It was with some trepidations that I took my 3 teenage daughters (13, 14 and 15) to Wellington for a four day break – just the girls. Let’s face it – teenagers are a tough crowd. Too old for the kids attractions, too young for the adult attractions and too cool for everything. Wellington however turned out to be the perfect spot for teenagers and we’ve got some recommendations to share for your next trip.
Where to stay
My teens still haven’t outgrown the lure of a swimming pool in a hotel so this is the first thing that we look for. Wellington is an incredibly walkable city so we also wanted something that would allow us to head out in any direction from our base. And of course it had to look good and accomodate the four of us.
We decided on QT Hotel. It’s not our first stay in QT Hotel but there is a definite reason we keep coming back. It doubles as an Art Gallery with it’s dark and moody interior changing on each visit so there is always something new to see when you enter.
It’s funny, when I look back at pictures of the kids on our visit to QT 5 years ago they seemed to be doing the same thing – running everywhere and shrieking! They were so rowdy that when we had an earthquake the first night we were there I yelled at the kids to stop jumping around! There’s just something about the hotel that gets them really excited.
It has enough drama people watching out the window as they look at versions 5 years older than themselves heading out for nights out on in nearby Courtenay Place. It was an easy stroll to New World to stock ourselves up on supplies for our stay on the first night. And the perfect base to head out and explore Wellington on foot and then later when we hired a car for the last leg, use the valet parking to save the hassle of finding a park. And of course the pool, which was open until 11.30 at night – perfect for vampire teenagers who come alive after dark.
What to do
Two of our teenagers are regular visitors to Wellington with an assortment of grandparents, Aunts and cousins residing there so they have had their fair share of visits to Te Papa so that was off the cards this time (if this is your first visit though, we’d thoroughly recommend it and you can read about our previous visit here). When they were littler we had visited Zealandia and even done the Parliament visit. So we had to look a little beyond the top attractions this time.
Our teens favourite past time has to be shopping! Drawn to the mothership of Glassons and Cotton On like a homing beacon they still want to explore outside of this with one in to the Walking Dead, another in to crystals and the last vintage clothes.
Cuba Street is the perfect spot! The reassuring comfort and familiarity of the big brand teen friendly shops with all the colour and quirkiness that Cuba Street has long been famous for.
There are so many pop culture, Comic and Anime stores – with Walking Dead stuff galore that we hadn’t been able to find in Auckland. There were shops brimming with crystals and jewellery and plenty of vintage clothes shops.
And for me, I was just stoked to walk into Whitcoulls (right next to the iconic buckets in Cuba Mall) and find our Getting Lost Game on the shelf there.
We spent a morning there and the kids were quickly divested of their pocket money, Christmas money and savings (and I think there may have been a loan or two going on).
The conundrum to feed a teenager is well known to any parent of teens. Too old (and hungry) for the kids menu they aren’t always ready for the adults menu either (and that can be very pricey to feed four).
The girls got dressed up in their “town clothes” and we headed out to Courtney Place to find somewhere to eat. We came across Mishmosh. Right in the middle of Courtney Place it had neon lights, comfy chairs and a healthy dose of Wellington cool.
They also had $2 sliders on a Thursday night and chocolate shakes complete with a donut on top. Perfect!
On Friday night we headed out of town to Seashore Cabaret in Petone to meet a friend and her kids. It’s quirky interior and child friendly meals (more milkshakes here) make it a definite winner.
Not to mention being able to go for a walk along the beach to walk off your dinner afterwards.
Breakfasts we mixed up and popped across the road from QT to Pandora for takeaway bakery yumminess or went to Olive in Cuba Street for a full cooked breakfast.
And then of course there were mocktails in Hippopotamus Bar (QT’s in house restaurant) with just enough glam for the teenagers.
And of course you have to check out Wellington’s own Chocolate Factory in Eva Street.
It can be hard to find teen friendly activities but I reckon these three were just perfect for our 13, 14 and 15 year olds! Combine with a few drives, a bit of shopping and some great food and you’ve got a winning combination.
Located in Cuba Mall the kids were unconvinced (as was I to be fair) just how scary this would be. The two who were doing it don’t scare easily and despite the count of over 4,000 who had chickened out at the door I expected our two to walk out laughing and saying that it wasn’t really scary like they do with the horror movies they watch.
What actually happened was them using the safe word a couple of minutes in and one of them shaking for an hour and a half after! So yes, plenty scary (and no, I wouldn’t recommend it for kids who scare easily).
They were each presented with an “I chickened out” bracelet which they are proudly wearing and we 100% got our money worth on the scare factor. The kids were telling the story for days about how scary those few minutes were.
Located in Happy Valley (a 10 minute drive from Wellington) Carlucci Land is not what you’d expect from Mini Golf. Actually you could end that sentence before you get to Mini Golf, it’s just not what you’d expect at all.
Having only just left the city and passed through Brooklyn, you’ve not long been travelling through the valley when you come across the first of the sculptures nestled into spaces around the hills.
It has a post apocalyptic vibe to it with rusted jeeps wedged in to rocks down cliffs.
And sculptures made from recycled materials that look like something out of Mad Max to carry the survivors in to the next battle.
All nestled in to the most glorious, rugged surrounding that is the hills of Happy Valley.
It’s like a scene from a movie and our 13 year old immediately injected herself in to it – posing Lana Croft style and acting out her dramatic death.
I get the feeling that you could come back at different times and notice different things every time. We also came on a gloriously sunny day and I wonder how much the drama of a windy Wellington day would enhance this already immersive place.
There’s the option to pay $2 just to look around (well worth it in itself to see all the sculptures) or to pay the extra for Mini Golf (which we did).
The mini golf itself is a compact course with multiple levels. Golf balls travel from level to level in all manner of twisted metal tracks and roll through (or in our case bounce off) obstacles crafted on the track.
We had of course the inevitable rules arguments throughout the game and the allegations of miscounting (wouldn’t be a family game of mini golf without those) but on the whole it was great way to spend time, off phones and outside, with the kids.
We’d thoroughly recommend it as an all ages activity and definitely great for teens. We spent 2 hours here so for the $36 we paid for entry it was well worth it.
Off the Loop
If you can get your hands on a car and fancy a bit of a drive out of Wellington we’d thoroughly recommend checking out Off the Loop.
The Cable Wakeboard & Water Park is located in Foxton. It’s about and hour an a half north of Wellington with plenty of great stops on the way which you can check out over here.
The main attraction for our kids – a giant inflatable obstacle course in the middle of a man made lake in the country side.
$18 will get you an hour of fun with towers for jumping, obstacle courses, balance beams, a trampoline and even a couple of slides. If our kids are anything to go by expect to get wet, a lot! Perfect for cooling off on a hot day.
Parents can jump on too (I didn’t after the still talked about Gold Coast incident when James AND a lifeguard had to haul me up after I fed into a well!) but if you are sitting on the side line make sure to bring a hat and some sunblock as there isn’t a lot of shade.