You can’t beat Wellington on a good day – so they say – and I agree. It can be absolutely stunning on a sunny, calm, warm day. We get those sunny days, honestly, but not all the time. Your luck may not be in and you may hit one of the 300+ days of the year that are far from perfect. All is not lost there is quite a lot to see in Wellington, even if the wind is howling and the rain is coming down horizontal.
Te Papa (Our Place)
You’re find it hard to miss Te Papa on the waterfront it dominates physically, as it does in every piece of tourist literature about Wellington. “Visit Te Papa – Museum of New Zealand” you will exhorted, even before you leave the airport. In reality, it’s a pleasant museum, well worth quite a few hours. There are a variety of changing exhibitions some of which you have to pay for, but the rest of the museum is free. This is not the Louvre, or the British Museum, but its a very well put introduction to New Zealand and the people who live here. A mixture of art gallery and traditional museum, its big enough to entertain you for hours, but not so huge that its overwhelming.
Seriously, even if you hate museums, or its a sunny day, check it out.
Details on their website: http://www.tepapa.govt.nz
In the area – the carpark next to Te Papa is next to Waitangi Park which is the site of a popular market on Sunday mornings – not perfect in the rain but if you are self-catering, or just looking for some snacks, check it out.
The Embassy Theatre
You may have heard of Peter Jackson? Lord of the Rings? The Hobbit? Thought so – he’s a local boy. His studios are out in Miramar (near the airport) – but one of his noteable contributions to Wellington’s architecture, is helping to preserve and restore the magnificant Embassy Theatre, not far from Te Papa at the end of Courtney Place. Tbis 1920’s original art deco cinema is well worth a look inside. Thanks to its refurbishment for the LOTR premiers its now better than the original. Up the grand stair case there is a pleasant bar/coffee shop that also sometimes has live jazz. They play modern, mainstream movies, including 3D – catch a movie here, much more fun than the soul-less multiplex just up the road. Tuesdays are the cheap day for movies in New Zealand.
For movie times and bookings: http://www.eventcinemas.co.nz/cinemas/the-embassy.aspx
Museum of the City and Sea
If the weather is kind its a pleasent waterside walk from Te Papa to Queens Wharf, which apart from a sport arena, some expensive (but excellent) restaurants, also has this museum in a former wharf store. This is more focussed on Wellington’s history. Warning: if you are a nervous sailor and are taking the ferry to Picton you probably don’t want to watch the documentary about the sinking of the ferry Wahine in 1968, on the other hand if you think the weather is bad, have a look at just how bad it can get!
More details http://www.museumofwellington.co.nz/
Eat Great Food
Is it still raining? Well I could tell you to go shopping – but frankly, you’ve probably seen better (though the gift shop at Te Papa is excellent if money is no object). What Wellington does do, very, very well, is food. Its gone from zero to hero in 30 years. Melbourne may have more coffee shops – but its a town of 3 million, Wellington at 400,000 must lay claim to most coffee shops per a head anywhere in the southern hemisphere.
I can’t even begin to recommend, but the main streets are Courtney Place, Cuba Street – past the mall, and well pretty much anywhere else you happen to be.
If its a rainy Sunday – you could do worse the Yum Cha – that excellent Chinese equivalent of the late, big brunch. Several Chinese restaurants in Courtney Place and Tory Street do it- follow your nose and expect to be surrounded by Chinese, most of whom are New Zealanders, you order by waving down the waiters who circulate with various dishes. Yum – but you may need a siesta afterwards!
Sure, if Wellington turns on the sun take the opportunity to see the spectacular south coast, take the ferry across to Eastbourne, ride the Cable Car and check out the wildlife at Zelandia. But when the weather is bad there is no reason to sulk in your hotel room either!
About the Author
Elisabeth Sowerbutts has lived in New Zealand, Australia, UK, Canada and Papua New Guinea. In between times she’s travelled Europe, Asia, North and South America, plus several obscure Pacific Islands. She thinks its a huge a acheivement that her list of countries visited doesn’t fit in a neat paragraph. Elisabeth has three passports, and they are all legal, but usually calls New Zealand home. Running out of amenable employers, these days, she makes a living from her back bedroom by developing websites and writing books.
Keep up-to-date with Lis’ramblings at Lis’s Travel Tips blog.