So what do you do on a quiet weekend when you’ve got nothing else to do and plenty and frequent flyer points in the bank? Take a quick hop across the ditch to visit New Zealand, that’s what.
It’s amazing what you can do with some points and in reality it is often cheaper to fly from Australia to NZ than it is to fly around Australia domestically.
After booking flights and a hotel a few weeks earlier I set about waiting for the weekend to come around. Sadly in the weeks before I was due to fly out, New Zealand suffered a number of extreme earthquakes with the first being a magnitude 7.8 on the South Island. This quake caused signficant damage to land and property and sadly even loss of life. Since then the aftershocks have continued.
In the days before my flight I was contacted by the hotel booking company to advise my hotel had sustained damage during the quake and they’d moved my booking to an alternate hotel. Not fussed I was happy with this and as it turned out the new hotel was in a better location anyway.
In regular fashion, nothing can go quite right. My flights were via Brisbane in both directions and the flights to Brisbane, and from Brisbane to Wellington on Saturday morning were delayed due to severe storms in the Brisbane area. This chewed into my time in NZ by a couple of hours but no big deal.
Besides the delays the flights were as you’d expect. It takes roughly 3.5 hours from Brisbane to Wellington so it was a good opportunity to catch up on some sleep. The landing in Wellington on Saturday, and the takeoff on Sunday were extremely rocky due to the strong winds coming off the Cook Strait.
Here’s a video of the landing in Wellington:
It should be noted that some of the best views are always in the plane when it’s either landing or taking off and these flights were no exception. Coming in over the northern tip of the South Island before landing at Wellington the views are so rewarding.
I decided to hire a car for my short stay as it was cheaper than taxi’s to and from the hotel and allowed me a little sight seeing during the trip, after all I would have around 4-5 hours after checkout Sunday morning to kill some time.
I hired a cute little Holden Barina from Europcar and have to say, it was a quite nice car to drive, plus it was red so it goes faster.
After collecting the car and grabbing a bite to eat I headed into town to find The Boulcott Suites, ironically located off Boulcott Street in the CBD. The hotel is perched on a hill overlooking the St Mary of the Angels Church which had sustained some damage in the recent Earthquakes and was being held up with scaffolding while it was undergoing structural strengthening.
The Boulcott Suites is divided into two buildings with the reception housed in the original building and my room located on level 7 of the new wing located just next door.
At check in, the front desk staff gave me some details of the recent earthquakes and advised if there were any tremors that I may feel the building shake but it had most definitely been certified as safe by the engineers. It should be noted at this point that I did spend most of the weekend pressing refresh on the GeoNet NZ website tracking aftershocks however I didn’t actually feel any.
The room I was given was nice and homely and what you’d expect in a “5 star suite”. It has all the amenities of home including washing machine, cooking utensils and even a dishwasher (not that any of these got used).
Once settled in the plan was to chillax and catch up on some downloaded TV which I jumped straight into.
I have to admit, I have a bad habit of taking photos of my rooms AFTER i’ve messed them up rather than when I just walk in, but here’s what the room looked like. Only thing missing with a balcony which some rooms had.
I may have mentioned earlier on, it was windy in Wellington. Really windy.
Outside was insane to walk around in the wind and it was really cold for the almost start of summer.
I went for a drive up to the Mount Victoria Lookout around 2am to see the lights of Wellington but the wind was so strong I was barely able to open the car door so I gave up and didn’t get any photos.
During one of my ventures outside I met with a lovely lady who was also staying in the hotel who was down from Auckland for a work function. We got to talking about work and family and she told me how her son lived in Wellington and his call on the day of the 7.8 quake. Needless to say she said there was lots of swearing on his part. She told me if I felt any rumbles to run downstairs and meet her and she’d take me to safety in her office building across the street which had been certified one of the safest in the city. We parted ways after our short chat and I never saw her again before leaving.
And, despite watching GeoNet I never felt any aftershocks.
After checking out of the hotel I decided to drive North up State Highway 1. On my first visit to Wellington we had driven South on SH1 from North Palmerston and I remembered seeing a large body of water in the dark off to my right about 20-30 minutes before Wellington that I suspected was the Pacific Ocean. I decided to drive here in the daytime to take a look.
The area I stopped was at Plimmerton, a small coastal town and the gateway to the Porirua Harbour. This area is beautiful with stunning views along the highway of both the ocean and the harbour.
The wind here was crazy and there were a large number of people stopped on the side of the road setting up their wind surfing equipment to go out into the surf. I told one man he was crazy but he laughed and said he lived for this kind of wind.
I hung around long enough to take some photos and a video of the conditions:
And some photos…
On the way back to Wellington I decided to go via Lower Hutt to stop off in at the Queensgate Shopping Center to grab some lunch in the food court. Sadly the shopping center was closed due to extensive earthquake damage. I grabbed some KFC nearby and headed back to Wellington to Mount Victoria lookout and the airport.
Mount Victoria Lookout
For a windy day there were a lot of people about. There are many activities along the road up to the lookout with stops along the way for table tennis, hiking and heaps more. I even spotting a slippery slide going down a very steep hill to save walkers the long walk back down.
At the lookout the wind was extreme. There is a small path on the side of the road with a steep incline and I felt so unsteady on my feet I opted to walk down the middle of the road to be on the safe side.
The views up here are amazing and the lucky people that have homes here must love waking up to such a fantastic view each day. You’d be forgiven for not noticing that Mount Victoria is perched in the middle of Wellington, the capitol of New Zealand.
After the lookout I drove back to the airport, dropped off the car and checked in. Thanks to the perks of being Velocity Gold I spent some time in the Air New Zealand lounge and snacked up before my flight.
The lovely staff at Virgin Australia checked me in to an almost empty row so I had plenty of room to stretch out. Thanks again VA!
The takeoff was more violent than the landing the day before with the plane shaking and rattling until we got above the wind.
As always there’s a video:
I also took some beautiful shots of Wellington as we were ascending and the islands between Wellington and D’Urville Island before we headed out over the Pacific Ocean.
New Zealand is such a beautiful place and even the areas that aren’t booming tourist spots still bring joy when you look at them from the sky.
Finally you know you’re back in Australia when you see North Stradbroke Island below.
My quick weekend getaway was almost over with just a short flight back to Sydney left to go. As always, I absolutely love New Zealand and even a short time there for me is awesome. I love the beauty, I love the people.
Until next trip …..