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.