Destination Wellington, North Island, NZ – Daily Diary [May/June 2015]

Our family of 8 consisting of 2 Adults and 6 Children (ages 6, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16) recently travelled to Wellington via Melbourne, flying Jetstar, using travel insurer Travel Insurance Direct, hiring a car through Apex, staying at a holiday home in Paekakariki we found on Bookabach, and utilising two other accommodation options for convenience – Apex on Fenton, Rotorua and Quest Atrium, Wellington.

We stayed in Paekakariki for 2 nights, drove to Rotorua and stayed for 2 nights, drove back to Paekakariki, explored the Kapiti Coast and stayed our final night in Wellington enabling us to board at early flight home.

This is our holiday diary.  Travel dates were Monday 25th May – Wednesday 3rd June 2015

Day 1 – Hellooooooo Wellington

Massive Day – left home at 9pm to catch 00:45hrs Jetstar flight to Wellington. Awesome service by Jetstar who kindly spread 8 of us out over 2 rows. Turns out there were 80 people booked on the flight that can fit 180!

3 hrs and 5 minutes later – and about 1 hrs sleep and we land into Windy Wellington at 6:05 local time – 4:05 Melbourne time. Coping remarkably well we disembarked, collected our luggage without incident, and waited, and waited and waited until 7:30am (not particularly impressed) for a shuttle to pick us up and take us to collect our APEX hire car. The guy also drove with the window open. It was freeeeeeezing. Brrrrrrrrrr……. Tired and freezing doesn’t mix well.

Got our 8 seater Toyota Praevia (Toyota Tarago) and drove for 45 minutes to our Holiday Home in a seaside town called Paekakariki. Unfortunately I was so tired I couldn’t stay awake to see the beautiful scenery. Holiday Home perfect with awesome views and underfloor heating.

While some of us slept, others explored the area and did a supermarket shop at Countdown (Woolworths). All awake and we went on a family trip to nearby Paraparaumu. Here we found the i-site information centre – armed ourselves with lots of brochures and things to do, purchased The Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit location guidebooks, bought lunch from Countdown, enjoyed our lunch down at the local park, went to the local NYCO chocolate factory where we stocked up on chocolates. Feeling like we needed an early night, we had one last stop at the local ‘Family Store’ (op shop), purchased some nice warm gloves.

Home to our holiday house, early home-cooked dinner, an evenings entertainment watching NZ TV (which included Home & Away and Neighbours on the same channel). Bed zzzzzzzzzzzz


Day 2 – A Day in the City of Wellington

Day 2, what to do? A 45 minute drive into Wellington, detour to the NZ Police Museum, and after finding a car park costing us $30 for the day, we walked to the infamous Wellington Cable car. Pretty views but not nearly as steep and exciting as The Peak tram in Hong Kong! We chose to just do the one way trip, explored the cable car museum, caught the courtesy bus to Zealandia, a free range bird zoo.

We arrived at Zealandia just in time to join the guided tour and learned all about New Zealand’s native birds, including some that have been blown over from Australia, and that there are no snakes in NZ and few introduced predators at Zealandia. Very pretty landscape and lots of walking trails, but not a lot of wildlife to be seen. The Kiwi is nocturnal, the Tuatura is hibernating and many of the birds probably flew away when they heard us coming, not to mention the glow worms couldn’t be seen in the cave.

Not to worry, the chips were yummy from the cafe and The Discovery Centre was fun. The courtesy bus drove us back to the Wellington Botanic Gardens. An hour long walk through the gardens and the old cemetery and we arrived back to our car.

The Carter Observatory was our next stop where we saw the Are we Aliens? presentation, a constellation lesson and because it was a clear evening we got the opportunity to look through a massive telescope to view Jupiter. Hands on exhibition at the conservatory was fun but it was getting late and we were hungry! I wanted to look for glow worms in the Botanic Gardens but was put off that idea when I realised we had to go near the water areas and it would be pitch black. Maybe not such a good idea! May not end well! We were treated to a night-time birds eye view of Wellington instead.

We found a cosy pub called Shepherds Arms which happened to have a Trivia Night in progress, so we participated from afar, then HOME to our house with warm and toasty floor heating.

Tomorrow we are venturing to Rotorua where we are staying for 2 nights and visiting Hobbiton!


DAY 3 – Sunny Skies, Snow, Lake, Falls & Craters

Early start this morning, woken by what we thought was a tsunami warning siren. Thankfully it wasn’t, but we think the next door neighbours alarm. Phew!
Turned into a big day travelling 412km from Paekakariki – Rotorua (9 hours by the time we made many sightseeing detours).
1/ The Wool Co. where we purchased some warm bed socks for me and left wanting to purchase so much more – I took a catalogue instead!
2/ The National Army Museum rich with lots of History including the ANZACs
3/ We found snow at Tongariro National Park and was treated to spectacular scenery. This was Kobi’s first time ever seeing real snow!
4/ Quick lunch stop at Turangi Bakery & Cafe
5/ We drove into Taupo to visit the i-site information centre. Lake Taupo is amazingly big and so pretty. Toilet stop here and we had to pay 50 cents!!!
6/ Next stop, the amazing Huka Falls
7/ Just enough time to do the Craters of the Moon Geothermal walk where we walked amongst the volcanic activities and witnessed the bubbling craters. This was quite amazing to witness. Reminded me so much of The Big Island, Hawaii.
8/ Awesome sunsets driving into Rotorua
Finally at our home for 2 nights, Apex on Fenton, ‘Take-Aways’ for dinner (that’s what all New Zealanders seem to refer to ‘Take-Away’ as). Ready for lots of Rotorua adventures tomorrow, starting with Hobbiton at 10am.


DAY 4 – Clear skies, Hobbiton, Natural Hot Springs, Mud Pools and the Huka
What a day! We are tired as can be but have jam-packed a lot in. The morning started with a 1 hour drive out to Hobbiton, near Matamata to have a tour of the LOTR and The Hobbit set. We were not disappointed, this was very pretty and found the tour pretty awesome, seeing all the Hobbit Holes, the infamous Party Tree, and ending it at The Green Dragon pub with an Apple Cider – the kids had Ginger Beer. Very pretty and clever movie set.

Then, in search for FREE Thermal Springs, we hit the jackpot at a place on Kerosene Rd. The locals had told us about them and we found them! Amazing Hot Springs with a waterfall, all natural and FREE. That was fun.  Ian then went in search of bubbling mud pools which we also found for FREE. Impressive gurgling mud pools near Rotorua were very fascinating.

Back to our accommodation in Rotorua with just enough time to shower the mud off us from the Hot Springs, then we had an evening out at Mitai Maori Village where we were treated to a NZ Cultural Experience, including traditional dances, the Huka, a ‘cold’ night bush walk to see the glow worms and most importantly, buffet dinner.

Unfortunately, there was a large group from Arizona, USA and we were subjected to their rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner, and Kynan dropped a torch into their ‘sacred waters’ – oops! (the staff were very forgiving).  Home late and to bed. Hopefully we can sleep in a little tomorrow? Tomorrow we are going to the a Redwood Forest near Rotorua and driving back to our holiday house at Paekakariki, near Wellington.


DAY 5 – The Redwoods, Napier & the loooooong drive back to our Beach House in Paekakariki
The Redwoods Forest is as you would picture the forest that Hansel & Gretel got lost in, or where you would find Robin Hood and his Merry Men.  The lady at the Redwoods i-site information centre was a little grumpy, but apart from that we had a fun time here, spent over an hour walking over 5km through the forest up to the lookout. Here we could breathe in the fresh air which was a welcome change to the scents of Rotorua.

After visiting the i-site centre in Rotorua we decided to take an alternative route home via Napier. In Napier we stopped to have lunch in the park, a quick look through the town, then continued on our way back to Paekakariki. Napier looks like it would be a fun place to be in Summer.

The beginning of the Queen’s Birthday Long weekend here in NZ the roads were VERY busy. The sunsets, scenery and many windfarms were pretty but we were happy to make it ‘home’ to our holiday home.

Looking forward to a day on the Kapiti Coast tomorrow – Kapiti Coast Parkrun first thing in the morning at 8am.


DAY 6 – Parkrun, Antiques, Shopping and a chilled out night in front of the TV

Up and at ’em. Ian & I were excited about doing Parkrun in NZ – not so much the rest of the family……….we decided to leave the kids on their own and Ian & I went to the local Parkrun. After singing ‘Happy Birthday to Lizzie’ (it’s Queen’s Birthday weekend today and the Parkrun Directors decided it would be a lovely gesture to sing to our Queen), we went on our scenic run. On our return we acquainted ourselves with some of the locals. It’s a small world. The run directors brother lives in our home shire, and they are coming to our local Parkrun in September!

We love a good market and today we found a local market on the Kapiti Coast. This market was a good one with old stuff, new stuff and food for sale. The locals were friendly. We also found an Antique & Collectables Fair which was good but I was glad to get out of there as I was getting rather worried the kids would break something. ‘Something’ worth $1000 or more!

Got out of there with a few bargains and no breakages, and then went to the Otaki Outlets which was recommended by our newfound Parkrun friends. The outlets were ok but really I think the bargains are much better in Australia. I did find a pair of red boots I liked and were not so much of a bargain but loved them so much I purchased. Brooke found herself some Converse. Brittany was disappointed with the variety of shops. The boys were just bored. Kathmandu attire seems to be the rage here. Everywhere I look people are wearing those black puffy jackets. I actually think Melbourne is just as cold, if not colder, than here.
Shopping made us all a bit tired and grumpy. Got supplies from Pak ‘N’ Save (we’ve decided this is the cheapest option for food supplies), for our Lamb Roast.  Spent the evening watching the first 2 Hobbit DVDs, reading & doing a jigsaw. Awwwwwwwww. Happy families……


DAY 7 – Views, Museums, Trains, Kiwis, Tuataras & Eels

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Today we decided to take a good look at all the touristy stuff around this immediate area on the Kapiti Coast. We started by going to the tram museum which didn’t open until 10am. We got there at 9.15am so instead of going somewhere else we went for a walk in Queen Elizabeth Park along the coastline, ending up on another black sand beach littered with lots of driftwood. To fill in time we played Maori driftwood chanting games we had learnt from our night at the Mitai Cultural Evening in Rotorua.

We’ve worked out there is a difference between Aussie Nature Parks and NZ Nature Parks. At NZ Nature Parks dogs are allowed everywhere off leash leaving their mark behind on all the walking tracks. Urrrrrrrrgh!

The Tram and Tram Museum opened, so even though we are used to trams in Melbourne we went on a Tram ride. Trams in Wellington ceased in the 1960s and we had a ride on one of those. The volunteers made this experience fun and now we can say we went on a tram on the Kapiti Coast, NZ. The museum wasn’t very big but it was FREE so couldn’t complain. We met some people from Christchurch who told us not to go to Christchurch because there is nothing left! That was sad.

The Railway Museum on the Paekakariki train station was interesting enough and again, can’t complain, because it was FREE! The bookshop and museum was manned by some friendly local gentlemen. 

We found a miniature railway which was supercheap, $1.50 each (discounted to $10 for our family). A little different to our Eltham Miniature Railway as each train only has 2 carriages. Our family just fitted on 1 train. The playground next to the miniature railway was VERY fun and I think we need one like this near us. The longest enclosed playground slide I have seen!
Ian was looking forward to tasting the local cheeses at Lindon and was more than disappointed when the cheesery and tastings were CLOSED. Not to worry, at the same place was a candy shop – the kids and I were happy with that as an alternative.
Just cause we were in a museum kind of mood we went to the Kapiti Coast Museum which was also FREE and was manned by some local women. We sent the kids out to play in the playgrounds nearby so we could have more of a peaceful look through the museum.

Finally we finished the day with a trip to the Nga Manu Nature Reserve where we managed to see the BIG 3. Brown Kiwi, Tuatara (supposedly the only living dinosaur) and eels. NOW I get why visitors to Australia get so excited about seeing our wildlife ‘cos I was very excited about seeing the Kiwi. I still can’t believe there are NO snakes in NZ and the most dangerous creature in NZ is the wasp. We live on the edge in Australia! 

Looking forward to Red Rocks Reserve tomorrow where we are hoping to see New Zealand Fur Seals in their natural environment………loving our little NZ Adventure.


DAY 8 – NZ Fur Seals, Mini Golf and The Weta Cave
The best things in life are free. The highlight of our day had to have been walking the coastline not far from Wellington at Red Rocks Reserve and seeing approximately 50 NZ Fur Seals in their natural environment. I was very proud of the kids as with minimal whinging they conquered 8km RETURN along beach and rocks to see the fur seals. We shared the path with 4WDs (I was very happy we didn’t have access to one of them as Ian would have LOVED it and I would have been very nervous), quad bikes, motorbikes and once again, DOGS! Yep. Dogs are allowed to walk the beach and rocks all the way up to the fur seals and leave their mark behind – YUK! Camping and campfires also seemed to be acceptable on the beach.
The views were fantastic, the weather was perfect and the seals did not disappoint. They were there waiting for us and one was even right up on the path. I have to say, I think the weather here has actually been better than Melbourne weather and haven’t seen any evidence in the past week why Wellington is known as Windy Wellington.

After the seals we were planning to go to The Weta Cave which we booked a 5pm workshop tour. We got distracted on the way and stopped at an interesting metal artwork mini golf place called Carlucci’s. Kobi has been BEGGING us to do Mini Golf so we decided cause this place looked so interesting that this was IT! So we did it and we loved it! I didn’t love the fact I am consistently being beaten by most of the kids and that Ian ALWAYS wins Mini Golf nowadays. I really must brush up on my skills.  
Finished golf just in time to get to The Weta Cave in time.

The Weta Cave is really a pretty amazing place where the props for LOTR & The Hobbit were made, but also, I didn’t realise how many other movies they were responsible for – Avatar, Thunderbirds, Narnia, Tin Tin — kids series, The Wot Wots, and heaps more I’d not really heard of. I didn’t know that 3000 people worked there and it is only over the last 15 years they have been so successful. The mini museum, shop and 25 minute DVD explaining their success was FREE – The Weta Workshop tour was not – and at $120 for our family I probably expected more than a 45 minute walk around a small room seeing some props and some explanation of the process in which props are made. The tour guide was enthusiastic and we learned a few things we didn’t know but I wouldn’t rave about it. If anyone is planning on going ever, I would say go there and stick with the free stuff.

Back at our holiday house after dinner at the local family restaurant, The Fisherman’s Table, and it is an early night ready for our last fun-filled day tomorrow. HOME on Wednesday and straight to school after recess for the kids.


DAY 9 – Southward Car Museum & Te Papa Museum 
Last day of our holiday and we went to the Southward Car Museum. Why? Because TripAdvisor rated this museum as the Number 1 attraction on the Kapiti Coast and we must not miss it. TripAdvisor must be right?, right? Well, I actually think it might be a matter of opinion because we went, we saw, and I now have my own opinion. Urrrrrrrrgh! In summary, the boys loved it, the girls thought it was Ho Hum! ok, so I was impressed that we saw a REAL gangsters car with REAL bullet holes, and then there was a car that Hitler purchased back in, I think, 1938, the car that the Queen went for a ride in and then there was the futuristic James Bond, Back to the Future type cars, and the McDonalds Car, Ice-cream truck, aeroplanes and ambulance. There was motorbikes, prams, scooters, penny farthings and virtually ANYTHING that has wheels. Impressive? YES, Interesting? For a short time. I think us girls felt today how the boys felt when we went shopping in Otaki. I must admit it was an impressive collection over 3 floors, and I can say I’ve been there but I don’t think I will rush back.

Goodbye Holiday House.

Next destination was Te Papa Museum in Wellington which is rated number 1 on TripAdvisor in Wellington. It must be good right? YES it was! Te Papa Museum was AWESOME. It’s FREE. At the moment they have a Gallipoli Exhibition which is fantastic! The giant size figures were made for the exhibition by the WETA Workshop, and they were THE BEST. Although they were supersize, Apart from their supersize structure they were so lifelike and certainly set the scene of the exhibition. Excerpts from REAL Gallipoli footage, artefacts from soldiers and the field, real life stories really set the scene. This exhibition also made real the connection that us Aussies have with New Zealanders when it comes to the ANZACs. I so recommend this exhibition to anyone planning to visit Wellington in he next 3 years. Yep, the exhibition is here until 2018!

There was heaps more to do and learn in the museum including another excellent exhibition on Air New Zealand. This was so good with the highlight being an experience using Virtual Reality Oculus Rift Goggles giving us an insight into the future of air travel and the comforts in store for future passengers. So much fun and amazing technology. We also got to see the many crazy safety presentations Air New Zealand has done over the years.
All fun holidays must come to an end and tomorrow morning, in less than 12 hours we will be home and the kids will be off to school and most likely Ian will go to work. Me? I might sleep or book our next holiday. Staying in the city tonight at Quest Apartments, Atrium. Goodnight and thank you for reading about our travels. Until next trip…….. Rebecca xxxxxxxx


The Facts

Airfares booked with Jetstar back in December 2014 (Wellington launch fare promotion)

Airfares A$1496 TOTAL (paid by POLi, therefore NO transaction fees)

Airfare Prices $1419

Melbourne – Wellington  RETURN Per Adult  A$198 ($99 each way) , Per Child A$143 ($44 one way, $99 return)

Baggage $75

Baggage = $75 (1 x 20kg MEL to WEL) + (3 x 20kg WEL to MEL)

StarKids Donation $2

Holiday House booked through Bookabach = NZ$2060 + A$60 international transfer fee

Travel Insurance Direct = A$89.30

Hire Car through Apex, Toyota Praevia 8 Seater = NZ$732 (9 days pick up / drop off  Wellington Airport)

NZ Police Museum = FREE

Wellington Cable Car (one way)  = NZ$22 (3 x Adults 16+ PLUS 5 children)

Cable Car Museum = FREE

Zealandia = NZ$71 (Family 2 adults up to 3 children PLUS 3 children)

Wellington Botanic Gardens = FREE

Carter Observatory = NZ$79.50 (Family 2 adults up to 3 children PLUS 3 children)

The Wool Co. = FREE ENTRY

The National Army Museum = NZ$30 (Family 2 adults PLUS school-age children)

Tongariro National Park = FREE

Taupo i-site Information Centre = FREE

Huka Falls = FREE

Craters of the Moon Geothermal Walk = NZ$36 (Family 2 adults up to 4 children PLUS 2 x adults 13+)

Hobbiton Movie Set Tours = NZ$357.50 (3 X Adults 15+ PLUS 3 x Youth 10-14 years PLUS 2 X Child 5-9 years)

Kersosene Road Thermal Springs = FREE

Mud Pools = FREE

Mitai Maori Village = NZ$533.50 (Family 2 adults & 2 children PLUS 1 x child 10-15 years PLUS 2 x child 5-9 years PLUS 1 x adult 16+)

Redwoods Forest = FREE

Kapiti Coast Parkrun = FREE

Kapiti Coast Market = FREE

Antique & Collectables Fair = NZ$12 (2 x adults + children FREE)

Otaki Outlets = FREE

Queen Elizabeth Park = FREE

Kapiti Coast Electric Tramway = NZ$44 (Family 2 adults & 2 children PLUS 4 X child)

Tram Museum = FREE

Paekakariki Station Museum = FREE

Kapiti Miniature Railway = NZ$10 (price for family of 8)

Marine Gardens Playground = FREE

Kapiti Coast Museum = FREE

Nga Manu Nature Reserve = NZ$38 (Family 2 adults & children of that family)

Red Rocks Reserve to see the NZ Fur Seals = FREE

Carlucci Land Mini Golf = NZ$66 (2 adults PLUS 6 children)

Weta Cave = FREE

Weta Cave Workshop = NZ$120 (4 adults PLUS 4 children)

Southward Car Museum = NZ$66 (3 adults PLUS 5 children)

Te Papa Museum = FREE

Extras:  Apex Motel, Roturua = NZ$500 (2 nights)

Quest Atrium, Wellington =  NZ$380 (1 night)

Extra incidental costs include:  Petrol = NZ$225 (~NZ$25 per day, 9 days )

Food = NZ$720 (~NZ$10 pp, per day)

Souvenirs = NZ$180 (NZ$30 per child)


TOTAL COST FOR our family holiday to Wellington, NZ was approximately A$7439.84 or A$929.98 per person or A$103.33 per person per day

How could we have improved our expenses?

1/  Been more organised with our itinerary and saved money on 3 nights holiday accommodation SAVE A$687

2/  NOT gone to Zealandia (Nga Manu Nature Reserve was probably just as good) SAVE NZ$71 (~A$65.49)

3/  NOT paid to do the WETA Workshop and just settled for the FREE DVD presentation SAVE A$120

Although it was a highlight, it was really rather expensive for our family and we could probably have seen a Maori Show, The Huka & Glow worms for a more affordable price for our family elsewhere

4/  NOT gone to the Mitai Maori Village  SAVE NZ$533.50 (A$492.06)

Although a highlight at the time, we didn’t realise how many more scenes the same would see in Rotorua.

5/  NOT gone to the Craters of the Moon Geothermal Walk SAVE NZ$36 (~A$33.20)

Although a reasonably good experience, the observatory is an activity that is not unique to New Zealand, so if on a strict budget this could be given a miss.

6/  Carter Observatory  SAVE NZ$79.50 (A$73.33)

SAVE A$1471.08 – this has reduced total cost to A$5968.76 or A$746.10 per person or A$82.90 per person per day

Of course there are plenty of other ways to save money depending on your family’s interests, your ability to budget wisely with food and with a more planned itinerary it may have been just as cost effective to fly into Wellington and fly out of Auckland.  This would mean that the petrol expenses would be less.

The reason we paid so much more in accommodation and didn’t do the fly into Wellington, fly out of Auckland option is solely because of the lack of resources to book accommodation for our family of 8.  We are passionate and because of our recent holiday to New Zealand we have now listed a large range of accommodation options to eliminate the stress in holiday planning and in turn, reducing the costs.















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