NZ GETS SEAL OF APPROVAL CITY COMFORTS MEET AMAZING NATURE IN THE CAPITAL
FOR those of us who live in a large, bustling, crowded city such as Sydney, the idea of visiting another city for a relaxing weekend getaway isn’t always appealing, especially with a toddler in tow.
But what if we said we have found the perfect solution that combines all the benefits of a large city, but with a far more chilled pace.
Only a three-hour flight from Sydney you will find yourself in a totally relaxed environment with nature, rugged coastline, great shopping and fine dining all at your hotel doorstep.
Not to mention loads of activities to keep even the most overactive tot entertained.
Welcome to Wellington – the most appealing of New Zealand’s cities. A cultural hub, set around the very picturesque harbour, what’s not to like about this small capital city with big offerings.
We based ourselves at the newly renovated InterContinental Hotel, which meant that anywhere we wanted to go was in walking distance. Its central location also made it ideal should the tiniest person in the travelling party require a siesta in the middle of the day.
But be warned: with an aesthetically welcoming lobby lounge boasting a warming “open fire” and serving top New Zealand pinots, it can be hard to draw yourself away from this hotel, which offers everything you would expect from a first-class hotel.
But force ourselves we did. Spoiled for choice for things to do over our long weekend, we started with a Friday afternoon stroll along the harbour-front, which boasts an impressive array of restaurants and bars to recharge the batteries as you go.
Just a few minutes from the InterContinental and you will find yourself at Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand’s national museum.
Until 2018 (yes, that is a fouryear long exhibition) the museum is hosting Gallipoli: The Scale of our War exhibition – an extraordinary curated display like no other.
This exhibition would give any museum around the globe a run for its money for its size and exceptional attention to detail.
Put together in conjunction with Weta Workshop, the five-time Oscar winning conceptual design company that works mostly on Hollywood films, the exhibition marks the centenary of World War I and allows visitors to experience the triumphs and tragedies of the eight-month campaign through the eyes and words of ordinary New Zealanders who were there.
It alone is reason enough to visit the city.
Our second day in Wellington was deliberately designed to be more in tune with our son, which meant a fun ride in the cable car from Lambton Quay up to the Botanic Gardens where we caught the free shuttle to Zealandia – a 220ha world-renowned conservation site protecting some of New Zealand’s rarest birds.
This groundbreaking restoration project is a nature lover’s paradise and an easy place to while away a couple of hours to the tran- quil backdrop of bird songs.
Last year the Mercer Quality of Living survey ranked Wellington 12th in the world. It’s easy to see why. The ease in which you can get around the city, the huge array of cosy little cafes – not dissimilar to Melbourne – galleries galore, nonstop major events (the Junior Soccer World Cup was on while we were there plus a creative digital Rembrandt exhibition on loan from Holland) to simple practical offerings such as indoor drop-in spaces like Capital E for children, Wellington has mastered how to be a lively city without being an overbearing one.
Given dining out can be a more rudimentary refuelling exercise with a toddler, we opted for low key and child-friendly options such as The Crab Shack and Wagamama.
And with Wellington being in many ways like Canberra — there are a high number of politicians and bureaucrats — there’s plenty of fine dining should the budget stretch that far and with this in mind we relished a meal at the impressive Charley Noble.
Another real drawcard to this city is its proximity to some amazing beaches and rugged coastline.
In contrast to many cities where to venture out to see the wilderness can be arduous (think M5 or F3 on a long weekend), Wellington is the opposite.
Less than 45 minutes from our hotel on a Sunday morning and we were walking along a beach littered with hundreds of fur seals.
Seal Coast Safari take you within feet of these beautiful creatures. Their 4WD got us over rocks, around bays and headlands, with the ocean lapping the “sealmobile”.
We also loved that we could experience such an adventure and be back in town for lunch and our late afternoon flight home.
A shag stretches its wings at Zealandia.
A shag stretches its wings at Zealandia.