Wellington, Wellywood, The Capital of Cool, call it what you will… New Zealand’s capital certainly lives up to its reputation. Last week Joe and I ventured to the bottom of the North Island (and the world’s most southern capital) for a taste of the city life. I’ve never considered myself much of a metropolitan lady, but I must admit it was surprisingly refreshing and energizing to take a break from the quieter life of Napier.
For weeks I’ve been itching for our next road trip and a quick change of scenery, and Wellington did just the trick. As we drove into the CBD, I thought, “Finally, a real highway, with three whole lanes!” For a brief moment, I felt like I was back in California.
We stayed on Cuba Street, the creative epicenter of Wellington, which also neighbors Victoria University’s School of Design. Cuba Street is lined with vintage shops, funky galleries, live music, cozy cafes, and gourmet restaurants. It’s the kind of place that makes me want to wear bright red lipstick and spend lots of money!
I could have spent days exploring only Cuba Street (and I kind of did). Shopping and eating were probably the highlights of the trip for me, so I’ll be dedicating another post solely to Wellington design and eats (stay tuned!).
In addition to Cuba Street, we also set out to check some of the other Wellington “must-do’s” off our list. (Thanks to WellingtonNZ.com's recommendations!)
You just gotta do it! A short drive from the city center and 360-views of Wellington make this little journey a must. From the top of the mountain, you can see Oriental Bay, the CBD, outlying neighborhoods and mountains in the distance. Standing there, I was reminded of how small New Zealand really is. As the second largest city in a country of 4 million+ people, its population is only about 200,000. Even in the midst of city life you’re never far from the scenic views of New Zealand nature.
There’s also plenty of natural history, artwork and fun shops to explore. Playing on the interactive map of New Zealand is fun! This massive map lights up the floor of a large and dark room. Visitors can walk on the map to learn more about the sights in the area. I could really use one of these on my floor at home for planning road trips!
And there are plenty of quirky New Zealand finds in the gift shop. Only in New Zealand can they make sheep placenta look appealing. Yup, I bought it!
I’m not sure how much longer this little social experiment will be happening, but it's such an interesting idea! Victoria University is conducting a study to measure the mood of the city from day to day. It's called Mood Bank. They’ve set up shop in an old bank, and people can come in to “deposit” their mood.
Joe and I just stumbled upon it one afternoon and decided to drop in to see what it was all about. We ended up sitting at a table with strangers and coloring our mood, before our creative data was entered into the computer, our mood was “acknowledged” and posted to the beautiful wall of moods for the city to see.
It only took about 15 minutes and left me feeling quite pleasant and relaxed. Conclusion: Maybe we all just need to take a little more time out of our day to color!
No, it’s not a real cave. It’s actually a small warehouse where the props for movies like Lord of the Rings are created. We took a tour of Weta Cave, and saw the actual props, costumes and weapons from the movies. They also had the busts of the actors, which were used to create prosthetics, AND I even got to touch the hand of the real Sardon, Lord of Chaos from LOTR. Nerd alert!
My biggest piece of advice: DO NOT BE LATE. These people are not messing around. Rules are rules. If you’re one minute late, they are “leaving” without you. Joe and I found this out the hard way. A few wrong turns and suddenly the GPS was telling me we’d be arriving at 10:01 for our 10am tour. I called ahead of time to let them know we were lost. They apologized and said they could not wait for us. I assumed this obviously meant that they’d loaded a bus and were driving somewhere with a group of people, and hence they did not want to hold up the group to retrieve us. In actuality, it meant the tour guide had walked next door with the group and no, we could not join them one minute late. Oh well, gotta respect the rules!
Luckily after a little negotiating, we struck a deal with the long-bearded man behind the counter (Gandalf, is that you?), who said we could join the 10:30 tour if it didn’t fill up. Thank you!!
And in reality, it worked out for the best. We made it into the 10:30 tour and in the middle of the tour, an older woman in our group passed out. Joe immediately went into doctor mode – taking her pulse, asking her what medications she was on and if she had heart problems. (I’m not gonna lie, it was kind of awesome to see him in the zone,) and our tour guide was incredibly relieved that he didn’t have to summon First Aid training from his memory. The older woman turned out to be OK, but we called an ambulance to be safe. I just felt glad that we’d ended up on that tour and Dr. Joe could help.
All in all, it was a really interesting tour. Their staff are incredibly talented and passionate about what they do, and it gave me a whole new appreciation for costume, prop and set design. If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan or even just a fan of the movies, I highly recommend stopping into Weta Cave… on time. ;)
After visiting Te Papa, just go for a walk near the water. Joe and I tooled around Civic Square for about an hour, admiring the architecture, art installations around town, and beautiful views of the bay. There are people everywhere sitting on steps and in the grass, just reading and enjoying the city. In many ways, it made me feel like I was on a college campus. (Sigh, I miss school.)
After 72 hours in Wellington, I'm in love with this little capital. It's the perfect place for a weekend escape, and I can't wait to return!
Note: The destinations and locations in this post are not sponsored by these companies. All opinions, recommendations, and ideas are my own.