This trip was as much about the flights enroute as it was about the destination. Still, I was excited to be back in one of my favorite places; New Zealand. I didn’t really take advantage of the best part of visiting here, getting out in nature, but I did enjoy my long weekend there. New Zealand remains high on the list of destinations for a family trip when my daughter gets a little older.
My Qantas flight from Sydney got in to Auckland in the afternoon, and I took an uber to my hotel. Auckland doesn’t have too many options for where I have the bulk of my hotel points, and the options I did have were too expensive. A Four Points Sheraton opened shortly after my visit, and I walked past the Park Hyatt which is under construction. But for my stay, I stayed at a local place, which was actually very nice. From my hotel it is a bit of a hike to get into the CBD, but after basically 24 hours of sitting on planes and eating, the exercise and fresh air was nice. I stayed near K’ road, where there are a lot of local shops with good food options all around.
An evening and morning in Auckland
My typical way to explore a city when traveling alone is to walk around, see some sights and often if I can, drink local beer. I’ve visited Auckland before, but it has been a while. This trip was in mid-May, so being southern winter, hours of daylight were short. There was a chance of rain, but it didn’t prevent me from getting out and about.
While checking out the craft beer scene, I was excited to discover there were still a few beers available that were brewed with fresh/wet hops. New Zealand grows a lot of hops, so that was a nice coincidence. I enjoyed my visit to 16 Tun in the Wynyard Quarter, there was a good selection of fresh food, and some excellent NZ craft beers. I also had a nice chat with the bartender. Apparently my American accent is somewhat exotic there…
The next morning I went for a run, got to see more of the city, and then it was already time to move on, my flight to Wellington left around noon.
Jetstar to Wellington
My time in Auckland was short, but this was intentional, since I’m traveling here later this year for business. I decided to spend the bulk of my time in Wellington, the capital city, which I remembered enjoying on my last trip. There was easy access from Auckland, as well as award space to get me back to Sydney for my flight home. To get to Wellington, I booked a one way flight on Jetstar. Even with a few add ons to allow for pre booked seats and apparently a free meal (the FlexiBiz bundle), the flight was cheap, around US$77. I even lucked out and had an open middle seat next to me. No frills, but it was fine for less than an hour in the air.
Cuba Street in Wellington
Last time I visited Wellington, I remembered staying on Cuba Street, and on this trip stayed in the same complex. This time since I was alone I opted for the more budget Comfort hotel. Perfectly fine, and the location was great. Lots of shops and restaurants along pedestrian Cuba Street. I followed a similar pattern to my time in Auckland, checking out a few sights and some local brews.
Gallipoli exhibits in Wellington
When planning this trip, I read about a special exhibit on the Gallipoli campaign at the Te Papa Museum. I knew this National Museum is highly regarded, and I missed it last time, so I made sure to visit. This is a great spot, especially for free. The Gallipoli exhibit was created with the team from the Weta workshop, a special effects company probably best known for work on the Lord of the Rings movies. This exhibit tells the story of New Zealand’s involvement in the Gallipoli campaign, an ill-fated attempt to take the Dardanelles strait from Turkey during WWI. There are several large statues that tell a particular story of a historical figure. These are extremely detailed, and striking in that they are presented at a scale more than double life sized.
I also visited the National War Memorial, and the nearby Great War Exhibition, which was also impressive, especially the trench experience which recreates a short peak into life in caves and trenches for ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) troops on the front lines in Gallipoli. It was really an impressive experience.
I am interested in military history, but I didn’t really plan to spend so much time learning about the Great War on this trip. Somehow, that is how it worked out. I learned a lot, especially coming from the New Zealand perspective.
Other exploration in Wellington
Besides the special Gallipoli exhibition, there are other excellent exhibits at Te Papa museum. I spent most of one morning there. When I headed outside to look for lunch, conveniently, there was a bunch of food trucks and other produce stands in a parking lot nearby. This is the Harbourside Market, but being late fall, there wasn’t a lot of fresh produce. I got lunch from a food truck serving Moroccan food. Tasty, although I encountered an issue with their electronic payment system that didn’t accept credit cards, only New Zealand debit cards, so I had to pay with cash. Besides that I paid most everywhere in NZ using ApplePay.
After lunch, I walked around the harbor area. It was quite cloudy, and some drizzle, but nothing too bad. Continuing my tradition, I also visited a few local breweries. Wellington is somewhat of a craft beer hub, with a lot of beer produced in the area. A favorite in Wellington is Garage Project.
I really enjoyed my time in New Zealand on this short trip. I will definitely return, and while I enjoyed Wellington and Auckland, I look forward to more time on the South Island.
This report is part of my long weekend trip to New Zealand.