Our last stop before hopping the ferry to the South Island was Wellington, and with no great campgrounds close to inner city and lots to see and do in just two days we opted to camp in a parking lot. Yup. A motorpark actually, which was just beside the TePapa Museum, and right along the waterfront boardwalk- a perfect settling point to explore this sea side city of about 200,000 people. We were concerned about the noise, and although the first night was serenaded by saxophones, seagulls, and the odd siren, the remaining two nights were quieter.
Wellington’s got a big city feel, with little city charm, if that makes any sense. The downtown core is dense with many high rise buildings and apartments and seems like the population could be massive, but with a charming boardwalk lined with cute coffee shops, seaside restaurants, plenty of kids playgrounds and parks, a few beaches, and everyone out and about it has the feel of an active, small knit community.
We pulled in at dinner time so spent 3 nights on our concrete pad. During the day it was packed full of commuters such that we couldn’t open our side door and had to sneak through the driver seat, but at night it became somewhat of a makeshift concrete campground with many other campers beside us, only spread out a little nicer. One evening we popped out the beach blanket and gave Zo a bucket bath in the middle of downtown. An older couple smiled and commented in delight at such an odd place to have a bath, but it was perfect they said. It was warm outside, and she was happy to play and splash. The downside of parking lots? Van showers and van toilets. But also an upside, as some vans didn’t have those!
Day one in the big city we wandered in the morning, Josh (and Ry) found a barber to clip his hippie hair, while I explored the boardwalk in its entirety (times two while Zo had a monster stroller nap. It was SO warm here, and barely a breath of breeze, which I’m guessing is maybe unusual for a city known for wind. That afternoon we headed up the funicular (cable car) to a fantastic viewing point of the bay. We had ice cream, and visited the Cable Car Museum before taking the steep, weaving yet picturesque walk back down to the city through some flower gardens and forrest. Both girls fell asleep on the way down which is a rare occurrence, but Josh and I enjoyed a quick facetime call with my family, before sitting beside the docks for 5 minutes of real quiet while watching the world go by.
We had an early dinner at the Crab Shack, and despite both girls having naps it was still a bit of chaotic mess. Zo is usually a troublemaker at meals as she tries to escape the highchair, and ends up being held like a squirming monkey while you try to feed her and prevent your plate, glass, cutlery, food, and napkins from ending up on the floor. I think the fish tacos were good. I was too busy to remember. Haha.
Day two Josh got AM nap duty so Ry and I went to check out one of the little beaches off the boardwalk, and chose it for the adjoining playground. After a bite to eat in the hot camper we walked down to Ferg’s to rent bikes with kid seats on them and did our first family bike ride. Zo with Josh and Ry with me, we rode the length of the boardwalk and around to the next bay until the path got a bit narrow. Ry loved it and decided we needed to get a bike like this at our city house. We think Zo enjoyed her time, maybe less the bike ride and more poking dad in the butt with her toes and pulling at her helmet, nonetheless she was smiling.
Although I tried Zo for an inside snooze, it didn’t work out perhaps due to heat. Instead, we met Josh and Ry at the Te Papa museum but ended up parting ways inside (I went and hunted out the quieter art exhibits, while Ry wanted to see the things that made noise). The museum was actually free and featured a range of New Zealand attractions- a Maori Village, an earth quake simulator, and learning about different NZ animal species (real stuffed animals complete with their sounds).
Early the next morning we headed to the Ferry Terminal to check in, before having campervan breakfast in the lineup. Onboard the plan was for me to nap with Zo while the other two went exploring on the ship… minutes after boarding a knock on our window was a request for us to leave our vehicle with the rest of the passengers. Apparently the waves can get so big on this sometimes stormy open water passage that the car decks can get flooded! That’s something I can’t argue with, so up we went to try out the nursing lounges (a small open room with a crib and chair, but too bright, and too loud). Josh and Ry went to see the movie Moana ($10 adult, $5 kids) and nearly had the theatre to themselves. I wandered the ship and explored to find the best place for an Ergo-Zo nap. Since the nursery was out, we ended up on the top deck serenaded by a man strumming his guitar softly until the wind and splash forced us back down to wander the halls for another hour and a half of back breaking big baby cuddling.