I think if I was going to live anywhere in New Zealand long term, it would have to be Wellington.
It’s artsy, it’s vibrant, it’s full of life.
AND it’s one of the few places in New Zealand to have an actual nightlife. (Not just a bar with the locals in it, but proper music and strobe lights and sometimes even a smoke machine that makes you feel like you’re in some sexy as 80s music video.) The best bit is that if you drive for thirty minutes out of Wellington then you’ll find yourself back to being in peaceful countryside, surrounded by lakes and mountains and sheep, so you’re actually getting the best of both worlds. What could be better?
And so, being the knight in shining armour that I am, I thought I’d compile a little list of all the things that you just have to experience on your own visit (and yes the list does feature some LOTR bits and pieces).
Anyone that has been to Wellington for a little holibob will have been to Te Papa. Why? Because it’s really goddamn cool, that’s why. It’s essentially a massive museum but with lots of interactive rooms that explore the local history, Maori culture, geographic odds’n’sods (earthquakes and volcanoes) and the war. When I visited they had the most incredible war exhibition, called ‘Gallipoli: The Scale of our War’, and that saw us all walking around massive human sculptures that focused on the emotional state that each individual was experiencing. These unbelievably lifelike and full scale models pulled at the viewer’s heart string by bringing us up close and personal so that we could see the pain in their eyes, feel the beads of sweat trickling down their skin, see all the blood and death that surrounded them. The artists had spent years creating them, and boy did they do a good job.
But when this exhibit isn’t on then I’m sure there will be another equally cool room to explore – so definitely check it out as you could easily spend hours just wandering around Te Papa’s rooms.
Some of the saddest stories you’ll hear in New Zealand are about the destruction of native birds and plants (mostly because of some obnoxious Brits who came over and brought with them all sorts of foreign animals/trees/disease…) especially the God of all NZ birds, the Kiwi. And so Wellington stepped up to the mark and created ‘Zealandia’, a conservation ‘zone’ that allows for the safe reproduction of endangered New Zealand species. Even if you’re not remotely interested in birds and fauna and dirt then I’d still recommend a visit as they have some really nice walks and it’s a nice way to get out of the city whilst still remaining in the heart of it. And who knows, you might even learn a thing or too.
(Zealandia is really easily accessible by bus, that picks up outside the Wellington I SITE and drops you back there later that day.)
Price: $18.50 per adult
So. Before I get started on declaring how GREAT this place is, I need it to be known that I am not a Lord of the Rings fan. Like, not at all. I find them boring, and long, and boring. But I thought I had to at least see something LOTR-ish whilst in New Zealand, and so my friend Shannon and I booked onto a Lord of the Rings half day tour (again, with bookme.co.nz), and had SUCH A GREAT TIME!
The tour itself began with a bus load of about fifteen of us, being driven up to the Mount Victoria lookout (which is also something you have to do just to get a look at the incredible view) by our tour guide. Our guide then took us for a walk and showed us some locations where the films were shot – which didn’t mean a great deal to me but some of the others on our tour were in their element (i.e. they were literally shaking in their LOTR t-shirts). But then, THEN, we were driven round to what is called the WETA Workshop.
The workshop creates props and special effects, and the talent in that one building is out of this world. They’ve made props for some of the biggest films on the planet, and this tour allows you to see how it’s all been created whilst letting you watch new props being made. As you’d expect we weren’t allowed to take any photos, but that’s exactly why you need to go and see it all for yourself.
Price: I’m not actually sure. I think it was somewhere around $40 for a half day tour, but as I said before have a look on ‘bookme’ for a discount.
Wellington Cable Car
Oh, the Wellington cable car is one of those things that you don’t have to do but it’s cute and it’s fun, and it makes for a great insta post. The best way of doing this is to get the cable car up, which takes you through a tunnel with flashing LED lights that makes you feel like you’re time travelling to Santa’s workshop, and then to walk down through the Botanical Gardens. The gardens are nice, and the views are nice, so it would a very nice way to spend an hour or two.
Okay, okay, okay. I confess. When I visited Wellington I was too busy enjoying being back in a city, amongst actual people and actual civilisation, to pay much attention to the walks. But I know there are lots there, so I’mma share them with you.
There are walks all over the show. Through native bush, to the sea, away from the sea, over mountains, in between mountains, and so on. One of the ones I really liked the look of was the Te Kopahou Reserve walk, which takes you to a seal colony if you go at the right time of year. But here’s a link to a whole bundle of great pathways to explore, which I’m sure we would have worked our way through if we hadn’t been so preoccupied with, um, other things…
Price: Free, duh!
OKAY so this is what we were preoccupied with pretty much the entire two weeks we were in Wellington. Courtney Place – a street jam packed with pubs, bars, restaurants, shops, cafes, clubs, and cool quirky places that you read about on the internet and put on your ‘list of places to go’. For a starters, we spent an absolute fortune here, just by enjoying ourselves way too much on this street. Despite saving money on accommodation by WWOOF-ing, we stupidly opted to eat out for every meal, sample tea and cakes in cafes in between meals, and of course had ourselves a few drinks in between the cakes and the meals. It all adds up pretty quickly, doesn’t it? But boy did we have a ball.
A personal favourite of ours (talking nightlife here) was a bar called Dakota’s that had live music, cheap drinks and cowboy hats for all to wear. Because y’know your night is never complete with a cowboy hat.
Price: All of your savings and then some…
When the weather is nice and you fancy a little stroll with a view then the harbour is the perfect place to hang out. It’s a really good place to just sit and people watch(!) and stare out to sea like your Rose from the Titanic waiting for your Jack to come and save you, but it’s also a good place to get some fresh air and let the wind take away your hangover. There are a lot of nice restaurants and cafes along here making it the perfect brunch spot too, so that’s somewhere to bare in mind.
And that’s just the half of it, I’m sure. I would love to go back and explore some more, especially as Wellington allows you to easily access both the North and South Island. Although if you are going to visit, just watch out for the wind.
Have you got any suggestions for things to add to the list?