Only in Wellington for a short time? Don’t worry, you can still pack a lot into a short stay.
Visit Te Papa and say hello to Phar Lap
New Zealand’s national museum Te Papa Tongarewa is entertaining, educational and free to visit. It’s also home to some very special bones.
I’d seen Phar Lap’s skin in Melbourne before, and know his heart is in Canberra, but in Wellington they have Phar Lap’s bones and for me it was a special moment to stand in front of them and take them in.
After achieving that goal I was then able to explore other parts of the museum and I was impressed.
As the country’s national museum, Te Papa is a treasure trove of New Zealand culture, with historic and contemporary artworks, Maori exhibitions and more spread over six levels.
Gallipoli, The Scale of our War, is one of the exhibition highlights, and was created with the Weta Workshop, which film lovers will know have a few Oscars and a whole lot of other awards under their belts for special effects on the Lord of the Rings, Avatar, King Kong and other movies.
Yes, it’s the visual effects group Peter Jackson created with other filmmakers and you can visit the Weta Cave, with workshop demonstrations, displays, props and characters from the movies in the Weta complex which is about 20 minutes drive from the city.
Back in Te Papa, there’s also an “Earthquake House” which simulates an earthquake and shakes and rattles when you stand in it so you can see and feel what it’s like to be in 6.6 magnitude earthquake.
Te Papa is on Wellington’s waterfront, and after your museum fix you can wander along checking out the cafes, marinas and Wellington’s inner city beach, Oriental Bay.
Do the Cable Car / Lovely Stroll Combo
Wellington’s historic Cable Car is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, heading up from Lambton Quay in the city centre and finishing in the charming suburb of Kelburn.
On the way up you’ll not only get a nice view you’ll get some bonus disco lights when you go through the tunnels. After arriving at the top you can take in the views from the lookout, visit the Cable Car Museum or walk through the Wellington Botanic Garden.
While you can get a return trip, an even better way to enjoy your day is to go the one way option and then take a leisurely stroll through the Botanic Garden and down through the Bolton Street Cemetery, past Parliament and back to the city centre. It takes around 40 minutes to get back to the city and with it all being downhill it’s a nice and easy walk too.
Wellington Shopping and Pampering
Whenever I go somewhere new I love going for a bit of a potter around their shops, which is a great way to do some people watching and get a feel for a place as well as finding interesting things along the way.
In Wellington you can stretch your shopping legs around the ‘Golden Mile’ between Lambton Quay, Willis Street, Manners Street and Courtney Place.
I loved exploring the shops in the Old Bank Arcade with some very cute retro numbers in Missy’s Room and some sexy Steampunk wear at the Clockwork Steampunk Emporium.
The Old Bank Arcade is also home to an animated musical clock. I just happened to be walking up the stairs to have a closer look at it when it started coming to life, making music and opening up to reveal scenes from Wellington’s history inside. That was lucky timing on my part, but you can time your visit easily by remembering it does its show on the hour every hour.
My other favourite pottering took place along Cuba Street, which is full of vintage finds and independent boutiques. As well as falling in love with some of the fashion, I adored the cut out creations at Abstract Design and bought some of their flat pack creations to put together when I got back home. Happily not only are they easy to travel with, being flat and relatively thin, mine were also really easy to put together so a top souvenir.
Deciding to treat myself right I headed to Forme Spa, which has won a long list of awards, and by the end of my body scrub and massage I was all soft skinned and floating on air. And not just because of that crazy wind.
Published under license from Well Travelled