The ferry from Picton across the Cook Strait takes about three hours. That's ample time, on a day as fine as the one we had, to stroll the multiple open decks, do some reading or snoozing, and in general contemplate what it must've been like back in the day (as they say) when ships were made of wood, food was rations instead of a la carte buffet bars, and the distance to the next island/continent, if there was one, was completely unknown. Staring at the shadow of land in the distance, with nothing but ocean in the other direction will put these kinds of thoughts in your head. Departing the South Island also left me with the distinct - and sad - feeling that we were departing for another country already, though with Wellington waiting on the other side, that feeling was soon quelled.
To cram an entire city into three days is just not possible, and with as much as Wellington seems to have on offer, I'm not sure three weeks would've done justice. With time not on our side, though, we made the most of what we could and, as is our habit, hit the streets on foot just about as soon as we could. Boston trained us well in the dense, urban-walking ways and Wellington took over the reins with aplomb, offering its overwhelming amount of cafes and trendy shops for our window-shopping pleasure. We also unknowingly landed in town during the New Zealand International Arts Festival which brought out the spirit of the place, but with ticket prices just out of reach and the main attractions being a day or two late, we settled, instead, for the City Gallery (free! - including a magnificently fantastic interactive piece called "Lean" that you can see a bit more of HERE) and a never-ending supply of street art. Seriously: So. Much. Street art. That's including, but certainly not limited to, commissioned murals, graffiti collages and a beautifully kept pop-up/pick-your-own garden located smack in the middle of the civic center plaza.
I mentioned it before, but New Zealand just seems to really understand the value of a good city center. Wellington proved not only to uphold this standard, but showed us a city that is above and beyond when it comes to really, truly utilizing the space it has. Sculptures, walkways, museums (Te Papa, pictured below. Huge and impressive and worth three days all on its own), and landscaping all come together connecting the city and civic center area with the waterfront and beyond. Seeing it in action looked like something out of a movie with all of the background actors hitting their cues right on target: business people walking by, a couple strolling along the water bridge, skateboarders in the distance on the half pipe and a couple dragon boat rowing teams practicing by the boat shed. It's clear that a great deal of thought and care was put into the design and development of this beautiful and welcoming space. It may also be clear, from my somewhat vague descriptions above, that Wellington, for all of its wonderfulness, is not a particularly budget friendly place. Alas, we'll just have to start saving for a return visit. How disappointing!