After 2.5 weeks of road tripping the South Island of New Zealand, we arrived in Wellington (on the North Island) by ferry. The capital of New Zealand is nicknamed Windy Wellington, because of the strong winds through the Cook Strait. It’s illustrated by a Hollywood-like sign, with a twist. We spent 2 nights in Wellington and briefly explored this cute little capital in 1 day.
Keep reading to find out 5 fun things to do in Wellington.
Enjoy the view from the Mount Victoria Lookout
A cliché, but can’t-skip thing to do in every (big) city is finding a lookout overviewing the city. In Wellington we drove up to the Mount Victoria Lookout, rising 196m above the city. After climbing the stairs from the car park to the lookout we were rewarded with a lovely panoramic view of Wellington and its harbour. You can see the airport from up there as well. Best time of the day for a visit is probably sunrise or sunset, but that unfortunately didn’t fit our itinerary.
Play Mini Golf at the unique Carlucci Land
You might find us boring, but we love the occasional game of good old mini golf. (Aside from the fact that I usually get a bit cranky when I’m losing AGAIN.) Mini golf is hardly ever just mini golf, but rather a bunch of creative constructions to get a ball into a hole. At Carlucci Land it wasn’t any different. Or was it?
Carlucci Land is really unique in its constructions and decorations: metal sculptures in all forms and sizes. It’s based on a “junk yard” theme and it’s all recycled stuff and materials. There’s some vintage stuff in an indoor area too. We went there after dark though, so we couldn’t fully enjoy the artwork. That didn’t temper the fun though!
The mini golf course is open from 9:30 till late, according to the Carlucci Land website. If you want to play night golf, like we did, you can just ring the after hour number and they’ll put on the night lights. Apparently you can find that number on a sign near the entrance, which we missed. Instead, we just brought our lantern to the course. About halfway through the game, the owner arrived, putting on the night lights. He happened to drive by and noticed the light of our lantern, so came to have a look. He’s a very friendly guy, telling us some more about Carlucci land and its sculptures.
There’s an honesty box at the entrance of the course, where you can put in your NZ$12 entrance fee per person. It doesn’t give change of course. 😉 Choose a golf ball and a golf stick, and take a card and a pencil to keep score. Now you’re ready for 18 holes of ingenious constructions with hidden passage ways and possible hole in ones!
Watch a Comedy Show
A fun way to rub shoulders with the locals, is attending a comedy show. When you don’t know the local comedians though, it’s best to choose a comedy show hosting different comedians. If you don’t like one, there’s always others. We already went to an open mic comedy evening in Sydney, and a comedy show in Melbourne and Adelaide. In Wellington we attended the Best of the Fest Comedy Show at San Fran, a bar, costing us NZ$22 per person. The show was part of the NZ International Comedy Festival in Wellington. Visit their website for more information.
Visit the Te Papa Museum
Visiting the Te Papa Museum is without a doubt one of the most popular things to do in Wellington. And it’s free! I know, you’re thinking: “museum? boring!”, but I guarantee you, Te Papa isn’t boring. It’s 6 floors filled with interactive and unique displays, educating you about things ranging from art, to nature and social history.
The first exhibit of Te Papa we saw, was actually outside of the museum’s main entrance: the Quake Breaker. In this small room you can see Te Papa’s base isolators that protect the museum building from damage during an earthquake. Very impressive!
Apart from the Quake Breaker the second floor is the most interesting. It houses exhibits about the natural environment and Gallipoli: The scale of our war. We learned about volcanic eruptions and experienced a simulated earthquake in the earthquake house. We finally found out what those “trigs” (GPS ears) were that we’d seen all over the South Island of New Zealand, and saw a (dead) colossal squid (pretty unique!). There are some weird things as well, like the sheep cam.
Side note for those that are really interested: the trigs are GPS receiver systems providing accurate readings on recent Alpine Fault movements.
The Gallipoli: The scale of our war exhibition was confronting, but very interesting as well. A path is marked on the floor for you to follow, taking you through the timeline of World War I in important days for New Zealand. Little crosses surround the dates beneath your feet, representing the number of soldiers that died for their country that day. They have old pictures, equipment and gear from the war, dioramas, stories, interactive displays, and most impressively: huge statues of soldiers in action.
We briefly wandered through the rest of the 6 floors, stopping to admire the Golden Days exhibition displaying toys and other stuff that used to be popular. We skipped the art area, as well as the viewing platform. The viewing platform is supposed to provide an awesome panoramic view over the harbour. Not ideal when the rain is pouring down though.
Entrance to the Te Papa Museum might be free, but there’s a catch: the museum parking costs NZ$20. You could take public transport, or the parking next to the museum might be cheaper, but we just paid the NZ$20 instead of finding out.
Have lunch at Shed 5
When visiting a city, you need to eat too. During our visit to Wellington, we lunched at Shed 5. It was fancier than expected – there was a wedding and huge business lunch too! – with neatly dressed waiters and fancy sounding dishes. We opted for the lunch deal called “dine ‘n dash”: $40 for 3 courses. You can choose to have only 2 courses too, for $30. Their staff is very friendly and their food is really good. Too bad there’s another shed blocking what’s probably a nice view over the water.
Our visit to Carlucci Land was our favourite thing to do in Wellington, although it’s probably even more fun by day. If you can’t make it to the Mount Victoria Lookout, the viewing platform on top of the Te Papa Museum is supposed to be a great alternative. While you’re there, the Te Papa Museum is definitely worth a visit too, even if you decide to only see the Quake Breaker. Enjoy Windy Wellington, the capital of New Zealand!
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