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My three best kept secrets – Thorndon, Wellington

November 24, 2009

What has been an international cyber game of travel tag, initiated by Katie at Tripbase has come my way – twice –  first by Cheryl who blogs under Cheryl Marie Cordeiro and today from Caitlin at Roaming Tales. Like all good travellers, I’ve collected a bag of travel secrets keeping them tightly locked up for a rainy day.

Today is that day and now I can share some secrets about a special place that I’ve been thinking of recently and with luck, I’ll be visiting in a couple of weeks time.

Thordon — an inner city suburb of Wellington, New Zealand, and the city’s oldest. I lived there while working as a policy analyst for New Zealand’s government and enjoyed every moment of it.  It’s one of my best kept secrets that I love to share with friends who are new to Wellington.

Thordon is popular with locals both old and young, who flock here during the weekends for a long lazy brunch or an evening meal. Given it’s high status and heritage, Thorndon isn’t popular with backpackers. There are no $2 dollar drinks or overflowing hostels and there never will be. Its reputation relies on the people who live here and a local heritage trust. Plus it has the official residence of the country’s Prime Minister tucked back from the main street, Tinakori Road.

Botanic Gardens and then some

True, Wellington’s public gardens are no secret and busy in summer. Travellers take the cable car ride to the top and meander their way back down to the main road or come bundled in tour buses to visit the zen garden. Some of the gardens best native flora and fauna secrets lie off the main trails and usually go unnoticed by those who don’t explore or have inside knowledge to the area.

by JR May

One of the best times to visit the garden’s is during the summer evenings or when there’s a seasonal festival on. If you love flowers, the Spring Tulip festival is your thing and wonderful to photograph. In November, the festival moves onto the Rose garden where every woman called Rose gets a free coffee from the café. And, the coffee is good!!

If flowers don’t interest you and music does, the garden’s celebrates summer with a series of evening performances during the Christmas-New Year period — free.  Jazz, classical, pop, rock, comedy, and Elvis renditions can be heard around the streets from dusk till sunset.  The concerts are popular with Wellingtonians who come with chairs, rugs, wine and good food.

Walk, sketch, photograph, study

One of the first settled areas of Wellington, and well-preserved, Thordon has remained low key with travellers but not with artisans who like to capture its lines, angles and light. It’s a private neighbourhood with steep hills and terraced housing, often inaccessible from the road. The City’s information centre has trail maps to guide visitors through famous streets and places of interest like Katherine Mansfield’s home. Although I suggest getting lost, the area is safe and full of cafes to refuel at.

by JR May

Eat, drink and be merry

If you wanted to, you could do a foodie crawl around Tinakori Road – on the weekend.

Because Thorndon houses government offices, the national archives and library, and embassies, there are numerous cafes and restaurants scattered around. Upper Tinakori Road is where the best of them reside. The old-new ale house “Shepards Arms” with its roaring fire in winter and outdoor seating in summer has a following with the locals and business lunch crowds. It was also a place I’d drag my friends to when I wasn’t taking them to a small café for brunch further up the road. Sometimes without realising, I would spend the day moving between cafés acting as a food guide.

Food is not the only attraction though, Tinakori Road also has antique shops and art gallery’s including one of my favourites: Millwood Gallery.

by JR May

Getting to Thordon

Either take a bus to Molesworth Street, get off and wander around. You will need to move away from Molesworth Street bcause it’s full of government offices and a little dull; or

Walk behind Parliament Buildings and the Beehive to Tinakori Road. You can wander around and explore from there. If you love books and art call into Millwood Gallery, the owner has exceptional taste.

Passing on the tag love

I’m going to be greedy since I was tagged twice, I’m passing the tag to these great bloggers — both big and small. All have unique outlooks and writings which I’m looking forward to reading.

Liz @ A Girl in Asia

Xander @ Primitive Culture

Rainfield @ Rainfield 61

Anil @ Windy Skies

Sarah @ Wandering Off

Lorraine @ Keeps Me Smiling

Heather @ Footsteps

Ms N @ Campfires and Crazylands

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10 Comments
  1. Catherine permalink
    November 25, 2009 1:18 am

    Thanks for the tour – looks an interesting off the beaten track type of place..

  2. November 25, 2009 6:02 am

    Great post, thanks for sharing!

    Tulips and jazz on a Summer’s evening sounds heavenly!

  3. November 25, 2009 10:27 am

    I enjoy following your virtual tour and have stopped by for some food. That’s great.

  4. Bear permalink
    November 25, 2009 10:40 am

    What a lovely place to live. They look like steep hills there but the snall shops and clean streets look welcoming. And it doesn’t hurt to see a Jaguar now and then 🙂

  5. November 25, 2009 1:10 pm

    Looks like such a charming place! I love the details on those old shopfronts in the last shot. I’m still picking which secrets to share, will hopefully post early next week… -X

  6. November 25, 2009 10:08 pm

    Cate – what a wonderful snapshot! I have never been, but would be very interested in the foodie tour part 🙂 Thanks for always giving us the secret “take” on places we may not yet know about – true cultural education.

  7. November 25, 2009 10:36 pm

    Thanks everyone for your warm comments!!
    X – can’t wait to see what you will come up with.

    Catherine and Laura – you are so welcome!

    Rainfield – what did you eat?

    Bear – nice car don’t you think?

  8. December 1, 2009 5:44 am

    How I love the old-fashion looking of that place, absolutly amazing!

    • December 1, 2009 4:13 pm

      Welcome Travel Photography, thanks for your comment 🙂

  9. June 14, 2010 8:37 pm

    Haha am I actually the only comment to your incredible writing?!

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