#1289. Kiwi Glimpses – Part II.

By Lad Sessions | Travel Photography

May 26

Part I glimpsed the north part of the South Island; this Part looks at the south part of the North Island. These are the two main islands of New Zealand, which actually has over 700 islands, most of them tiny; we’ll see a couple of small ones in this post.

We stayed mostly in three locales on the North Island: Wellington, the beginning and the end of our holiday; Paraparaumu, on the Kapiti coast northwest of Wellington; and New Plymouth, just north of Mt. Taranaki (Mt. Egmont), on the Tasman Sea which separates New Zealand from Australia.


Initially we stayed in Breaker Bay. It’s right on the channel into Wellington harbor (or harbour, if you prefer), so we saw a number of passing ships. As always there were lots of lovely beach views, with plenty of gulls to keep us company.

Breaker Bay
Breaker Bay
Breaker Bay
Breaker Bay

There was even a “clothing optional” beach, which we stumbled on during a ramble, but of course I can’t share any closeups here.

Breaker Bay

Paraparaumu is about an hour’s drive from Wellington on a new expressway. It’s a favorite commuting, vacation and retirement spot for Wellingtonians. Our small studio rental unit above the beach had striking views of Kapiti Island, about 5 km offshore, and we never tired of viewing it in all kinds of weather.

Kapiti Island

We had visited New Plymouth years earlier, but this visit was occasioned by our daughter participating in a mass Oxfam walk. Her group (four women ranging in age up to the 60s) raised funds for Oxfam by walking 100 km in under 24 hours! I’m still astonished that this is even possible (certainly not by me). We had a spacious apartment not far from the beach, and so we spent considerable time there.

New Plymouth
New Plymouth
New Plymouth
New Plymouth

We also visited the iconic Te Rewa Rewa Bridge. It was under repair and so I couldn’t get a proper picture of Mt. Taranaki through its arches, but I did see the mountain cloaked in clouds one dawn. Mt. Taranaki, or Taranaki Maunga in Maori, is a symmetrical cone volcano, like Mt. Fuji, and the second-highest peak in NZ; it’s dormant now, last active in mid-19th century, last major eruption in the 18th century. Historically, major eruptions occur about every 500 years, so I guess we were safe enough.

New Plymouth

We continued on the beach north from Te Rewa Rewa, and the light favored some black and white images.

New Plymouth
New Plymouth
New Plymouth

Upon returning to Wellington, we stayed in two places: One was our daughter’s vacant house in Island Bay, which she is trying to sell (a major drawback I would think are the 72 steps up from the street to her front door, but I have been assured this is not a problem for sturdy Wellingtonians). This is the bay for which the town is named.

Island Bay

In Wellington, I spent four hours in Zealandia with a group of photographers (a gift from my daughter). Zealandia is described as “the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary, with an extraordinary 500-year vision to restore a Wellington valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state.” It’s a wonderland of native bush and birds; here are three kinds: pukekos (a purple/blue rail), kakas (a parrot), and pied shags (a cormorant).

shags (comorant)

I also spied some old water valves at Zealandia, relics of the technological past. Adding further fuel to the AI bonfire, I introduced a dramatic sky.


Lastly we spent five days in downtown Wellington, in a hotel that we later learned was directly astraddle the fault which has produced a number of major quakes, including the biggest one ever recorded in NZ, in 1855, that measured 8.2 and uplifted land as much as 6 metres. To get from the front to the rear entrances of the hotel, you had to take an elevator several floors! And we were on the 22nd floor, which in retrospect I probably wouldn’t do again.


We also visited Wellington harbour frequently.


The crown jewel of the harbour is Te Papa Togarewa, the Museum of New Zealand. There was a wrenching exhibition about the ill-fated Gallipoli expedition of WWI, as well as many Maori displays, including a new exhibition of the great seafarers. Imagine crossing the mighty Pacific Ocean in such a small boat!

Te Papa Museum, Wellington

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  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Collapsed laughing, reading the first two lines, Lad. Don’t stress out over it, it just struck me as hilarious – but then I have a slightly crazy sense of humour.

    I think I’ll “pass” on the idea of a “clothing optional” beach – I might have enjoyed it enormously when I was younger (and single!), but at my age, I think I’d rather do something else.

    Loved the idea of Zealandia! Ever since I was a small child, I’ve always been absorbed by nature – and like New Zealand, Australia is a most extraordinary continent – incredibly old, with the most amazing creatures and plants. And they’ve found petroglyphs here that are over 40,000 years old – there’s one other site (somewhere in Indonesia, I seem to recall) that has ancient paintings of a similar age, but I don’t know if they are petroglyphs or not. The ones here are extra special in their own right, anyway, because they are the ONLY record of several extinct species of animal. And being petroglyphs (images scratched into stone, by a sharp instrument) they’ve even survived being plunged below the water line for centuries.

    New Zealand has some equally fascinating relics. The pair of them are fascinating countries. Although I’d prefer the quiet – and the relative absence of earthquakes & volcanoes – here in Australia. Our earthquakes are more gentle, and the volcanoes more extinct!

    While you’re there, make sure you sample some of their table wines – they make some really great wines there. Get a really good one, and shut your eyes while you drink it – you’ll be able to imagine you’re in France!

    Not that I’m the least bit likely to buy the gear that you already have** – but I’m mightily impressed with the quality of the wildlife photos, so I’m curious about the gear & the settings. It’s easy enough to take a snapshot of a bird – but it’s a whole different story, if you’re trying for a quality image photograph of one.

    **(just had a tragedy here, and I’m afraid it’s put any gear purchases on hold for the time being – I’d been waiting for Nik to release the Z, too, for way over a year – anyway – such is life, and we all have to deal with it as best we can)

    When you got to the water valves, I thought for a moment I was going to find the set for the epic film about the Hobbits. That was mostly done somewhere around Wellington, I seem to remember?

    I must be a bit like you, Lad – I’d pass on the idea of that hotel with the split personality, too.

    However sad the WW1 exhibits are, that exhibit was done with extraordinary care and sensitivity. And I loved the other museum exhibits – very fond of taking similar photos, whenever I’m in a museum – although one or two in France shocked me too much and I had to go outside for a change of scenery and a bit of fresh air. (One was an extremely macabre – though authentic, no doubt – exhibit of the slave trade. I simply couldn’t handle it! I fled, instead.)

    • Lad Sessions says:


      Thanks for the very quick response. I received it even before Pascal informed me that my post was up! You must get very little sleep, as you’re always right on top of every post. Anyway, some quick replies:

      I hope my prose isn’t responsible for any injuries, although I was trying to make a little fun of the names “North” and “South.”

      Zealandia is almost a sufficient reason for visiting NZ, although there are patches of native bush throughout both islands, but it’s hard to keep out the predators, which has been done on some small offshore islands. Hopes are large for rewilding more areas.

      I don’t know of any petroglyphs in NZ, though there are rock/cave paintings. The Maori only came to the islands in the 14th century, and so there’s not nearly the lengthy history of Australia. The Maori did get excellent results from chiseling pounamu or jadestone into ornaments and weapons.

      We did sample a number of NZ wines while we were there (Jan-Mar), though none reminded me of France. Perhaps that’s because I’ve never been to France? 

      Gear: I took only my Sony A7III, with two f/4 zoom lenses. The bird photos were at the long end of my 24-105 zoom. The birds were kind enough to stay still for a while as I walked or glided by. I can’t handle animals (or indeed anything) on the move.

      I do believe all the Peter Jackson movies (the Lord of the Rings as well as the Hobbits) were shot in NZ, in various locales. Middle Earth!

      Museums like Te Papa not only preserve artifacts but remind us of past events. I’ve never seen an exhibit that portrayed the grit and horror of war so vividly as the one on Gallipoli, a bloody miscalculation by the Brits (Winston Churchill?); Aussies suffered casualties as well as Kiwis. The portrait of the heroic sea-faring Maori was also well done, and left me in amazement at the achievement. Think of navigating—not just drifting—across thousands of miles of open ocean!

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        It never ceases to amaze me how clever some people imagine THEY are, and how primitive or ignorant they think everyone else is.

        I’m kind of jealous that the maori managed to secure a workable treaty with the white settlers way back in 1840 – whites grabbed this island continent at roughly the same time (“colonisation” AKA dumping convicts all over the place & shooting aborigines if they looked at you sideways, began here only 62 years earlier, in 1788) – and yet after all this extra time, it seems we’re NOW going to have a fight between the politicians on either side, over whether or not the indigenous population should have any right to speak in our national Parliament.

        When I was a kid I was fascinated by their story – read all I could get hold of. Back in the 1950’s, they used to tell us all that the original people didn’t arrive here till around 10,000 years ago. Anthropology has stretched that out – first to 15,000 – then to “over 25,000” – then to “around 50,000” – then someone found conclusive proof they were here before 72,000 years ago, with the uncovering of a ceremonial burial site that was actually carbon dated as being that old – and which was/maybe still is? the oldest ceremonial burial site in the world. And currently they are thought to have been here for 100,000 years!!

        They might not have had any metallurgical industry – but they were incredibly clever in all sorts of other ways. And studying them left me gobsmacked. The treatment they’ve received from European settlers appals me.

        So you don’t surprise me in the slightest by telling me of the maoris’ navigational skills. Lone yachtsmen trying to go round the world today don’t always do that well. With ALL the information and technology at their disposal.

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        You seem to get more dramatic skies around Wellington than we do here in Perth.

        Loved the shot of the pukeko! They look kinda sweet! Grooming each other! And the kaka is quite majestic!

  • John says:

    I don’t want to sound like a nit-picker, but the “Pukeko” are actually Takahe – one of the rarest birds in the world, and considered extinct, until a small population were found in 1948.

    • Lad Sessions says:

      John, Thank you so much for pointing this out (I’m a stickler for nits). You’re absolutely right, and I apologize for the misidentification. (Pukekos are also blue, but that’s no reason for my confusion.) According to Wikipedia, “The population is 440 (as of October 2021) and is growing by 10 percent per year, no longer “Nationally Critical” but (only!) “Nationally Vulnerable.” Zealandia is doing its part.

      • John says:

        Lad, while I was busy being a stickler for nits, I rudely forgot to say how much I enjoyed your pictures. I live in Wellington, and it’s great to see how a visitor experiences, and captures images of locations I am very familiar with.
        Thank you for posting this series.

        Oh and it’s easy to confuse Pukeko with Takahe, as they do look very similar.

        • Lad Sessions says:

          Thanks John. Without helpful corrections from others we don’t track reality more closely! Wellington is a lovely city, and I’d love to see an “insider’s” look at it on DS (hint, hint).

          There are pukekos everywhere in NZ, so I guess I just assumed I was also seeing them in Zealandia.

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      Thanks for that bit of info, John. I am utterly hopeless with names, I simply cannot remember them – but what you have done is show a deeper interest in these rare or endangered species than most people will EVER manage.

      I wish whole heap more people would, too!

      That’s something I really DO find important!

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    “You must get very little sleep, as you’re always right on top of every post.”

    Where is everyone else? So far, all that’s happened is that Lad & I have chatted to one another!

  • Mer says:


    Nice to see that part 2 is up. I was in Island Bay yesterday and took a few photos, but I think yours are better. We headed to another bay and youngest daughter ran behind some rocks, pretty much straight into a seal and missed it by a metre at most. Both surprised, though the seal was a lot less excited than my daughter. Humans – they’re common as muck around here.

    Great shots of rocks and sky from Breaker Bay. Quite the contrast to the New Plymouth coastline – the b&w with the line of pebbles is a great follow-on and compliment to the previous image with a similar line of reflected highlights. They work well together.

    I’ve always been in two minds about Te Papa. It gets the job done, but I still wish they’d built something a bit(lot) more bonkers. Missed Opportunity.

    The dramatic AI sky. It’s a hobby, folk should do what makes them happy. I prefer to suffer the frequent ‘if only’ while chasing images I enjoy, but that’s just me. Your other images don’t seem to have had any trouble catching some interesting skies the old fashioned way.


    • Lad Sessions says:


      Are you visiting or are you a Kiwi? I do appreciate your comments.

      Very little beach at Breaker Bay, but great views across the channel. The two beach shots at New Plymouth were taken not far apart on the same ramble on the beach north of Te Rewa Rewa.

      I’m interested to learn what you would have done differently at Te Papa?

      AI: I’ll explore it as it rolls out. Right now it’s a novelty. The skies are rarely improved, to my taste, but it’s hard to find the right preset.

      • Mer says:

        Hi Lad

        I’m a local. Not of Wellington, though I did live there for about five years and visit quite regularly. Had I known you were over, I would suggested a meet-up for coffee and a bit of a photo-walk. Another time perhaps.

        Regards Te Papa, the selection committee failed to pursue a bold(brave) enough vision for the sort of building project that seldom turns up – an iconic building that can help define a city. For example, one of the designs that failed to shortlist had Frank Gehry as a co-designer. Yeah, that Frank Gehry. It was just before his Guggenheim superstardom and was a very interesting design. I’ve spent so many hours with Te Papa in my field of view and I would struggle to draw it – it almost slides off my consciousness without leaving a lasting impression of its exterior. Stealth architecture. Many of the other designs had bold memorable shapes – even Hundertwasser had a design in the mix, though more on the periphery of proceedings.


        • Lad Sessions says:

          Thanks for the background on Te Papa. Yes, Wellington did miss an opportunity for an iconic building like the Sydney Opera House.

          Next time we’re in NZ, I’ll try to remember (no small task these days!) to let you know; a flat white and a talk with you sound great!

        • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

          We’ve just done exactly the same thing, twice over, here in Perth, Mer.

          First up they built a “convention centre” in one of the best locations in the city centre. Half masked by a freeway flyover, thank God. When you CAN see it, it looks like an enormous sheep shearing shed. If I was asked to rate it for “architectural merit”, on a scale from 0 to 100, I’d be scratching to give it anything at all, let alone in double figures.

          Then a redevelopment of the waterfront, in front of the city centre. And it’s ended up as a complete hotchpotch, with an “artificial bay” where we used to have a patch of grass and a herbarium. Most of the hotchpotch is stuff developers have thrown together, taking advantage of a “land release” not seen in a century in that location. No overall plan – just a lot of big buildings. Could be anywhere. Nothing to focus on.

          Finally, a once in a century redevelopment and expansion of the state museum. It’s OK once you’re inside. But the outside is nothing to look at.

          Meanwhile, at the end of my street, a real estate developer has taken over what is probably the most iconic “old” building in the district – the Royal George Hotel. Done a truly remarkable job of restoring it. And as a “prize”, they get the hotel site in exchange for paying for all the restoration, and to recoup the cost, the right to put up an apartment building at the rear of it.

          Some people are screaming. But honestly, the apartment building could have been another one of Gehry’ projects. It’s going to be absolutely sensational, when it’s all finished. If I had the money I’d buy a couple of the units – one to live in when I’m too old to cope with this house, and one to rent out, to cover all my living expenses for the rest of my days. And a view of the Indian Ocean, from the living room, dining room and balcony!

          Mine is just a pocket handkerchief suburb in one corner of the local district. To have a comparison like this, with the centre of the city, in one of the wealthiest states on the planet, strikes me as utterly ridiculous.

          So with your Te Papa, Mer, you have my heartfelt sympathy. Fancy doing that to the capital of the nation! The inside is great though, from the look of it in Lad’s photos.

  • Pascal Ravach says:

    Superb photos, Lad… not so evident considering NZ is such a “hot spot” for landscape.
    Never been there, but always had it in mind “for one day”… a Japanese friend of mine visited… and never left 🙂
    Your post just pushed the “must go there” button a couple notches higher 🙂

    • Lad Sessions says:

      Pascal, You really should go. But beware; it’s not just your friend who finds NZ so alluring. Our daughter went as a student over 30 years ago, wrangled a graduate fellowship to return, and has never left. She’s a citizen now, and quite the Kiwi.

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Aah, Lad, finally – having my 10″ screen back (instead of only my small phone screen) – I can enjoy your photos!
    Must be a great country for traveling.

    I really enjoy the way you photograph light, and those skies! I’m coming back to them.
    And to your ferns and details from Liger bay!

    Clouds seem to be partly dependent on the country.
    I saw clouds in the north of Sweden I never saw at home in the middle parts, and a new kind of blue in the skies in the south of France.

    When a friend took me along to eastern Australia many years ago, our holiday was sadly to short to think about including New Zealand…

    As to Maori – and Polynesian – sea travel of old, if you enjoy reading novels, Sverre Holmsen, who lived many years in Polynesia, wrote Singing Corall (Sjungande korall) about that. A lovely book which also mirrors conflict between a liberal and a fundamental way of life.

    Thanks, Lad, for sharing!

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