Last weekend I took my almost 9 year old daughter to Wellington. I had made a promise to take her away somewhere this year, just the two of us. She is my middle child and I don’t get a lot of time alone with her so this was pretty special.
Neither of us have spent time in Wellington so this was a fun adventure for us both.
What did we get up to on our weekend in Wellington?
We arrived on a wet and windy afternoon so after checking into our hotel we headed straight to Te Papa. Lots of people had raved to us about Te Papa and it didn’t disappoint – we spent about 3 hours there exploring.
My daughters favourite space was the “Nature” room – filled with amazing specimens and some great interactive exhibits. She especially loves the game where you had to help a baby eel grow up and find it’s way to a pool at the top of a river to live in.
The Colossal Squid is pretty amazing to see!
Being a Friday afternoon Te Papa was busy but not crowded. We did pop in again on Saturday (for another go of the eel game) but it was definitely too busy for us.
Te Papa also has an art gallery space. My daughter was totally blown away by this big installation called Finale Bouquet
Te Papa is free to visit.
WELLINGTON CHOCOLATE FACTORY TOUR
The only activity booking we made ahead of time was for a tour of the Wellington Chocolate Factory, New Zealand’s first ‘bean to bar’ chocolate factory.
My daughter is a self confessed chocoholic so when this idea was mentioned to her by friends she wanted to do it.
The Saturday morning tour is definitely for adults, which we knew ahead of time, but my daughter still found it really interesting and she learned a lot of really interesting things. The tour is more of an educational session with some fun tasting opportunities – raw cacao beans, runny chocolate from the mixing vats and of course a range of their chocolate flavours.
You can see the whole factory from the main foyer area so it is not like a tour of a big commercial factory … important to note when managing the expectations of a child.
The bucket fountain on Cuba Street (pedestrian mall) has been is celebrating it’s 50th Anniversary this month. My daughter loved just standing there watching it fill up and eventually splash a big bucket of water everywhere! Simple pleasures are often the best.
WELLINGTON UNDERGROUND MARKETS
The lady at Tourist Information mentioned this market to us. We enjoyed a little explore and we managed to buy a Christmas present for someone and I bought a lovely shirt and dress. Having said that I wouldn’t go back to them or especially suggest going.
I felt they were the kind of market that are great to pop into if you are passing by but not something to make a special effort to go to.
Our neighbour had told us about Croc Bikes so they were something my daughter really wanted to do if we had some nice weather. They are like a little bicycle car that you peddle along the foreshore.
Although there are two steering wheels, only one of them actually works and you have to be at least 14 years old to be in charge of the steering … Miss 8 was not so impressed about this.
Luckily she could just reach her peddles so enjoyed being part of helping us get around.
You can hire them for 30 minutes or an hour. 30 minutes was enough for me but my daughter was really upset when it was over and begged me to go again (but we didn’t) – at the end of the weekend she declares this was the best thing we did all weekend!
FRANK KITTS PLAYGROUND
Frank Kitts Park is located along the waterfront and proved to be just what we need to pull my daughter out of her grumpy mood (caused by me refusing to do another 30 minutes of Croc Bikes)!
The crazy lighthouse slide was a great attraction and loads of fun.
This is an iconic Wellington attraction which we saved for our final morning. Who doesn’t love a cable car ride?
My daughter loved the coloured lights in the little tunnels.
We used the Cable Car as part of our travel to Zealandia but many people have told me how lovely it is to walk back down to the city through the Botanical Gardens from there.
What is Zealandia? I am going to pinch the description from their website because I think this says it best:
“ZEALANDIA is the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary, with an extraordinary 500-year vision to restore a Wellington valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state. The 225 hectare ecosanctuary is a groundbreaking conservation project that has reintroduced over 20 species of native wildlife back into the area, some of which were previously absent from mainland New Zealand for over 100 years.”
This is not a zoo or or even zoo like. For children, the experience is ‘going hiking/walking with loads of birds around’. I say this because I think if you are taking kids, who have to walk themselves, that you create expectations on the day that are about the walking not so about ‘seeing animals’. The bird life then becomes a special highlight but they understand the expectation is ‘we are going walking today’.
My daughter and I loved this experience, although she did have a few grumbles when I wanted to explore some of the tracks off the main tourist pathway. But of course she loved these tracks once we were on them.
There are tracks for everyone … families with strollers through to mad keen hikers who want to spend an entire day.
Your ticket actually gives you 2 consecutive days access which I wish we had know ahead of time, I would have gone twice!
They have a great little activity sheet for kids where they tick off specific flora and fauna they might see, this really helped my daughter stay engaged during the walk.
Our favourite bird of the day was the Tīeke (North Island Saddleback). We thought it was a beautiful bird and loved watching it in the trees. In the early 1900s, the North Island tīeke was extinct everywhere except for tiny Taranga (Hen) Island so I find it remarkable that now in 2019 we can see it living happily in this ecosanctuary.
I would love to come back here one day, child-free, and really explore this sanctuary beyond the main tourist pathways. I think it is a really special place.
As you can see we packed a lot into our weekend away together. Wellington is easy to get around by foot, but pack layers and rain jackets as the weather can be a bit unpredictable!