Windy Wellie 🌬️
We stayed for three nights in Wellington after making our way down from Taupō. It was a long drive, about four and a half hours, and we chose to stop at the large town of Palmerston North for lunch. We didn’t have a lot of time, and we needed to return our rental car by 5:00pm in Wellington, so we didn’t do much more than grab lunch and peep into some of the shops. I think that when travelling, everyone makes comparisons to what they’re familiar with, and Nick pointed out that just being in the shopping centre in Palmerston North didn’t particularly feel like we were in another country. It felt like we were in a mall at home in Australia. Of course, people speaking English contributes to that feeling, but it’s also the fact that Australia and New Zealand have the same (or similar) clothing stores and eateries. We did notice that many of the fashion and clothing retailers had old branding compared to in Sydney, though. 😆
We drove to the Airbnb we were staying in, and dropped off our things before driving into town to return the car. We were able to drop the car off quite quickly, despite the office being on the main street. The person at reception reminded us that we could fill up the fuel ourselves, or be charged for them to fill it up—we decided not to bother, but it did end up costing a lot more than we expected. Later in our trip, when we dropped our next rental car off in Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand, we filled up beforehand. 😛
The sun had been setting rather late on our trip, so it meant that we still had a lot of light and could enjoy the city up until 9:00pm or later. Depending on what was open, of course. On our first afternoon in Wellington we really felt the heat, which was a big change from where we had just been travelling. I brought my hat, but I was fully aware of Wellington’s nickname as “Windy Wellie” because of how windy the city gets. The wind is a result of Wellington’s location being close to the mouth of the Cook Strait (the area of water between the North and South Island) and it’s quite narrow while there are large mountains are on both sides. It did provide a great cool breeze most of the time, not really like any sort of cutting, harsh wind you might get when rain’s about to fall. But that could have just been my experience—maybe we didn’t experience huge gusts of wind. I still had to hold onto my hat!
We walked around near the water and explored a little. We spotted some interesting things like people diving into the water off a platform, and a band playing, but we couldn’t really figure out why exactly they were playing there. It was still a nice vibe! We considered getting drinks first, then having dinner, because it was a bit early, but I was feeling ravenous so after ordering drinks at Dragonfly–which our Airbnb host recommended—we ended up ordering some share plates from their Asian inspired menu. Delicious.
The following morning we set out early and caught a bus to visit the Wētā Workshop, the facility in which various props, sets, and costumes are created, for many films and shows including Avatar, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and the Narnia films. We booked a tour ahead of time, and had time to get breakfast at a cafe nearby before heading on our tour.
Wētā Workshop would be a dream for many film buffs. I’m not very much into film but I can very much appreciate what we saw on the tour, and the incredible attention to detail for many of the props and sets. Understandably, we weren’t allowed to take photos in some areas due to copyright being owned by others, but I did take a few snaps.
We grabbed lunch at Best Ugly Bagels. I learned this was a franchise! When we saw it in Auckland earlier in our trip but didn’t get a chance to try it, I was a bit bummed, but glad we got to try them in Wellington. I love bagels. 🥯
Our transport cards allowed us to use the Wellington cable car. It was an easy ride to the top, and a pleasant walk downhill. I say pleasant in terms of the surroundings… I can’t say actually walking downhill was physically pleasant. It was a bit of a pain! We did see a lot of nice gardens, and I spotted a “duck pond” marked on the map, which I absolutely had to see.
We must have spent ten minutes looking at the ducks and just watching them. Some of them kept cleaning themselves and removing feathers, without stopping, which was quite riveting. 🦆
Nick wanted to check out a rum bar called R Bar. Not only was it decorated with straw awnings and flowers and greenery to add that tropical island vibe; it had been decked out with a little grotto with a skeleton and some other pirate themed paraphernalia.
For dinner we ate pasta at a place called 1154; they had some interesting dishes which I wouldn’t say were authentic Italian pasta, but what we ordered tasted good. We also discovered Duck Island, an ice creamery that looked popular enough to suggest that it must be very, very good. 🤤 Of course, me being lactose intolerant, I had to try out some of the vegan options and was obviously excited when I saw that they had them in the first place. 🍨
The following day felt like a bit of a late start; we didn’t have much planned and we waited for a long time for our food at Fidel’s Cafe—it was still great brunch, though. Our Airbnb was not far from Cuba Street—and yes, the street name reflects a bit of the feel of the street and the eateries on it.
Since we didn’t have much planned, we walked down to the wharf, and unfortunately I misread the information I read online and I thought there was a market happening but it was no longer happening since 2020. Not necessarily because of the pandemic but because the location was prone to flooding. 😰 We had a refreshing drink at a bar by the wharf before getting on a bus to Charles Plimmer Park and Mount Victoria Lookout.
There were some people working out on some outdoor gym equipment and I felt the need—as per usual, because I’m a show-off sometimes—to do some chin-ups on the bars. Let me tell you, when you go on holidays, and you are a gym junkie like me, you sometimes have a big itch to exercise. 👀
We hiked up the hill, locating a couple of filming locations for The Lord of the Rings films, and finally to the lookout where we got a lovely view of the city and the surrounding oceanic views. It was, again, a warm day, so we were pretty puffed by the end of it, and were thankful for a water fountain towards the top of the hill. I think it was in Wellington where we began to notice that mountain biking is quite common in New Zealand, with many places having specialised trails for them. There are also appropriate markings where they cross pedestrianised paths and to watch out.
Since we had a late breakfast we also had a late lunch, but ended up grazing at a cafe with some small snacks. We were exhausted from the heat and returned to our Airbnb to rest. The Airbnb didn’t have airconditioning, but it did let a lot of breeze in because you could open the windows wide. Our Airbnb was really cosy and comfortable and it really did feel like a “home away from home” (blech, I dislike clichéd statements like that sometimes), and it had recently been renovated by the hosts after a three-year break. When we left, we were sure to leave them a good review because they were very responsive and the place was great, but I also privately messaged them some feedback because they said we were their first guests in three years so any suggestions for improvement were welcome. Nothing bothered us other than a few small details that weren’t completely clear from the listing (like the apartment being on a main road, and the laundry being shared and not in the apartment).
On our last night in Wellington we kept it pretty light and went to a Japanese restaurant, but I think I was slightly disappointed by the taste of my ramen and I didn’t finish it. I redeemed it somewhat by getting a vegan ice cream at Duck Island again. 😆
By the time we had to leave Wellington, I was pretty satisfied with what we had seen and done, and there wasn’t anything specific that I feel like I missed out on. I was definitely keen to head to the South Island. The following morning we were going to go somewhere for breakfast that I heard had good coffee, but unfortunately it was closed—likely because of a public holiday. I don’t know how we managed this, but I think we ended up having two public holidays during our New Zealand trip. I remember always checking up on this kind of stuff when we did trips to Europe and had to book activities in advance, but we didn’t really do it for New Zealand. It didn’t get in the way, though.
We originally wanted to fly from Wellington to Christchurch early in the morning, but accidentally booked a flight after noon. Even though we only had one night in Christchurch, I think the later flight worked out a little better for us, though, because we didn’t have to rush.
I have a few more posts about our adventures on the South Island, which includes staying on a farm and doing a scenic flight to Milford Sound. I’ll also be sharing more about how I packed my travel backpack.