I visited Wellington for a long weekend and a major highlight was Zealandia, a 555-acre conservation project up in the hills. There are tons of bird species and several kilometers worth of walking tracks to explore. Though the center of the site can get quite busy, if you walk far enough you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere and you’ve gone back in time. The sanctuary is surrounded by a fence to keep out predators. I saw the following bird species: hihi, bush pigeons, kakariki, brown teal ducks, and blackbirds, among others.
Christchurch is situated north of several extinct volcanoes, which make up the areas of Banks Peninsula and Akaroa. Millions of years ago these volcanoes created cones, which were then flooded as sea levels rose. The resulting hills and harbors are a major attraction for hiking, fishing, and other water activities. The Port Hills in the southern part of Christchurch are the closest for city dwellers and it’s an easy trip to walk or bike to the top and get fantastic views. It’s especially nice at sunset!
I went with a group from Meetup to climb Mt. Oxford, a relatively easy day trip from Christchurch. It was a very foggy day, which affected the quality of the pictures I was able to snap, but I managed to get a few good ones. There is quite a bit of diversity in terms of natural features, including dry beech forest, sub-alpine scrub, tussock tops, and podocarp forest. Overall it was a great day!
One of the touristy highlights of Christchurch is the sprawling, 50-acre Botanic Gardens next to Hagley Park, right in the center of town. My favorite part of the gardens was the Cunningham House, which has a tropical collection of plants from all over the world. There is also an “Erica Garden”! You can easily spend a couple hours wandering around and getting lost in your thoughts.
A defining feature of Christchurch – and a central theme of pretty much every conversation – is the earthquakes in 2011 that devastated huge sections of the city. Nearly 200 people were killed and countless buildings were destroyed. Six years later the business center still has empty lots and ongoing roadworks that frustrate locals and confuse visitors. One silver lining is the abundance of street art that has emerged to fill the spaces. Here is just a small selection of photos taken on an afternoon wandering around.