We spent our last two days on the North Island in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital. (Also the birthplace of Peter Jackson, Director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.) Wellington is notoriously windy due to the channelling effect of the Cook Straight. The place averages 173 days a year with winds over 60 kph (roughly 40 mph). It seems we hit the weather jackpot during our time in Wellington, as apparently the city only has a handful of days each year that are as nice as the two days we were there.

We spent our first day exploring the city. It was a Sunday, so the weekend markets were in full swing. We perused the stands and picked up a couple of bags of fresh fruits and veggies. We also spent some time just wandering the downtown streets.

it’s a beautiful day in wellington


at the waterfront


at the waterfront


the large, tan building is the te papa museum and the market lines the adjacent waterfront


shipping containers repurposed into market stalls


picking up some fresh produce


the artistic sea to city bridge


we checked out the art exhibitions at the city gallery

In the heart of downtown Wellington is the Te Papa Museum, New Zealand’s national museum. It’s a huge facility with six large floors filled with exhibits; no doubt you could spend a whole day there and not see everything. Having limited time, we decide to focus on the “natural environment” exhibitions. With all of the time we we spending outdoors in NZ, we were curious to learn more about the country’s diverse range of creatures and plants. And, we were interested in finding out more about the crazy weather occurrences here – from heavy rains & flooding to fault movements & earthquakes. It was all very interesting and we learned a lot. We were glad we spent some time at the museum (and no excuse not to since admission is free).

The Te Papa Museum is also where we parked the campervan during our stay. The museum allows overnight campervan parking in a designated area of their parking lot. Although not ideal, it’s conveniently located downtown (real campsites are 30+ minutes out) and the fee we paid supports the museum.

at the te papa museum


the illusive kiwi on display at the museum..we’re heard them but not yet seen one in the wild

After visiting the museum, we walked up Mt Victoria, which is located near the city center. It was a short, but steep ascent to the summit. The lookouts on top offer 360 degree views of the city and the opportunity to watch planes go in and out of the airport (which is cool to watch because the planes fly low over the bay and land on a small isthmus just east of the city).

making the ascent up mt victoria


after a short but leg burning ascent, we reach the lookout


panoramic views of the city center below


views of the akautangi/evans bay


where we sat and watched the planes


watching planes land on the isthmus

After our short jaunt up the mountain, we decided to spend the late afternoon relaxing at the beach.

as we descend mt victoria, we can see the beach below


oriental bay beach

Next, we headed over to Wellington’s pedestrian mall – Cuba Street. In a small alley right off the mall is a cluster of ethic restaurants serving up good, lost cost meals. We had dinner at a small Asian restaurant called Satay Kingdom for less money than we could have made a meal for ourselves. It was a good day.

cuba street



The following morning, we headed to the iRide bike shop. This shop has an exchange program with Wheat Ridge Cyclery in Denver. With opposite bike seasons, there is an opportunity for people who work at Wheat Ridge Cyclery to spend Colorado’s winter months working at this Wellington bike shop during NZ’s summer months. Originally, Jay had planned to ship his mountain bike here, but in the end, decided it was just too expensive and he would rent instead. So, our second day in Wellington, we headed to the iRide shop to rent bikes and meet up with Wayne (employee at Wheat Ridge Cyclery working in NZ). It was his day off, so he could ride with us for the day. Wayne was also nice enough to switch the bike brakes around for us (just like cars are built left hand drive in NZ, so are bikes).

We loaded up the bikes in the campervan and headed up to Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park. In 1998, the land was set aside for mountain biking and by 2012, more than 25 miles of single track had been built. The park has trails for all abilities, and all tracks eventually lead back to the same carpark (with nice facilities), so you can do different routes/laps. It’s a really nice set up. As an added bonus, the park offers nice views of the city and surrounding area.

iRide bike shop


a really nice shop – even has its own cafe inside


the bikes are loaded


the base areas at makara peak mountain bike park


making our way up


i try to keep up with wayne (the guys were nice enough to ride with me some at the beginning)


we had nice demo bikes (although Jay was definitely missing his yeti)


jay and wayne


wayne does a couple jumps in the skills area

Jay filmed one of Wayne’s jumps on the GoPro – you can check it out here: http://youtu.be/r3BHebpMPHQ. Jay also filmed some of his mountain biking, but I’ll have to post that at a later date as the wifi is not cooperating.

at the summit


a leg burner to get to the top, but some pretty sweet views

That night, we got a little nap in before having to catch our 2:30AM ferry across the Cook Straight. Going from the North Island to the South Island in the middle of the night wasn’t our first choice, but there are limited sailings each day and issues with the fleet had made this our only option unless we wanted to wait a few days. It takes just a few hours to cross the Cook Straight on the slow moving ferry. I had never boarded a ship by driving on with a vehicle, so that was a fun experience! As we drove the campervan on board, it felt a little like pulling into a parking garage. But, we were immediately reminded that this was no parking garage – we were on a ferry and would soon be surrounded by water. We got out of the campervan and headed to the passenger area. Shortly afterwards, our journey to the South Island began. We leave the North Island with memories we will cherish for a lifetime and are looking forward to what the South Island will have in store!

driving the campervan onto the ferry


it feels a bit like a parking garage


we are directed to the upper level and make our way up the ramp


we are parked next to some large trailers


that big silver one next to us is a horse trailer and it did not smell good


the passenger area was quite nice – reminded me of a cruise ship


the sun is just beginning to come up as we arrive at the south island


pulling into the port at picton


being directed for off-loading


driving off the ferry


south island…here we come!

8 responses to “Wellington

  1. So glad Jay got to go mountain biking. I am counting on you both coming to Iowa for our single track that is being built and will be completed in 2015. The photos were so beautiful and a lot of that was due to the great weather you had those two days. Glad you visited the market and had a meal. As Jay has been cooking a lot while you have the camper I have missed all the interesting meals you share with us. I was beginning to wonder if there would be none in New Zealand. I never realized you had never been on a ferry with a vehicle before.

    • We are beginning to tire of campervan meals (especially with overnight tracks in between where we are packing all our food in our packs). We’ll have to check out that mountain bike trail in Iowa once it’s complete.

  2. Joann, love that you are mountain biking…makes me happy! The videos were great. Saw the longer one of Jay too.

  3. Hi there, Joann and Jay! Glad to see that the adventures continue and you have been having some good weather on this part of the trip! Was wondering how much the van is costing you, if you don’t mind. If no details, I’m sure it has been the most cost effective travel/accommodations that you could get!
    Quite a while ago, when Morley and I took a week trip to travel throughout the Washington, DC, area, we headed for the not-so-travelled touristy areas and were delighted to get better food, meeting locals one-on-one, and even getting to use pristine restrooms [unlike the public ones in the touristy areas]. Well, that was a “plus” for me at least!!!
    Am still enjoying your blogs and pictures, a good mixture of both! Not looking forward to the end of your travels, but I’m sure it must come to an end some day! Just sayin’ . . . blessings to you both and continued safety in your journeys!

    • Hiring a campervan is not cheap, but it’s much more economical than renting a car and having to pay NZ lodging prices on top. Plus, the campervan makes it easy to prepare your own meals and provides A LOT of flexibility in traveling. We paid $89/day for our campervan – which includes comprehensive insurance, cooking ware/dishes, bedding, camping chairs…pretty much all the essentials. I have a “finances” page on the blog that I will be updating again soon to include our spend during our travels over the last few months…I think it’s helpful for people to get an idea of what it costs to travel different places.

      • Thanks . . . will take a peek later! Actually, as you described it, that’s a lot of flexibility and you don’t have to buy ready-to-go food, but making it yourselves gives you to eat out when you like, etc. I’m sooo enjoying your journey and sometimes wish I was right there with you two enjoying everything! I think I’m adventurous, but you two…the ultimate adventurous types!!! Praying for continued safe travels, too! ; )

  4. Such a great idea to have a “finances” page. That is very interesting to see what it costs to travel in different parts of the world. What a wonderful investment~all the sights and adventures are priceless and money well spent!

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