A Weekend in Wellington on a Budget

Now we have spent a considerable amount of time in Wellington we finally feel comfortable to write this post. When we first arrived we pretty much didn’t know anything about Wellington, except that it was windy and that the city has a great museum. Which by the way, both are true.

If you are planning a weekend in Wellington anytime soon and are on a budget this weekend itinerary should be just what you are looking for!

Friday – Welcome to New Zealand’s coolest little capital!

 

Wellington GoingNZ

If you want to stay somewhere central, safe, clean and on budget Base Backpackers should be your base for the weekend (no pun intended, honest!) Located just off Courtney Place you won’t have to go far on your first night to grab some budget eats and some happy hour deals!

If you arrive by coach the coach stops at Courtney Place so you won’t have far to walk, a taxi from the airport should set you back $30 or less if you use Uber and Super Shuttle also offer shared transfers from the airport.

If you are arriving in your hire car you are in luck. Wellington is probably the only city in NZ that offers free weekend parking. After 8 pm you can park in the city for free, some zones have a strict 2-hour limit so do check before you park up for the weekend. This is valid until 7 am Monday morning.

Base GoingNZ
Base Backpackers

Friday nights should be spent discovering all that Courtney Place has to offer. Pretty much every bar you pass early on a Friday will be offering a happy hour deal of some kind and the city has an excellent range of microbreweries. Wellingtonian’s love their craft beers so much you can even pick up a “Beer Map” from the tourist information centre, it the ultimate pub crawl without even trying too hard! Our favorite has to be The Malthouse for some exceptional micro-brewed beer, at around 6 pm they serve free nibbles for the whole bar! 

If you want to venture a little further then Cuba Street would be a great stop, if you can find the Wellington Night Market you are in for a treat, budget eating at its best. The benefit of staying so close to Courtney Place is that you are so close to everything, Wellington is a very walkable city.

Saturday – Explore the best bits of Wellington.

Oriental Bay

Base Backpackers is great as it is simply a stone throws walk away from Mt Victoria, the best lookout in the city. We suggest walking along Oriental Parade and joining the path this way as it certainly a less steep of a climb and much more scenic as you walk along the seafront.

If you want to view the city from another angle we suggest taking the Cable Car, at the top, you will find The Wellington Botanical Gardens (worth a stroll) and The Cable Car Museum (free entry) we surprisingly spent an hour here – it very interactive and very informative!

Do check out our video of our time in Wellington – we love it here!

 

From here you can visit Zealandia as they offer free shuttle transfer’s to the countries best eco-sanctuary.  It is actually a fenced off eco-sanctuary where they take care of all things native, think Jurassic Park fences and you’re not far off! 

Allow at least two hours to explore the valley forest, Zealandia are doing a great work on their conversation project and your entrance fee goes towards maintaining the valley where you can witness remarkable native species of birds, reptiles, and insects. It really is an insightful and educating visit!

Zealandia
Zealandia, a land not too far away

If you have time after once you return down the Cable Car turn left for about 1km and here you will reach the Parliament Buildings, they are free to enter. Here you can visit the free visitor centre, take part in a guided tour of the government buildings and even sit in the public gallery as the MP’s debate the latest things on their agenda. It is a great place to learn all about NZ’s democratic processes.

The Parliament Buildings are very close to waterfront – a great alternative way to walk back to Courtney Place. Wellington without a doubt has one of the best waterfront’s in NZ, we walk it almost every week, it is fully pedestrianized and so beautiful!

For dinner and drinks, we suggest the waterfront, there are plenty of bars and restaurants. We love The Foxglove for its outside decked seating and delicious food. If you want somewhere closer to your accommodation but still on the waterfront then we suggest St John’s Bar and Restaurant, it is a bit more casual than The Foxglove and also has a great outside seating area.

Wellington Waterfront

Sunday: Discover More, Get Further.

No visit to Wellington is complete without a visit to Te Papa Museum, The Museum of New Zealand. Be warned, you could literally spend hours here though, allow at least 2 hours to really get a feel of it, the coffee on the 4th floor (there is also a cafe on the ground floor but the cafe on the 4th floor is more comfortable and quieter) is pretty good as well.

If you are a Hobbit fan then Weta Cave should be a must, here you can see exhibits of props from all of the Lord of Ring films plus watch a free documentary about the props. The Weta Cave Workshop Tour for $25 pp is also worth the extra expense. Here you can really learn the behind the scenes of how every element small or large from the films actually got made, plus you can have the chance to touch/hold some of the real props used in the films!

 

Hobbiton Going NZ
Weta Cave – Worth the excursion!

For dinner, The Bresolin on Wills Street is perfect if you want an early dinner, especially if you have to leave Wellington on this night. They offer $20 roast’s after 5 pm (be on time, it is popular!) they really are the best that we have found in town and trust us we have eaten loads of them – we are British after all!

 

The Coffee – Don’t forget your pit stops.

Coffee Wellington
So much love for Wellington Coffee.

To Wellingtonians coffee is everything. Before I arrived, I did not like coffee, now I drink it almost every day. However, believe us it is still possible to get a bad coffee in Wellington our top places if you would like to seek them out are, Aro Café in Aro Valley, Havana Coffee, Prefab and Peoples Coffee. They are also great places to get a spot of lunch.

 

Do you have a tip to share from your trip to Wellington? Feel free to share them in the comments below! 

5 Great Things to do in Wairarapa

Where do you go for a weekend away when you live in Wellington, I hear you ask? As every Wellingtonian will tell you, you go up “over the hill” (The Rimutaka Hill) to the beautiful and rugged Wairarapa region.

Wairarapa is just an hours drive from Wellington but it feels worlds apart from the hustle and bustle of busy central Wellington. Driving to Wairarapa is an adventure in itself, as you drive over windy Rimutaka Hill make sure you stop by and make time to complete the Rimutaka Trig Walk. The walk only takes about an hour and on a clear day you can see some spectacular views of Wellington and the Wairarapa region – it truly is spectacular. You can also get to Wairarapa by train (get off at Featherston) but we suggest taking your bikes and packing up your car for the weekend as the Wairarapa region is quite remote and having your own car and bikes will make this charming place more accessible.

Check out our fun video of our time in Wairarapa!

1 – Martinborough

Your first port of call should most certainly be Wairarapa’s wine capital Martinborough. A small town with a lot of charm and character plus it is home to some of the best wines in NZ! When we visited last, we stayed at The Martinborough Hotel, which if you are not staying in – you should definitely stop in for a drink before you go check out the square and the rest of the town.

Martinborough Hotel - Going NZ
Our hotel for the weekend, The stunning Martinborough Hotel.

Wine Time!

Wairarapa’s vineyards in Martinborough are all in really close proximity to each other. The easiest way to go between them is with a bike or arrange a tour (Green Jersey Cycle Tours & Bike Hire are great) though I guess if you are not drinking wine then you could drive around – but where is the fun in that? You can’t really get lost in Martinborough, it’s a small town, you’ll be fine! To reach to vineyards head towards Princess Street you can do the circle in either a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. Most of the vineyards offer $5 tasting and serve scrumptious food – you can’t go wrong! If you are coming to Martinborough in the summer you will always find an event on – there is always Wairarapa events running almost weekly!

At the Vineyards in Wairarapa
Vineyards in Wairarapa

Poppies

We also had the pleasure of visiting Poppies. Poppies is run by husband and wife team Poppy and Shayne Hammond. They have developed a destination vineyard that every Wellingtonian seems to love! We popped in (no pun intended!) for tastings and to have lunch. We enjoyed the best platter of food and a couple of fantastic glasses of wine and would strongly recommend dropping in.

Top Tip: This place is definitely worth a visit but please do book in advance especially at lunch times, as they are very busy! 

Poppies, Going NZ
Poppy, doing her thing at Poppies!

2 – Driving to Cape Palliser

Wairarapa is lighthouse land! Cape Palliser is THE lighthouse to visit, it is the North Island’s most Southerly point. The road to Cape Palliser has the water on one side and breathtaking scenery on the other, we must have pulled over about 10 times to take it in and get some snaps.

Top Tip: Make sure you stop at Ngawi, a very rural fishing village right on the beach. There is a lot of scenic beauty to see here along with a large number of what looks like (but are not) neglected tractors/ parked on the beach.

The Lighthouse

Once you reach the end of the road (which turns into a dirt track) you have to climb over 250 steps to the top. Here you feel like you are literally at the end of the world 

Cape Palliser - Going NZ
At the top of Cape Palliser Light House.

Seal Colonies

Along the drive back you will come across a fur Seal Colony they really are mesmerising to watch, especially the babies! Make sure you stop and see these smelly sea beasts. But please give the seals space, they are after all wild animals with huge teeth. Oh, by the way they are also used to a diet that doesn’t include sandwiches.

Watching the seal at Cape Palliser
Watching the seal at Cape Palliser

3 – The Putangirua Pinnacles

A geological formation and one of New Zealand’s best examples of bad ass badlands erosion. After Martinborough, The Pinnacles walk is the next most popular thing to do in the Wairarapa. You can do this walk by parking at the DOC campsite here. The walk/hike takes around 3-4 hours return and there are two routes you can take. The high/bush track which is shady (good for a hot, hot day) but also steep and challenging in places, the common route which is a much easier route follows the river bed. In the summer the river bed is more like a trickle so you won’t even get wet socks!

Top Tip:  There is little shelter from the sun when you reach The Pinnacles, especially when the sun is high in the sky. So take some sun cream and suitable clothing.

The Incredible Pinnacles, Going NZ
The Incredible Pinnacles

4 – Lake Ferry

Lake Ferry is worth the drive. We went out in the evening, to watch the sunset and have a stroll along the beach. Sounds romantic ey?! We also stopped for dinner at the Lake Ferry Hotel.

There isn’t much to do at Lake Ferry – unless you have your rod and a boat. But the place is really beautiful, the beach stretches for miles and the Lake Ferry Hotel is well situated for windy days. We had some great freshly caught fish for dinner, that along with a nice refreshing pint made our excursion to Lake Ferry extra special.

Lake Ferry Going NZ
Driving to Lake Ferry!

5 – Castlepoint

Castlepoint is worth the detour! From Martinborough, we stopped in the quaint town of Greytown along the route for a spot of coffee before heading to Masterton and fueling up. From Masterton, Castlepoint is an hours drive.

Castlepoint is Bach haven (what the Coromandel is to Aucklanders). We arrived on a beautiful but windy day. The journey up to the lighthouse involved both walking and some gentle climbing – nothing challenging and has the most incredible views of NZ’s eastern coastline. We took a picnic, pitched up on the beach and watched the world go by.

Castlepoint Going NZ
Us at Castlepoint

A perfect beach day before heading back to the city lights!

Want to check out more of our travelling adventures or simply want ideas on where to go next? Check out our Travel Map for more tips and advice on travelling around New Zealand!

10 Free Things to do in Wellington

Now we have been in Wellington a while we thought it was about time to tell you all how this fantastic this city is! It is packed with entertaining things to do, with many of these available at a small cost or even for free (who doesn’t love free!). Below in no particular order is a list of the best free things to do during a trip to New Zealand’s capital city and a little video to go along with it!


1 – Te Papa Museum:

Te Papa is a must-see during your Wellington visit. It is the national museum of New Zealand and has been recognised as a world-leading visitor-focused experience thanks to its many interactive features. There are permanent exhibitions that depict New Zealand’s amazing geology and geography; the historical lives of the country’s indigenous people, the Maoris; and the unique wildlife of the islands. There are also short-term exhibitions focusing on historical and geographical events, including the earthquakes that have occurred on these volcanic islands. Guided tours are available; however, with the amount of interactive material available, it can be better to spend hours moving through the museum at your own speed. Allow a day, or come back for a second visit – you will need it!

2 – Weta Cave

Weta Workshop is a world-leading design and effects facility used by the world’s creative industry. The company started in a room in a flat in Wellington, where the founders hoped to provide models and prop work for the home film market in New Zealand. This is now a multi-million-dollar business associated with a startling list of movies, including the amazing creations in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit, and the modern-day adventures of the Thunderbirds.

The Weta Cave Shop is a focal point of the Weta Studio Tours. Here you can wander through a small museum, watch a documentary about the company and – best of all – it is free!

If you want to go for the full experience, you can pay for several tour levels and fill your bags with memorabilia from the shop. Selfies with sculptures and prop replicas can also be taken, providing great memories! The tours do incur a cost, but they represent good value for money – we have taken this tour and we shall be writing about our experience at the tour in detail over the next coming weeks – so watch this space 🙂

3 – Plane Spotting!

Yes, that is right, how about a bit of plane spotting! Wellington’s airport is in a really unique spot. Starting its life as simple, grassy runway in 1928 in eventually became a fully functioning airport in 1935. It is built on reclaimed land and over 180 houses in the area had to be relocated to make room for it! Due to the valleys either side it really was the only place for it! The main road to busy neighborhoods such as Miramar and Lyall Bay run right along side it meaning you can get real close to the planes that land here. It is quite an exhilarating experience!

4 – Walk along the Wellington Waterfront

The Wellington waterfront walk begins really just outside the train station. It really is exceptional and is considered one of the best waterfront walks in the world.  The city council manages the waterfront and does a great job. They actively promote the heritage buildings, stages public events, supports commercial development, manages properties, and provides general maintenance, security, and cleaning.

Well before European settlement, this area of Wellington was a centre of local Maori life. The first wharves were built in 1840 with the arrival of the settlers; more recently, land has been reclaimed to form the modern-day waterfront area that is now a key recreational, social and cultural hub of the capital city. Wandering through this coastal area is full of surprises, relaxing and free!

Restaurants, cafes and shops abound, which are great to browse around. The waterfront is also host to many city events throughout the year, including Waitangi Day celebrations, Chinese New Year and Guy Fawkes night. For atmosphere, one of the best times to visit Wellington is on New Year’s Eve as it becomes the first city worldwide – along with Auckland – to welcome in the New Year.

The waterfront is also a great place to sit and people watch. If you are looking for a cheap way to spend the day, there are lots of areas and decking along the quays where you can sit and think – or just sit! The walk finishes at the stunning Oriental Parade, Wellington’s best beach!

Wellington Oriental Parade

5 – Walk Mount Victoria

Mount Victoria rises to an altitude of almost 200 metres and is situated immediately to the east of the central area of Wellington. Offering an adventure area on your doorstep, there are multiple trails all over the hill that you can explore by foot or bike; alternatively, there is a loop walk of 4.7km that takes about two and a half hours to complete on foot. Anyone of average fitness can safely undertake this walk, which has a common start/finish point. All the walks on Mount Victoria offer amazing views of the city and the harbour. Top Tip: If your feeling lazy you can drive to the top – but don’t cheat!

6 – Visit Cuba Street

This is often called New Zealand’s coolest street and offers an inner city slice of bohemia. Upon our first day here in Wellington we went to check it out! It strangely has been registered as a historic area since 1995, but it is pretty cool! There are hotels, restaurants and bars and the bustling street is full of creative quirks, buskers, art galleries, graffiti, affordable bric-a-brac and exhibitions – there is literally something for everyone. Browsing is free and you could pick up some truly unique items if you are prepared to spend a little money.

7 – Tour of Parliament Buildings

New Zealand’s parliament sits in the Parliament Buildings in Wellington. There is a public gallery, a visitors’ centre, and exhibitions of some of New Zealand’s established and newest artists. The public gallery is open whenever parliament meets, with sitting in on the decision-making process of a democratic country providing a thought-provoking experience. Guided tours can be arranged; in addition, for those who can’t make it to Wellington or who want to relive the experience of their visit, there is a virtual tour available on the official parliament website. We are yet to experience this, but a good rainy day activity none the less.

Wellington Beehive

 

8 – Mountain Biking

Wellington’s hilly landscape is the perfect environment for mountain biking enthusiasts. It has been estimated that there are around 350km of mountain bike trails, making this a must if you have your bike with you this. You can spend days following the trails at your own pace. If you are a biker, this is without a doubt one of the best free things to do in Wellington.

9 – The Botanical Gardens

Wellington Botanic Garden is situated centrally within the city and hosts 25 hectares of completely unique landscaping and plants. It was established in 1868 and initially managed by the New Zealand Institute, with the Wellington City Council taking over in 1891. The gardens are open from dawn until dusk each day of the year and entry is free, with guided tours costing $4 per person.

Wellington Botanical Garden Sculptures

10 – Watch War Memorial 

Wellington’s National War Memorial is not on the usual’s tourist’s radar but well worth a visit. Every day at 5pm a Last Post ceremony is conducted on the forecourt of the National War Memorial. The service lasts for 7 minutes and any one can take part. A minutes silence is also acknowledged in respect for the soldiers who served in the First World War. The ceremony is longer on a Sunday and the building is open daily from 9am – 5pm and entry is free. 🙂

So there you have it a list of the best 10 free things to do in Wellington, do check back in a couple of weeks for our article on activity guide for this beautiful city! And remember once you have been through the list, you can start again and experience the whole adventure time after time, learning new things along the way!