When we were given the opportunity to move to New Zealand – thanks to Ashique’s job offer – we had to make some hard choices. He got offers in both Wellington and Auckland and since we knew absolutely nothing about either city, we asked people who had been, and did our own research online. Hearing about ‘Windy Welly’ made the decision for me and I am glad we went with Auckland – after living 11 years in England, I am loving the sunny and warm weather up north. But I must say, we really enjoyed our visits to Wellington, the culture capital of New Zealand. It is also perfectly located at the southern part of North Island and is the gateway to South Island as all the ferry terminals are located here – something we didn’t think about when we planned to travel all over New Zealand 2015-2016. There is still SO MUCH places in the South Island I want to go to…but alas we have very little time left before we move on to Australia.
Here are some of our favourite free things to do around Wellington. We are lucky to travel here with some locals, another family from England who came to New Zealand to work for a year . We have been twice now and loved both trips, short as they were.
1.Walking around the Waterfront
Wellington really has one of the best waterfront I have been to in any city, and I mean from all the cities we have visited in Europe and North America. The views of Wellington Harbour and Cook Strait further ahead, the city skyline and hillsides dotted with houses which look like they are on stilts, are just gorgeous. It is a very walkable harbour, with several restaurants, a shopping area, a very cool outdoor shop where you can also go indoor rock climbing. There is a large play area and lighthouse, lots of historical artefacts and statues located throughout the harbour, museums and art galleries and this high place from where you can jump into the water!
2. Otari-Wilton’s Bush Reserve
Otari-Wilton’s Bush is about 5km from the city centre but you can take a bus to get here. It is the only public botanic garden in New Zealand dedicated solely to native plants and covers an area of 100 hectares. We did a half hour track around the scenic reserve and saw some of Wellington’s oldest trees, one of them was 800 years old! There is also Otari Native Botanic Garden within the city which we drove by, and it looked really lovely as well. I love it when you can do such nature outings living so close to the city!
3. Te Papa Museum
We have been to a few museums around North Island now – Auckland War Memorial Museum and Rotorua Museum are some of our personal favourites, learnt a lot about Maori culture and New Zealand history – both natural and human history. But Te Papa is great for the family as it is very interactive and has a wide range of attractions – arts, environment, natural history, and ‘hands-on’ discovery centre for the kids. It is one of Wellington’s number one attractions and it’s free for all which is a bonus as the other two big museums we had been to were not. We have been twice now but both visits were really short as we had to catch a ferry afterwards to get to the south island.
4. Sunday Market
We were lucky to have experience the Harbourside Sunday Market in Wellington as it was totally unplanned and if it hadn’t been for our friends who live here, we would not have known about it. We had some of the best food from the many international and local vendors who line up on the corner of Cable St and Barnett St beside Te Papa museum. You can buy fresh local produce here – vegetables, fruits, deli food and a whole lot more! You can see all the different artisans who sell their items here. We had some of the best dumplings, cakes, burgers and smoothies here. The environment is very chilled, there were some Japanese drummers who performed during the day. There was live musicians as well. There are green spaces all around to sit around and enjoy the food whilst the kids climbed the walls.
5. Coffee capital and also home to some of the best cafes in New Zealand
We live in Auckland and I can vouch for the amazing international cuisine around the city. We have had some of the best Japanese, Thai, and European cuisines during our year in New Zealand. We have also really enjoyed our coffee, New Zealand really does great Lattes. But in Wellington we had Mojo Coffee at the waterfront and it was perfect! Cafe food is renowned here and the most recommended one by locals is Fidel’s. I feel that we need to come back to Wellington to experience more of this!
So there you go –
Our personal recommendations from what we experienced during two short visits to the capital of New Zealand. There is of course a lot more going on in this very vibrant and cool city. Wellington is famous for its art scene and cafe culture. It is also great for kayaking and other outdoor pursuits. One of these days I am going to do an interview post with some of the local people we know from here, as I feel we just barely touched the surface of all the wonderful things one can do here!
Have you been to Wellington? What else would you recommend to do around here?
Linked to Weekend Travel Inspiration