Peek inside the mansion where the royals stay on their New Zealand visits

Peek inside the mansion where the royals stay on their New Zealand visits

Government House guides Owen Mann and Heather Mills show us around the grand ballroom.

It might be where Prince William and Catherine, Prince Harry and Meghan, and Prince Charles and Camilla stayed during their New Zealand tours, but you don’t have to be a royal to visit Government House in Wellington.

It turns out, we’re all welcome at the official residence of the Governor-General. Possibly one of Wellington’s best-kept secrets is that there are public tours of the stately mansion you can take, for free.

These two-hour guided tours offer a fascinating glimpse into the history of the house, which was built in 1910, and its occupants over the years. But even if you’re not much of a history buff, it’s also just a great opportunity to have a nosey around a grand old building that is filled with treasures.

Government House is located in the suburb of Newtown, and getting to it is a bit of an adventure in itself. You make your way up a road that takes you behind Wellington Hospital, until you come to a gate. At the gate, you’ll need to use the intercom to state your name and that you’re there for the tour. Then the gates swing open and you’ll get to enter the grounds like a VIP.

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The tour begins in the visitor centre, a mini-museum that takes you through a timeline of all of New Zealand’s Governors-General (that’s the correct plural, by the way) starting with Governor William Hobson in 1840.

The visitor centre is also home to what is thought to be New Zealand’s first squash court, which was built especially for Lord Liverpool, the Governor-General from 1912 to 1920. We sit in here to watch a short welcome video and get an overview of the role of the Governor-General – who is the Queen’s representative in New Zealand.

After a few housekeeping notes from our guide (“please don’t sit on the throne”), we make our way over to the house, casually letting ourselves in through the front door.

The house consists of two stories, with the Governor-General living in a self-contained apartment on the first floor, and eight guest suites also upstairs – where the royals stay when they’re in town.

While these private rooms are off-limits, there’s still plenty to see on the ground floor. We pop into the Norrie state dining room, which has been restored to look exactly as it did in 1910, with portraits of former kings and queens on the walls (as well as, rather curiously, a portrait of Oliver Cromwell, the military leader and political ruler who signed King Charles I’s death warrant).
Then there’s the Liverpool room, which used to be a gentlemen’s lounge but is now used for meetings between the Governor-General and important people, and the Blundell room, a beautiful […]

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