Having babbled on at some length as to the virtues of Dunedin, it is now time to turn my attention to my other favourite Kiwi city – which also happens to be the countries capital – the city of Wellington.
Wellington is tucked away on the southern tip of the North island, and most travellers will visit, even if only on their way to the ferry.
It would be a shame to skip this town though, because it has oodles of character, and loads of ways to entertain yourself. If you had a day to get stuck in to Wellington, here are some ideas for things you could do.
Head up Mount Victoria
Wellington is a city designed, as far as I can tell, on the principle that everyone deserves to get a great view. What this means is that the city planners decided that a whole bunch of hills should be incorporated into the town design, with only the very central city being vaguely flat.
A good way to get an idea of the cities layout therefore is to play it at its own game, and head on up Mount Victoria, one of the higher peaks in the area, at just under 200 metres. Here you will get panoramic views of the whole city, including the airport, whilst being buffeted by some serious winds. Wellington is known as the windy city, and it certainly lives up to its name.
On the way down Mount Victoria, you can spend some time wandering around the forests of the Mount Victoria park, doing your best not to be run down by mountain bikers, as you search for that bit from the first lord of the rings film, where Frodo nearly gets caught by a black rider and rather risks the film being somewhat short.
If you are anything like me, you will take quite a while wandering around many similar bits of forest, wondering why all tree roots look the same. And then take some pictures anyway, because, well, you were there.
Hit up the Te Papa museum
Recommending a museum is always a risky endeavour, but in this case, I feel fairly safe doing so because there is, quite frankly, something for everyone in this massive building which, happily, come with free entry.
From the history of New Zealand’s settlement, to native flora and fauna, to geology and geography, to information on Maori culture: you really won’t run out of things to do.
If you have kids, there are loads of options for keeping them entertained too. There’s even an earthquake simulator. If the weather isn’t so great, or even if it is, Te Papa really is a must visit Wellington attraction.
Take a wander
Wellington is a very pretty city to wander around, and is easily compact enough to do so. As well as every house getting a superb view, the city architects also seem to have decided that no two houses should look alike. Which makes for fun viewing.
From the wacky boat sheds, to the Oriental Parade, to the odd artwork, Wellington is a city that cries out to be explored on foot. Go for it I say, perhaps whilst clutching an expertly roasted local coffee. Yes, Wellington is as coffee mad as the rest of the country. Embrace it.
Visit the WETA Cave
After the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, hordes of geeky fans descended upon New Zealand doing their best to discover the “home” of Middle Earth. The epicentre of much of this activity can be found at the WETA cave, a fairly nondescript building on an industrial estate, a few kilometres from Wellingtons city centre.
WETA were responsible for most of the special effects, both physical and digital, in all three of the films, as well as a number of Peter Jacksons other movies. They are also, of course, feverishly working on the upcoming Hobbit movies.
I can only assume that after the first few hundred fans had turned up at this spot and found not much other than a building full of people actually working, the company relented, and has built a small museum / gift shop to sate the curious.
Whilst it is sad (if understandable) that you can’t wander around the actual studios, the Cave is a must for any fan of the films, or indeed, any of Jackson’s other work. There are props, armour sets, collectables and all sorts of other bits and pieces that make the experience worth some of your time. There is also a behind the scenes film you can watch, which shows a bit of what it is like to work for WETA, and some fabulously expensive merchandise you can buy.
Well, that was Wellington. Is it worrying that I spent probably half of the post waffling on about hobbit related stuff? Perhaps. By now, you probably should be used to it. Next, I’m going to be telling you about a whole bunch of things that we whizzed through on the North island that we missed last time round, including Vera’s highlight of the entire trip so far. Clue: it involves the time warp. Until then…