Creative, quirky and vibrant, Wellington has the feel of a place where things happen and where anything is possible. Hippy, arty, Bohemian and discerning, with a taste for the good things of life and an overlay of NZ’s distinctive Maori Polynesian traditions, it has a culture all of its own.
Te Papa, Wellington’s Museum is the perfect cultural storehouse for a city like this. As a building it is strikingly different. It crouches boldly, almost defiantly at the water’s edge, its bold stone and glass glinting in the sun, glistening in the rain.
When it opened in 1997, Te Papa was a forerunner in the hands on, inter-active whizz-bang fleet of world Museums, with their attention-grabbing displays. Nor has it shied away from the controversial or contentious and one of its early exhibitions which included the infamous virgin in a condom, had banner waving protesters lined up outside its doors for days.
Yet, alongside all this, Te Papa has provided a fitting place for the ancient treasures of the nation, those things which need no shouts of acclamation but make their own discreet statement. So it is with many Te Papa exhibitions too, which plainly and quietly, tell the stories of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Browsing among the elegant and superbly cut collection in Wellington’s Taylor Boutique in the Old Bank Building on the corner of Customhouse Quay and Hunter Street, one might well wonder if the name Taylor is play on the name of the age old trade.
But no, Taylor is the family name of founder Vicki Taylor, daughter, as it happens, of a fashion industry family.
Still, exquisite tailoring, along with impeccable production and the closest attention to detail, is a hallmark of Taylor pieces. So is fine cloth and all fabrics are carefully selected form the world’s best mills.
The house of Taylor is staunchly Aotearoa New Zealand. Taylor fashions are fully designed and manufactured in New Zealand. Furthermore, Taylor has steered clear of global stores and outlets. Taylor collections are sold only in Taylor boutiques and online stores.
Careful, classy and 100% pure New Zealand – that’s Taylor!
Wellington is Aotearoa New Zealand’s capital city and the engine room of the nation. It’s a place of serious work.
For the serious, work-perfect wardrobe, head downtown to Workshop, on the corner of Hunter Street and Customhouse Quay.
Workshop was established in 1980 by designer Chris Cherry and is the home of the Workshop Denim brand, which he founded in 1982. “Workshop Denim’s focus is on real life, substance and authenticity…each Workshop Denim piece has an intrinsic emphasis on simplicity of cut, quality of cloth and attention to detail” (www.workshop.co.nz)
Also part of the Workshop house is the high end women’s fashion brand Helen Cherry “Renowned for her trademark sophisticated design and understated glamour, distinctive aspects set Helen Cherry apart – exclusive and luxurious fabrics, a unique colour palette, subtle sex appeal, impeccable fit and quality of manufacture” (www.workshop.co.nz)
While workshop Denim and Helen Cherry form the core of the Workshop collection, there are international designer labels too, including Isabel Marant, Vanessa Bruno, Alexander Wang and Marc by Marc Jacobs.
Housed in a former Bank building, the Customhouse Quay Workshop store is a spacious, light-filled space and trying, buying, or browsing here is truly enjoyable experience.
Oh and while you’re down at Workshop on the corner of Hunter Street and Customhouse Quay, trying on those work-perfect pieces you’re sure to find plenty of “must haves” for all those out of work occasions too!
With its rugged terrain and ferocious weather, you might assume that the Wellington uniform would be serious warm, water and windproof wear, right? Not entirely. While parkas, trackies, beanies and boots are de riguer for hilltop tracks and coastal paths, downtown it’s a different story.
To serve all the needs of the serious Wellington fashionista, not to mention the shopaholic, as well the browser, there’s a cluster of brilliant boutiques in a short strip along Customhouse Quay in the CBD. Among them is the fabulous Moochi, 111 Customhouse Quay.
The Moochi brand was born in a small design workshop in the Bay of Plenty beach town of Mount Maunganui. Since then, although its boutiques have hit most NZ cities, Moochi has continued to create in house, to keep its production runs small and to manufacture almost entirely in New Zealand. Moochi has remained faithful to its original aim “to arm women with a cohesive, adaptable wardrobe of pieces that work effortlessly together for work or play. Moochi pieces are of premium quality, ensuring longevity not only in fabrication but also in style” 2015 NZ Fashion Week website.
It was autumn, when I last dropped into Wellington. I had come to town with a winter wardrobe, built for warmth and protection. Wellington, however, was basking in an Indian summer. My clothes were heavy, my clothes were hot. I needed something for today’s heat, but I also needed something for the possibility of tomorrow’s cold. I needed something comfortable. I also needed something smart. I needed something for Wellington. I also needed something for Melbourne. I needed all this in one outfit.
I found it at moochi, 111 Customhouse Quay, in the Wellington CBD. It was the Rule dress from the Moochi Faithfuls collection, an “easy fit tee dress shape is treated with horizontal pleats at the front. this is a machine washable chiffon dress that will look good anywhere anytime, worn to work, a party or in the weekend” (moochi website)
I wore the Moochi Rule dress to lunch that day in the Aro Valley. I wore it to drinks that evening on the waterfront. I wore it to dinner that night, at Fusion Virtuoso in Manners Mall. When the weather turned cold for the 80th birthday at Pipitea Marae the next day, I teamed it with a Scanlon and Theodore suit jacket – perfect! I wear it frequently in Melbourne, sometimes with a coat, sometimes with a jacket, sometimes even with a cardy . Like all moochi fashion it is a dress that is “all about a style, not an age. Whether racing around town, meeting friends at night or chilling at your local on a Saturday morning, it is all about looking and feeling amazing”. moochi website
Clinging to the rugged terrain at the very end of the North Island, straddling a web of irritable geological fault lines and buffeted by ferocious winds, Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand’s capital city, is a place like no other. Different, edgy, arty, bold, they call it the coolest little capital in the world. It’s a city with a style of its own – also different, edgy, arty, bold and incredibly cool. That style is epitomised by the fashion house Zambesi.
A few months ago I called into Zambesi’s Wellington store at 103 Customhouse Quay to browse their racks of fabulously cut garments in delicious fabrics. I’ve been a Zambesi devotee since I lived in Wellington in the 80s and 90s, so a visit to the Customhouse Quay store is something of a pilgrimage whenever I return. I fell into conversation with the woman in charge. She was wearing Zambesi, of course, from the winter collection – wide-legged crop pants and a belted, wide-sleeved tunic top in a heavy purple wool. It was fabulous – different, edgy, arty, bold, incredibly cool, uniquely Zambesi and absolutely, positively Wellington!
“Founded by Elisabeth and Neville Findlay in 1979, Zambesi possesses a consistent and unique signature and is proudly made in New Zealand.
Zambesi epitomizes individual spirit, redefining convention with an ironic practicality, confirming its reputation in the global market of strength, beauty and independence.
Designer Elizabeth Findlay is inspired by fabrics and for Zambesi womenswear, she works instinctively, taking carefully chosen cloth in unexpected directions. History and memory contribute strongly to Elisabeth’s attitude toward design. The clothes reflect both realism and imagination.
Designer Dayne Johnston takes a disciplined hand to Zambesi menswear. His work results in extremely well cut, wearable garments that capture attention with their clever detailing. Those unique details sit alongside precisely tailored nods to traditional and utilitarian menswear, resulting in a refined masculine style” Zambesi website, Profile http://www.zambesi.co.nz
Wellington’s Eastern walkway meanders up and down the windswept cliff tops and through the bush along the edge of Cook Strait. Needless to say it offers spectacular views out across the sea. It also takes in historical landmarks and glimpses of local wildlife.
The Eastern Walkway begins at Tarakena Bay, at Rangitautau Reserve, site of the ancient Rangitautau and Toitu Pa. Established by the Ngai Tara people, Rangitautau was the first settlement in the region. On the bush-clad rise, close to and overlooking the ocean, it enjoyed a prime position with easy access to kai whenua (food from the land) and kai moana (seafood) Equally importantly, it allowed clear views of approaching tribes and it was easily defensible against attack. Today’s visitors can enjoy views out across Cook Strait, often, on a clear day, all the way to the Kaikoura Ranges in the South Island.
Just across the road from the Rangitautau reserve, a colony of little blue penguins makes its home. Although you may not spot these shy little birds, you will see their pictures the quaint bi-lingual signs along the roadside.
A steep, but invigorating upward climb from Tarakena Bay, with the bush on one side and increasingly fabulous sea views on the other, will take you past the local Tsunami Assembly Point, to the Attaturk Memorial.
The Attaturk Memorial resulted from a 1984 agreement between the Turkish, Australian and New Zealand Governments. Turkey agreed to change the name of Ari Baru, where many Australians and New Zealanders perished in the Gallipoli catastrophe of 1915, to Anzac Cove. A monument in memory of the fallen was raised on the site. In return Australia and New Zealand agreed to build monuments in Canberra and Wellington to Mustafa Kemil Attaturk, Turkish Commander at Gallipoli and first President of modern Turkey.
The Tarakena Bay site was chosen for its remarkable resemblance to the terrain on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Designed by Ian Bowman, the Attaturk Memorial was unveiled by the Turkish Minister of Agriculture in 1990. Inscribed on it are the words written by Mustafa Kemil Attaturk in 1934 and read at Anzac services every year since.
Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours. You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosoms and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they become our sons as well.
The Eastern Walkway ends in a steep drop down to the road at the Pass of Branda. Heading south along Breaker Bay Road back to Tarakena Bay, you’ll pass the Wahine Memorial Park, which commemorates the fifty lives lost when the Interisland ferry Wahine struck Barrett’s reef in a violent storm in1968.
The Eastern Walkway is 4.2 kilometres long. It takes about 1.5 to 2 hours walk. I walked it last a few years ago with a long-lost friend and although parts of it left me speechless and breathless, we managed to fill the walk a mutual (detailed) recount of five years separation.
Wellington’s City to Sea Walkway takes you from Parliament, in the central city, to Island Bay, on the coast 12 kilometres away.
Once again, the City to Sea walk offers all the things that we love about Wellington – the rugged hills, the bracing wind, the sweeping views of the city, bush and sea, with glimpses of historic places and famous local landmarks.
The first stage of the City to Sea Walkway takes you through the Botanic Gardens. Slow down and smell the roses, especially in the famous Lady Norwood Rose Garden. You’ll pass by two historic graveyards where many Wellington founding fathers lie at rest. High on the hill you’ll find the Carter Observatory, one of several on the route. You can watch the legendary Wellington Cable Cable arrive and depart. From here, you can see Wellington University tucked into the fold of the hills and far below, the city wrapped around the harbour.
Now it’s all downhill to the Aro Valley with its hundred year old wooden cottages strung along the steep, narrow streets. Take a break in Aro Park, where, during the Cold War era, historian Bill Sutch was sprung passing national secrets to a Russian spy. If pass through this park in early March, you’ll catch one of the most spectacular festivals on the Wellington Calendar.
Leaving the Aro Valley in your wake, you’ll head up into the bushy Town Belt through stands of pines and native bush onto wind swept ridge tops. The views from here are spectacular. Behind you there’s central Wellington spreading around the harbour. Turn your gaze to the south and you’ll see Newtown, where stately Government house stands in its lush gardens, an oasis among the crowded streets. Beyond Newtown, Berhampore sprawls across the hill. Further on the Gothic towers of Erskine college mark the beginning of Island Bay. Look up and you’ll see the Brooklyn wind turbine turning against the sky. On one side there’s , Mount Victoria, on the other Mount Kaukau. Ahead, in the v of the hills, there’s Cook Strait and on a clear day, you can see the peaks of the South Island’s Kaikoura Ranges standing white against the blue.
The walk down over the hills of Brooklyn, through the last glades of bush is beautiful, especially when the broom and the gorse are blooming on the hills of happy valley. From here, the coast, with surging waves dashing against the rocks, is magnificent
Like the Southern Walkway, this is a walk that can be done in stages. Again, it is well sign-posted, so it is easy to leave or join the track at any time.
The experts recommend a good level of fitness to complete the City to Sea walk in a single day.
Vertiginous hills, narrow tortuous roads, zigzagging vertical steps, stands of native bush in impossible places, lush patches of parkland in unexpected places, rickety old wooden houses, quirky quake-defying modern buildings, scenes from Lord of the Rings, ferocious winds and million dollar sea views – that’s Wellington. If you want to experience all this in a day, take a walk, or rather a hike, along Wellington’s Southern Walkway.
The Southern Walkway (Te Ranga a Hiwi) begins at the eastern end of Oriental Parade, with a steep climb up a series of paths and steps (vertical naturally!) to the Mount Victoria lookout. The view from here is sensational and it’s worth pausing for a while to drink it all in – the city buildings, the harbour and the hills on the other side, the Interislander ferry gliding slowly out to sea. This is also a great spot to feel the force of a good Wellington wind – bracing!
Halfway along Mount Victoria there’s spot where a scene from Lord of the Rings was set. You’ll understand why when you see it!
The hour-long walk down the rolling grassy slopes on the other side of Mount Victoria, through stands of trees and past suburban back gardens is a leisurely and lovely one. Beyond Mount Victoria you cross the road near the tunnel and head through Kilbirnie and Newtown then past Truby King Park (named for the man who instituted NZ’s wonderful infant welfare system) Now you’ll find yourself at the back of Wellington Zoo. This is a good place to stop, especially if you’re walking with kids. Sush them to silence and stillness, to hear the monkeys chattering, the lions roaring and maybe to spot exotic animals lurking behind the trees (you never know!)
Leaving the Zoo behind the track leads through Melrose Park and up to the top of Mount Albert. Now you’re looking ahead, out to Cook Strait and back over streets of little wooden houses to the city. Amazing views, more tearing winds and worth a pause for both!
The end is in sight. Once you’ve crossed Houghton Bay road, you drop down through Sinclair Park and onto The Esplanade. Follow the road left along the coast past Taputeranga marine reserve to Island Bay and the end of the great Southern Walkway.
The Southern Walkway takes about five hours. It is fairly easy walking for adults and kids of reasonable fitness. It is well signposted and it is easy to pick up the track or leave it at any point. I did the trek with five 8 and 9 year old boys a few years ago. lt was a great adventure!
As a story, the Lion King is one of the all-time greats. It has all the elements of a truly satisfying plot – a bright beginning, an unjust reversal, exile, vindication and happily ever after. It has unforgettable characters – the wise old Mufasa, the reckless young Simba, the sadder and wiser older Simba, the feisty Nala, the evil Scar and his retinue of sly hyenas, the flapping loudmouth Zazu and the wisecracking comics Timon and Pumbaa. It has a spectacular African jungle setting. Then, there are the unforgettable Elton John/Tim Rice music and lyrics.
As I headed off to the stage version of the lion King, I was having difficulty clearing my mind of dominating Disney images of cuddly lion cubs and dark canyons with hordes of buffalo stampeding through clouds of dust. I couldn’t imagine how African dawns, elephants and giraffes would translate convincingly to the stage.
It is carried off, and brilliantly, by sets, props, costumes, masks and puppets and by a cast of wonderful actors, singers and dancers. The opening scene is a parade of colour, sound and movement that are almost overwhelming. From the back of the theatre comes a train of giant elephants worked from within by actors. There are giraffes, formed from stilt walkers. Hyenas are half actor-half puppet. The lions are robed in rich, African cloth in kingly reds and gold. Their leonine character is portrayed through masks and head-dresses. A huge feathered head and beak represents Zazu. Dancers dance out fleet footed gazelles, others in coolie hats whirl a background of birds, butterflies and insects across the stage on poles. Wildebeasts are formed from bicycles. Stampedes play out as shadows on a dramatic jungle backdrop. The music, live, is amazing.
The great story works, without all the technical wizardry of film, just with that subtle magic of suggestion and imagination that is the theatre. The proof? – the group of kids across the aisle, hardened and critical veterans of You Tube TV and DVD. They were on the edge of their seats, spellbound, open-mouthed and shiny-eyed from beginning to end.
The Lion king is in its last days in Melbourne. Catch it if you can!
Hidden away on a quiet back road in the tiny hamlet of Seadown, just north of Timaru, the Shearers’ Quarters country gift shop and cafe, is a slice of retro rustic heaven which offers a great outing for visitors of all ages and tastes.
Coffee aficionados can sip their brew of choice on a comfy armchair beside the log fire in the old silo, at a chunky table in the disused shearing shed, on the wide, shady verandah or in a secluded spot in the sunny garden. The Shearers’ Quarters has a tranquil, uncrowded space with a nostalgic country flavour for every season. The coffee is superb and a good range of teas is available too. The food is rich and generous; it took two kids and three adults to conquer a slice of chocolate mud cake and a further two adults and two kids to dispense with a caramel oat slice.
Housed in the abandoned shearers’ quarters which give the business its name, the gift shop provides happy hunting and foraging for lovers of arts and crafts.
Just off the shearing shed section of the cafe, there’s a playroom to keep the little kids occupied. Out front the garden is perfect for hide and seek.
The Shearers’ Quarters is also available for functions and on that beautiful, sunny autumn day when I sat sipping my cafe latte and doing my bit with that slice of chocolate mud cake, I couldn’t help thinking wistfully of a romantic wedding ceremony in the garden and a banquet at a long tables on the verandah of the old shearing shed.
In an age when barns, sheds, stables, churches, banks and even post offices have been born again as gift shops and cafes and in a region rich with crafts, coffee and great food, the Shearers’ Quarters country gift shop and cafe is a stand out.
The Shearers Quarters is located at 932 Seadown Road just north of Timaru in South Canterbury, the South Island of New Zealand