Tag - wellington

Winter In Wellington- New Zealand

 Wellington harbor

Wellington harbor

Vacationing in the middle of winter isn’t that fun. Cold weather is not the problem but gusty winds coming through the Cooks straight is the concern. There are few sunny days but it rains a lot. Some areas of Wellington get wet and muddy. The view of the ocean was spectacular and the bay area is breathtaking on the clear or sunny days.  Being told NZ has more boats than people every harbor we saw was packed with boats of every variety, a nautical dream.  The walk alone the Wellington harbor is full of energy  from the exercise enthusiasts, walkers, runners, bikers, to the young mothers and their kids enjoying the many wild birds singing to all who wish to enjoy their song. Although You don’t get to see a lot of tourists during this period, the locals are always friendly and willing to give great tips on places to eat or things to see and do.

The walk along the Harbor is always spectacular but the weather can be unpredictable you never know if you suddenly need to cover up to avoid some gusty winds but on a sunny day; it’s almost heaven on earth, a perfect place to grab a cup of coffee and take in view.

We stayed in Johnsonville, the outskirts of Wellington, 30min by train and 4h hike from downtown.  If you post an ad before you go you can almost always find a inexpensive hostel or flat in someone’s home that rents by the week, making your travel experience a bargain and with the great public transportation getting to wellington is never an inconvenience. The hike from Johnsonville to Wellington via the Northern walkway is something you need to experience, it you feel you are ready for a challenge. It takes a little over 2 hours, but winds all over, from the top of hills, to walks through towns, at points you are even hanging over the edge looking at the shore.  There are hundreds of hikes I could recommend but its worth it to stop by the visitors center where there are hundreds of free maps of the best walks in and around Wellington and the staff is always helpful on which train to take to get to each one. Just a reminder If it rains, the trails can  be muddy and slippery and many of the trails are used by cattle and sheep, they can be a little intimidating if they outnumber your group three to one. Many trails are long, and have steep stairs and not all are well maintained, always take plenty of snakes and water, you may be on a longer hike then you planned on, I remember we went on one trail that was suppose to take about three hours, we got mixed up and took the wrong trail and ended up walking almost eight hours, we have never been so happy we had taken extra food and a large thermos of coffee.

Wellington is rich in history and so much to see.  Almost everything is free, museums, botanical gardens and art galleries.  The Te Papa museum is a must see, it is the best way to get to know the history of New Zealand.  On the 3rd floor, there is a nice lounge you can enjoy fresh prepared  food or a cup of coffee looking at the harbor.

The botanical gardens are free as well but is built on a hill and has long walks that take up about the city, if you have the energy to take this long challenging climb you will be rewarded with one of the best views of the wellington harbor.  On the walk you will be rewarded with the many gardens such as the famous rose garden and the tropical flowers and plants section. Some days it rained pretty hard, making it nice to just find a quiet café to sit and enjoy. The umbrellas aren’t any help due to the strong wind. You don’t carry one in Wellington. It’s the Windy city in the southern hemisphere.

Take the ferry to the Sommes Island. Its a small island where they used to capture prisoners from the world war II.
They don’t allow anything coming to the island from anywhere because it’s a preserved island with its own echo system and its own animals and plants. So, avoid bringing any food and other stuff that might harm the inhabitants. The boat ride is very nice and it takes about 15mn to get there. It’s cold on the deck  because of the wind but if you are brave enough, you get to see a nice view.

The suburbs of wellington are far away and sometimes, not interesting. The Days bay is a must see and especially if you are an avid hiker. You would enjoy the fantastic hikes off the boat. Don’t forget to collect fantastic sea glasses on the beach. It’s one of the beaches around the world where you find great sea glasses. You might have to push the seagulls and the oyster-crackers looking for food on the beach.

If you are in town, go see the Catherine de Mansfield Birthplace, the famous author and writer who died young just for N$20. The zoo is a must visit place and you will save money just by keeping your bus ticket. Show it to the counter and you will get a discount. You will admire few animals such as Kiwi, Tui bird.

If you are looking for internet, good luck, there are few places but its  expensive and its rare to find WIFI or hotspots to connect. Few Starbucks have them but it cost us N$4 per hour. So, it might be hard to stay connected while you are in Wellington.

If you want to stay in a cool place, try the backpackers, its cheap, clean and located in the heart of downtown near the Central train station. Renting a car might cost you money but if you can drive on the left side of the road. It would be N$80 a day with insurance and I recommend taking it if you have difficulties driving on the other side.

Wellington 2010- North Island NZ

    Auckland-Wellington Train

Wellington Train

Wellington- NZ 2010

We spent 3 months in wellington area. when we got there, it’s the winter season. The month of may was too cold and too windy. we arrived early morning and took the train from Auckland to Wellington. it was one of the most fascinating train ride I ever had. It took 12h to reach wellington. Alone the way, the train stopped near a national forest but we were not advise to venture over our 30mn time. The trip was amazing and we got to see the sheep and the cows all over the planes.

We reached Wellington 12h later and we were expecting a friend to come and pick us up but for some reason he couldn’t accommodate us. we decided to go stay in a B&B for a week until we find something for the rest of our stay. We were so exhausted and went to bed. The next morning we woke up and hit the downtown area. It took us a good 30mn to walk and the downtown area seemed to be busy. People were a little different from the USA. Here in brief what we did during our stay in Wellington.

The Wellington bay area is breathtaking. It was cold and windy but people seemed to be enjoying. we met couple of runners on the harbor area and we saw more and more runners during the spring time on the harbor enjoying their time. It was rare to see cyclists. We decided to run couple of days there as well. It was good to run in the sun and enjoy the great view. The beach area was a nice change. we collected some sea glasses which were fantastic. if you are a sea glass collector, that’s one of the beaches you should be visiting.

The Te Papa museum is fantastic. It’s absolutely free and it has a great collection of art and rocks in the world. we saw the largest squid ever captured in the world. It’s something you won’t miss. Go to the museum every day to visit different parts of it. People are friendly and they enjoy talking to you. The gift shop is a little expensive like any other but it has so much to offer.

During our stay, we visited the Parliament building, something you should visit. It was built to support the largest earthquakes and the building is almost sitting on top of a foundation allowing it to move in any direction during quakes. we visited the Mount Victoria which gives you a breathtaking view of the Wellington harbor area.
You would see the Wellington airport and the surroundings. if you are a fan of Lord of the rings, you can visit the areas they filmed around mount Victoria.

The Botanical gardens are also free. we visited few times and I recommend it.  If you do go, it’s hilly and you need an effort to go up there. the whole city was built on a delta area  and what you see all around the downtown areas are hills overlooking the sea. The rose garden was fantastic and there were still roses during the winter time and it’s something we liked. The cable car is something you should visit. you can take it to the downtown area for few bucks.
We also visited the parks and hikes around the Wellington area. The Northern trail we took to wellington from Johnsonville took us almost 4h to get there. we got lost couple of times but we made it. The signs are not always well marked and you need to be aware of that. There are so many hikes around the areas if you are an avid hiker. The ground is wet and sometimes muddy during the winter season and you would see less hikers but I heard that when summer times comes, it would be hard to be alone.

If you visit NZ, specially the Wellington area; it was hard to find free WiFi. We had hard time using our laptops and it seems like Internet is not that popular. We came across a few Internet cafe’s. They usually charge NZ$3.0 per hour but most of the time the connection was slow. Go to the visitor center in downtown and you can get all the help you needed if you want to rent a car or reserve for some sight seeing or tours. They are friendly and you have Internet connection if you buy cards to use it.

We also visited the Wellington Zoo which was a really nice one. If you take the bus, keep the ticket and you would be able to get a discount. It would take you 20mn from downtown area by bus to get there. we enjoyed seeing Kiwi and few animals originated to NZ.

When you are in NZ. sometimes, you are having hard time understanding the people. We had to ask  few times what they were talking about. People are overall nice and what we really didn’t understand was their fashion style. It might be typical NZ style.

The public transportation system is fantastic. you have trains going in different direction all the times but the downside is, it a little pricey, about 3 to 6 dollars each way depending where you are heading. The central station is gorgeous and very clean. The buses are very nice and the area is well served all the time. Weekends might be a little challenging with trains. buses might be a better option. if you buy the week end pass for $18. you would be able to go everywhere during the weekend and I recommend you do that if you want to visit more of the area.

Renting a car is cheap but it might be expensive even if you have insurance. I paid $50 a day for the insurance and the gas.the rental would be $30 a day and with gas, the rental fees and the insurance will cost you at least $100 a day depending where you are traveling. But remember, not all buses are going to places you want to visit. if you want to visit the country side like we did. you need to rent a car and they drive on the left side of the street and it took me a little time to get used to it. if you drive, you might see some funny signs you might laugh such as ” a smart driver knows”, owl is watching you. you have to experience that.

We have visited a lot of places during our stay in NZ and stay tunes for more. we have visited then greater Wellington areas, Beaches, Rotorua the volcanic region with its typical sulfur smell, Lake Taupo, Hamilton, Te Aroha, the bay of plenty, Picton, cooks strait,and more. I will get more fun facts around these areas for everyone who wants to venture in NZ.