An A-Z Travel Guide to Wellington city on $10 or less .....
(Updated January 2019)
Absolutely, Positively Wellywood - Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit fans can visit The Weta Cave, corner Camperdown Road & Weka Street, Miramar. Look around the mini museum and watch behind the scenes interviews with the Weta co-founders that take you from Weta's humble beginnings to the world famous model makers and designers they are today (entry to The Weta Cave is free). Weta Studio Tours are also offered. The Weta Cave is open 7 days, 9am-5.30pm. (For die hard fans - a sneak peak of the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour in Matamata).
Archaeological remains of Te Aro Pa are under glass at 39 Taranaki Street in the central city. Remnants of the 150+ year old Maori settlement were discovered during the demolition of a building in 2005 that made way for Bellagio Apartments.
Artist talks, lectures and exhibitions fill the calendar at the City Gallery in Civic Square, entry is usually free although charges may apply for some exhibitions. Open 10am-5pm daily.
Cheers! Six Barrel Soda Co makes soda syrups and sells them around the country. You can have a glass of soda at the Soda Shop on the corner of Eva and Dixon Streets. An upgrade of Eva Street has made the entrance more inviting and once inside it's a light, airy space and there's some good people watching to be done from a window seat.
Chocoholics can get their fix at Butlers Chocolate Cafe, 172 Lambton Quay & 103 Willis Street, most beverages purchased come with a complimentary chocolate. Bohemein Chocolates, 109 Featherston Street serve hot chocolate, coffee and chocolates to go. If you like chocolate eclairs Louis Sergeant Sweet Couture at 111 Lambton Quay bake one of the best in the city, see the blog post Sweet Wellington for more information.
Conscious Consumer? If you want to eat in cafes that use free range eggs, recycle and allow customers to take their own cups for coffee, check out the network of Conscious Consumer cafes. Beach Babylon at 232 Oriental Parade is a conscious cafe, it's got a retro feel and is opposite the beach. Open from 8am until late 7 days.
Curious conveniences (or designer dunnies, lobster loos (Stuff) or a crayfish crapper? (Capital Times)) can be found on Queens Wharf next to NZ Portrait Gallery. Another curious convenience close by is the Cuckoo Cocktail Emporium, buy coffee, cocktails or all the second hand furniture and accessories inside, everything has a price tag.
Curious use for toast - Maurice Bennett, The Toastman (25/4/1957 - 6/6/2016), was a Wellington based toast artist. Mr Bennett did a collection of toast portraits including Elvis Presley and Peter Jackson. We saw his toast portrait of former NZ Prime Minister John Key at QT Museum Wellington (formerly Museum Hotel), 90 Cable Street some time ago. The hotel always has a collection of interesting art works, see the long gallery at the entrance or you might like to have a drink in the colourful and elegant Hippopotamus Bar.
Dip into warm water at Freyberg Pool & Fitness Centre, 139 Oriental Parade or cool off at the nearby beach. A swim in the heated indoor pool costs $6, spa, sauna, steam rooms and casual fitness classes are also offered.
Exit the city centre on the Cable Car ($9 return) from 280 Lambton Quay and travel up to the Botanic Gardens. The Cable Car makes its journey every ten minutes. The Botanic Gardens span 25 hectares and entry is free. There is a children's play area, duck pond and walking tracks. Also see garden events.
Film buffs - NZ Archive of Film, Television & Sound (Nga Taonga Sound & Vision) is at 84 Taranaki Street in the city. See events for the film schedule, some films are free others cost from $8. The onsite cafe has two computers with medianet access and you can watch a collection of NZ TV ads from years gone by.
Five dollars will get you a cup of hot chocolate at Wellington Chocolate Factory. If you're keen to try some single origin, unique chocolate flavours wrapped up in equally unique New Zealand designed wrappers visit the bean to bar factory at 5 Eva Street.
Free outdoor concert series - The Botanic Gardens is the venue for Gardens Magic, a series of free concerts held in January.
Gig guide - Visit Under The Radar. If you want to make your own music head to the Waterfront Community Piano outside Tuatua Cafe in Frank Kitts Park on the waterfront. (The piano is free to use, donations welcome, out in summer only I believe).
Head to Cuba Street to hang with the hip and arty crowd and to get your street side caffeine hit at one of the many cafes. I recommend Fidel's Cafe, 234 Cuba Street for tasty, monster muffins and an eclectic crowd. Cheap eats can be found at Wellington Night Markets on Cuba Street every Friday night and Saturday night. For fish 'n' chips visit Wellington Seamarket at 220 Cuba Street, dine in or take away (also located at 146 Lambton Quay).
Hill Street/Thorndon Farmers' Market is held every Saturday from 8.30am - 12.30pm on Hill Street in Thorndon.
Hire roller blades and bikes from Ferg's Kayaks on the waterfront behind TSB Arena. From $20 an hour, or two hours from $25, over $10 but a cheap ride all the same.
How many kilograms does one million dollars weigh? What happens to old bank notes? Find the answers at The Reserve Bank Museum at 2 The Terrace. You can also see the MONIAC, one of the first econometric computers that uses water to model money flowing through the economy. Reserve Bank Museum curious fact: A house was built over a concrete bunker in Naenae to hide the nation's cash reserve during World War II, the house was sold in the 1970's.
Ink art - Visit the National Tattoo Museum at 187 Vivian Street. Open 7 days from 12 noon, free entry. The small museum will be of particular interest to those interested in Ta Moko - Maori tattoo.
i-SITE Visitor Centre on Civic Square is the place to get information all about Wellington and its attractions, accommodation options etc.
Join everyone who visits The Library upstairs at 53 Courtenay Place for "two for one desserts" on Tuesday. Open 7 days. (Keep up-to-date with deals on Facebook).
We visited on a Monday night, service was top shelf and friendly, and there's plenty of reading material to keep you occupied if you're waiting for friends. Rumour has it there are drink vouchers between the pages of books.
Join the crowd for $11 movies at Reading Cinema, 100 Courtenay Place. (If you're looking for a venue with a difference for a pre or post movie catch up see the blog post More than movies at Roxy Cinema, and Embassy Theatre).
Kirkcaldie & Stains, 165 - 177 Lambton Quay was the closest New Zealand had to Harrod's or Bloomingdales. The doorman at Kirkcaldie & Stains closed the doors for the last time on 16 January 2016, Australian department store David Jones is now open. It's free to browse ....
Learn all about New Zealand at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum, 55 Cable Street. The museum is open daily from 10am-6pm, admission is free but there may be a charge for some exhibitions, tours are available. There are some big curiousities at Te Papa including the collosal squid and giant ammonite (squid like creature, although it looks more like a giant snail).
BNZ Museum curious facts: Bank managers had revolvers until the mid 1970's; BNZ issued its own bank notes from 1861 until 1934 and they were all signed by the manager and counter signed by an accountant, Reserve Bank took over printing in 1934; the Otago gold rush (and the absence of official BNZ notes) prompted Falconer Larkworthy to design a bank note himself and he personally signed 20,000 copies .... he went on to become Managing Director of BNZ in London so his gamble paid off.
Made.it. - If you're looking for a quirky handmade gift or souvenir have a look in Made.it at 103 Victoria Street. You'll need a bit more than $10 but you'll be buying NZ made.
Moore Wilson's city location is corner Tory and College Streets. Moore Wilson's stock a variety of food and beverages, legend has it they have the biggest range of food stuffs in the country. At the store entrance you can fill a bottle with water from the historic Crystal Spring, donations collected for Wellington Free Ambulance.
Need a hideout on a rainy day? Visit a cafe in the Old Bank Arcade, 233 - 237 Lambton Quay. Every hour on the hour the musical clock outside 'Rixon Groove Shirt & Tie Makers' opens up and tells a brief history of the site, it's worth a watch. Alternatively, make yourself comfortable in the Wellington City Library, 65 Victoria Street. The library is open 7 days (1pm - 4pm Sundays).
NZ Portrait Gallery is in Shed 11 on Queens Wharf. Portraits of New Zealanders in various forms including photos, sculptures and paintings are exhibited. Open 10.30am - 4.30pm daily, free entry for most exhibitions.
One of the biggest wooden buildings in the world is at 55 Lambton Quay, around the corner from one of New Zealand's most unusual shaped buildings - the Beehive (photo below). The wooden building was completed in 1876 and is known as the Old Government Buildings as it was home to the Wellington civil service. It had 64 toilets, 126 fire places and 22 chimneys.
The building is also unique in that it was constructed to look like an Italian stone palace, rather than the timber structure it is. The Victoria University Law Faculty currently lease the building and parts of it are open to the public and can be viewed free of charge Monday - Friday, 9am-5pm.
Parliament tours - Aspiring politicians can take a free, one hour tour of Parliament Buildings, allow 15 minutes before the tour for a security screening. Visit the Beehive, Parliament House and the Victorian Gothic style Parliamentary Library. If the law makers are in the house you can observe the clamour at question time from the public gallery. If question time leaves a bad taste in your mouth buy some Argumints from the gift shop.
Opposite Parliament Buildings is The Backbencher Gastropub at 34 Molesworth Street. The Backbencher is worth a visit to see the political cartoons and puppets - see a former NZ Prime Minister disco dancin', and rugby legend Jonah Lomu in the back bar. Backbencher is open 7 days.
Poetry - Write it, read it or just interested? Find out about Poetry events in Wellington and around the country at NZ Poetry Society.
Queue up with the visitors to take photos of the Bucket Fountain on Cuba Street, one of Wellington's most popular and quirky attractions.
Stand Up Comedy - The Fringe Bar at 26-32 Allen Street hosts Raw Meat Mondays, entry $10, starts at 8pm.
Stock up on local food and beverages at Harbourside Market, corner Cable and Barnett Street (next to Te Papa). The market is open on Sunday from 7.30am - 1pm in winter, 7.30am - 2pm in summer. There are lots of food stalls and $10 will buy you breakfast or lunch.
Street Art - There is a lot of neat street art in Wellington and it deserves its own blog post, but for now ......
Te Aro is home to Nairn Street Cottage at 68 Nairn Street. The cottage was built in 1858 and is Wellington city's oldest original cottage, the heritage garden is modelled on the original. Visit the website to check opening hours, cottage entry and tour $8 adults, children $4.
Travelling with young children? There is a playground in Frank Kitts Park on the waterfront that has a neat lighthouse slide. Nearby a hopscotch grid is painted on the concrete - bring your own stone, or use a coin. (All playground locations in Wellington).
Underground Market - support local artists at the excellent Underground Market held on Saturday from 10am - 4pm underneath Frank Kitts Park on Jervois Quay.
Unwind away from the city at Scorch-O-Rama, 497 Karaka Bay Road, Scorching Bay (around 20 minutes drive from the CBD). It can be a serene location, but if the wind blows in Wellington as it often does, you can seek shelter in the covered dining area opposite the sea side seating.
It was an afternoon tea visit for us so a raspberry and chocolate brownie, and a date scone did the trick but there are more substantial meals on the menu. There's a patch of beach for the kids and some colourful shell mosaic work to brighten up a dull day. Open 7 days.
Visit Katherine Mansfield's Birth Place at 25 Tinakori Road, Thorndon. A self guided tour of the house is $8 (closed Monday).
Wacky Wellington - Not all of our Wacky Wellington finds fit the $10 or under category, but there are fairy doors to be found, a wacky mini golf course to putt on, and a golden living statue to be seen at Harbourside Market.
Walk the sculpture trails - Below are three photographs of outdoor sculptures in Wellington city. Wellington Sculpture Trust has information about sculpture walks.
Wellington Writers Walk - Wellington has celebrated writers with links to the city by setting quotations in concrete along a length of the waterfront known as the Writers Walk - map. The quotations aren't as easy to find as you might think, the walk is like a little mystery waiting to be solved. Vincent O'Sullivan is quoted as follows:
You can jump for free off the jumping platform at Taranaki Wharf near Circa Theatre. There is a sign noting some of the different types of jumps - can opener, staple and flying squirrel, beware the belly flop.
Dress up and try to fly at the Birdman Contest on Taranaki Wharf in January, or just enjoy the festivities.
Zero in on Maori art and contemporary New Zealand art and design at Kura Gallery, 19 Allen Street. Next door is Ora Gallery showcasing contemporary art and design, Ora also has a cafe.
There's also a Maori Arts Gallery in the boat sheds at Frank Kitts Park. Ten dollars probably isn't going to buy you anything from these galleries but if you're looking for a quality, unique souvenir or gift they may be the place to bust your budget.
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I have been to New Zealand recently and it certainly lived up to expectations. One of the highlights of my trip was Hobbiton; as a true fan, I couldn't afford to miss it!