Maori Name: Te Whanganui-a-Tara
You will no doubt find yourself in New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington during your trip – especially if you’re seeing the country like we have, by campervan! So we have put together a list of some of the top things to do in Wellington.
Windy Wellington, is actually the windiest city in the world with average wind speed being around 16mph. It’s New Zealand’s 2nd largest city and is home to over 400,000 residents.
Despite most backpackers associating cities with being expensive, there’s heaps to do in Wellington for free OR on a budget. Therefore do not bypass this on your way to or back from the South Island. Especially if you’re a fan of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
Secret Lookout – Moa Point
One of the many beauties of Instagram, is recommendations from locals and other travellers alike.
When we arrived in Wellington we were sent a message from a local with a map to the exact location of this secret lookout. Well, I mean it’s not mega secret, but it’s not on TripAdvisor – so it’s an off the beaten track kind of place.
Pop Kekerenga St into Google Maps. When you arrive, park on the street and follow the below map to the abandoned war bunker.
Once you arrive at the top you will be rewarded with stunning views of Wellington and the South Island in the far distance. You can also watch the planes take off and land at Wellington Airport.
TIP: Get there in time for one of the best sunsets you’ll see in New Zealand! And wrap up warm in the winter, it’s windier than the city.
Lord of the Rings – Filming Locations in Wellington
Why did I come to New Zealand? For all of this, of course. Steff on the other hand has been dragged along on my LOTR/Hobbit expeditions! We are constantly looking for the many filming locations across the country.
Get yourself to Mount Victoria and simply whack ‘LOTR location car park’ into Google Maps. Keep your eyes peeled for the official ‘Lord of the Rings Filming Location’ sign post and follow the path.
Not a hard or long walk at all, you’ll be guided through the beginning of the forest with small signs. Don’t forget to look out for the benches that have many of the famous LOTR quotes on them.
First Location – Hobbits Hideaway
The first location you want to look out for is the scene when Frodo shouts: “Get off the road!” and the four hobbits hide from the ring wraiths. This is the first right turn on the walking track with the LOTR signpost. For this one, you have to really use your imagination as the props are obviously no longer there.
Second Location – Hobbits Smoke Pipeweed
The second location, my favourite, is more of a difficult find. If you come back on yourself from the first location take the left at the fork instead.
Continue down the path and look vigilantly on your left hand side for the tree where Frodo sat with Sam-wise smoking a pipe.
When we found the tree, I made Steff be my Sam-wise, hopped on to the tree with a stick that looked like a pipe and used my vape to recreate that moment.
Feast your eyes on 360° panoramic views of Wellington. You can drive right to the top, 195 metres above sea level, or get the bus there on weekdays.
At the lookout, you can also see the Byrd Memorial, in memory of Richard Byrd – an American polar explorer and aviator. He used New Zealand as a base for his Antarctic expeditions for 27 years.
Wellington (also known as Wellywood) is New Zealand’s movie-production hub, and home to Weta Workshop and Weta Cave.
Although we did not do the 2 hour tour ($28 NZD per adult), you can still get up close and personal with the doormen of the studio. You may recognise them from The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey. After you’ve grabbed yourself a selfie with Tom, Bert and William (the trolls), you can still check out the Weta Cave Shop for FREE. In the shop you can wander through the mini-museum, admire the props and replica’s and get face to face with their life-sized sculptures.
FREE entry and open every day 10am – 6pm, this place is a MUST DO when you’re visiting Wellington. You could quite literally spend the whole day there, but if you’re only looking to kill a couple of hours we suggest the following exhibitions:
Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War (60+ minutes)
An exhibition that truly captured us, for many reasons. As you move through the exhibition you will be told the stories through the eyes and words of eight phenomenal New Zealanders who found themselves in the toughest of situations.
Each moment frozen and captured on a monumental scale. Teaming up with Weta Workshop, Te Papa Museum have truly excelled with this, keeping your constant attention with interactive experiences, 3-D maps and projects and giant sculptures 2.4 times human size.
Active Land (30+ minutes)
“Enter the realm of Rūaumoko, god of volcanoes and earthquakes, and explore the geological forces that shape our shaky land.” Hopefully you will know by this point into your visit that New Zealand is prone to earthquakes and less often, volcano eruptions. This is because New Zealand sits on the edges of two tectonic plates – the Australian and Pacific plates.
During this exhibition you will learn all about earthquakes, volcanoes and other natural disasters – both historically and futuristic. Our favourite part – the earthquake simulator. Hold on tight though!
Mana Whenua (30+ minutes)
Learn all about the Māori – the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand, through treasures handed down the generations, pounamu pendants, and powerful stories. If you have had the opportunity to participate in a cultural experience (probably in Rotorua!) then you may recognise some of these traditions already.
In the exhibition you are able to enter Te Hau ki Tūranga, an amazing meeting house, and see a waka taua (war canoe) from the Whanganui region used in battle during 1800s.
You can either drive directly to Wellington Botanic Gardens or the Space Place Observatory, or, you can get a return ticket for $9 NZD (adult) from Lambton Quay to Kelburn and enjoy the stunning views of Wellington on the cable car. Or – park in Kelburn and catch a ride down to the city like we did!
Just a 5-minute ride either way, the old-school yet well maintained cable car a pretty cool way to get from A to B in the city. If you’ve got a bit more time on your hands, check out the Wellington Cable Car Museum and make a tit of yourself by getting dressed up to pose in front of one of the original cable cars. RETRO AF.
Oriental Bay, Wellington
The closest beach to the city, this place is pumping in the summer! This is a cool place to come and have a drink or a bite to eat.
A Council project to enlarge and enhance both Freyberg and Oriental Bay beaches was completed in 2004 using sand from Golden Bay, Nelson. The beach’s sand area is now four times larger than before, and the Freyberg Beach grass area is twice as large.
Space Place put on a live presentation of the night sky over New Zealand, and if you’ve been here a while, you’ll know that the skies at night can be pretty spectacular. For just $12.50 NZD (adult) you can explore the exhibition and take a look at the night sky through the historic Thomas Cooke telescope.
A super interactive experience, you’ll travel through Space Places very own black hole, handle a space rocket, and watch heaps of educational video stories. Bear in mind their opening times though:
Tuesday & Friday: 4pm to 11pm
Saturday: 10am to 11pm
Sunday: 10am to 5.30pm
Open daily during school holidays
If you’ve taken the cable car to Kelburn then you might as well check out the Wellington Botanic Gardens! With over 26 hectares of incredible views, exotic forests, native bush and colourful floral displays, you’ll have heaps of beautiful photo opportunities!
If you have the chance, check out the Lady Norwood Rose Garden – with over 3,000 roses in 110 beds, see the roses in full blood between mid-November to December.
We drove along the south east coast of Wellington City and found many beautiful bays and coves. We stopped off at Breaker Bay, and despite the wind, we were greeted with glorious weather. This beach is actually well known for being the location of Wellingtons only ‘clothing optional’ beach. It was a bit nippy for us though ay!
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