Before we pulled into the Wellington harbor, Kevin and I went to the front deck to see the city as we were pulling in. The Wellington Harbor surrounded the ferry and it was the first time in New Zealand we felt like we were in a major city- it is the capital after all!
And just where I was standing, a school of dolphins was spotted giving us a great show jumping high out of the water. Welcome to Wellington! – dolphins of NZ.
There was an announcement shortly after the dolphin encounter for any passengers with cars to return to them to disembark. We quickly made our way back to the car, prepared to drive off the ferry and in an orderly fashion, and instructed off the ferry single file.
Arriving off the ferry at 1:30PM, we made our way to the Airbnb to check in. Driving became a new challenge to navigate the city on the left hand side. Highway driving became natural quickly but we had not done city driving full of one way roads and roundabouts.
With hills reminding us of San Francisco, we found our way to our Airbnb near Mount Victoria. We just adorned this Airbnb! Pristine and so well appointed, it had all the amenities we needed included the best bathroom ever.
Jumping back into the car, we made our way to the Weta Workshop on the other side of Wellington. With a 5PM close time we were hoping two hours would be enough to see everything.
We excitedly walked in passing the enormous trolls that greet guests and were a bit confused. While there were a handful of movie props, the museum was a tiny room and other than a movie room it was mostly a merchandise store for Weta movies.
The front desk had several options for tickets that provided a more thorough experience we had read about. We opted for the Weta Cave Workshop Tour which afforded us a 45 minute guided tour behind the scenes at the Weta Workshop. Photos were not permitted during but it was worth the $28 ticket. We had the opportunity to see the process on creating a multitude of materials for costumes and props that were used for the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Our guide had worked on the chain mail for the Hobbit and had some great insight and stories. It was fascinating to see the creative process.
Hopping back in the car to our Airbnb, we freshened up for our dinner. Luckily, this Airbnb was not on an enormous hill like some other streets around Mount Victoria so parking and the walking was pleasant. We were excited to have our first glimpse of the downtown area! A quick 15 minute walk put us into a bustling street full of people spilling out of bar areas with a drink in hand. A working city enjoying happy hour- something we had not seen on this trip. We walked along the harbor as the sun was setting giving us a great view.
Our dinner this evening was at Shed 5, which was a recommendation on our trip to Alba. We overheard our waiter telling another couple about the best meal he has ever had while traveling New Zealand. Knowing we would be planning a trip, I asked him for the name and that restaurant was Shed 5. We were very excited for this meal!
Read the Shed 5 review.
We enjoyed a relaxing stroll back through the harbor, a proper passeggiata to digest our meal before a good night’s sleep. Back at the Airbnb, we had a lovely conversation with our host for almost two hours. One of the reasons we love Airbnb is the opportunity to connect with people keeping our world small. Good night Wellington!
Our first (and only) morning in Wellington! We packed up our things and loaded the car. Knowing we would need parking for the day, we decided it would be cheaper to stay in the neighborhood than parking the car in town, especially since the walk was very easy into town. We went to the corner store to get our coupon (as they call it) as the parking pass for the day ($8.50). After filling it out and putting it into the window as instructed, we immediately saw the the parking sign on the street as coupon needed Monday through Friday. It was Saturday. It is easy to lose track of the days of the week on vacation. A very stupid move for us! Oh well. At least it was still cheaper than if we parked in town (some validation).
We made our way into town, enjoying walking passed all the Art Deco buildings, and stopped at Willi’s Kitchen. The healthy options offered here for breakfast drew us in- they even had acai bowls on the menu, which we both ordered.
They were not the best acai bowls we had ever had but they were ok- a little to sweet and not enough of the good stuff like granola. At least is was a cleansing breakfast giving our stomachs a break from digesting the night before.
Down the street was a place recommended for coffee as they roast their own varieties. We walked into The Hanger and was overwhelmed by all the people. The breakfast platters on the tables look incredible- trying not to be too jealous. Ushered to a “take away only” (“to – go” option New Zealand) line, Kevin was given a selection of coffees to chose from. He really loved the coffee, even without the milk that he typically adds. Glad this spot was a hit!
Te Papa Museum opened at 10AM and with it being a Saturday, I anticipated it to be crowded so we got there for the opening time. Best thing about this museum? It is free! For everyone! With a map in hand, we spent the next several hours exploring.
The exhibit that is most popular is the World War I Gallipoli display as it incorporates larger than life sized and extremely life like figures created by the Weta Workshop. They each take up an entire room and slow down the flow of foot traffic. It was predictable when the next room would be a Weta figure as the congestion would start from the room before. There are a total of eight figures throughout the detailed exhibit documenting New Zealand’s role, impact, and loss in the first World War. This was definitely a well constructed and informative exhibit.
Remaining exhibits focus around Polynesian colonization, the New Zealand landscape as it was and as it is now, and the Māori indigenous people.
With a four hour drive (the longest leg of our driving) a head of us and a big hike day tomorrow, we stopped at a food store to refuel our grocery items. We picked up more bananas, granola bars and oatmeal, and added brown rice cakes, chocolate hazelnut spread, a bar of dark chocolate, crackers, pasta and tomato can sauce.
Wanting to grab lunch before our drive, we looked in the surrounding area for a worthy spot. There are so many choices in the city! Kevin found 1154 Pastaria a few blocks away- we haven’t had pasta on this trip so I was down for a carb load.
A simple menu of fresh pasta and varying sauces, we were both so excited for this meal. I ordered the Fettuccine Carbonara (bacon, creamy egg sauce, parmesan and roasted mushrooms) and Kevin ordered the Pappardelle alla Bolognese (Nothern Italian beef and pork sauce, parmesan).
This dishes came out and while everything looked perfect, there was one glaring issue- my pasta was doused in black pepper. I took one bite and there was no way I could eat this. Kevin offered to swap dishes but I didn’t want his…I wanted mine without all the pepper. What was strange is that the menu listed all the ingredients and pepper wasn’t one of them. There was a Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe on the menu which my dish more closely resembled.
I did what I have never done before… ask them to remake it. The staff member was so nice about it and even said that they recently changed the menu around and made the suggestion to add pepper the the list of ingredients for this dish since it is so prominent and it was not my fault for not knowing that detail.
They remade it and it was absolutely perfect! Thank you for helping me out Pastaria =) we both really enjoyed our meals and would definitely return if ever in Wellington again.
Walking back to Mount Victoria, we packed up the car and started our four hour journey to Tongariro National Park.
I feel like there was so much more to explore in Wellington and we simply ran out of time! Even just time to chill at the harbor, stroll through the Botanic Gardens, hike to Mount Victoria Lookout and take advantage of all the delicious food. So many options in Wellington!
|Morning||Drive to Picton
Picton Ferry at 10:45 AM
|Afternoon||Arrival at Wellington 1:30PM
Check into Airbnb
|Evening||Weta Workshop Tour||Shed 5|
|Morning||Te Papa Museum||The Hanger
|Afternoon||Drive to Tongariro National Park||Pastaria|