I was famished by the time the Huka Falls river cruise near Taupo had wrapped up. I drove to Storehouse Cafe in Taupo for the second time, again for the same amazing breakfast burrito and coffee.
After refueling myself and the car I began the 5 hour drive to Wellington. It was a mostly overcast and rainy drive that required a coffee stop along the way and a few podcasts (over the course of this trip I became a fan of NPR Planet Money) to keep me alert.
However, there was one particularly scenic part of the drive..
I made it to Wellington — the capital of New Zealand — in the late afternoon and checked into the hotel I had booked the night before. The parking situation was a bit tricky, my car barely fit in the lot next door. Everything about it was so narrow that the car's parking proximity sensors were going off while just going up the ramps. Instantly reminded me of San Francisco.
I would soon find out that so much of Wellington reminded me of San Francisco. This city quickly became one of my favorites.
Mercure Abel Tasman Hotel169 Willis St, Wellington
Decent location near Cuba Street.. that's about it.
I relaxed for an hour at the hotel then went off to find some food. Fortunately, I discovered a nearby hawker center called Capital Market nearby. I grabbed some popcorn chicken and a few tasty pork buns before heading out for some drinks.
James Nisbet had been following my trip on Twitter and we planned to meet up when I arrived in Wellington. James and his friends graciously showed me around the Courtenay Place entertainment district and some popular bars.
That night coincided with the orientation week for local universities, so it was crowded. Like Sixth Street in Austin, Texas during SXSW.
We had walked down Cuba Street a bit the night before so I made a point to come back during the day to really see it. Cuba Street is a must-see; a bit of a cultural hub and lined with bars, restaurants, art galleries, boutiques, coffee shops and so on.
As is my usual objective when in any new city, I began looking for some good brunch spots.
I continued walking around with no real agenda, just to make my way to the harbour. I wandered down Lambton Quay in the central business district of Wellington, eventually finding Civic Square.
A short walk later I made it to Queens Wharf and the beautiful Wellington Waterfront. The skies were clear, the sun was out and so was everyone else on this summer day at the end of February.
It was afternoon by this point and I had not eaten lunch yet so I walked back to Cuba Street to sit down at Fidel's for pizza and a cappuccino.
Wellington Cable Car
Then I trekked back to Lambton Quay to catch the famous funicular Wellington Cable Car. I took it all the way up to get a view overlooking the Kelburn Park sports field and Wellington CBD.
At this point I could have taken the cable car back and be relatively close to my hotel.. but that wouldn't be any fun. I took the long walk back through the Wellington Botanic Garden, then down Tinakori Road before coming around past the distinctive Beehive parliament building in the Thorndon suburb.
Mt. Victoria Lookout
I wrapped up the busy day with some shots of the city from the top of Mount Victoria. I had wanted to shoot a sunset timelapse but ended up getting there a bit too late so I just took a few dusk and night shots. It was a bit chilly and extremely windy up there so it took a ton of long exposures to get a few usable photos.
Exhausted after walking 17 kilometers that day, I returned to the hotel and slept in. I was glad I saw as much as I did the day before with the great weather since the weather had turned cold and overcast overnight. I took the opportunity to take a more leisurely pace as I had seen most of what I wanted already.
In the late morning I walked back to Civic Square to try a cafe I had spotted the day before.
The last must-see on my list was the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. The perfect activity for a chilly and overcast day. Spanning six floors of exhibits, cafes and gift shops, this museum is massive. Many of the exhibits focus on New Zealand history including Māori culture.
With no plans left for the day I walked to nearby Havana Coffee Works. Just as I entered the place I was greeted by a coffee roasting room. I had one of the more memorable cappuccinos so far on this trip. Definitely a stronger coffee flavor and less milk used with their cappuccino.
After lingering at Havana Coffee Works for a while to sip my cappuccino, I was starting to get hungry and remembered one place that my friend Nick Gray raved about: The Chippery. I had been in New Zealand for over a week at this point and hadn't had any fish and chips yet. It was time to change that.
I was coming over a bit of a cold this day so I decided to take the remaining hours slowly and retire back to the hotel early as I would be back on the road the following day.
But not before one more coffee stop.. I saw Midnight Espresso on Cuba Street while walking back to my hotel so I hung out there for a bit with a shot of espresso.
Back at the hotel I checked some details about the ferry ride I had in the morning to the South Island and learned how to return my rental car. The rental car companies don't let you take your car across the islands, so you have to return it and get another one on the next island.