Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - LIFESTYLE - Anita Quigley The writer trav­elled to New Zealand at her own ex­pense

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.

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