I asked friends from my hometown of Wellington, to enlighten me on the things they recommend to their active friends when visiting Welly from near or far. Unsurprisingly, some of the classics popped up that anyone visiting Wellington should experience. Walking up to the Mt Vic lookout, strolling the waterfront, and exploring the Wellington Botanical Gardens.
However, it was the lesser known recommendations that interested me, the places that were a little more under the radar – some that locals may not even have visited before. So I’ve put together this article to share those gems – which, no matter whether you’re visiting Wellington or live there, will make you want to start planning an off the beaten track adventure now!
Explore the WWII bunkers at Point Dorset
Personally, I recommend this place to anyone visiting Wellington – Point Dorset in Seatoun. It’s a short yet exhilarating and rewarding walk from the rugged beach up to higher ground. From the top, there are a number of landmarks to experience. Wellington harbour entrance, Pencarrow Lighthouse, Breaker Bay and a number of cool WW2 bunkers. Also, did you know this was the location for the township of Bree in Lord of the Rings? Yet another reason to visit. https://www.wellingtonwanders.com/single-post/Point-Dorset
Delve into the Weta Caves
I’ve yet to take anyone to Weta Caves that didn’t get excited by the prospect, whether they’re fans of New Zealand film or not. My friends clearly agree, as this one was mentioned numerous times. There’s something special about the small, yet magical space that’s packed with souvenirs and other fascinating items. It won’t take you long to look around on your own, but if you want something a little substantial, there are a number of tours to book. Just make sure you pre-book as these behind the scenes insights are very popular. Also, while in the suburb of Miramar I highly recommend having a coffee and something to eat at one of the many excellent cafes – my picks are Cafe Polo and The Larder. http://wetaworkshop.com/visit-us/workshop-tours/
Take a ferry to Matiu Somes Island
There’s something adventurous in just getting to Matiu/Somes Island. Even though it’s just a short 15 minute boat trip, the journey to the island feels exciting – or maybe that’s just me… This predator-free DOC reserve is the perfect spot for a walk, a picnic, as well as searching for native birds, reptiles and insect species. I spotted penguins, gecko and parakeets on my last visit. My friends told me they have seen the prehistoric looking tuatara on numerous trips. I haven’t seen one as yet, so I’ll keep returning until I do. Also, make sure you take a minute to check out the unique perspective of Wellington and its surroundings from this small island – in my opinion these views are hard to beat. http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/wellington-kapiti/places/matiu-somes-island/
Climb the Te Kopahou Tip Track
My friends recommend this walk to their very active friends who visit Wellington, as do I. It starts at the tip entrance near Brooklyn but don’t let that put you off as it quickly weaves its way up into what feels like the wilderness. This track is very popular with walkers and trail runners and is guaranteed to make you sweat. As you climb you are treated to glimpses of Wellington city, Brooklyn wind turbine and an alien-like radar dome. However, once you reach the very top the view is very special indeed – wind turbines as far as the eye can see and on a clear day, the South Island. That alone is worth the effort up. http://tracks.org.nz/track/show/23
Visit the artsy, whacky world of Carlucci Land
This mini golf course in Happy Valley definitely counts as a Wellington gem and my friends rave about it. You’ve probably passed it numerous times on your way to the South Coast. Have you spotted those industrial, mechanical, recycled sculptures at the roadside? That’s Carlucci Land. Next time you’re thinking to yourself ‘I’m bored, what can I do?’ try this place for a quirky, fun time. It’s a super unique experience for adults and children alike. http://www.carlucciland.nz/
Even big kids love a flying fox!
Brooklyn central park, named after the ever so slightly more famous Brooklyn central park in New York City, is the perfect spot for a walk through beautiful surroundings. However, did you know that it’s also home to a triple flying fox? No doubt, all the children in the neighbourhood are well aware and experts – as it turns out my friends are. When was the last time you flew through the air on a flying fox? I’m guessing it was probably a little while ago – surely it’s time to change that? https://wellington.govt.nz/recreation/enjoy-the-outdoors/parks-and-reserves/town-belt-reserves/central-park
Spot the native birds and find the 800-year old Rimu tree
I’m a big fan of Otari-Wilton’s Bush and I’m always recommending it to people that live in or are visiting Wellington. It offers well maintained trails from easy 15 minute walks to longer one-hour plus routes. On my last visit I spotted an abundance of kereru, tui and my favourite, the kaka, which was a wonderful experience in itself. However, there’s a real treat hidden within these forests – a huge 800-year-old rimu tree – which must be seen to be believed. If you’d like to walk a little further I recommend continuing up to the exposed Skyline trails for spectacular views of the city, wind turbines and Wellington’s seemingly never-ending rugged terrain at its finest. https://wellington.govt.nz/recreation/enjoy-the-outdoors/gardens/otariwiltons-bush
Cycle around the bays of Wellington – bonus stop off at Red Rocks
On a blue-skied and not too windy day I can’t recommend this activity highly enough. Borrow or hire a bicycle and cycle around the bays of Wellington. It can be as easy or as challenging as you’d like to make it. Personally, my friends and I like to stop off for a coffee, a piece of cake and brunch/lunch at Scorching Bay on Miramar Peninsula. However, there are plenty of other excellent cafes for a pit-stop, particularly in Lyall Bay where it’s hard to go past Maranui cafe. Those milkshakes are incredible! Anyway, continuing on, the South Coast of Wellington is a stunning area, which everyone visiting Wellington should experience at least once. As an added adventurous bonus, stop off at Red Rocks and walk along the coastline for a while. You never know, you might bump into a fur seal or two along the way.
Chill at the beach with fish and chips
After so many active adventures, it’s only right to include a more relaxed activity. A number of friends suggested it, so I felt like I had to include it – fish and chips on the beach – a Kiwi classic. It really is the perfect way to end your day. Watching the waves, surfers and planes on Lyall Bay as the sun goes down. Obviously, there are plenty of other great beach spots too. I’m a big fan of Seatoun, Scorching Bay, Moa Point and Oriental Bay.
Planning on visiting Wellington?
Wellington is the perfect city for an active, outdoorsy and fun-filled break and is super accessible from all over the place, so don’t delay and start planning your next adventure now! Keep an eye out for cheap flights to Wellington – the destination that needs to be on everyone’s bucket list.
Full guide to eating, drinking and exploring – www.travelinspired.co.nz/travel-articles/wellingtonians-definitive-guide-wellington-v2-0/
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