Family Fun in Wellington
On a nice day, a walk in the Botanic Gardens is a great way to burn off some energy
One of the great things about Wellington is its compact size, making it an easily manageable place to explore even with young children.
The first stop on any family tour has to be Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand. Be prepared to spend several hours exploring here. Permanent exhibits include Maori history, the science behind earthquakes and volcanoes and a walk through some of the bird and sea life in New Zealand. Look out for the Discovery Rooms where children can get hands-on with exhibits.
From Te Papa, a walk along the waterfront takes you to the Museum of City and Sea. While this museum is much smaller in scale than it is no less interesting, telling the story of Wellington through the centuries, and exploring its maritime culture including some of its more tragic history such as the Wahine ferry disaster.
No visit to Wellington is complete without a ride on the Cable Car in Lambton Quay. The car takes a leisurely journey up the hill through a series of tunnels, stopping at the Botanic Gardens at the top. The route is used by university students and commuters as well as being a popular tourist attraction, so be prepared to wait occasionally to find space. Get a return ticket and travel both ways, or take a one way ticket and walk back through the Gardens. If you do get a return, try to sit at the front on the way down for a great view of the tracks and the local scenery.
On a nice day, a walk in the Botanic Gardens is a great way to burn off some energy while enjoying the exotic blooms and native trees. Before heading down, take a trip to the cable car museum to learn more about how the cable car was developed and see some of the older cars no longer in use. The Carter Observatory is also located nearby with regular planetarium shows which take you on a journey through the southern skies.
Once you have explored the top of the hill, finding your way through the Botanic Gardens is easy - simply follow the marked paths. Be sure to check the information boards on the way so you don’t miss any interesting side trips such as the Listening Device.
Artistic children and fans of fantasy films like Lord of the Rings will enjoy a trip to the Weta Workshop in Miramar. The workshop itself is not open to the public, but the Weta Cave offers a glimpse into the world of Weta creators and their impressive models. Youngsters who prefer real animals will enjoy Wellington Zoo which houses more than 100 species from New Zealand natives like the Kiwi to exotic animals including red pandas and gibbons.
When little stomachs start rumbling, Wellington is well served with family friendly cafes where the food will impress children and grown-ups. The Chocolate Fish café in Shelly Bay is a bit of a drive around Wellington’s coast, but is well worth a visit. Being close to the sea, fish is a speciality with artisan seafood burgers high on the menu, but the café does a range of other meals as well, including a special children’s menu.
In Island Bay, the Blue Belle Café is popular with families with its well-priced children’s menu. It also gets good reviews for its “fluffies” – hot milk drinks with are an integral part of any café visit for most New Zealand children.
If the weather is sunny, take the time to enjoy the city's beaches while you are visiting the bays. Island Bay and Days Bay are popular with locals while from Lyall Bay you can watch planes coming and going from the airport. Closer to the city centre, Caffe L’Affare in College Street offers children a menu including pancakes and toasties, while adults can choose from a range of dishes including seafood chowder and enjoy some of the café’s Fair Trade coffee.
After refuelling at a cafe, head out to one of the city’s many playgrounds to burn off some energy. The Frank Kitts playground on the waterfront is a favourite with locals and visitors alike with its quirky slide made from an old lighthouse a popular attraction. Central Park in Brooklyn is another popular venue if you have a car, or don’t mind taking the bus out to the suburbs.
Another option for exercise is to hire one of the pedal quadricycles which can be ridden along the waterfront, although this may turn out to be more a workout for parents rather than children.
If the weather does turn nasty, try Fergs Climbing on the waterfront keep the kids moving. The 13-metre high wall is open to even young children providing they have adequate supervision. Fergs can provide all the equipment you need and there is a range of climbing routes from beginner to expert. For smaller children head to Junglerama in Newtown where the children can play in safety among the crash mats and ball pools.
Come rain, shine or even the wind for which it is so renowned, there is plenty to entertain families in Wellington.