Day 11: Wellington
I caught a morning flight out of Napier (super small airport+not in the US=no security and the quickest airport experience ever) and arrived in Wellington less than an hour later. Wellington is the southernmost city on the North Island as well as the capital city. One reason I decided to visit Wellington was for the Te Papa Museum.
The Te Papa is the national museum of New Zealand and it has many amazing exhibits on the history of the islands and its native people. I started with an exhibit on the the geology of the island and it's volcanic origins. This area then led (no surprise) into an exhibit on earthquakes. I even went in an earthquake simulator house to feel the experience of the ground shaking! There was also a computer screen that displayed recent recorded seismic activity on the island. I learned that there were actually two small earthquakes (magnitude 3.5) on the Thursday I was in Taupo! Earthquakes this weak aren't always felt by people, though (probably why I didn't notice??). Next, I toured an area of the museum that features birds and animals that make their homes in New Zealand. I also saw a preserved colossal squid, usually found in the deep sea but this one was accidentally caught by a fishing boat so it was donated to the museum. Upstairs in the museum, they have amazing displays of traditional Maori boats and life size meeting house. Out of respect, photography isn't aloud or I would have many photos of these displays! The museum was a great place to learn more about the history and cultures of these islands.
After visiting the Te Papa, I decided to take a ride on their historic cable car as a short cut to the botanical gardens. It only takes a few minutes but the ride is pretty mesmerizing as it transports you through two lighted tunnels.
By the time I arrived at the Botanical gardens, the sun was setting and the air was cooling quite a bit (the further south you go the colder it gets, opposite the US!). The gardens are very dense and pretty, even in the winter. I enjoyed a short walk around before returning to the city center on the cable car. The views from the top were the perfect way to see the charming Wellington. This is a city with a pretty cool vibe.