Following our North Island Loop, we returned our rental car at the Auckland airport and flew to Wellington at the southern tip of the North Island. We had originally considered the train for that leg and then changed our thinking to the equally-long-but-much-cheaper bus. When we revisited the bus route before we booked, we realized that we had seen quite a bit of what the bus would cover, and decided that an hour flight vs. an 11-hour bus trip was worth a little extra cost.
Our flight was a breeze. A 20-minute Uber ride from the airport into town around the coastal route showed us a city that we were eager to see more of in the two full days (three nights) we had scheduled there. We had booked our accommodation at an apartment-hotel downtown, which allowed us to walk everywhere we wanted to go.
Cable car up, walk down
The Wellington cable car (really a funicular railway) runs up and down a steep hill in the same location as one built in 1905. It has a bit of a checkered past, with accidents, closures, technical issues, and changes of ownership, but it is currently used by almost one million people a year for the five-minute ride. For tourists, it is a popular way to quickly get up to the top of the hill, have a look around, perhaps have tea or coffee and check out the Cable Car Museum, and then walk back down to town through the botanical gardens and a historic cemetery, conveniently arriving at the parliament buildings.
The city and waterfront are interconnected with unique bridges and walkways providing access along the water, among restored boat sheds, across to government buildings, and along to the landmark Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (affectionally known as Te Papa).
In addition to all that the city normally has to offer, we were there on a Saturday when the Wellington Dragon Boat Festival was running, a youth fishing derby had one wharf lined with hopeful kids holding rods (and hopeful parents holding rods and kids), and then the pride parade and activities geared up to keep the area buzzing all day and into the evening.
We spent about five hours roaming through the Te Papa museum, periodically finding ourselves at a viewing area where we could gaze over the city, watch a dragon boat race, or monitor boat traffic with mountains in the background.
We really enjoyed our time in Wellington. It’s a beautiful city, easy to get around, and plenty to do. It’s also the doorway to the South Island by ferry–a voyage so beautiful it warrants its own post.
- Uber ride from the airport to town at rush hour: $30.19 NZD ($25.58 CAD).
- Accommodation: Astelia Apartment Hotel (we booked on hotels.com). It’s not cheap to stay in Wellington, but this was a great option for us. Spacious, clean, and bright, and it included a kitchenette and washer/dryer, which we were ready for.
- Cable car: $9 NZD ($7.75 CAD) return or $5 NZD one way.