I’ve heard Wellington described in a few places as the “coolest little capital in the world”. I’ve been to quite a few capitals I’d describe as cool so I’m not entirely sure how true this claim is but I did really enjoy Wellington and, like the majority of places I’ve visited in New Zealand, could easily have stayed for longer.
Te Papa national museum was the main thing I wanted to do in Wellington and it did not disappoint! It had been recommended to us by pretty much everyone, particularly the Gallipoli exhibition which is currently on display. All of the exhibitions were really well curated and displayed and covered plenty of interesting topics. I think I found it particularly interesting visiting towards the end of our time in New Zealand as we were already aware of a lot of what was covered and knew where the different locations in New Zealand were so everything felt a little more familiar.
The Gallipoli exhibition was as good as everyone claimed it would be and the two and a half times human size models which had been produced by the Weta Workshop to accompany the information were amazing. They were so detailed you could even see the sheen of sweat on the model’s skin. The thing I liked most about the exhibition was that individual people’s stories were interspersed among the facts and figures which gave it a more human aspect. The other highlights of Te Papa for me included the earthquake house and giant squid.
There are a number of hills in Wellington so it’s pretty easy to get a good view over the city and harbour. We walked to the top of Mount Victoria which is widely regarded as having one of the best views in Wellington. We also took the Wellington Cable Car up to Kelburn for more views. At the top there’s a free cable car museum which gives you the opportunity to look at old cable cars and dress up. From here you can walk back down to the city through the botanical gardens which is quite pleasant (although I have to admit that I preferred the gardens in Christchurch).
One piece of architecture that most people seem to regard as a bit of an eyesore is the Beehive which is one of the parliamentary buildings. Tours of parliament run for free on the hour and are a good way to get some insight into the New Zealand electoral system and seeing inside the buildings. This was particularly interesting for us as we’d been in the country while the new government formed and new Prime Minister was announced. We were also able to sit in the public gallery whilst parliament was in session.
Another great thing that you can see for free is the Wellington Museum which tells the story of the city and it’s relationship with the sea. Once again it was really well put together. I’d leave longer than the hour we spent here if you want to read everything properly.
The final main tourist attraction that we visited in Wellington was the Weta Cave and Workshop which gives you an opportunity to see what happens in the New Zealand film industry (Wellywood anyone?). You can see some of the props from Lord of the Rings (how Weta really made its name) and other films as well as learning more about the creative process behind the film. Just going to see the mini museum and shop is free but I’d recommend paying for the workshop tour as you’ll get so much more out of your visit. The tour guides all actually work in the workshops so really know what they are talking about and can include their own personal experiences as part of the tour commentary. It’s a bit geeky but good fun, particularly if you are a fan of any of the films they’ve worked on. I got quite excited about seeing the White Witch’s Wand from the Chronicles of Narnia. We found getting public transport much cheaper than paying extra for the tour and transport option so I’d recommend making your own way there.
I really liked Wellington and can see why so many people choose to live here despite it being on a major fault line. Thank you very much to Caitlin for being a wonderful host and tour guide – our visit wouldn’t have been the same without you!