I feel like I am insane for attempting to write a post on how to spend 2 days in Wellington.
See, for me Wellington has got to be one of the coolest places in New Zealand – maybe even the world. It is a small city. But it is packed with so much culture, places to eat, activities and so much deliciously beautiful natural scenery, you would need several lifetimes to really get to know the place. If we’re in the art of making comparisons, it’s quite often considered a mini version of Melbourne. I’d even dare to compare it to some far-flung place in Europe – the way Wellington’s hills are covered in houses reminds me somewhat of Cinque Terre.
Originally, this was meant to be a “How to spend 3 days in Wellington” post (ooh, big difference I know!) but as fate and Mother Nature would have it, I almost didn’t make it to Wellington for Easter weekend at all. Thanks to Cyclone Cook, my Thursday night flight was cancelled and I ended up spending all day Friday on two flights just to make it to the windy city.
I’ve talked to so many people who tell me how they’ve always dreamed of going to New Zealand but never quite make it there as if it’s some far away land that’s impossible to reach. Sure, if you’re on the West Coast of Australia, a 6-hour flight to Auckland for a weekend away doesn’t really make sense, but for those of you on the East Coast, New Zealand is super easy to get to with Wellington being 2 to 3 hours reach from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
Now before I get into listing all the ways you can spend 2 days in the coolest capital city, I will confess that I am cheating somewhat. One of my best friends, Steven actually happens to live in Wellington which means not only do I have free accommodation but a fabulous tour guide and host, which makes life easier – thanks Steven!
For those of you who may not be so privileged, may this post be of help and perhaps inspire you to book a weekend trip to Wellington soon.
New Zealand National War Memorial and Pukeahu National War Memorial Park
This was a new spot for me to visit.
The New Zealand War Memorial which was dedicated in 1932 on Anzac Day officially remembers the New Zealanders who gave their lives in the South African War, World Wars I and II and the wars in Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam.
It is here you’ll find the War Memorial Carillon which towers over the grave of the Unknown New Zealand Warrior, a soldier who was killed on the Somme during World War I. Inside the Carillon is the Hall of Memories, which contains all sorts of memorials, medals and tributes. Walking around the hall was an incredibly sobering experience and a reminder that nothing good ever comes from war.
More recently, the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park next door was opened in 2015 to commemorate the centenary of World War I, in particular the Gallipoli landings. The park has been designed to hold memorials from New Zealand’s military allies such as a memorial containing 15 red sandstone columns commissioned by the Australian government to pay tribute to the Anzac military relationship. Apparently this year, construction will begin on a French memorial.
Te Papa Museum
You haven’t been to Wellington until you’ve been to Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum and the one place I always go to every time I’m in town. They do a fabulous job of creating exhibitions that really tell a story and leave you walking away feeling like you’ve learnt something. Click here for a list of exhibitions at Te Papa.
The exhibition that has got everyone intrigued however is Gallipoii – The Scale of Our War, which is running until April 2019 (so still plenty of time to get there!). Developed in collaboration with Weta Workshop (of Lord of the Rings fame), the exhibition contains giant sculptures of soldiers, doctors and nurses that are so life-like, you can really see the emotion and desperation felt by those caught up in this battle. There’s plenty of touch screens and 3D maps and all sorts of interactive exhibits to keep you engaged.
I think at this point it’s time to take a good break from sobering experiences.
Stroll along the Waterfront
Just behind Te Papa is Wellington’s famous Waterfront. Grab a coffee or a gelato and go for a stroll or hire a bicycle and enjoy a ride with beautiful views of the hills and city from across the water. During the warmer summer months, you could perhaps hire a kayak or paddle board and head out on to the water.
Take a tour of the Beehive
Home to New Zealand’s parliament, the Beehive is one of New Zealand’s most distinctive landmarks.
Here you can go on a free guided walking tour – Steven and I did one a few years ago and it was incredibly insightful. You’ll get to see some beautiful archiecture and art work, hear some entertaining stories about past Prime Ministers of New Zealand and see for yourself how the Beehive has been earthquake-proofed (fact: Wellington sits right on a fault-line). For more info about the guided tours on offer, visit this page.
Go watch a game of rugby
Being a Kiwi, I was bound to suggest this as an activity, even if it’s not a uniquely Wellington thing. If you’ve never been to a rugby game before and you’re in Wellington at some point between late February and August, I would suggest checking out a Super Rugby game at Westpac Stadium. This is a competition which involves teams from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Japan and the current defending champions happen to be Wellington’s very own team, The Hurricanes. They’re also full of All Blacks players so you’re guaranteed to watch a really entertaining match. Rugby crowds, especially Kiwi rugby crowds are fantastically friendly, so you’re bound to make some new friends without any trouble. Visit the Hurricanes website for info about home games during the season.
Hit the walking trails
I would only suggest the idea of hiking during a 2 day trip if a) you’ve been to Wellington before and want to do something a little “off the beaten track” or b) you’re more of a nature lover and culture and coffee just isn’t your thing.
Either way, you won’t ever regret hiking in Wellington, especailly when you see the views.
We decided to hike the Skyline Walkway which traverses Wellington’s ridges and provides breath taking views of Wellington Harbour. On a good day you can even see the South Island. The entire walkway takes about 5 hous to complete but it will require public transport or having access to a vehicle to get to the starting point.
If you want something closer to the city, your best bet is Mount Victoria which offers stunning views over the city and harbour – check out this guide to walking up Mt Vic. (If you’re lazy, you can just catch a bus or drive up).
Yikes! What a weekend huh?
At the end of it all however, it’s totally up to you how hectic or relaxing your two days in Wellington are. It’s such an action-packed (yet incredibly chill) city that you are bound to find something to do or even just enjoy browsing around all the shops and lazing about in the many cafes and bars.
Whatever you decide to do, just make sure you get yourself to Wellington – she will absolutely win you over in no time!