We had a couple of days to settle into NZ time after arrival, trying to adjust to the new time zone. When going through 4 time zones or more one expects to feel the effects of jet lag. I always do. New Zealand time is GMT + 12 hours. According to researchers the brain and body are able to adapt to a new time zone of about one hour per day. This means for us over a week of jet lag. Our plan was to travel to the South Island. First stop, Wellington.
To get to Wellington from Auckland, there are several options depending on the time and budget you have to spend. If you have time, I would recommend the Northern Explorer train. It is hassle-free to hop on the train from downtown Auckland to Wellington city centre and enjoy the scenery in comfort. If you choose to do so there is the option to stop at the Tongariro National Park for a couple of days. If you prefer to take the bus and save some dollars, InterCity has an overnight bus leaving from Auckland’s Sky City bus terminal with the option to take it from Manukau. Prices start from $1 (+booking fee). Hiring a car or a van is an option. There are plenty of companies to choose from. I cannot recommend one specifically as the company we went for in Picton was not that good and the car broke down on several occasions with very bad customer service. Make sure to do your research before making the decision. A good review is not always a guarantee. We chose to travel by plane as our time was limited. You can fly to Wellington from different points with Air New Zealand.
There is plenty to see and do in Wellington. The capital city of New Zealand is located in the southernmost part of the north island. It is also the second-largest city. It has been known as the most creative city and most liveable city in recent years. Within a limited area, you can find several live theatre, art galleries, the chamber music New Zealand, cinema, museums. Many of the events are reasonably priced while others are free of charge. There are also plenty of other activities for children and adults alike to enjoy such as Zealandia and Wellington Zoo. Wellington is also home of the New Zealand Government, known as the Beehive.
If you are a film enthusiast and enjoy behind the scene tours of films like Lord of the Rings were made, you might enjoy the Weta Workshop. The studio has a museum and has plenty of props, models and sculptures to admire. If you enjoy nature nearby, you might like the botanic gardens. We had no time to ride the Cable Car, but it is known to be an experience you should not miss. It is over 100 years old taking you see the views of the city, harbour and surrounding hills.
At our arrival, we took a shared shuttle bus to the Cambridge Hotel located near the city centre. The first building was first made of timber serving as a hotel since 1883. The current building was constructed in 1930 serving patrons and guests since its start. It is historically and culturally important as it is one of the oldest standing building in the entertainment district, representative of many New Zealand cities and towns of the time. The hotel offers ensuite accommodation, shared bathroom accommodation and family room accommodation. The prices are surprisingly affordable and the rooms very comfortable. Our toilet had a very 1930’s vibe and it seems as if the tiles were very old. Some parts of the hotel have been modernised but keep the atmosphere of the times. The lift is also a great feature which gives it a special character.
However, there is one thing that I need to explain about this hotel. It has a certain charm that is quite unique. This might attract people who view this building in a different way. First, I have to say I really liked the services. Staff is really fun and friendly, the bar and bistro are excellent and offers great food and good value. Having a microwave, a kettle and a fridge makes it easy to buy food and eat in the room as well. They have different events every day of the week so check out their website for more details. Being built in the 1930s, the ceiling is very high. Now, I will tell you the interesting bit. I was checking the menu and you can order. However, I did notice some interesting things. Not only did I found the famous Cambridge breakfast incredibly good priced and attractive, but I was taken slightly aback by the selection of the picture. Yes, it definitely got my attention.
I started to see a pattern. I did notice how long the corridors were and it kind of reminded me of something. And then I realised. The Shining. I could almost see the Grady twin girls at the end of the corridor. It is even slightly more creepy at night as the corridor is pitch dark. I had to go to reception and decided to be brave. Don’t worry. The lights go on as you move forwards. If you love old buildings with character or happen to enjoy Stephen King’s The Shining, you will definitely love The Cambridge Hotel. I definitely enjoyed my stay.
We decided to explore the city and buy some food for our ferry to Picton the following day. We headed to Te Papa, the National Museum. Don’t miss it if you can. You can see a variety of exhibitions such as art, Māori culture, history, natural history and pacific culture.
Other things to do in Wellington include exploring the picturesque inner city and walk along the waterfront. The city is covered in artwork and we appreciated it walking around the harbour. This is also a great area to skate or cycle. We had a drink at Shed 22 Mac’s Brewbar which is a historical waterfront industrial warehouse. Great when you want a rest and watch people pass by.
Wellington wasn’t named “the coolest little capital in the world” by Lonely Planet for no reason. I have not lived in a city for a while, but having the choice, this is a great city to be. It is not too big, close to nature, open to art, music, theatre, culture and good food. I wished I stayed longer. Definitely a city worthwhile experiencing.
After food shopping, we headed back to the hotel and get ready for the next day. We had to get up early to get to the ferry. We did not know of course that the ferry was going to have issues and end up leaving the next evening instead. More about this in the next post on the picturesque views travel with the Interislander ferry and our road trip to Nelson.