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    10 things to do in Wellington, New Zealand

    The capital city of New Zealand is my spiritual heart (I fell in love whilst at university there) and with more cafes per capita than any other city in the world, it always feels like home. Walking down Wellington streets, my mind overlays so many memories – and I’m always amazed at how after a decade I still know how to get around without a map. I suspect it is indelibly etched on my heart.

    10 things to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    10 things to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I could actually suggest a zillion different reasons to visit Wellington, but for me, the most important ones are my brother, sister-in-law, two rosy cheeked nephews and my best friend (who I managed to also get to see up in Auckland!). Even if you don’t possess such filial ties, Wellington is a brilliant city.

    Capping off the bottom of the North Island, and overlooking the Cook Strait towards the hills and valleys of the South Island, Wellington is a compact city surrounded by tree shrouded valleys and hills. 

    10 things to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    1:- Sit on the harbourside and people watch.
    Honestly, it is one of my favourite things to do, coffee in hand. Simple things huh?

    10 things to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    10 things to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    2:- Brunch. 

    I have so many recommendations of old classics that I wrote an entire post of my favourite Wellington brunch spots. Wellington brunches are simply at a sublime level of flavour and inventiveness – and that’s before we even begin to look at the delectable dinner options.

    10 things to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    10 things to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    3:- Explore Te Papa Museum.
    Te Papa is New Zealand’s national museum and gallery. You can explore the great treasures and stories of my home country – the unique natural environment, Maori culture, art heritage, and fascinating history. There are always innovative and interactive exhibitions both changing and permanent – I always lose hours here.

    10 things to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    4:- Meander along the quays and do a little shopping.
    There is art on practically every corner and excellent coffee on every other. What more could a person ever need?

    10 things to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    10 things to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    5:- Ride the cable car up to the Botanical gardens and nibble a picnic.
    Once you’re there, I’d also recommend stargazing and check out the amazing planetarium show at Carter Observatory. There are exhibitions that explain the significance of Matariki and the role of the star cluster for the Māori New Year, and the importance of the stars in Polynesian and Māori navigation.

    6:- Take in a Parliament tour at the Beehive. 
    Our national seat of governance is infamous for having a tractor driven up the steps in protest of a methane tax. Because, New Zealand… I’m also rather proud that it is where women were granted the vote – we were the ifirst

    What to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    7:- Visit the Bucket Fountain on Cuba Street.
    You get bonus points if the university students have poured dishwashing liquid to bubble it. Many of the more bohemian shops and characters inhabit Cuba Street – I have vivid memories of juggling fireballs here as a student.

    What to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    8:- Hike up the steep lanes of Wellington Zoo.
    Not only do the animals have amazing views over the valley, there is a great kiwi exhibition and they have several unique animal experiences – I got to pat a Lion a few years ago.

    What to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    9:- Visit Weta Workshop.
    Get an inside peek into Wellywood at The Weta Cave in Miramar – it is the multi-award winning special effects workshop set up for filming Lord of the Rings. Did I mention that I was in one of those films as an extra? It’s usually my party piece. (Nb: image is unrelated, but of my gorgeous, tousled haired nephew.)

    What to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    10:- Pop around the harbour to Petone.
    Not only is the train ride stunning as you skim the sea, Petone is becoming a real foodie hub with fantastic cafes and restaurants. We popped into Comes & Goes for an exquisite array of brunch dishes.

    What to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I do have a little disclaimer to sneak in – the weather in Wellywood can be extremely tempestuous and living there you soon learn to walk sideways, but with the fantastic vibes, the bohemian underbelly and really friendly atmosphere it is well worth a visit. And on a sunny day? The city is utterly unbeatable!

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    Orbit 360° Dining – Restaurant Review – SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand

    “You spin me right round, baby right round” Ahem, sorry.

    In my experience over the years, restaurants with amazing views have more often than not have low quality food. There have been a few exceptions; Hutong at the Shard, Duck and Waffle brunches and Peninsula Restaurant at the Intercontinental Hotel. It seems as though the restauranteurs know they can get away with this because the view is so beautiful and restaurant goers are usually tourists who have money to burn and won’t go back any time anyway.

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand

    Sorry, grouch over. The Auckland Sky Tower is totally different (and that’s not just national pride kicking in). I’d been there a long while ago for their sumptuous buffet, but my sister visited a couple of years ago and pronounced that it hadn’t lost any of the quality.

    So, when arranging to meet up wth Ngaire @ KiwiFootprints (she moved back to New Zealand from London a while ago, much to my dismay) we bandied about a meal overlooking the beautiful Auckland skyline, and booked into the rotating Sky City Orbit 360° Dining in the Sky Tower with gluttonous glee.

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Truth be told my sister and I ran a little late – there was the slight problem of being stuck at the base of Rangitoto Island (a dormant volcano) that we had surprised ourselves by hiking, so a little later than planned and just as the sun began to set we sped across Auckland Harbour.

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The Sky Tower used to be the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere at 328 metres (1,076 ft) tall, as measured from ground level to the top of the mast, making it the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere and the 23rd tallest tower in the world

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    (Sorry, I’ve learnt over the years that I’m not very good at writing straight up restaurant reviews – my experience is so coloured and brought alive by the company I keep and the reason that we are there, so not recording those details would be like a song without any music aka a dude thumping into a drum and shouting ‘nice food!!’. This conjures images of George Dawes.)

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I met Ngaire (or Na-gar-eeee as she usually gets called – her name is a beautiful Maori name pronounced ‘Ny-ree’ and means silver fern in the original Hawaiian) back in London, when we were both expats struggling to meet nice people. And thanks to a little stalking over the internet we became friends and got up to all kinds of fun before she booked in an epic journey back to New Zealand to be nearer her family.

    Oh right, yes, dinner. Having quickly changed our shoes, applied a little face paint and put our glad rags, we met her at the base of the Sky Tower.

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Our meal was delicious. From my starter of Duck liver parfait, smoked duck ham, duck confit roll and doris plum chutney, to Ngaire and Alice’s chicken to beef and right through again to my duck breast, each dish was executed with delicacy and panache.

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    My dessert of Cheesecake with a twist, served with orchard apricot and lime fruits, cheesecake cream, oat crumb was ridiculously good…

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    …and Ngaire demonstrated the delicious deconstructed Jaffa cake – a chocolate sphere filled with orange and chocolate.
    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    By the time we left, satiated and content, the sun had completely disappeared and the Southern Lights were sparkling above our heads. The lighting inside was subdued to make the most of gorgeous 360 views, so apologies for the image quality. I just had to share this.

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We stopped to look over the lit up harbour, and stopped for a quick selfie.

    Orbit 360° Dining - Restaurant Review - SKYCITY Auckland, New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    A perfect night.

    What is your experience of restaurants with a view?

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    That time we went out for brunch and accidentally hiked the Rangitoto volcano crater

    Nothing seems to surprise my husband anymore. I must come out with ridiculous scenarios so regularly now, he doesn’t even lift an eyebrow. Case in point, when I video called him from New Zealand. (He knew I was in NZ by the way, my whereabouts haven’t become that surprising. Yet.)

    Rangitoto Island Auckland Day Trip New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    “How was your day?” ‘Good thanks, we went out for brunch with Ginni and Alice, and then hiked up a volcano crater.’ “That’s nice dear. It rained in London today” (sic)

    Not only does my bestie/bridesmaid/co-mischief legend Ginni lives a good 8 hour drive away from Auckland where I happened to be hanging with my sister for a couple of days, but for me to then tell him that after bunching and sending Ginni back to her Auckland office, my sister and I decided to hop on the Rangitoto ferry in Auckland harbour and explore a dormant volcano only made him laugh.

    Rangitoto Island Auckland Day Trip New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Rangitoto Island Auckland Day Trip New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We began the day with hugs and a breakfast array at Federal & Wolfe Cafe in the viaduct (and it was scrumptious). Us Kiwis are rather obsessed with brunch (no surprises there for readers) and we hoovered up pretty well every crumb from our plates.

    Escorting Ginni to her nearby office, my sister and I then both looked at each other and shrugged about what we would do that day. I had my laptop in bag for an afternoon of freelance work, and we kinda tossed the idea around of going to a museum. Somehow (see the first paragraph) we found ourselves boarding the ferry for the colonial town of Devonport.

    Rangitoto Island Auckland Day Trip New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Rangitoto Island Auckland Day Trip New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Only a 12-minute ferry ride away from the central business district of Auckland, “tthe picturesque historic village boasts stunning views of Auckland city unseen from any other location and a number unique attractions.” We simply wandered through the misty, sleepy streets before settling in for a wharf side coffee.

    So far, so normal.

    Rangitoto Island Auckland Day Trip New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    An hour or two later we boarded our ferry connection to Rangitoto Island.

    The 5.5 km wide island is an iconic and widely visible landmark of Auckland with its distinctive symmetrical shield volcano cone rising 260 metres (850 ft) high over the Hauraki Gulf. Rangitoto is the most recent and the largest (2311 hectares) of the approximately 50 volcanoes of the Auckland volcanic field. Created by a cluster of several small volcanoes around 6,000 years ago, the most recent Rangitoto eruption is thought to have occurred around 550 years ago – and considered dormant for the most part.

    Rangitoto Island Auckland Day Trip New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Rangitoto Island Auckland Day Trip New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Rangitoto is Māori for ‘Bloody Sky’, with the name coming from the full phrase Ngā Rangi-i-totongia-a Tama-te-kapua (‘The days of the bleeding of Tama-te-kapua’). Tama-te-kapua was the captain of the Arawa waka (canoe) and was badly wounded on the island, at a (lost) battle with the Tainui iwi (tribe) at Islington Bay.

    Hopping onto the island ‘train’, a tractor with padded seating, we were spared the hours of trekking through the pathways and taken around a fair amount of the island to a spot where we could start to climb the boarded walkways to the crater.

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Stopping to admire the view, sip on our bottles of water (kindly advised to buy before we got to Rangitoto by the Devonport ticket guy) and admire the breathtaking views, we probably took around 20 minutes of trudging up the well kept stairs wrapping around the summit of Ngā Pona-toru-a-Peretū Scenic Reserve.

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Best decision we’ve ever made.

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    A number of Māori myths exist surrounding the island, including that of a ‘tupua‘ couple, children of the Fire Gods. After quarreling and cursing Mahuika, the fire-goddess, they lost their home on the mainland because it was destroyed by Mataoho, god of earthquakes and eruptions, on Mahuika’s behalf. Lake Pupuke on the North Shore was created in the destruction, while Rangitoto rose from the sea. The mists surrounding Rangitoto at certain times are called the tears of the tupua for their former home.

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Mr Kiwi and I often jokingly bicker about which the best place in the world is, but I know the truth in my heart.

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Pausing to drink in the incredibles views back over Auckland and around the Hauraki Gulf, we slowly made our way back to the train. Wearing polkadot flats and hauling around my laptop wasn’t the best hiking gear, so we couldn’t take in the beautiful tracks around the island and wander through the lava tunnels and caves.

    Instead we just sat back and clutched our seatbelt as the train jerkily drove over tracks and pathways created through the lava rocks. We listened in as our guide told us all about the island and soaked up the sunshine.

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    My country is amazing.

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Unfortunately our return ferry ran a fairly late, but one of the day trekkers waiting on the pier with us who had cellphone reception just called Fullers who apologised and came to pick us up.

    Auckland Day Trip Rangitoto Island New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Top Tips:

    • This is definitely do-able as a day trip from central Auckland – just make sure you time your walk to the ferries. No-one is allowed to stay on the island overnight.
    • Take water, snacks, suncream and wear sensible shoes. Polka dot flats are ok for what we did, but it limits where you can explore.
    • Keep your eyes peeled and enjoy the moment.
    • Chat with the ticket people at Fullers, they are really helpful.

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    Rangitoto Island Auckland Day Trip New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

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    Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand

    We drifted silently through a pitch black cave on a boat we hadn’t seen except for swift flashes of a torch. One by one as the luminescent cave dwellers winked on, the ceiling began to resemble a galaxy of twinkling stars. Still sat with arms clutched tightly and our necks craned as we tried to absorb the moment, floating along a 30 million year old subterranean limestone grotto. 

    Daytrips from Auckland Waitomo Glowworm Caves New Zealand

    Our escort hand pulled us along the cave river, feeling her way along with a guide line mounted just above head level, calling out softly at one point laughingly to a fellow guide who decided to take a strange shortcut.

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    Wild dolphins in Tauranga New Zealand – Love Travel Linkup

    Honestly, I could almost just write this post as ‘wild baby dolphins’ ad finitum. Wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins, wild baby dolphins. There, got it out of my system. Wild baby dolphins. Ok, now I have.

    Wild dolphins in Tauranga New Zealand - Love Travel Linkup

    (Ps. If you don’t want to read about a dolphin love-in, keep scrolling down for the travel linkup widget that opens the 1st of Feb – we’ve all got that lovin’ feeling this month…)

    Wild dolphins in Tauranga New Zealand - Love Travel Linkup

    We woke one morning before Christmas to calm grey skies that cleared to an endless cloudless horizon over turquoise waves, and breathed with relief. It was my third attempt to spot these elusive creatures in New Zealand coastal waters.

    Our last two tries to see wild dolphins off the coast of New Zealand (in Tauranga and Kaikoura respectively) were thwarted with freak storms rending the seas dangerously high to take boats out, and I knew that if this attempt didn’t succeed that I was fated never to do it. (A bit dramatic I know…) 

    Wild dolphins in Tauranga New Zealand - Love Travel Linkup

    This time however we launched the boat from Tauranga wharf loaded with muffins and wetsuits, the plan being for us to spend an hour or so getting away from the coast into more open water (we sat back, drank coffee and tried not to get our hopes up). 

     Before we knew it a shout came down from the crows nest and we were sat along the bow of the boat dangling our shoeless feet (apparently the dolphins are attracted to playing with them). A pod of around 30 then a second pod of 50-70 dolphins had found us in the midst of feeding and were shadowing the boat.

    Wild dolphins in Tauranga New Zealand - Love Travel Linkup 

    Wild dolphins in Tauranga New Zealand - Love Travel Linkup

    Our captain told us all kinds of interesting facts – we were hanging with the common dolphin, who grow to a maximum of about 2.6 metres and have beautiful colouration of cream/grey/black and yellow in a kind of hourglass pattern on their sides. Both the pods we discovered had quite new babies swimming alongside their families, so we couldn’t swim with them this time, but honestly by that point I couldn’t care less.

    Wild dolphins in Tauranga New Zealand - Love Travel Linkup

    LOOK ANOTHER BABY!! We were told if a little ‘un is being naughty, the Mumma dolphin will actually nip it lightly in the tail,
    reminding the youngster to behave.

    If your day is in any way stressful, you HAVE to watch this video right to the end, it gets better and better. Use it as a
    meditation. I have, several times.


    Then, with one last flick of a dolphin’s tail (and our boat’s time allocation up – the New Zealand Department of Conservation allow the boats one hour of time only to keep from stressing them out – though like our captain said he adores them because they come up to the boats and start scratching their backs and getting up to mischief alongside) we headed back to shore.
     Wild dolphins in Tauranga New Zealand - Love Travel Linkup

    Wild dolphins in Tauranga New Zealand - Love Travel Linkup

    So, yeah, it was love at first sight.

    We stopped in afterwards to Phil’s Place, a restaurant owned by the severely misbehaving Phil Rudd (the drummer from ACDC) for some ridiculously good lunch and a few marina-side beers.

    Wild dolphins in Tauranga New Zealand - Love Travel Linkup

    So, how about you?

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