Like Rotorua, I ended up here a lot because it’s a good gateway city (town) on the way to somewhere else. And like Rotorua, I came here for a week as a tourist by myself and then again with my family for 2 days. And then again because I wanted to go to the South Island and I felt like this would be a good place to hole up over Christmas when the country is pretty much closed.
The first time I came here was the last week in September, 2007. I brought my down jacket with me to NZ (one of my favorite travel items as it can double as a pillow too!) but it just hadn’t been cold enough it Auckland all winter to wear it. I stupidly forgot it when I came down to Wellington and if there was a reason to bring to NZ at all, this was it! Windy Welly made it self know, loud and clear! I took the Intercity bus on the 11 hour drive from Auckland to Wellington. This is also an overnight route, but since I had plenty of time to kill and I wanted to enjoy the view along the way, I opted for both ways during the day. Overnight isn’t cheaper, but if you are short on time, it can save time and a nights accomodaton! I just didn’t care. The previous week, Mt. Ruapehu had erruted and on the ride down, the bus stopped on the side of the road so us tourists could jump out and take pictures. Of course, the ski slopes were open the following day. After sitting all day on the bus, I didn’t mind the 30 min walk to my hostel at all. I stayed at Lodge in the City because they had cheap single rooms in town. Sold! The place was fine. If I remember correctly, I think the girls only bathroom was on a different floor, which was kind of annoying, but there was a unisex bathroom on my floor, I just chose not to use it. Other then that, I don’t remember it being a problem. Most of the people they had living here seemed to be long term people, but it was pretty quiet. I remember talking to this super hot french guy in the lounge who was in Wellington for a working holiday too and his visa was up so he was on his way out to Australia. Fuck, he was hot. He looked like Brandon Routh from Superman. Yum!
Jeeze, what did I do in Wellington. I started my day with a stop at the I-Site Centre, as always and booked myself on the morning walking tour of Wellington, which gave me a great intro to the city, gave me some ideas on stuff to do as well as got my barrings straight. Funny enough, the guide was from California and lived in Santa Barbara for a while and when describing one of the department stores in town, she was like, oh, this place is like Nordie’s. It was kind of nice to have a little bit of that piece of home in New Zealand! It was only me and this other guy, who had just moved to Wellington for school or something on the tour, so it was a nice simi-personalized tour.
Te Papa which was packed with kids because I happened to be in town during the spring holidays. I came back a few more times over the week to just relax in a quiet corner and read. I sat in various coffee shops around town and just people watched. I took the cable car to Wellington Botanic Gardens where it was so cold and windy. And then took it down back to town. I went to the Museum of City and Sea and LOVED IT! Why are free museums so much better? And this one was not overwelming at all, unlike Te Papa, which is a little huge. City and Sea is just the right size and I took the time to look at everything! Loved it. I went on the free tour of Parliment in the Beehive and loved it. I am a nerd for a government tour and maybe especially if I don’t know much about it. My tour was small and everyone got to sit at the parliment table, which was all sorts of awesome. I went on the Dominion Post Ferry across to Days Bay which was a fun way to get out on the water. It actually stopped raining and being really windy the day I did this, so that was good. There isn’t much in the way of tourist ferries to get on the water and I found this to be the only way. Guess there really isn’t a demand for this activity as it’s too rainy and windy most of the year. But like everything, had a good time! And I think that was all for this trip. As usual, did everything I wanted to go, because who knows when I would be back…
And I was back like 3 months later with the family. We stayed in our first proper American-style hotel since Christchurch, The Ibis. The night we arrived, my sister and I bought round trip tickets for the cable car, because we wanted to go to the observatory, but in true New Zealand fashion, at the hight of tourist season, it was closed. Since it wasn’t that cold, we walked down the hill through the cematery and garden and it was a little scarey as it was pitch dark. We came out near the Beehive and walked back to the hotel. Since I had done everything I wanted to already and after 10 days, I was ready for a break from my family so I sent my parents and sister on the Parliment tour, sitting it out. They loved it. My parents love government stuff, so of course, they loved it and I was very happy to hear my sister liked it a lot too! It was more crowded this time and they didn’t get to sit around the parliment table, which was kind of a bust, in my opinion. We met up for lunch before pointing my parents in the direction of Te Papa and the Cable Car, so they could use the other half of our tickets we bought the day before. We told them to walk down too as they were going to do it during the day and I am sure it’s nicer during the day then night. My sister and I got the car out of the garage and drove over to hike to Owhiro Bay. So beautiful! We got to the end and there were seals lounging on the rocks everywhere! It’s nuts how close you can get to them without barriers. We were just going to drive back to town when I saw a sign for Mt Victoria, which I did not climb last time because it was freakin’ freezing and the bus never came. Yay for Wellington with a car! We drove to the top and took touristy pictures. We then drove past a shopping centre and I made us stop so I could share the joy of The Warehouse with my sister. I got a sun hat and some candies and we bought my mother a birthday card (her birthday is in February) that I signed and my sister mailed when she got back to the States. I loved sharing my day to day life with my family and the lameness of all the shopping too! (Only those who have been to NZ, know what I am talking about when I talk about the “joys” of The Warehouse.) We parked the car back at the hotel and went to dinner on Cuba Street before calling it a night and getting up the next day for the drive to Rotorua (aka: home #2 to me).
I ended up in Wellington for a 3rd time a year later when I was doing my return trip to NZ and hitting all the places I had been wanting to go, but never quite made it. Of course, Wellington was NOT on that list, but I had to stop for a few days before heading to the South Island. Since the country shuts down for Christmas I figured Wellington was a good place to pack it in for a few days. Proper hotels would be dirt cheap and it would be an easy place to stock up before everything shut down. I got a dirt cheap deal at Mercure and stayed for a few nights. I had really nothing to do in Wellington. I had a friend whom I chatted with online and had met in Auckland when she first arrived in April and was now living in Wellington and met up with her and had Christmas Eve dinner with her and her roommates (who oddly, where all Americans in NZ in school and living and everything!) and just look forward to Christmas Day of doing nothing but taking a bath (in an actual tub!) and watching movies on Sky all day. The following day I was finally out of Wellington for the last time. (I would have left on Christmas, but as everything is closed, the inter-island ferries don’t run.)
Moral: Loved Wellington. My original plan was to be centered here, as it’s smack in the middle of the country, but my job had other plans for me. Most people love Wellington over Auckland as it’s more picturesque and feels more small town as well as my original reason, it’s easy to go anywhere in the country from here. I am really glad I got to spend a lot of time here and know the city as well as I could. I am glad my family decided to spend 2 days here instead of in Rotorua as there is loads to do here for 2 days and it’s very much a city, by New Zealand terms.