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.