Hop-on Hop-Off Bus, Wellington, NZ

The Basin Reserve, where David and Brian were watching
the South Africa and New Zealand test.

On a recent trip to Wellington New Zealand, I found myself free for a couple of days while David went to watch cricket at The Basin Reserve with our nephew, Brian. I decided to try Wellington’s Hop-on Hop-off Bus, as I have found these are the quickest way to explore any city.

Wellington’s Hop-on Hop-off bus is unlike those found in most areas of the world, in that it is a small 20 seater, rather than the usual double decker. It was easy to see why when we drove up some of the very steep and narrow country roads.

I booked my ticket at the i-Site Visitor Centre, and discovered that, luckily, I had the last ticket available for the next bus. As the seats are limited on each bus, you really need to book in advance to be sure of a seat, especially if you are travelling in a group.

We set off through Wellington’s entertainment hub to our first stop at the Mount Victoria Lookout. Here, the bus driver waited while we all scrambled to take photos, before getting back on the bus to continue our journey.

Wellington, as seen from Mount Victoria Lookout

The view of Mount Albert from Mount Victoria Lookout

Not much room for error on Wellington Airport’s runway!

The next destination was Wellington Zoo. As a rule, I don’t approve of zoos, but I hoped to take photos of some of New Zealand’s elusive native animals. I was disappointed. I did take one or two, but some of the exhibits I had hoped to see were under construction. I didn’t go to see any of the African animals, having recently been on safari in Africa – a much better option. I wasted time here that would have been better spent elsewhere.

These strange creatures are capybara, the largest rodent in the world.
However, they are not native to NZ, they are from Central and south America.

Another strange creature was this agouti, also from Central America.

I saw that there were seven more stops on the itinerary, and that I was going to run out of time to see everything. I made a bad decision to miss the next stop – the Great War exhibition, created by Sir Peter Jackson at the Dominium Museum Building - although I have promised myself to go back and see it next time I am in Wellington.

The Cable Car was next on the list, but as this can be ridden up from Wellington, I decided that would be put off for another day as well.

However, I did get off at Zealandia. This is Wellington’s eco-attraction, home to some of the world’s most extraordinary animals. Zealandia is a conservation project, aimed at preserving New Zealand’s rarest wildlife. Of course, at 225ha, you could walk all day and see very little, and as the last Hop-on Hop-off bus leaves at 3:30pm, you can’t take advantage of the night tour offered.

Zealandia also offers free introductory tours, and I was able to take advantage of one of these, although I had to duck out half way through so I could catch the next bus. This is another place I have on my list for my next visit to Wellington.

This is a Takahe, a flightless bird indigenous to New Zealand. It was once thought to be extinct, 
until it was rediscovered in 1948 in the Murchison Mountains of Fiordland, South Island.

This rare reptile, the tuatara, is only found in New Zealand. They are the last survivors 
of a type of reptile that thrived in the age of the dinosaurs.

The day was getting on, so I skipped the Botanic Garden – 24ha of beautiful gardens, native bush, exotic forests, and colourful floral displays – and got off at the next stop – New Zealand’s Parliament Buildings. I was rather frustrated to find that all cameras and phones have to be deposited with security before entering parliament. So, no photos - except of the exterior.

The Beehive: The Executive Wing of the New Zealand Parliament Buildings.

By now, it was getting late, and the next bus was the last one, so I had to miss the Wellington and Te Papa Museums, but they were within easy reach of our hotel, so I left Te Papa for the next day.

I would definitely recommend the Wellington Hop-on Hop-off bus, especially for the interesting commentaries from the very knowledgeable drivers, but with the following recommendations:

1. Book in advance to be sure of securing one of the 20 seats.
2. Make sure you catch the first bus at 9:30am to get the most out of the trip.
3. If you are going to be in Wellington for a few days, make Zealandia a separate trip by using the cable car up from the city, and then catching the free shuttle bus to Zealandia. This will give more time to explore this amazing eco-attraction.
4. Save Wellington and Te Papa for a separate day, so as not to be rushed.

Elizabeth Coughlan

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