On Tour, Pt 2 – Getting Out of Town, Scenic Drives Around Wellington

On Tour: Wellington –> Blenheim –> Kaikoura –> Mt Lyford –> Christchurch

On Saturday morning Pete and I flew to Wellington with my parents. We had two days to show off Pete’s hometown.

Our 2-bedroom Airbnb was very conveniently just across the street from Te Papa, New Zealand’s National Museum. With a few hours to kill before checking in, we walked over to see some exhibits. It was just before Anzac day, so it felt appropriate to visit the Gallipoli exhibit, which does an amazing job of intertwining facts and figures with personal stories of New Zealanders who experienced the horrors of Gallipoli firsthand.

Pro Tip: Te Papa is a great place to go if you’re waiting to check into your accommodation. You can leave luggage at the bag check, they only ask for a small donation to the museum.

Once we checked into the Airbnb, we grabbed coffees at Pandoro Panetteria then spent the day walking around the waterfront, shopping on Cuba street, and ending with dinner at Capital Market.

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We lucked out with the weather and by day two, David was itching to see some of the more scenic views Wellington has to offer. Given how hilly Wellington can be, we decided to pass on public transit and instead opted to rent a car for the day. It only cost about $60 and was perfect for exploring Wellington’s outer edges.

Pro Tip: Budget was very reasonably priced and offered a good range of cars. With an office right in town, pick up and drop off were a breeze. 

In the morning, we took a drive up to Mt Victoria lookout. Take your time going up these roads, they’re narrow and you’ll often have to pull over for cars zipping down the hill. Once you park, walk up the stairs for amazing 360 views of Wellington and the surrounding bays.

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After our scenic stop, we drove through Kelburn, home of Victoria University’s main campus AKA where Pete went to university. The houses around this area have character and charm, but a few are so dramatically cantilevered over the hills you can’t help but wonder if locals had discovered the secret to defying gravity.

Since we were already so close by, we made a quick stop at the Cable Car Museum for the quintessential Wellington tourist experience. It’s only $7.50 return so plenty of people avoided the shopping scene in town and just turned right around, making the journey back up the hill to enjoy the free museum and the Botanic Gardens right next door. If you’re hungry there’s also a cafe next to the Museum called the Kowhai Cafe. We didn’t eat there, but I’m sure it has a lovely view.

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With heaps of time to spare before we had to be in Petone for dinner with Pete’s family, we hit the (windy) Paekakariki Hill Road towards Kapiti. This is the perfect drive for anyone in a manual car looking for a bit of fun and also great for giving your mother a tiny panic attack if she doesn’t like sharp turns next to steep cliffs… sorry mom. After about 40 minutes of driving through farms and bush, you find yourself at the Paekakariki Hill Road Lookout, which is just on the side of the motorway. Make sure to stop and enjoy the views of the coast and Kapiti Island, a nature reserve about 5 km offshore.

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The days are getting shorter and shorter as summer is replaced by crisp Autumn days. It was around 4:00pm when we decided to find a spot on the waterfront to grab a wine and watch the sunset over the ocean. Thanks to extensive research (cough cough last minute google search on my phone cough cough) I knew the perfect place just south of Paraparamu Beach called Waterfront Bar & Kitchen. There is no better way to spend an evening than with a glass wine, listening to the waves crash on the sand while watching the sunset, especially alongside the people you love. Happiness is real, my friends.

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After our impromptu road trip, we made our way back to town, listening to NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and watching as the last bits of light faded behind the hills. Dinner was a casual affair at Speight’s Ale House in Petone and Pete’s mom, brother, sister, and their partners all turned up to give my family a proper welcome. It was a special night.

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After dinner, we drove back to town for our last night in Wellington. We had a boat to catch in the morning…

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