Café s, cable cars, culture and clubs, Elinor Sheargold checks out the kiwi capital.
I was curious. The mere mention of Wellington seemed to send people into raptures. Not about its superlative setting, tucked around an intimate harbour with Victorian villas tumbling haphazardly down the steep hillsides. Nor about the ultra cool cafe and arts scene that would turn Melbourne green with envy. No, they raved about a museum.
My museum-going threshold is around two hours. But I'd been told Te Papa was no ordinary museum, I could spend a day there, and as it was free, it'd be the best dollars I'd never spend.
All the usual suspects are there: gilt-framed painting; stuffed animals; the chronicles of New Zealand's land, history, culture and people, including a motherlode of Maori taonga (treasures). The rest of the world also gets a look-in but what really sets the country’s national museum apart, is its OTT interactiveness.
Four hours later, I had survived a whiplash-inducing adventure ride (virtual bungy – woo hoo); experienced the shake, rattle and roll of an earthquake aftershock; explored an underwater volcano in a yellow submarine; marvelled at the colossal squid; aced the quarantine test; strolled through a pocket of natural bush (really); and dug in a sandpit for dinosaur fossils. And I hadn’t even had my morning coffee. According to local propaganda, Wellington has more cafes per capita than New York City. You can debate the merits of having the national parliament only metres from a major fault line at The Backbencher, while the iconic Beehive building looms opposite like a giant dalek. Posh it up under the chandeliers at Floriditas, enjoy un cafe at Simply Paris, or chill out at hip, veg-friendly Fidels, appropriately on Cuba Street.
This arty artery is the place to quench those coffee cravings and check out vintage and urban fashions on both racks and backs. It’s great for cafe crawlers, foodies and shopaholics, not so good if you have a decision making disorder.
A sucker for names, I joined the line at Midnight Espresso, where the chatty barista gave me an impromptu review of last night’s comedy show at the Downstage Theatre, as he brewed an elixir of the local Havana coffee.
Qantas, Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia fly to Wellington from around Australia. The airport shuttle to the YHA costs $22 or take local bus #91 to Courtenay Place for $9.00.
Wellington is the main entry and departure point for the ferries between the North and South Islands. The Northern Explorer train runs between Wellington and Auckland.
Only metres from the YHA, entry to the museum is absolutely free. Charges apply to some short-term exhibitions and activities. Daily museum tours are available for $14. Open 10am – 6pm daily, 10am – 9pm Thursdays. tepapa.govt.nz
Wellington Rover Tours
Half-day Lord of the Rings Tour $95 adults, full-day tour $190 adults. Rover also operate a 3.5 hour Wellington sightseeing tour priced at $95 per adult - great for those further afield and hilly attractions. wellingtonrover.co.nz
Owned and operated by Olympic champion Ian Ferguson, Fergs Kayaks hire kayaks and stand-up paddle boards from $20 for 1 hour, while bike and skate hire starts from $15 for an hour. There’s also an on-site rock climbing wall. fergskayaks.co.nz
Zealandia Karori Wildlife Sanctuary
Open daily 10am – 5pm. General admission $17.50 adult. Tours available. Zealandia by Night tour (2.5 hours) $75 adult, or combine night tour with general admission for $85.
All prices quoted are in New Zealand dollars.