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Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara (Maori)

Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, sits at the bottom of the North Island. It is a bustling, interesting city with a vibrant arts and culture scene. Bordered on one side by the harbour and nestled into surrounded hillside suburbs, the city is compact and easy to explore on foot.

A host of restaurants and cafes dotted along the waterfront offer a huge variety of dining establishments from the cheap and cheerful to fine dining. Continue along the waterfront promenade and you will reach the highly distinctive and striking building housing Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand. Stroll further along the waterfront past the colourful boatsheds and historic terrace style timber houses to the sandy beaches of Oriental Parade.

From Lambton Quay, the iconic red Wellington Cable Car transports you up the hill, with spectacular views over the Harbour, and from where a series of walking tracks take you through the glorious, well-established Botanic Gardens.

With strong winds whipping up Cook Strait between the North and South Islands, the city is often referred to by its nickname "Windy Wellington." But don't let that put you off. Sure, there have been occasions when I have clutched my possessions and struggled to make headway against the wind; however, I have also visited the city numerous times when the weather has been absolutely stunning. As the saying goes, there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.

Wellington is the perfect destination for a short break and is the gateway to the South Island for anyone catching the Interisland ferry to Picton.

Just Go to Wellington.

  Top Picks in Wellington

, , ,   Top Picks in Wellington

Trish's Top Picks in Wellington

The perfect location for a mini break, here are some of my favourite attractions and activities in the city:

Te Papa is the national museum of New Zealand and contains exhibits and interactive information about the history and development of NZ. The award-winning museum, in a prime waterfront location, has established a reputation as a world leader. The Story of Gallipoli is a must-see exhibition, documenting the World War I campaign. World renowned Weta Workshop collaborated on the project, creating  larger than life sculptures which are intricately detailed and amazingly lifelike. Admission is free.

While most people know about the Gallipoli Exhibition, many are aware of the incredible Great War Exhibition just up the road at the National War Memorial Museum in Buckle Street. Created by Sir Peter Jackson, it commemorates the role played by NZ in the First World War and portrays the conditions faced by our troops. Impressive sets, a massive tank, enormous gun, thousands of hand-painted figures re-enacting the battle of Chunuk Bair, models, photographs and information boards paint a moving and thought provoking experience. This is truly a world-class exhibition that reveals the hardship, bravery, resilience and horrors of those who lived through this period.

The Gallipoli and Great War Exhibitions run until April 2019 - a sobering experience, but an important part of our heritage.

Mount Victoria Lookout – Drive to the top or walk up one of the many tracks for panoramic views over the city, harbour, airport and hillside suburbs. 

Or for something less strenuous walk, bike or roller blade along Wellington's wide, waterfront promenade to Oriental Bay. An area with a huge choice of fine dining and affordable cafes, restaurants, bars, sculptures, ice cream stalls, weekend markets, parks and wide open spaces to picnic or rest. Or on a calm day, hire a kayak from Fergs and paddle in the harbour.

The Cable Car is a Wellington icon and has been in operation since 1902. It runs from Lambton Quay up to Kelburn and the Botanic Gardens with stunning views over the city and harbour. (Not nearly as much fun as the old, open sided cable cars that used to operate, but safer.)

From the top of the Cable Car walk back to the city via the Botanic Gardens and Memorial Trail.
Wellington Botanic Gardens are classified as a Garden of National Significance. Covering 25 hectares this beautiful park was established in 1868, and has some of the oldest exotic trees in NZ, plus natives, conifers, and manicured flower gardens. Choose any of the paths that meander through the park, down the slopes to Tinakori Road, in the heart of NZ's oldest suburb. The Rose Gardens sit at the lower edge of the Botanic Gardens with over 100 varieties planted in individual rose beds, set out in a formal geometric design. From here the Memorial Trail a delightful woodland-like area passes through the Bolton Street Cemetery, the city's original burial ground dating from 1840, to the city centre.

Zealandia, previously known as the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, is close to the city and easy to access on a free shuttle bus. A fully fenced, pest free wildlife sanctuary, the aim of the Trust is to eventually return the 225-hectare valley to its pre-human state. Unique native bird, insects and reptile species, previously quite rare, are flourishing in this safe haven.

Visit The Library Bar, 53 Courtenay Place. Tucked away upstairs, the wooden panels and hundreds of book lined shelves exude a warm, cosy vibe. It's a charming venue with lots of nooks and crannies; try an exquisite cocktail, craft beer, tasty snack or delicious dessert. Or enjoy a pre-dinner drink before moving next door to Chow, a restaurant offering fresh Asian cuisine.

Hire a bike from The Bike Barn in Tory Street or Avanti Plus on Vivian Street.
Drop down to the waterfront and head out past Oriental Bay and follow the coast around to Scorching Bay and Mirimar. The Chocolate Fish, a seaside Café at Shelly Bay, housed in a rather dilapidated old building previously owned by the air force, is a great place to stop for a snack or lunch. The décor is eclectic, shabby chic and relaxed, with a huge expanse of lawn out front. The food is fabulous with plenty of seafood on offer.

Ataturk Memorial & Lyall Bay. Ride out past the southern end of the airport, turn left at the coast into Moa Point Road and head to Breaker Bay. Just past Tarakena Bay there is a parking area and from there it's a short walk up to the Ataturk Memorial. On a ridge overlooking Cook Strait, the site was chosen for its resemblance to the Gallipoli peninsula. This Memorial was in response to the Turkish government erecting a commemorative site at Ari Burnu, renaming it Anzac Cove. The inscription on the memorial is particularly poignant, however I will leave that for you to discover.

Back on your bike head back the same route and continue to the Maranui Café in Lyall Bay. Located in the old Lyall Bay Surf Club Building it's a quirky café with great food and great sea views. If you've still got some energy in reserve continue riding along the coast to Island Bay, a rugged stretch of coast and wild seas with views of the South Island. Refuel at the Beach House and Kiosk, another great seaside café and restaurant, before tackling the ride back. Pick your days, as the headwinds can be ferocious at times.

The Cuba Street night markets offer a delicious array of tasty street food, plus entertainers and buskers, on Friday and Saturday nights. Cuba Street is home to lots of colourful shops selling vintage and retro clothing.

Visit the Beehive and Parliament Buildings. Free public tours operate daily, with the exception of a few days around Christmas, New Year, Waitangi Day & Good Friday. Bookings not required, although in peak times such as school holidays or public holidays it is advisable to book if you are on a tight schedule. Details here

Old St. Paul's Cathedral, in Mulgrave Street, Thorndon, close to Parliament Buildings, is one of New Zealand's greatest landmarks. Built in 1866 in a Gothic style, it is constructed from native timber with stunning stained glass windows. The interior is magnificent and has been likened to the upturned hull of an Elizabethan galleon, with exposed curved trusses, and timber sarking. Threatened with demolition after the new St Pauls Cathedral was built in the 1960's, fortunately it was saved, restored and reopened to the public. Guided tours are available, and the gift shop tucked into a little niche in the back corner is definitely worth a visit.

Catch a ferry to Days Bay. A regular ferry service crosses Wellington Harbour to the lovely beachside village of Days Bay, a popular and safe swimming beach. The Pavilion situated in Williams Park is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or walk along the seafront to the little settlement of Eastbourne with cafes, restaurants and art galleries.

Weta Workshop in Mirimar is one attraction I have yet to visit. Tours provide a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes activity and creative skills that have seen their spectacular sets and special effects grace the screens of many of the world's top movies. Tours include transport from the city. Click here

There are many interesting walks in the city area, download the free 'Welly Walks App'  or click HERE for details.


Gear and Useful Tips

If you have camping and outdoor experience, skip this section. However, if you're a newbie, here are some tips and hints about equipment and clothing that might be helpful - especially for overseas visitors unfamiliar with our conditions and changeable climate. At the risk of stating the obvious, here goes:

There's nothing worse than being wet and cold, so waterproof overpants are essential and take very little space. I always pack them, even in the warmer months. Mine weren't expensive to start with and have lasted nearly 20 years. Some brands  only have short zips at the bottom of the leg, however I recommend you buy a pair that zip almost up to the knee as they are much easier to put on over tramping boots, especially if they are muddy.   

I can't stand powdered milk, so on adventures I always take UHT Long Life milk, even when weight and space is an issue  Muesli, fruit (fresh or those little pottles) and milk is not only tasty but provides great sustenance when tramping and kayaking, so it's not negotiable for me.  A 250ml carton  is enough for 2 x breakfasts and our morning cup of tea. We can survive the rest of the day without milk, so I just pack one for each morning (into my husband's pack of course).  

Tip: On one occasion, I used surplus Long life milk to make up a thermos of coffee. However, the milk separated and the result was a curdled mess. Not  recommended. 

  1. Underestimating the weather conditions, failure to apppreciate how quickly it can change and an unwillngness to amend plans accordingly.
  2. Not being equipped or having a plan to deal with unexpected situations: getting lost, mishaps, accidents or emergencies. 

Sleeping Bags.  Firstly you need to think about what conditions you expect to face. Most people won't need an alpine bag, but I would suggest buying the next best you can afford, as there is nothing worse than being cold. In warmer weather you can just open them up. My sleeping bag is 90% goose down and 10% feather, 800gsm and I have found it excellent.

The ones that taper in at the bottom are probably the warmest being the most effective to trap warm air, however I am quite a restless sleeper and would find the extremely tapered ones too restrictive. Mine narrows, but not hugely. For the same reason I don't like the ones that draw in right around your face. The back of mine is longer and has a warm trim without wrapping around your face. I prefer to wear a woollen or merino beanie if it's really cold.

Using a sleeping bag liner (when you are dirty or sweaty, and can't shower), helps preserve and extend the life of your sleeping bag. Looked after a sleeping bag will last an extremely long time, so it's worth investing in a good one that will meet your needs. (Silk liners compress into a wee bag about the size of your fist.)

I would also suggest buying a dri-bag to put your sleeping bag in. Get one only slightly larger than your compressed sleeping bag. Very useful if you are setting up or dismantling camp in the rain as you certainly don't want to get a down / feather bag wet.

Chilli Burners. Over summer months these beauties are essential  to protect your hands from our harsh sun. Made from light neoprene, they are comfy, cool and the most effective way to protect the back of your hands from sunburn, whilst enabling the palm of your hands to remain in contact with your paddle. 

Pogies. When the weather gets chilly over the winter months, or you're paddling in the deep south when it can be cold at any time of the year, quality neoprene pogies will keep your hands toasty warm and dry. Velcro the pogies around the paddle shaft then simply slip your hands through to grip your paddle.  The wide wrist opening makes it easy to get your hands in or out quickly.

For supplier Click HERE

Warm showers are possible even in the most remote location or the most basic camping site with these little beauties. Some DoC camps have cubicles where you can hang them up, otherwise string up in the nearest tree. Outdoor stores stock biodegradable multi-purpose wash that can be used for hair, body, clothes and dishes. A 20 litre solar shower will do two decent showers. And they take very little space when not in use.

When space and weight are issues, you can get some pretty compact units. Look for a cooker and gas lantern that use the same cannisters. These items can be expensive, but we have been using ours for nearly 20 years.

A collapsible wind shield is very useful when cooking and a model where where the gas cannister lies on the ground when connected gives extra stability, as opposed to the upight units which can easily tip.

Compact gas lanterns can stand on flat ground, or hang from a branch. 


When camping with access to the car, this 3 burner gas cooker is perfect. It even has a rack for cooking toast and the lid acts as a wind shield.  The legs unscrew and it folds up into a tidy, compact unit. We have been using this cooker for over 20 years, so a pretty good investment. New models will no doubt have been modified and improved, but we have never had any issues with this one.

This gas lantern throws out great light and fits onto the same gas bottle.

Look for a flat bottom stainless steel cereal bowl and use for breakfast, lunch & dinner. The flat bottom allows you to use like a plate when making up sandwiches, wraps, or salads. Ours are still good after15 years, and we have yet to see anything better.

A flat bottom plastic bowl is ideal for washing up. Don't get anything too big as you have to heat up too much water. 28cm x 34cm x 10cm high is perfect.

A wine goblet, soup mug or coffee cup; take your pick.  You just  need to decide in what order.  It might seem really basic, but don't buy two the same size and check that they fit inside each other to save space in your pack. Stainless steel, bullet proof coffee plungers, are a bonus when space is not an issue.

Here's my list. I print off, cross off items we won't need, then tick off stuff as we add to the pile. 

Camping and Tramping

Sleeping mats
Sleeping Bags & liners
Pillows Tramping / Normal
Lights & torches
Small Radio & Batteries
Cooker, and gas cannisters, gas bottles
Pots & Frying pan
Knife, fork, spoon, tsp
Can opener
Mug, plate & bowl
Sharp knife
Personal locator beacon
Mosquito net & head nets
Small brush & shovel
Bowl, fish slice, tongs
Snaplock bags, L, M & S
Small plastic containers
Walking poles
Tramping packs
Tramping Boots
Large plastic bags for wet or dirty gear & for rubbish

Camping and Tramping Cont.

Duct Tape
Picnic Blanket
Small Tarpaulin
Coffee Plunger
Fold up spade
Fly spray
Insect Repellent
Chopping Board
Candles / Fire starter
Waterproof matches
Drink bottles
Paper towel roll
Washing up bowl
Gas lanterns
Day Packs
Spare boot laces
Repair kit for air mattresses

Camping and Tramping Cont.

Pack cards & games
Books, kindle
Waterproof camera
Towels & tea towels
Chux cloths
Pot scourer & brush
First Aid Kit
Reading glasses
Sun glasses
Phones & chargers
Toilet Paper
Twistie ties
Rubber bands
Hanky pack tissues
Mesh bags to hang fruit


Paddle leash
Paddle jacket / raincoat
Paddle float
Split paddle
Throw bag
Tow line
Neoprene booties
Dri Bags
Kayaks & Paddles
Spray Skirt
Life jackets
Bailer & Pump
Neoprene Shorts
Waterproof lights

Create a Masterlist for Hassle Free Packing - Trish's top tip.

There is no question that you require a lot of gear when camping. If during the same holiday you intend to go tramping and kayaking the pile of stuff grows significantly. 

Years ago, I created a masterlist and have added to it as more specialist equipment has become available, and as we get a little older, we've moved from the basic no-frills style camping to wanting a little more comfort.

In today's busy lifestyle, time is something we don't have a lot of, so thowing stuff together at the end of the working week can be a pretty daunting prospect.

Printing off a list and ticking stuff off as you add to the pile, makes the whole packing process much easier, reduces stress levels, and can avoids arguments - especially if something essential is overlooked. Okay if you're camping near town, but not so great when you are in an isolated area hours from civilisation and the nearest shop.

So make a list, save it to your computer, add to it as you accumulate more gear, and print off next time you're packing - easy!  

The type of equipment and level of home comforts will vary, depending on whether you have access to your car when camping, or whether you are restricted by what you can carry in a pack, or fit in a kayak.

My list is now pretty comprehensive. I'm happy to share if it's helpful, you can simply tailor it to suit your needs. Flick me an Email                                    Happy Camping - Just Go. 

Forget normal bath or beach towels when you head into the outdoors as they are bulky and take ages to dry. Microfibre towels (on left) come in a variety of sizes, take less room and most importantly dry really quickly. However it's best to only use them to dry off after a swim or shower; don't sit on them as dry grass and twigs stick to the fabric. I would also avoid buying red ones, as the colour continues to leach out when washing, even after multiple washes. I haven't experienced this issue with any other colour.

When space is really limited we have even been known to use large chux multi cloths (available at any supermarket) to dry off. 

When bigger fold out chairs are not an option due to space or weight,  but you don't  fancy sitting on the ground all the time, these little beauties are just what you need. They take very little space and when kayaking fit up the pointy nose end especially well. We have had ours for quite a few years and have used them on frequent trips, so I can personally recommmend these Roamer Tri Stools. Available  from Kathmandu, you can often pick them up for less than $20. Check them out  HERE 

At some locations in NZ at certain times of the year, and certain times of the day (especially in Fiordland) sandflies or mosquito's can be a nuisance.

Insect shelters are a great solution when eating or reading and you don't want to be confined to your tent. They are light and compact when not in use.

Head nets. Constantly waving your hands in front of your face to ward off sandflies (the Milford Wave as its known in Fiordland) can be effective but is not especially helpful when you need both hands free to set up camp.

While far from glamorous, these head nets are very effective and stop pesky sandflies buzzing around your face. Available at outdoors stores for around $10 they are a great investment if you're heading to Milford Sound, spending time in the deep south or on the West Coast.. 

In NZ you need a sturdy tent capable of withstanding strong winds and heavy rain as our climate, even in summer, can be changeable and unpredictable. The expensive alpine range is for the specialists; the cheap, flimsy tents are for the kids in the backyard; mid-range suitable for most conditions. (Keep an eye on the sales when you can often pick up a great deal.) Specifications by the manufacturers are a guide only, so be sure to check the ease of putting up; height; weight; and dimensions (erected and when packed); ventilation; insect screens; inbuilt groundsheet; vestibule areas; and access points before you commit. Beware, some tents are too short, requiring you to sleep crosswise, which is not ideal.

When the car is close by, or when rafting, the Coleman Lakeside is perfect for two people, with plenty of room inside for air mattress and clothing, a large front vestibule with built-in ground sheet for stashing all your gear, front and side entries, insect nets and great ventilation.

For tramping and kayaking when space and weight are issues, opt for a more compact tent.


An electric air pump makes easy work of blowing up your air mattress. Plug into the cigarette lighter socket, or socket in front consul or rear compartment,  and hey presto you have a fully inflated mattress in minutes. Don't over-inflate, a rock hard mattress is not comfortable. In the past we have struggled to fit a fullly inflated mattress into the front opening of a small tent, however we recently discovered this effortless method.

Air mattresses: Double and single styles available, perfect if you are camping close to your vehicle when weight and size not an issue. Lengthwise 185cm is a snug fit in our tent, however many of the new ones are 200 – 215 cm and will not fit in some compact dome tents. Many are also double the height, suitable only for large tents.

Sleeping mats: Thermarest are known for a quality product, however they are very expensive and you pay a heavy price for the brand.  There are plenty of cheaper alternatives which do the job just fine.  Great improvements have been made over the years and you can now buy longer,  thicker mats which surprisingly are more compact when rolled up. Our older style 3/4 length sleeping mat on the right, barely 2 cm thick, has now been discarded for a full length EXPED Airmat that is 7.5cm thick, it provides a much more comfortable sleep and comes with a nifty 'schnozzle' inflation bag. 

Sleeping bags: There's nothing worse than being cold, so choose one suitable for the coldest conditions you expect to encounter.

Sleeping bag liners. For multi-day trips when  showers are not an option. They fit into a little bag about the size of your fist and you simply chuck in the washing machine at the end of the trip. They help preserve and extend the life of your sleeping bag. 

Stackable plastic cubes are fantastic to keep all related items together and the car stays nice & tidy. We can fit twelve boxes and access from back and rear doors means you only ever need to move one box to reach what you want.

The boxes sit neatly on top of one another, with the weight supported by the rim, so nothing in the boxes gets squashed. See-through boxes are even better. They are not square, so fit together using less space when not in use.