Wellington’s Te Papa is a World Class Museum

Day 32, Grand World Voyage

Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023; Wellington, New Zealand.

It may seem strange, but thoughts of a Turkish peninsula provided the bookends for my day in Wellington, N.Z. The peninsula is Gallipoli, and it was the scene of a bitter World War I military campaign. The attempt by the Allied forces to force their way to the Dardanelles failed. The involvement of troops from New Zealand and Australia was significant and led to the April 25 commemoration of the initial landings, now known as Anzac Day.

The Te Papa Tongarewa museum in Wellington has a stunning exhibition on the battle, produced in conjunction with Weta Workshop (of Peter Jackson and Lord of the Rings fame). I wrote about my visit to the national museum and the exhibit last November. It says something about my intense emotional reaction to that first visit that I eagerly joined Eloise and Elaine at the exhibit. It features larger-than-life-sized sculptures depicting the battle through the eyes of eight New Zealanders.

Gallipoli: The Scale of our War isn’t the only thing to see in this national museum with free admission. The interactive nature area was full of children and families enjoying the three-day weekend. Tomorrow is Waitangi Day, commemorating the somewhat controversial treaty between the English and the Māoris, and one section focuses on the differing interpretations of the treaty. I have yet to make it to the top two floors, which feature art.

I would be hard pressed to think of a city that welcomes us better. We docked in an industrial port, but the city offers continual bus service to two stops in the downtown area, one near the museum and another near a cable car station. At each stop are volunteers who offer maps, directions and any other information we need.

We explored the wharf area around the museum while waiting for it to open, being silly while taking selfies.

Rather than warn “no swimming,” signs encourage kids to jump from platforms into the water below.

There was more to do in this city, so we pulled ourselves away and began the walk between our two bus stops. Up a small alley-way we found Egmont St. Eatery, highly rated on Yelp for lunch. We only had to wait a few minutes for a table, and by early afternoon they had run out of popular brunch items like waffles. We enjoyed our poké (Eloise), sourdough toast and jam (Elaine) and hash (me).

When I was here in November the national women’s rugby team had just won the world championship and there were no Black Fern t-shirts to be found. They are still out of stock. But at least it gave me something other than dresses to window shop for.

After Eloise went back to the ship, Elaine and I debated taking the cable car to the top of the Botanical Garden, which I did last time. Fortuitously, we ran into Rich and Suzi. They told us about Old St. Paul’s, a Gothic cathedral constructed entirely of wood rather than stone in this earthquake-prone area.

It was just a few blocks beyond the Beehive, New Zealand’s national capitol, so we headed off.

This is where the circle came back to Gallipoli. A cross on a pillar commemorated a local soldier who died in the battle. The United States and Marine Corps flags hang in appreciation of the American troops who came to help guard New Zealand while the country’s troops were away at war.

We capped the day with a stop at The Old Bailey, a pub just a block or two from Johnston Street. Good opportunity for another brew and a few photos.