But once I arrived I found out the temperatures in New Zealand were cooler than Australia. So I needed to buy warmer clothes to survive the three weeks I would be there. I also learned New Zealand takes hot chocolate seriously which meant I would need to drink more while I was visiting. And I was surprised when I experienced Wellington being rainy and having even stronger windy days than Vancouver. Or, the rain was a show Wellington shared for my benefit. I’m sure the weather cleared up and warmed up, after I left.
The wind in Wellington is strong enough to knock over grown adults so I really don’t understand how children survive in this city. But what a lovely city it is. It’s beautiful and reminiscent of Vancouver, actually. Water to one side and hills on the other. I say hills because the North Island is more flat lands with hills, like in the UK. Except for Mount Ruapehu. That one is a good size.
Train to Wellington from the Suburbs
I visited and stayed with my friend when I was in Wellington so I can’t recommend accommodation but I can sort of help with getting around if you are staying in the suburbs.
My friend lives in Kelson, a suburb of Lower Hutt, with the closest station being Melling. On the day I was roaming around, she kindly drove me the 5 minutes from her place to the train station. It was about a 25-30 minute train journey along the water on the Melling Line to the Wellington Train Station. The train station is quite well located too, within walking distance to shopping, museums, restaurants, and other things in the CBD. Side note: Petone is a larger suburb of Lower Hutt with quite a few shops, eateries, etc.
The train has a conductor/officer who checks tickets, opens & closes the doors, as well as drives the train. It depends on how long you plan to visit because there are several types of train tickets and passes you can purchase. I was only riding this one day, so I paid more with the Adult cash fare. There wasn’t enough time before the train arrived to purchase my ticket at the station’s ticket office but I could purchase my ticket on the train instead. The conductor/officer checking tickets can also sell you a ticket for cash. They don’t carry change though which means you need the correct amount. The cost of your train journey depends on what zone you are starting and ending in so it’s best to check the website in advance if you want to know.
The Wellington Train Station is a beautiful Category I historic building that opened in 1937 and is located on Bunny Street in Fare Zone 1.
Cafés for Food and Hot Chocolate
Enigma Cafe (website) is more than what I consider a café. They serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, alcohol, and an assortment of other drinks. Plus, hot chocolate. It’s also located only a few minutes’ walk away from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington CBD.
As a vegetarian I was impressed with all the food options offered here. Plus, our food was delicious. They have quite a few burgers to choose from including three, yes three, vegetarian ones. Also items like pasta, steak, chicken, risotto, salads, to name a few. I really enjoyed everything, but I quite enjoyed the flower pot cups they served the delicious hot chocolate in.
Located inside the Wellington City Centre Library, Clarke’s Café offers an assortment of food items. I of course, happily visited for cake and hot chocolate. I enjoyed every single bite and every single drop.
At three stories high, the library itself isn’t huge, but it is still large. It’s also nice to have a café where you can go, sit, relax, and eat while perusing the shelves for knowledge and entertainment.
As of March 2019 the Wellington Central Library, which includes Clark’s Café, was closed indefinitely because of earthquake vulnerabilities in the structure.
Café Kyriani is located at 2/28 Grey Street in Wellington Central. And while they have food, desserts, and coffee for you to enjoy, I visited for a hot chocolate. The thing I found interesting was that every time I ordered a hot chocolate in New Zealand, it came with one or more marshmallows. I’m not a marshmallow fan so I didn’t enjoy this perk but I know many people who would. This chocolate, creamy, hot beverage was the perfect treat on the cold, rainy day I visited.
Shopping in Wellington, New Zealand CBD
The day I roamed around on my own it was raining. Heavily. I was cold and wet and really not wanting to be outside enjoying the scenery Wellington offered. I didn’t want to walk too much either. So, I walked in and out of shops in the CBD looking for sweaters, warmer shirts, and even a hoodie. The warm weather clothes I had packed for Australia would not cut it with the lower temperatures of New Zealand.
I wanted to purchase from some New Zealand brands if I could. First, I visited one of the many Kathmandu shops in the CBD but I didn’t buy anything, instead I walked around the corner to their outlet store. You might not get to purchased the newest product or your preferred colours but I found some good deals and some great product. I bought a zippered hoodie and a merino wool long-sleeved t-shirt.
I then walked by the Glassons and checked it out. Most of what they had wasn’t what I was looking for but I bought a cute hooded sweater.
Museums and A Special Effects Tour
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Okay if you read my site you’ve probably already figured out I love museums but this one, this one was a big unexpected wow. And I only saw part of the Museum of New Zealand (website), a few of the free main long-term collections. The building is six-floors on the waterfront containing exhibits, cafes and gift shops as well as a parkade to park in.
I learned so much about the indigenous Maori people though. The museum contains agreements between the chiefs and the British. Various facts, interactive exhibits, and even pictures with the meanings and history of Maori tattoos. Oh, and Te Marae, an authentic and inclusive communal meeting place.
I really enjoyed my time and I could have stayed even longer. It was amazing. These are the exhibits I visited and enjoyed.
- Tangata o le Moana: The story of Pacific people in New Zealand
- Mana Whenue, Treaty of Waitangi: Signs of a Nation
- Ko Rongowhakaata: The Story of Light and Shadow.
A Moving Exhibit with Help from Weta Workshop
You know what exhibit was also amazing. Gallipoli: The scale of our war. Because I come from a different country in a different hemisphere, the war history I’ve learned is different. When I moved to London, it was the first time I heard another side. I realized how different everyone’s story is while still being the same. This exhibit is like nothing I have seen before though.
Stories told by regular New Zealanders of their experiences, are shared using creations from Weta Workshop (read below for tour info on that workshop). Not only do you hear these stories being read, but it shows them with a huge, bigger than life-but life like, statue. I go to museums everywhere I visit but I have seen nothing like the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. The skin looks real in this exhibit. So real you can examine the individual hairs on the hands.
There are also visiting exhibits that involve an additional cost ticket.
New Zealand Portrait Gallery
One place I visited while trying to stay indoors on the intensely pouring rain day, was the New Zealand Portrait Gallery (website). I am happy I found it for several reasons. One, it was dry and warm. Two, it was in a wonderful, old, historic warehouse. Three, it introduced me to the works of several New Zealand artists. And four, it introduced me to the Tangles, jewelry created by Becky Bean under the name of Good Things (there is a link below for that article).
I loved the architecture and history of this building. It really was a beautiful, big warehouse. But learning and seeing the works of these amazing New Zealand artists was also a joy. The gallery wasn’t huge, but the work was no less wonderful and impressive. The necklace and bracelet I bought are my two favourite purchases in Wellington. I love them.
Weta Cave Special Effects Workshop Tour
To say I did no research for Wellington in advance is an understatement. I had no idea what I wanted to do but my friend told me about Weta Cave (website for tours). They are the geniuses behind the special effect in a lot of movies, including the Lord of the Rings series. I’ve been to Universal Studios but the Weta Cave Experience was different, and I felt, better. It is a much, much smaller tour because it is not a theme park. You actually get to tour through the Weta workshop. You watch people work, look at the equipment they use, and even see and hold some special effects. It’s amazing.
Word of warning though, they are serious about the ‘Do Not Touch’ signs. I may or may not have touched something. Honestly, I didn’t even realize I had done it until they stopped the entire tour, everyone’s attention was on me, and I was getting in trouble from the guide. Before I was once again reminded not to touch anything. It was amazing to see these items though. I didn’t even think about what I was doing, it was just a reflex to touch.
Day Trips by Car or Train
I didn’t visit but one of the smaller towns out of Wellington accessible by either car or train is Greytown. There are Victorian buildings, tree lined streets, rivers, olive groves, designer boutiques, specialist shops, cafes, and restaurants. There are many things to see and do in Greytown including a tasting at a chocolate studio.
Want to enjoy wine and beautiful scenery out of the city? I suggest taking a day trip either by train or by car to Martinborough. It’s a beautiful small town about 60-70 km north of Wellington with a lot of places to eat and drink wine. There are over 20 wineries in the area, some of them even within walking or biking distance of Memorial Square. Martinborough is also one stop on the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail. Maybe you can visit and attend Toast Martinborough to enjoy wine, food, and music.
We had lunch at this wonderful eatery on Kitchener Street and all three of us enjoyed each of our meals immensely. After we stuffed ourselves it was just a short walk along the street to Memorial Square where we found the park and many other places to drink, eat, or shop.
Martinborough is full of boutique shops and the Wine Centre is one. Yes, they sell wine but they also sell other delicacies from the local area. Items like olive oils, foods, books, and many other things. Rather conveniently you will find them across the street from Café Medici on Kitchener Street.
There are quite a few things to see and do in Wellington, these are only a few. The city is beautiful in scenery and people. If I am ever in the area again, I plan on visiting and seeing some items I missed this time.