Our amazing #GoByCamper road trip has taken us to some iconic places, some jaw-droppingly beautiful places and to some places we have an emotional connection to as well. Our next stop in New Zealand was one of the latter, a place that both myself and my wife had visited in the past and become very emotionally attached to.
We arrived from the North Island of New Zealand on the Inter-islander Ferry which came included in our Maui Motorhome rental package. The crossing is wonderfully scenic as you meander through the Queen Charlotte Sound of the South Island then out in to open water as we approached the North Island. The trip takes around 3 hours and on a good day the views are fantastic all the way.
While the habour of Wellington might not be as picturesque as Sydney, the approach to this coastal capital is still impressive. Appearing out of the mist on a windy day, the high-rise offices of the CBD and the surrounding hills with pretty houses clinging to their sides makes for quite a sight.
I was last in Wellington back in November of 2001 after spending 5 months living just north of this great city. I spent a fair amount of time here and I felt a slight twinge of nervousness as we arrived. Like seeing an old friend after a decade or so, 14 years in fact. My wife also came to Wellington twice on her trip to New Zealand in 2004. Once clearly wasn’t enough and we both felt the same nervous excitement as we docked and drove our campervan off the ferry.
Awesome Museums of Wellington
We’ve never been so excited about re-visiting a museum ever before but there’s a very special place here that had us both eager to return. Te Papa Museum was opened in the mid 90s as a museum for the people. Documenting New Zealand’s very formation, its ever moving landscape, its people and its wildlife. Its a fabulous place that’s totally free to visit and contains some excellent displays over 4 floors.
The section on earthquakes and the geological formation of New Zealand is very interesting, particularly as earthquakes are a very real and regular occurrence here. There’s a live computerised log of every earthquake felt which you can browse through, an alarming number of small ones every few hours, medium sized every few days and large every week or so. Some felt, others too deep to have any real impact. My fondest memory of this place back in 2001 was the “shake shack” a small demonstration of how it would feel to be inside a house as an earthquake hit. Its a quirky little experience with a very real message and I’m glad to say after all these years its still there with people queuing to go inside.
We also discovered a new museum on our exploration of the city streets. The “Museum of Wellington” is probably the only museum I’ve been to that could trump Te Papa. Also free, it has several floors of excellent displays starting with a year-by-year history walk-through of the last 100 years of Wellington. From colonial times, through two world wars, its independence for Britain in the 40s and the growth of its own culture and style. Our favourite display was right at the top of the building. The “Attic” houses a wonderful collection of odd ball artefacts from UFO sightings to war time documentaries, costumes from amateur dramatic performances to modern art and by far the most impressive thing, a Doctor Who style time machine show that takes you right from land formation to modern day with flashing lights and spinning videos. We totally loved this place and our daughter enjoyed it too with plenty for the kids to interact with as well.
Dining out in Wellington
If there’s one thing Wellington does well its varied cuisine. You’ll find everything here thanks to the mix of immigrants that have made this city home over the last 100 years or so. Cuba Street has been a popular shopping and tourist district for some time now and is the epicentre for great food on many of the adjoining streets. Thankfully our 18 month old likes food of many kinds so we checked out TJ Katsu Japanese cafe and tucked in to a Bento Box, Miso Soup and Chicken Katsu Curry. It was here that we discovered our daughter can handle chopsticks pretty well! The food was cheap and delicious and judging by how busy the place was its clearly popular with locals too.
On our second day we were drawn to the “Little Penang” restaurant, a place we have lived twice in the past few years primarily for its fantastic food, so finding a slice of this heavenly cuisine right here in Wellington was pure bliss. I’d highly recommend both these eateries, easy to find and right in the heart of town not too far a walk from Te Papa or the harbour area.
Lower Hutt Top 10 Holiday Park
We stayed a little further out of town this time at a Top 10 holiday park in Lower Hutt. Just a 20 minute drive along the highway out of Wellington with great views of the city from the promenade area. This was a well equipped and modern holiday park which is a popular and cheaper option to the inner city campervan sites. The drive in to the city really is very easy and Te Papa has an outdoor parking area that’s perfect for campervans and costs just $12 NZD for 12 hours. Te Papa is an easy walk to most of the city streets you’d want to check out so we used this car park twice. A word of warning though, do not use the main car park entrance in front of Te Papa as the car park you want is a little further along the road, keep driving an extra 100 metres or so and you’ll see it on the left.
Oriental Bay and Mount Victoria
Wellington is a surprisingly drivable city and when you’re pushed for time its a wise idea to jump in your trust Maui Motorhome and explore the streets on 4 wheels. Oriental Bay is an area i’ve not been to before and well worth a cruise around the base of Mount Victoria. Its amazing to see so many pretty houses clinging to the side of this proud hill, no doubt the views from their windows are the attraction to living here.
There’s also a steep but very possible drive (even for a 6 berth campervan) up Mount Victoria to a look-out a the top. From here you can see the entire compact city of Wellington, the Harbour, CBD and residential neighbourhoods as well as out to the Cook Straight.
If you spin around you’ll even see Wellington Airport, current the topic of the town as they parliament debates expanding this short haul airport in to a long haul one. I do hope this happens as it will mean many more visitors from overseas flying direct to the city we love. Spend a while here watching planes take off and land. Something our daughter has grown very fond of and often points them out whenever one flies overhead.
Wellington has lost none of its quirky appeal for us. We felt instantly at home again and that odd emotional attachment we have is still there and as strong as ever. We may live on the other side of the world but Wellington will forever be in our hearts. Its a windy city with an indescribable charm, very walkable, drive-able and educational too. Great food, great views and somewhere I miss whenever I’m not there. I hope you’ll feel the same way too when you visit Wellington.
Thank you to Maui Motorhomes and Top 10 Holiday Parks
A big thank you to our sponsors Maui Motorhomes for our awesome campervan thats got us all the way from Queenstown in the South Island, over mountains through vineyards. Also to Top 10 Holiday parks for their hospitality and making our nights a slumber filled home from home. You can follow our continued #GoByCamper adventures with the hashtag #MauiMotorhomes and check out our Instagram feed too for all the latest.