New Zealand is definitely in my top 5 favourite countries. I feel very lucky to have had the chance to live there for 2 years. Travelling in a country can give you a glimpse of what its about but living there and immersing yourself in their ways really opens your eyes.
I lived in the Wellington region in the small town of Masterton in the Wairarapa and in the slightly larger town of Palmerston North in Manuwatu over the course of 2 years. I tried to see and do as much as I could while living there. These are some of the highlights:
Sights of Wellington
New Zealand’s capital city has the feeling of a big village. Compact, bustling with energy and everything within walking distance. Windy Wellington as its name would suggest tends to be hit with some difficult weather conditions but if you find yourself there on a warm Summer’s day you will struggle to find many places you would prefer to be.
Oriental Parade is the closest beach to the CBD. It only takes 15 minutes walking to get there from Courtney Place (main street for bars and restaurants). In the Summer months (January to March) this area becomes a hive of activity for families, backpackers and locals. The Rimutaka mountains provide the beautiful backdrop across the bay. It is a great place to relax, enjoy the sun and to chill out for the day.
Harbourside Market Sunday market which can be found in Waitangi Park just off Cable St very close to Oriental Parade. Here you can feast your eyes on a wide variety of food of all types. There is something for everyone here. It’s the perfect place for breakfast or lunch especially on a nice day when you can explore your surroundings at the same time. In Winter the opening hours are 7:30 – 13:00 while Summer offers another hour in the afternoon to indulge yourself in the goodness.
Te Papa (“Our Place”), The Museum of New Zealand is a great place to hang out for the day. Just up the road from the beach and the market. Learn about the culture of New Zealand, the history and how things have formed over its short time as a country. Admission is free to the general public to the majority of the museum but they often have different exhibitions to showcase something extra which can cost a little more.
Mt. Victoria Lookout allows you to avail of spectacular panoramic views of the city. Brave the winds and work the legs or test out your driving skills to reach the top which rises 196 m above the city. It is one of the best places in the city to catch a sunrise/sunset or check out the bright lights of the city below.
Into the Wild in Wairarapa
The Wairarapa is a region just outside Wellington on the south-eastern corner of the North Island. It is a sparsely populated area with a few hidden gems that are worth seeking out.
Castlepoint is a small beachside village. It is home to the beautiful Castlepoint lighthouse that overlooks Castle Rock in the bay. It is a great place to explore, go fishing or just relax and enjoy some quiet time. Castle Rock ascends 162 m high and can be scaled on a walk through woods and over bridges which takes approximately 40 minutes. You need a car/campervan to reach Castlepoint as it is a little isolated and there is no public transport that brings you over there. It takes about one hour from the town of Masterton or just over two hours driving from Wellington.
Tararua Forest Park is a large conservation park that offers an amazing variety of tramping/walking trails. It can suit the casual weekend walker that likes to go out for a few hours in the fresh air to the hardened trekker that likes to get out for a few days at a time.
I explored the region around Masterton so I made the made the most of the Holdsworth region but you can also explore the park from Otaki Forks on the western side near Kapiti and Waiohine Gorge on the southeastern side.
It is important to explore your local area. If you are just visiting like I was or if you have called this place your home all of your life. There are so many places to see and things to do, all you need is to get yourself out there. Pack your backpack, jump on a bus or get into your car and see the amazing things that are all around us.