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Wellington, My Favourite City in New Zealand
It's not every day I fall in love with a big city, in fact, I typically prefer the country, but I did go head over hills for Wellington, #NewZealand. A big part of it had to do with the weather, we had perfect blue skies the entire time. It was the best backdrop to stay #active and #explore.
It’s no secret that I’m not a big city person.
All those amazing cities around the world that practically everybody loves? New York, Rome, San Francisco, Sydney… they didn’t really do all that much for me. The skyscrapers made me claustrophobic, the amount of people made me anxious and the high street chains that you can find almost everywhere made me nauseous.
It’s safe to say that I’m definitely a small town/beach shack kind of person.
And yet, having said that, there are still some enormous cities that I love — Marrakech, Istanbul, Saigon — and I think I love these places so much because they’re unlike most other cities in the world. They’re chaotic and crazy and rarely make sense to me. I like visiting somewhere that makes me feel like I’m incredibly far from home — and I just don’t get that feeling from most cities I travel through.
And then sometimes I stumble upon a city that I fall in love with for no apparent reason at all. A city like Wellington, the final stop on my North Island jaunt.
Wellington was one of those places where, within seconds of arriving, I found myself excitedly turning to Dave and announcing that I wanted to stay for months.
Known as the Windy City, I was surprisingly fortunate not to experience any of the strong gusts and horrible weather that Wellington is so famous for. Instead, my good fortune with the New Zealand weather gods continued as I experienced nothing but clear skies and warm sunshine my entire stay.
I experienced nothing but clear skies and warm sunshine my entire stay
I had four nights to spend in the country’s capital, not as long as I would have liked, but given the frantic pace I’d been keeping as I raced around the North Island, those four nights made Wellington one of my longest stops.
With a growing pile of work to catch up on and no real desire to sightsee like crazy, Dave, Dustin and I only really had one item on our agenda: Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand.
I’d heard nothing but amazing things about the museum before arriving. It’s rated the top thing to do on TripAdvisor and is frequently said to be one of the best museums in the Southern Hemisphere. Spanning over six floors, exhibitions range from Maori history to modern art, New Zealand’s geology to an enormous colossal squid.
I’d heard nothing but amazing things about the museum before arriving
I’m not a huge fan of museums, and subsequently didn’t expect to spend very long there, and yet somehow we still found ourselves wandering around four hours later.
There were so many highlights. My favourites included the exhibit which brought together all of New Zealand’s extinct animals and showed how the country’s landscapes would look and sound had humans never come along, the colossal squid I mentioned above — the heaviest ever caught, with a length of a ridiculous 4.2 metres. There was an earthquake exhibit, which included an simulation that freaked me out and had me imagining the earth was shaking hours later.
Game Masters was a super-cool exhibit featuring over 100 games from the past 40 years. I could pretend to know all about games and name some of the big titles they had but sadly, I just am a gaming toad.
I’ve only ever played Crash Bandicoot.
So while I wasn’t particularly excited at the prospect of spending hours and hours staring at various different screens, gaming kings Dave and Dustin were all over it, bonding over an old game that looked like a giant colourful ribbon and building ugly cities on PCs.
I totally wasn’t into it.
I wasn’t into it at all.
I hated it in fact.
Te Papa ended up being the highlight from my time in Wellington and I haven’t even mentioned the fact that it’s free to visit, and also had free, usable wi-fi. Finding free wi-fi is such a rarity in New Zealand that Dave instantly elected Te Papa’s coffee shop as his new dedicated workspace in Wellington.
And then I didn’t see him for three days.
Our final day was one of those perfect days where everything falls into place and all you can do is think about how you’ve made all the right decisions to have ended up exactly where you are.
Our final day was one of those perfect days where everything falls into place
After finally persuading Dave to leave Te Papa, we spent a gloriously sunny afternoon strolling along the waterfront, stuffing our faces with bread and oils and mushroom soup, and drinking cider.
We got our tourist on by taking the iconic red cable car up to the Botanic Gardens at the top, and once we arrived, we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the gardens, watching a cricket match and sunbathing on a spare patch of grass.
I’m fully aware that we completely lucked out with the weather. Everywhere we went, people were astonished at the consistently hot weather, and it certainly helped me to fall in love with Wellington.
I love this city! The hills, the harbour, the culture and its compact size. If the weather was permanently as great as it was when we visited, I doubt I would have ever left…
Our partnership with Hostelbookers brought us to Downtown Backpackers, a gigantic multi-story hostel in a central location — it was close to everything in town and next to the bus stop, railway station and ferry terminal. Though I usually dislike enormous hostels with hundreds of rooms, Downtown Backpackers is housed in a badass art deco style historic hotel so it still had a lot of character.
Downtown Backpackers is housed in a badass art deco style historic hotel
Hotel Downtown Backpackers
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Our double room was cosy and comfortable, extremely quiet, had a desk to work at and a surprisingly spacious bathroom. The staff were welcoming and helpful and always happy to offer suggestions on what to do. Being so large, the hostel had a huge kitchen, bar and restaurant — the restaurant served up decent food and the kitchen was never too busy that we couldn’t find space to cook.
The only downside was, like most hostels in New Zealand, the Wi-Fi. Downtown Backpackers offered it through the atrocious Zenbu ($1 per 10MB!). This seemed odd to me given that Wellington’s CBD area has free public Wi-Fi, which you could often connect to in your room.
Aside from the internet, Downtown Backpackers was great place to stay. It’s in a perfect location for exploring the city and the small art deco touches helped it to stand out from the often samey hostels in New Zealand.