I was lucky enough to have visits from the majority of immediate family in March and April. Only my older brother didn’t manage to make it out – I’m told because of a lack of funding rather than because of anything personal. We’ll see what the truth is after he returns from his trip to Canada.
In March, I found myself travelling for a few days with my sister and her boyfriend in the South Island, where I managed to visit one of my favourite places in New Zealand: Queenstown Library. With my parents and my younger brother I did a more extensive three week trip around the North Island in April. Both trips were lovely and exciting but very different. My sister spent most of her time encouraging me to come on just one more hike, whilst my mother tried to cajole me into a historical walking tour in every new city. There was only one city that featured on both trips; my beautiful home of ten months, Wellington. I’ve therefore become very well-informed on the top tourist spots of Wellington, which are explained (but not ranked!) below.
- Wellington Cable Car
The iconic cable car (which isn’t actually a cable car) was a top pick for both groups, with the added benefit that I actually take the cable car reasonably often because it stops right outside my house. The top of the cable car has the most spectacular view in all of Wellington (in my opinion), access to the Botanical Gardens and the Cable Car Museum as well as being a quick walk to Kelburn shops and Zealandia. The actual cable car trip is pleasingly quaint and has some lovely flashing lights, even if it does only last about five minutes.
- The Botanical Gardens
This again gets benefits for being close to my house, and somewhere I actually spend a fair amount of time. As discovered by my sister and her boyfriend, you can unwittingly walk all the way down into town, although you will be faced with a steep hour long climb to get back! Featuring rose gardens, glass houses and an observatory, you can walk in the winding pathways for hours.
- Mount Victoria
Loses points because it’s a forty minute walk from my house to the start, and then another twenty-five minutes uphill. The walk is definitely worth it for the spectacular views, it was also a filming spot for the Lord of Rings films and gives a 360 view of Wellington. If you’re my sister we can barrel to the top without a break and take the ‘interesting’ way down. If you’re my mother, we can go get afternoon tea instead whilst my father and brother climb it without us.
- Cuba Street
Both parties commented that this was ‘smaller than expected’ but in such a short space, Cuba Street packs in an awful lot. The go-to place for restaurants, cafés or bars, this is also the host of the Night Market on Friday and Saturday nights. Despite its name, this is essentially just eating stalls, but they are delicious. Make sure to visit my favourite bookshop Pegasus Books where you can annoy everyone in your family by getting distracted by a Wilfred Owen biography. Cuba Street also features a bucket fountain which you can get your unsuspecting sister to stand under and get splashed.
- Te Papa
The National Museum of New Zealand is a must-do, even if you’re not really into museums. Even if you don’t want to spend long, their flagship exhibition: The Size of War is definitely worth a visit whilst it’s still on. Trust me, I’ve gone six times.
- The Waterfront
New Zealand is often described as the edge of the world, but in the relative bustle of Wellington, it’s hard to get that a sense of that peacefulness. On certain spots of the waterfront however, with the sea stretching out in front of you, the vastness between you and anywhere else is overwhelming. The water’s edge is teeming with wildlife, with dolphins, sting-rays and the rare whale making an appearance. An excellent place to waste a sunny day, reading, walking or just hanging out with family.
- Oriental Bay
Oriental Bay is so small that calling it a beach is generous but it’s still a lovely place to go when it’s sunny, if you can find an unoccupied spot to sit. The walk from the centre to Oriental Bay is really nice as well as you can walk along the sea the whole time. If you’re my parents, the real estate is also a big plus, the houses are apparently very nice.
- Gong Cha
I don’t know if this a tourist attraction but I did force my family to go there because it’s my favourite bubble tea place. Get the Wintermelon Milk Foam drink, you won’t regret it.
- Kaffee Eis
See above, except for ice cream. There’s different flavours every day, they’re all delicious and you can upgrade to a chocolate shake for $0.50. It’s the best ice cream place in New Zealand and I won’t hear otherwise. I went here on Christmas Eve to get a discounted litre of Ferrero Rocher ice cream and it was amazing.
Before this turns into a list about best places to eat in Wellington, let me recommend Zealandia. I had gone when I first arrived but it definitely deserved a revisit. This beautiful, secluded bird sanctuary is well worth the entry fee, even if just to learn more about New Zealand’s conservation efforts. Bring your good camera, and binoculars if you have any.
- The WETA Caves
I didn’t actually go here with any of my family because they’re awful people who came to New Zealand without being fans of Lord of Rings. I thoroughly enjoyed my tour of their props workshop back in August, and Miramar is a pleasant, calm break from Wellington City centre. Make sure to book a tour in advance and double-check you’re not accidently also booking a Thunderbirds tour. They don’t even show Thunderbirds outside the UK, NZ and South Africa, so your friends will not be happy with you.
- Lambton Quay
Slightly more upmarket than Cuba Street, Lambton Quay features several department stores, the tallest buildings you’ll find in Wellington and some pretty cool statues. This area comes closest to a traditional city feel, as well as being the base for the cable car. Really, you should just walk around all of Wellington City centre, but this is a good place to start. Turn off on Chews Lane to get Wellington City Library, currently closed, but not forgotten.
- Red Rocks
This walk is a bit of distance from Wellington, so you’ll definitely need a car to get there. It’s well worth it however, the vast wall of rock and tumultuous sea are very striking. During May and October you will also find the beaches teeming with seals, which are much bigger and fatter than I had ever pictured them. Don’t try to take a selfie with them, they will try to attack you.
- The Parliament Buildings
A bit of a walk from Lambton Quay admittedly, but it’s very cool to see three hilariously mismatched forms of architecture altogether. My mother insists that the free Government tour is very interesting, but I skipped out to sleep.
- My Student House
The place to be in Wellington and wins major points for containing two bathrooms, my bed, and the best view of the neon Brother building sign. Guarantee your family will come in, try not to touch anything, and then say they’ll wait in the garden whilst I gather my things. 10/10.
After having lived here for quite a while, my days of tourist days had been left behind by last October. It was really nice to revisit some of the places I hadn’t been for so long, and see Wellington as I had when I first arrived. I’m going to be recommending a trip to New Zealand to everyone as soon as I get home, so it’s also good to have a list prepared well in advance.