This is my official blog on what to do when you’re going down to the coolest little capital! It is also known as Middle of Middle Earth and for those who aren’t New Zealanders or avid travellers or fans of The Lord of The Rings or The Hobbit, it is called Wellington. In this blog not only will I talk about what to do when in Wellington, I’ll also try recommending a few go to places to grab a bite!
First and foremost you’ll need at least 3 full days in Wellington. There are a couple of attractions that aren’t in the city and travelling to and fro would take some time. If you are a domestic traveller, I advise you to take the early morning flight. I know you hate them, but if you want to visit all the hotspots you need all the time you can get! From Auckland the flight is just an hour long. We took the 7.35am flight and had landed by 8.35am and were at our hotel by 9.15am. Check-in isn’t till the afternoon, so you can leave your bags at the hotel and set out to explore Welly!
If you haven’t had breakfast in the morning prior to your flight, delay no more and indulge in some glorious food. Walk to Cuba Street. This is the go-to street for shopping and eating. One of Wellington’s favourite cafes, Fidel’s, is also on this street towards lower Cuba St. I can definitely recommend their eggs benedict with bacon, it is delish!
Wellington CBD is a rather small CBD. They have long roads that connect to each other. We walked majority (if not all) of the length of Wellington’s CBD. How to best plan your attraction visits? Well if the day you arrive is nice and sunny (and bright), walk to cable car lane and go on a ride on Wellington’s Cable Car. The cable car has two stops and you need to get off on the second stop. There’s a look out point and you get a good view of Wellington’s CBD and the sea. This is also where the Botanical Gardens and Carter Observatory are located. I highly recommend visiting the observatory. There’s a museum that focuses on the galaxy and then you can watch 25-minute movie (check on their website for what’s playing and what time or call ahead of time) followed by a simulation of all the stars (and planets) that will be visible in the night sky on that particular day. I’ve been to this twice and loved it both times. It is great fun for both adults and children! I highly recommend going up on the cable car on a nice clear day. Otherwise your experience will not be fun. Apart from the Carter Observatory there are also a number of walks that you can do here. There’s also a café with magnificent views called Kowhai Café where you can grab a bite to eat or just quench your thirst with a drink. Lastly, there’s a cable car museum, which is a very small museum where you can have a look at the history of the cable cars that were used in the past. If you don’t do the walks and just visit the Carter Observatory and hang around the scenic lookout and the café, in my opinion 2-3 hours should be more than enough here. I recommend that if you are planning to visit the Observatory and want to watch the film, to go up closer to the time when it will be played.
Once you’ve come back down, it will either be time for lunch or if you’re still full from the eggs benedict, I recommend walking along Lambton Quay. This is your shopping central in Wellington. There are stores of varying price ranges, so have a look at whatever takes your fancy. On the other end of Lambton Quay, is where New Zealand’s government building lies, the Beehive. There are free tours that run on the hour starting I believe at 9am and the last one being at 4pm. This is an hour long and it takes you through the building and you learn about what goes on in the different rooms. Even if you decided against doing the tour, it is worth coming to the building and having a quick peak around. Remember no photographs inside! I suspect once you’ve had a chance to walk around this area, you’ll be rather tired given the long day that you’d have had. Best to head back to the hotel in this case and possibly take some dinner home with you or you might prefer to dine somewhere before you head back to the hotel. The dining options on Cuba Street are endless (well not really but you know what I mean). As we were going to chill with another friend who lives in Wellington, she was kind enough to bring us some takeaway food from Aroy Thai Express. They do really great Thai food! For those who are travelling from Auckland, their menu is so different from the usual menus that we get in Auckland. If you’re like me who only orders Pad Thai at Thai restaurants beware their portion size for a Pad Thai is A LOT, enough for 2 people even then there might be some left overs!
Commence day 2. Head back to Cuba Street and make sure you’ve worked up an appetite for breakfast. I recommend you go to Soho Brown’s, such a unique café! Don’t be disheartened by their menu, they have a cabinet with a lot more options for food! There aren’t enough words to describe the amazing feeling of being here. It is very unlike other cafes in New Zealand. Also, this is not too expensive. The concept behind this café is quite like a buffet breakfast. You get yourself a tray, grab all the things that you like, for example fruits, yoghurt, a warm dish, muesli etc, get the cutlery, go up to the counter, order coffee if you wish to have some and then pay. I know what you’re thinking, yes when you go to a café, you would ideally go to the cabinet, get the item of food and then pay for it. But as I said it’s hard to describe in words, the experience that you’ll get here. So if I have convinced you in these few sentences and you do end up visiting please do share your experiences whether good or bad. If I haven’t convinced you and you are willing to take a risk and live life on the wild side, and you do end up here then yes please do share your experiences whether good or bad.
After breakfast I will first recommend that you go to the local i-site. I-Site is information site, where you can get information on the things to do in Wellington (these are located all over New Zealand, in each city). Whether you’re a movie buff or not, or for that matter whether you are a fan of The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit or not, I highly recommend you go to Weta Cave and do the Weta Workshop tour. If you aren’t familiar with what this is, Peter Jackson, a director from New Zealand has recently opened the doors of his workshop for public viewings and it is definitely worth a visit. You can purchase tickets for this right here at the i-site and the pick up and drop off is also just outside. From memory I think the ticket cost us roughly $70 per adult and that includes pick up and drop off.
The Weta Cave and Workshop is located in the suburb of Miramar. This is quite close to the airport and is also the suburb, where the man, Peter Jackson, himself resides. To get to this place, you will go through a tunnel, called the Mount Victoria tunnel, or more popularly known as the tooting tunnel. Where does it get that name? This is the only tunnel in New Zealand, where cars can honk to celebrate the end of the week and beginning of the weekend and get responses from other cars as they honk. The cops won’t fine you either. Yes people might think you’re mad if you do it during a Monday or Tuesday but come Wednesday slight honking begins. Don’t even get me started on a Friday. It is also a tunnel that has pedestrian access i.e. you can walk across. I repeat you do not want to be the person who walks through this tunnel 5pm on a Friday. Back to the Weta Cave, this is a small museum dedicated to memorabilia from The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit. Yes you can purchase items from here and are allowed to take photos in here. However, there is a viewing room where they show a short documentary on how the Weta Workshop came about, from humble beginnings to rather large Hollywood projects. You CANNOT take photos or videos of this documentary. Followed by the viewing, you’re taken to Weta Workshop, which is right next to the Weta Cave. Here, begins a 45-minute tour. To give you a quick insight, Weta Workshop is involved with the designing and implementing of props in science fiction, fantasy and in general movies. Usually the director of a movie approaches Weta Workshop and runs through the brief. Based on that a basic design is created and then is further improved from feedbacks received. This 45-minute tour is an insight into just that and you get to see props from a whole bunch of different movies. If you’re lucky you might even see some of the artists hard at work! As they are always working on new projects, which are confidential, there’s no photography allowed in here. Regardless I recommend this tour! The entire duration from pick up to doing the tours to drop off is roughly 2-3 hours, provided you’re not running late. More than anything I recommend you do this tour first before you visit the Te Papa Museum, which I’ll write about shortly.
Once you’ve been dropped back off at the I-site, there’s a contemporary art museum, which is free entry and is worth a quick peek. It is only 2 storeys and you get a glimpse into some of the New Zealand’s artists’ work. If you don’t want to go here, that’s not a problem at all, there’s also Wellington City library, which is worth a quick browse. Again if not, then not a problem. Moving on, if neither of these two options take your fancy, then simply proceed towards the waterfront area and stroll around there. It is a lovely place to walk around and get magnificent photos. There are a number of options for lunch depending on how hungry you are. If you have a sweet tooth, I recommend popping over to Café Eis and getting a cup or cone of gelato. After this I’d recommend calling it a day and again, getting some dinner to go or dinning in and heading home.
The last and final day, day 3 and still lots to do! First pop down to Te Papa Museum, don’t worry I haven’t forgotten about breakfast. There are cafes in the museum where you can get a bite to eat. Now the reason I said to do the Weta Workshop tour first, before you visit Te Papa museum is because, now you have a little more information on who and/or what Weta Workshop is and what they do. Te Papa museum in Wellington is one of the largest and best museums in New Zealand. The entry is free; you may wish to make donations. There are a total of 6 levels and there are always new exhibits. Currently, the Weta Workshop crew designed an exhibit on Gallipoli. This exhibit will be up for 4 years I believe. I can honestly say this is such a good exhibit to go see. They’ve taken original photos and restored them and made 3D images out of them. They’ve taken the stories of a select few soldiers, created a giant size mannequins of them and recited their stories. Furthermore they’ve also taken the stories of a lot more soldiers, nurses and all those involved with the ANZAC war and told their stories. It truly is a beautiful tribute. As I mentioned earlier there’s a total of 6 levels here, each level has its own dedicated exhibits. Whether you spend 5 minutes here or 5 hours, the Te Papa Museum is definitely worth a visit! There’s also a nice balcony on level 6 of the museum in case you’d like to take a break and enjoy the views of the waterfront.
If walking through the different levels of the museum has worked up an appetite, I suggest you head to Courtenay Place for lunch. I can recommend Sweet Mother’s Kitchen, which is a Mexican restaurant. Courtenay Place is the other go to street for restaurants. In fact I want to do a trip back to Wellington just to go eat at all the places on Courtenay Place and a couple on Cuba Street, any who that’s for another blog and if I do end up going again. After lunch, I recommend heading to the ANZAC memorial. This is also referred to as Peter Jackson’s museum I believe, as the Weta Workshop team designed this museum as a tribute to all those involved in the ANZAC war. This is a smaller museum and it should take you a maximum of an hour in here. This is coming from the person who walked into this museum minutes before it was closing for the day and dashed through the museum.
After this if you still have time and energy left, then there’s one more spot to visit, the Mount Victoria lookout. I cannot say much about this as unfortunately I ran out of time and couldn’t make it. However if you’ve been please do share your experiences below. Is it good or bad? Is it quite different to the views one can get from the scenic lookout after they’ve gone up the cable car?
That brings my blog to Wellington to an end. I hope this gave you ample information that you need when travelling to the Windy city. Regardless of which season you’re heading to Wellington ensure you’re carrying some warm clothes/gear with you. If you have any other questions leave them below and I’ll try to respond to them to the best of my abilities.
Until next time,