Kia Ora from New Zealand! A short 3 hour flight from Brisbane and Jake and I are in the first of 11 countries we’ll be visiting on our trip.
When planning our itinerary, I was conscious that like Australia, New Zealand is quite an expensive country to travel round. I had a flight booked already from Auckland to Malaysia, so we were committed to going… however to be honest, we were more excited about spending our time (and money) in Asia than NZ. Consequently, I limited the time spent in New Zealand to just 16 days. And because 16 days isn’t such a long time, we’ll only be visiting locations on the North Island. While the South Island is more renowned for its outstanding natural beauty and scenery, the North is more urbanised and populated. So unfortunately no Queenstown or Milford Sound for us. Oh well, next time!
Our first stop in New Zealand was therefore Wellington, the country’s capital city located right on the southern tip of the North Island. Despite being the capital, Wellington isn’t particularly large, so the 3 nights we spent here were fairly relaxed. Our first impressions of the city were that it was clean, pretty, quiet, modern and windy. Due to its geographical location, Wellington is known as the windiest city in the Southern Hemisphere, and we were surprised by how much colder the place was than we expected. Although we shouldn’t have been, as its latitude is very south, meaning lots of hours of sunlight and a lot of Antarctic wind.
Being 3 hours ahead of Australia, we arrived at our hostel in the city centre in the early evening, and spent the remaining hours of the day getting our bearings. Wellington is located in a sort of large cove, with “mountains” all around, looking over the large picturesque waterfront with a marina and beach. Whilst walking we got a bit footsore so took a rest in a small park, which we eventually realised was actually the lawn in front of New Zealand’s parliament. An easy mistake to make 😛
We started off the next day by climbing to the lookout at the top of Mt. Victoria, to get a panoramic view of the city. The walk was a fair bit more arduous and the sun more intense than we expected, meaning we reached the top pretty tired and sunburnt. We were really lucky to be there during such clement weather however, as we overheard one local man that it’s “never” like that. Usually much windier.
We headed back into the city to check out New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa. A 6 storey institution with exhibits on natural history, social and cultural history, art and more. It offered a great look into life in New Zealand (especially its Maori culture which of course I knew nothing about) about all the seismic and geological activity that occurs in the country and about the unique flora and fauna found here. The whole place was free and earned high ratings from the both of us.
On the next day we rose early and headed towards the Wellington cable car, which is a sort of cliff railway that’s over 100 years old and is one of the most famous landmarks of the city. A $4 ticket took us to the top of the hill where the city’s Botanical gardens are located. For the next few hours we enjoyed strolling through the gardens, listening to the (unusual) birdsong and viewing the exotic plants. We fed ducks at the pond (Jake particularly enjoyed this), struggled through a disappointing sculpture trail and then through a Cemetery bisected by a motorway (legitimately).
Arriving back into the city, we passed by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Museum which Jake absolutely loved, attempting to teach me economic theories and equations while I stuck to the history and currency sections. Later that afternoon we quickly visited the New Zealand War Memorial, which had a surprisingly amazing exhibition on WWI, with impressive dioramas and lots of information, even teaching me at few new things (and I’ve been to a lot of war museums).
Aside from all the cultural attractions, Wellington has a reputation for being a culinary capital as well, and although our budget hardly stretched to lavish feasts, we did enjoy some Creole, Indian and Japanese cuisines. The area is also known for its craft beers and coffees, but we decided against buying these. This kept our spendings down substantially, and we left Wellington with money to spare. It turned out not to be a particularly expensive city to visit, so here’s hoping the rest of New Zealand follows suit!