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In the Women’s Web ‘Travel The World With Kids’ series, we talk to mums from all over the globe who are interested in exploring their backyard attractions with their tiny tots! We hope you find them useful, if someday you choose to visit their part of the world. Presented in Q&A format, this one is with Sarah Lee of Catching The Magic, from Wellington, New Zealand.
Strikingly scenic, Wellington – the capital of New Zealand, has a range of kid-friendly activities to indulge in, says Sarah. More, from Sarah herself.
Hello Sarah! Tell us about yourself.
I’ve been living in Wellington since 1997. Arriving in my early twenties, from the UK, I enjoyed making the most of long weekends and holidays to explore New Zealand’s stunning natural scenery and enjoy some thrilling experiences – such as hiking on an active volcano, taking a helicopter ride and landing on a glacier.
In 2000 my husband and I were very fortunate to become permanent residents and call New Zealand ‘home’. In 2003 we became parents to a little girl. Our lives changed forever – as anticipated! Fast forward to 2012 and we are the proud parents of three Kiwi born daughters! We love to share our family life and adventures on our blog.
What are some of your suggestions for parents visiting with young kids to do in Wellington?
When the sun is out, there is an abundance of activities for children (and over 100 quality play-grounds!), from riding the Cable Car through the Botanic Garden to playing at the beach at Oriental Parade or hiring a ‘Croc Bike‘ and enjoying a family pedal along the waterfront.
The waterfront, on a sunny day, is absolutely wonderful – the expression, ‘You can’t beat Welly on a good day!’ is totally apt. Hire a kayak from Fergs (or go rock climbing at the indoor centre if the weather takes a turn for the worse). Hire roller blades, bicycles or enjoy a pedalo boat on the lagoon (stopping for a gelato and latte afterwards!). Look out for rays in the shallow water of the lagoon, starfish and even the occasional seal.
Wellington Zoo is very family friendly and not an overwhelming large zoo – they market themselves proudly as the ‘best little zoo in the world’ and situated overlooking the city it really makes for a great morning or afternoon excursion.
For beach lovers it’s well worth taking a bus out to Lyall Bay – the popular beach for surfers and very family friendly and safe for swimmers too. Along from Lyall Bay are beautiful Princess Bay, Houghton Bay and Island Bay. The South Coast of Wellington is a marine reserve and popular for diving and snorkeling. On Sundays there is a lovely little marine education centre open in Island Bay. Further along the coast is the spectacularly wild and rugged scenery of the ‘Red Rocks Reserve‘, where New Zealand fur seals can be seen at Sinclair Heads, especially in the winter ‘haul out’ months. Well worth a tramp (for more information visit NZ Tramping Tracks).
The Miramar Peninsula is definitely worth a visit too, especially if visiting Wellington for more than a couple of days. It is home to the ‘Weta‘ workshop, of Lord of the Rings fame and has the best beaches of the city suburbs – Scorching Bay and Worser Bay.
For nature lovers the town belt land of the city boasts several scenic walks. ‘Zealandia‘ is an amazing place to visit – a huge, predator proof fence, has enabled the city of Wellington to embark on an incredible initiative to turn back the clock and recreate a slice of New Zealand’s mainland to how nature intended – before people arrived. Free of introduced predators it is a safe haven for native birds, skinks, weta, freshwater species and, New Zealand’s very own link to the dinosaur era, the tuatara.
It’s also worth walking up Mt. Victoria to the lookout, for sweeping views of Wellington’s hilly topography (or hike up Mt.Kaukau if feeling very energetic – there’s an outdoor swimming pool in summer to refresh afterwards in Khandallah!).
If the weather takes a turn for the worse, then the amazing museum of ‘Te Papa‘ is incredible and definitely a ‘must do’ and it’s free! There are several areas designed with children in mind, ‘Discovery Centres’ offering wonderful hands on activities.
The ‘Museum of City and Sea‘ is Wellington’s museum and of great interest to anyone – but particularly those interested in maritime history. It’s located at Queen’s Wharf – close to the central city, cafes and Frank Kitts Park.
The central city library is very child friendly (with Clarke’s Cafe having a little play area for children). Located on Civic Square – next to the visitor information centre, the City Art Gallery and ‘Capital E‘ (which has a fun indoor, free, playground space for children).
For tourists visiting Wellington for the first time, do you have any particular tips?
Wellington is a super family friendly place to visit. Locals are always keen to help visitors with directions and show off their home-town.
I would recommend a rain-coat – and if it’s a windy day hold on to everything (particularly buggies and children!). Umbrellas are completely useless in Wellington’s winds (it is normal to see several broken ones in litter bins around the city!).
The playgrounds are incredibly clean, safe and plentiful. It is normal to see children (and adults) wander around the city bare-foot; don’t be alarmed – that is just an indication of how chilled, safe and relaxed a place it is!
Are there any particular restaurants in Wellington that you think kids will enjoy?
There are far too many restaurants and cafes to list, but there are a few special ones that are great for children and families – some of which are listed on the WellingtonNZ.com website. Personally a cafe with lots of space, a few toys and books, maybe a courtyard or a playground nearby are my favourites! One place that’s not mentioned is ‘The Southern Cross‘ (which is fabulous for brunch on a Sunday – there’s usually face-painting and crafts on for the children!).
Are there any particular shopping areas in Wellington that kids might enjoy?
Cuba Street is definitely a place for families. The famous ‘bucket fountain’ is sure to entertain and there’s a little slide next to it right opposite a couple of scrumptious cafes to suit all tastes (young and old, decadent and simple). There are often street entertainers on a weekend.
Lambton Quay is the ‘Golden Mile’ of shopping in Wellington. Stores of interest to children will be Borders (with a cafe and child friendly area to enjoy books), the ‘Harrods’ of New Zealand; Kirkcaldie and Staines is always worth a visit (just avoid the china department with young children!); there is a change room for babies and a cafe on the third floor. Adjacent to Kirks (as the locals call it) is Midland Park – a green oasis amongst the towering buildings – though the waterfront is only a five minute stroll away. The Old Bank Arcade (with a beautiful clock that opens on the hour, every hour, to tell the story of Wellington’s history – accompanied to the music of ‘Trumpet Voluntary’).
If visiting on a Saturday there’s ‘Frank Kitts Underground Market‘ – wonderful crafts and often a few stalls of interest to children. On a Sunday there is a wonderful fruit and vegetable market by Waitangi Park and playground – as well as an indoor food market.
For more information on shopping in Wellington visit – WellingtonNZ.com / Shopping.
Any kid-friendly day trips out from Wellington?
The Kapiti Coast is stunning and a wonderful place to take the children to simply play at the beach at Queen Elizabeth Country Park or visit the petting farm at Lindale. We recently spent a wonderful holiday on the coast at Otaki.
Alternatively drive out towards the Hutt Valley and visit Staglands Wildlife Reserve and Cafe – a beautiful place nestled in the bush with an array of native animals (and friendly farm animals) to feed.
Another escape out of the city is to Catchpool Valley, which is located 12 km south of Wainuiomata, on the Coast Road, 45 minutes drive from Wellington. There are many walks to suit all levels of fitness and beautiful short, nature walks to suit families with young children too. We recently took a day trip there and enjoyed a marvellous time.
How easy/difficult is it travelling around with kids in New Zealand?
There are plenty of transport options from hiring a car, a mobile home or travelling by train and bus through New Zealand’s stunning scenic landscape. The standard of accommodation is excellent and the hostels and motels have an excellent reputation for being of a high quality and affordable. There are also ‘Top 10 Holiday Parks‘. If staying for a longer duration in one place then it’s worth considering a ‘bach‘ or holiday home.
‘Kids Friendly Travel NZ‘ provides a wealth of information and tips for safe and happy travels in New Zealand.
Wow! Thanks for such detailed answers Sarah! I bet we won’t even need a guide book when we visit Wellington!
*Photo credit: Sarah Lee (Catching the Magic on Scorching Bay Beach, Miramar Peninsula.)
Previous Interviews In The ‘Travel With Kids’ Series:
Toni from Manila
The Mad Momma from Delhi
Maid In Malaysia from Kuala Lumpur
Lakshmi from Hyderabad
Sunayana from Kolkata
Sunita from Pune
Anuradha from Mumbai
Artnavy from Bengaluru
Leonny from Singapore
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