wellingtonian, Hugh Carter, who, tragically, was drowned two days after its inauguration. The Band Rotunda, built in 1936, now a restaurant, is a piece Wellington history, a monument to the days when the Municipal Orchestra entertained holiday crowds. St Gerard’s Monastery, overlooking the bay from high on the cliffs, is an unmissable Wellington landmark. The little wooden houses stoically standing their ground between the 21st century giants and clinging tenaciously to the hillside, are unmistakeably Wellington. The solid white ferries that glide past, on the way to and from the South Island, are a part of every day in the capital and of life in Aotearoa New Zealand.