One of the overarching goals of our extended tiki tour here in Zealandia was to decide which of our favorite corners we should settle down in for a while. Believe it or not, after nearly eight months together in an 18-foot long motorhome we are kind of ready to spread out a bit. Michael got to work on getting his CV out in the IT world again; I gaped at the 3-inch stack of paper that is my first printed draft of a novel (ok, single-sided and double spaced, but still). And the girls were literally begging to start back in school again (it worked…ha!).
But the problem was…where?? We loved boaty, beachy Tauranga, sunny Nelson, Scottish Dunedin. We still loved quirky, cool, windy Wellington and even Auckland with her wild west coast beaches and eastern islands. There is the Bay of Islands full of friends and boats. And what about somewhere completely off the map like Invercargill or New Plymouth? (Or, maybe not.)
In the end, our hearts pulled for Wellington so we pointed Wing’n it‘s bow south for one final time after we arrived back in Auckland from Tonga. But little did we know, back in early February, that our decision-making had only begun. Wellington’s not just a city, but a huge region; commuters flow into the city all the way from the Wairarapa and Hutt Valley to the northeast, and from Kapiti and Porirua on the southwest coast. And then there’s the plethora of funky neighborhoods in and bordering the city proper. All of which are serviced by Wellington’s world-class commuter train and bus networks. Now where do we go?!
And so it happened that by wing’n it, we ended up right where we needed to be. Wellington’s got some choice freedom camping spots and while Michael hunted for work we spent time at nearly all of them. We spent many nights at Evan’s Bay Marina just minutes from downtown and at parks on the south coast watching the sun set over the Cook Strait. But as much as we thought we wanted to live right in the bustling city, after a few days in town we always found ourselves aching for a quiet spot by the sea.
Just to the north of Wellington is Porirua Harbour. The city of the same name lies at the southern end but scattered around it are small neighborhoods and parks. We found ourselves coming back to the domain in Mana again and again. With Wing’n it parked right on the edge of the quiet turquoise sea, we most enjoyed unwinding after the busyness of the city. We’d park our camping chairs on the grass and watch: seagulls, families picnicking, kite boarders, sailboats, windsurfers, brave swimmers, fishing-folk. We’d chat with our rotating NZMCA neighbors, walk to the dairy for an ice-cream, stroll over the marina and look at boats. Eventually we stayed so long we wondered if we should register to vote there.
Then, one morning Michael came back from his morning run, all abuzz. “I just found the coolest little neighborhood…cafes, cottages right on the beach, people everywhere chatting and happy. You’ve got to come see this place!” The next day we drove the Wing’n it over for our second coffee and it was exactly as he said: a great coffee shop on the corner, a fish & chip shop, a dairy, Indian and Thai and Polish restaurants, a boating club, a beautiful primary school right there…all with kids and dogs and families milling about everywhere. It is quintessentially Kiwi. Best of all, there is a train station: hop on and it takes you to the center of Wellington city in 25 minutes.
Everything, as it seems to do, fell into place after that. We found a funky old bach to rent right across from the beach, Michael got not one but two job offers, we enrolled the girls in school, and even found the most adorable kitten ever at the local SPCA. We parked the Wing’n it in front of our little garage and moved out. It took about 30 minutes.
That was a month ago and we’re still so in love with where we’ve landed. The girls’ new school is warm and welcoming, shoes optional, and learning is fun, no pressure required. We can walk around the corner to the village for a coffee and ice-cream and hello to a neighbor. Or head the other direction, out to the coastal tracks. Michael takes the train into the city to work, and is home by 6 to watch the sun set past Mana Island, across the Cook Strait, dipping behind the Marlborough Sounds.
A lovely place to just be.