Walking through time

Passengers on Wellington’s Cable Car get great views of the city and harbour. Pictures by Jo Ferris
Murals highlight the open-air feature of earlier carriages.
In spring, Holland comes to Wellington where masses of tulips call for photos amid the blooms in the Botanic Garden.
The restored gothic valve tower in the lower lake.
Roaming takahe are among the first to greet visitors.
Zealandia’s exhibition centre is a must visit to fully appreciate this country’s past.
Picture by Zealandia

Riding Wellington’s Cable Car, Jo Ferris discovers its history and finds other points of interest at the same time . . .

With Air New Zealand finally reducing provincial flight prices to a daily rate, a long weekend in Wellington is a lot more tempting. Seeing China’s terracotta warriors close up is an obvious prospect. Concerts and sports events at the ‘cake tin’ or Basin Reserve are also within better reach. A couple of other attractions come to mind, however — perhaps not as high profile — but still worth considering.

The Cable Car is one such treat — especially with a Gold Card in your wallet offering free rides. It began in 1898 when enterprising developers established the Kelburn and Karori Tramway Company to build transport between their proposed subdivision at Kelburn and the city.

Using pick-and-shovel graft and around-the-clock construction, Wellington’s cable car was finally launched in 1902. It was an instant hit and remains so today — proved by more than a million passengers annually.

Numerous upgrades over the years have seen significant changes. The most recent revamp however, catapulted this transport system into a modern-day, multi-purpose attraction. When the new Kelburn terminal opened in 2014, it unveiled floor-to-ceiling glazing and large observation area. Available for functions and celebrations, it’s a classy asset.

For all that, the cable car still retains its sentimental charm from a bygone era. It’s a sombre thought admiring the gutsy vision of those pioneer developers – let alone the sheer logistics of creating it. Once privately run, the cable car has been part of Wellington City Council’s transport system since 1941. It fits every bill: handy public transport, visitor attraction, function venue, kids’ holiday entertainment and canvas for art.

There’s a rainbow mural in the Lambton Quay terminal, historic murals en route and mesmerising bursts of LED lights lining two, 100-metre long tunnels. All this in five minutes: 612 metres, a 120-metre climb — or one-in-five grade — three tunnels, three bridges and a couple of stops between top and bottom.

Cars run daily between Lambton Quay and Kelburn at 10-minute intervals. Be careful finding the CBD terminal, though. Look for McDonald’s yellow arches then head down the alley.

Once up the hill, there are two choices to explore further — left to the free shuttle to the Zealandia ecosanctuary, or right to meander through Wellington’s Botanic Garden. Both are worth seeing and offer further historic insight into the capital city.

Embracing 225 hectares, Zealandia‘s reservoir valley represents a 500-year vision to restore this forest and freshwater ecosystem as closely as possible to their pre-human state. An admirable dream — given those involved will never see it to fruition. Nor will their children, their grandchildren or great grandchildren for that matter — Zealandia is just 20 years into its journey.

Hailed at the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary, Zealandia already reflects what this country was like centuries ago. Eons before colonisation — even the arrival of Maori — New Zealand was part of the greater land mass known as Gondwana. Zealandia is a lesson in the wider planet’s evolution, let alone this isolated country now straddling volatile tectonic plates.

Stopping first in the exhibition centre is a must. Poignant birdsong is an invitation to discover New Zealand’s native species.

Sadly, some are extinct; others are threatened and some thrive. Zealandia’s data shows — since human arrival — at least 51 bird species, three frog, three lizard, one freshwater fish and one bat species are now extinct. Four plant species and a number of invertebrate species also suffered their demise.

Network of trails

A computer-compiled adaptation on Zealandia’s big screen is sobering. It’s probably fair to accept the sheer ignorance of colonists who introduced stoats, possums and pigs — among others; while also bringing ship rats. This film is a stark observation of the disastrous result. The destruction of vast swathes of native bush hasn’t helped either. Zealandia has re-introduced 18 species of native wildlife to this unique valley — its existence buoyed by an equally important history.

The Karori valley supplied Wellington’s first water system and its earth dam is deemed an important part of New Zealand’s engineering heritage. History is acknowledged with the valve tower now an observation platform in the lower lake, while the old boat house points out other historical aspects.

Trails weave through the sanctuary to the upper dam — around two hours for the round trip — either self-guided or led by a volunteer. Serious trampers can meander onto other tracks to delve deeper in search of wildlife.

More than 40 species of native birds have been recorded at Zealandia — 24 of them endemic. There are dozens of reptile species, hundreds of plant species and thousands of invertebrates.

While vulnerable species thrive safely in the sanctuary, the magic spreads. Tuis, kaka and kereru, once rare in the region, are now common around central Wellington — nowhere better than the Botanic Garden. This tranquil park is yet another historic place right in the heart of Wellington.

FACTBOX
• For more information:
www.wellingtoncablecar.co.nz
www.visitzealandia.com

What to see:

  • Cable Car Museum.
  • Zealandia (free shuttle pick up at Kelburn or Wellington iSite).
  • Botanic Garden walk to city.
  • <

Riding Wellington’s Cable Car, Jo Ferris discovers its history and finds other points of interest at the same time . . .

With Air New Zealand finally reducing provincial flight prices to a daily rate, a long weekend in Wellington is a lot more tempting. Seeing China’s terracotta warriors close up is an obvious prospect. Concerts and sports events at the ‘cake tin’ or Basin Reserve are also within better reach. A couple of other attractions come to mind, however — perhaps not as high profile — but still worth considering.

The Cable Car is one such treat — especially with a Gold Card in your wallet offering free rides. It began in 1898 when enterprising developers established the Kelburn and Karori Tramway Company to build transport between their proposed subdivision at Kelburn and the city.

Using pick-and-shovel graft and around-the-clock construction, Wellington’s cable car was finally launched in 1902. It was an instant hit and remains so today — proved by more than a million passengers annually.

Numerous upgrades over the years have seen significant changes. The most recent revamp however, catapulted this transport system into a modern-day, multi-purpose attraction. When the new Kelburn terminal opened in 2014, it unveiled floor-to-ceiling glazing and large observation area. Available for functions and celebrations, it’s a classy asset.

For all that, the cable car still retains its sentimental charm from a bygone era. It’s a sombre thought admiring the gutsy vision of those pioneer developers – let alone the sheer logistics of creating it. Once privately run, the cable car has been part of Wellington City Council’s transport system since 1941. It fits every bill: handy public transport, visitor attraction, function venue, kids’ holiday entertainment and canvas for art.

There’s a rainbow mural in the Lambton Quay terminal, historic murals en route and mesmerising bursts of LED lights lining two, 100-metre long tunnels. All this in five minutes: 612 metres, a 120-metre climb — or one-in-five grade — three tunnels, three bridges and a couple of stops between top and bottom.

Cars run daily between Lambton Quay and Kelburn at 10-minute intervals. Be careful finding the CBD terminal, though. Look for McDonald’s yellow arches then head down the alley.

Once up the hill, there are two choices to explore further — left to the free shuttle to the Zealandia ecosanctuary, or right to meander through Wellington’s Botanic Garden. Both are worth seeing and offer further historic insight into the capital city.

Embracing 225 hectares, Zealandia‘s reservoir valley represents a 500-year vision to restore this forest and freshwater ecosystem as closely as possible to their pre-human state. An admirable dream — given those involved will never see it to fruition. Nor will their children, their grandchildren or great grandchildren for that matter — Zealandia is just 20 years into its journey.

Hailed at the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary, Zealandia already reflects what this country was like centuries ago. Eons before colonisation — even the arrival of Maori — New Zealand was part of the greater land mass known as Gondwana. Zealandia is a lesson in the wider planet’s evolution, let alone this isolated country now straddling volatile tectonic plates.

Stopping first in the exhibition centre is a must. Poignant birdsong is an invitation to discover New Zealand’s native species.

Sadly, some are extinct; others are threatened and some thrive. Zealandia’s data shows — since human arrival — at least 51 bird species, three frog, three lizard, one freshwater fish and one bat species are now extinct. Four plant species and a number of invertebrate species also suffered their demise.

Network of trails

A computer-compiled adaptation on Zealandia’s big screen is sobering. It’s probably fair to accept the sheer ignorance of colonists who introduced stoats, possums and pigs — among others; while also bringing ship rats. This film is a stark observation of the disastrous result. The destruction of vast swathes of native bush hasn’t helped either. Zealandia has re-introduced 18 species of native wildlife to this unique valley — its existence buoyed by an equally important history.

The Karori valley supplied Wellington’s first water system and its earth dam is deemed an important part of New Zealand’s engineering heritage. History is acknowledged with the valve tower now an observation platform in the lower lake, while the old boat house points out other historical aspects.

Trails weave through the sanctuary to the upper dam — around two hours for the round trip — either self-guided or led by a volunteer. Serious trampers can meander onto other tracks to delve deeper in search of wildlife.

More than 40 species of native birds have been recorded at Zealandia — 24 of them endemic. There are dozens of reptile species, hundreds of plant species and thousands of invertebrates.

While vulnerable species thrive safely in the sanctuary, the magic spreads. Tuis, kaka and kereru, once rare in the region, are now common around central Wellington — nowhere better than the Botanic Garden. This tranquil park is yet another historic place right in the heart of Wellington.

FACTBOX
• For more information:
www.wellingtoncablecar.co.nz
www.visitzealandia.com

What to see:

  • Cable Car Museum.
  • Zealandia (free shuttle pick up at Kelburn or Wellington iSite).
  • Botanic Garden walk to city.
  • <
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