Wellington’s best kept secrets
When New Zealand is brought up in conversation, the things that often come to mind are the country’s unbelievably friendly locals, adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities, and of course the spectacular scenic vistas - which made The Lord of The Rings such a breathtaking movie.
While all these are certainly draws (as you can see from our previous story), New Zealand’s capital itself still holds secrets that most travellers aren’t aware of. From setting up camp at Rivendell to exploring foodie laneways, here are 7 reasons to make Wellington your next escape.
1. Go tramping and take in New Zealand’s natural beauty at Aorangi Forest Park
Image credit: @zigaradsel
If you rather stay dry, pack your warm clothes and trail mix and take a two hour drive to Aorangi Forest Park to take in a heady dose of New Zealand’s natural splendour.
Hobbiton may be New Zealand’s most popular Lord of The Rings filming destination to visit, but within Aorangi you’ll find the Putangirua Pinnacles - the otherworldly landscape that made its debut as Dimholt Road - the Dark Woods through which Legolas, Aragorn, and Gimli first encountered the Army of the Undead.
Image credit: @mattglastonbury
Suitable for even the most amateur trekkers, the journey will take you anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on your speed. Braver ones can even opt to spend the night at the campsite near the beginning - just don't do so alone.
2. Go wreck diving just 15 minutes from Wellington’s city centre
Image credit: Dive Wellington
If exploring spooky undersea wrecks is your idea of fun, head to Dive Wellington located just 10 minutes from Wellington City. The dive shop is right on the beach so once you get geared up, it’s just a 5-minute boat ride before you’re right above the wreckage of the HMNZS Wellington frigate - a warship of the New Zealand Royal Navy all the way back in the 1960s.
Some of us might be a bit “pantang” about visiting the site of a horrific accident, but don’t worry - The Wellington was intentionally sunk to be used as an artificial reef and a diving spot, so no bad juju!
The wreck site offers good visibility and it’s easy enough to dive as the wreck is only 21 metres deep. Two dives with full gear hire cost a very reasonable $145 NZD ($140 SGD).
3. Eat your way through Wellington’s tastiest Laneway
It’s practically impossible for us Singaporeans to go on a vacay and not snap a couple of shots of Instagram-worthy snacks. Hannahs Laneway is where you’ll scratch that itch.
The “laneway” (essentially an atas alleyway) is home to a collection of quirky cafes, restaurants, and bars each with unique, colourful offerings. Six Barrel Soda Factory offers some out-of-this-world soda flavours like hibiscus, orange & dandelion, coffee soda, and even a chilli cucumber tonic - all of which you can take home as gifts.
And as far as hole-in-the-wall joints go, Fix & Fogg is as literal as it gets - you buy your peanut butter out of a small unassuming window. This artisanal “peanut buttery” makes its wide selection of classic and flavoured peanut butters from scratch. Flavours include classic crunchy or smooth, honey, and the spicy smoke and fire.
Of course, you also can’t miss Leeds Street Bakery where you'll find Wellington's best salted caramel cookies.
4. Feel the thunderous winds from landing jets at Lyall Bay
Image credit: isaawuff
Once you’re done with your inner city adventures, head back into the great outdoors and spend a sunny evening at Lyall Bay, a popular surf beach right next to Wellington International Airport’s main runway.
There’s really nowhere else in New Zealand where you can get this close to the jumbo jets that swoop right over you and hit you with the blast from their jet engines - you’ll even feel the tremors! Definitely the most exhilarating beach experience you can get in Wellington.
When your heart rate returns to normal, walk further up the beach and chill at Maranui Cafe for a stellar cup of coffee and some seriously good brunch bites.
5. Set up camp at “Rivendale” at Kaitoke National Park
Image credit: @ella_curtis
Another Lord of The Rings filming location that’s a bit more raw and rugged is Kaitoke National Park where the Elvish city of Rivendale was filmed. Hike to the middle of the park and you’ll find a plaque marking the exact location that filming took place.
Also within the park is a scenic campground right next to the Pakuratahi River. The grounds are open every day of the year, accessible from the Waterworks Road entrance to the park, 40 minutes from Wellington’s city.
If you’re after a more high-adrenaline activity, you can also mountain bike, go rafting, and even go horse riding around the grounds.
6. Hike Wright's Hill, explore the fort, and end the evening with a spectacular view from the lookout
Image credit: Imgur
If you fancy working up a bit of a sweat, take a brisk 90-minute hike up to the scenic summit of Wright’s Hill. Time it right, and you’ll also get to enjoy a sunset picnic on the hill’s peak and take in the scenic view of Wellington’s well-lit harbour.
Another attraction atop the hill is Wright’s Hill Fortress, a labyrinthine underground structure that housed planning rooms, coastal artillery, and wartime shelters - much like Fort Canning Hill.
The hill is a perfect afternoon activity since it’s conveniently located in the Karori neighbourhood, a short trip from central Wellington.
Note: the interior of the fort is only accessible on open days or with pre-booked tours so plan accordingly
7. Feast your eyes on the milky way in its full glory on the coast
Image credit: @heartypie
Even if you’ve missed the Aurora Australis, you can still enjoy breathtaking views of the Milky Way if you know where to go. Keep the evening free and take a short 30 minute coastal walk down the Red Rocks Walkway, accessible via Owhiro Bay Parade.
Come sundown, the rocky beach offers stargazers a great view of the night sky with minimal light pollution from the city. If you come down earlier in the afternoon, you can even walk further west to Sinclair Head, where you'll find a huge colony of New Zealand fur seals.
The area here is fairly undeveloped and rugged so make sure you pack a drink and some food so you don’t get hungry halfway.
Travel to Wellington and back for only $600 with SQ and DBS
If you’re already packing your bags and getting ready to book a flight to Wellington we’ve got news for you! DBS has partnered with Singapore Airlines and will be offering open jaw tickets to Wellington (with a stopover in Canberra) for just $600 - just one of the many perks DBS cardholders get to enjoy.
The travel period will be between November 2017 and June 2018 giving you adventurers plenty of time to plan. The offer is valid only ‘til 6th November so book now with your POSB/DBS cards and apply the promo code DBSSIA to enjoy this exclusive deal!
Note: The flight stops over in Canberra, Australia.
This post was brought to you by DBS.