It’s a very different experience packing my bag for an overseas trip, to New Zealand. Thank goodness for the “bubble”.
Arriving at a ghostly quite Sydney International Airport it is not hard to spot Tania Barnes from Business Events Wellington, our host for our 48 hour famil to Wellington. “Kia ora welcome aboard”. It’s been a while since I have heard that welcome as we board flight to Wellington. The Air New Zealand team are welcoming and friendly for our quick trip across the Tasman.
Our accommodation for two nights is the famous 5 star QT Wellington, which hosts one of New Zealand’s most eccentric private art collections. So, if you are looking for just another bland hotel room this hotel is certainly not for you. From hotel rooms to apartments there is an option for all and it is the closest hotel to the new Wellington Convention Centre, Takina, as well as being across the road from Te Papa.
My room is a QT Superior King, including a balcony with views over the harbour, a very comfortable king bed and a black bathroom to die for including an indulgent bath and large rain shower. How do they expect me to leave this room! But I have to as we only have 48 hours to pack in as many experiences, site tours and F & B experiences as possible.
Claire Taylor - Sales Manager, is our host at the QT Wellington and welcomed us to the hotel with a meet & greet, bubbles and high tea in Billiards Room, a private venue for special groups.
This evening it is a walking tour of Wellington’s new laneways and eateries around the Cuba St Mall area, a short distance from the hotel. Since my last visit to Wellington the laneways have really come to life and would make a great fun night out for delegates on a free night or for a dine around. Our first stop was Whistling Sisters Beer Co (where part of the brewery proceeds go into funding research and treatment for breast cancer) which had teamed up with House of Dumplings for a beer and dumpling tasting. Imagine - Oatmeal Stout with Japanese Six-Mushroom or “The one where they” with Vietnamese Pork, Kaffir Lime + lemongrass. A real character, Vicky Ha the owner of House of Dumplings knows everyone in the area and quite happily takes us on her own impromptu walking tour to the next venue.
At Fortune Favours Beer, there was a platter station set up for us to graze on through the evening while we had the opportunity to network with a number of the business partners that will be showcasing their products and services to us during our stay.
Next morning as we arrive in the QT lobby Claire is busy playing barista making all our coffees of choice and farewells us for a day of exploring Wellington.
Breakfast is hosted at the NZ Academy of Fine Arts, Academy Galleries, located in a beautifully restored historic building across from the TSB Arena and Shed 6, easy for your delegates to walk to if you are having your conference at these venues, otherwise a short bus ride from the “new conference centre of town”. The space can host up to 250 delegates and it provides a wonderful backdrop for breakfasts, cocktails and small dinners.
Breakfast was set on a long white table in the middle of the room with an art exhibition surrounding us. Our first course was so impressively set out on a set of shelves we thought it was part of the art exhibition, but no it was smoothies and fruit for our starter.
Set on a large working farm, Boomrock is located half an hour by road from Wellington, or a 10-minute scenic helicopter flight. Unfortunately, today the cloud was a bit low for us to take the helicopter option. The lodge is perched on a cliff with (on a clear day, so we are told) amazing views over Cook Straight to the South Island.
Ideal for delegates as a team building experience or partner program. Activities include golf off the cliff, clay bird shooting, experiencing performance driving in the latest Range Rover around the Range Rover client test race track or a cooking school. After our morning of activates the group met back at the lodge, with its rustic luxury charm, complete with an open fire to sit down for lunch, matched with local wines.
Takina is the new Wellington Convention and Exhibition Centre which is currently under construction and set to open in 2023. Located across the road from Te Papa Museum and with the QT Hotel less than 100 metres away, this will cement the area as the new conference destination in Wellington. We are lucky enough to be able to don the hard hats, put on the steel cap booths and high viz to take a tour of the centre. The three-story centre will house public and retail space on the ground floor with the convention and exhibition centre set over the two levels above. It will offer a total of 10,000 sqm metres of flexible space including 2,500 sqm exhibition space, 1,600 pax theatre style plenary and various meeting rooms. It is a very impressive clean and tidy work site and with the centre incorporating a lot of sustainability into the venue the construction team have even set up a temporary veggie garden on site for the construction workers to have access to fresh vegetables.
Across the road from the new Wellington Convention and Exhibition Centre is the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, fondly known as Te Papa. Fun fact: Back in 1993 the four-story Museum Hotel had to be moved 180 metres down and across Cable St to make way for Te Papa. This hotel is now part of what we know as QT Wellington.
We are very privileged to have a behind the scenes tour into one of the treasured art storage areas to be shown special pieces and the story behind them by one of the very passionate curators Nina Tonga.
Te Papa provides a number of venues including Amokura Gallery, Te Marae and the Wellington Foyer for conference dinners and cocktail functions. The Sounding Theatre and various other rooms can be used for conferences and small meetings. We finish our site tour with a high tea in the café. Te Papa is also ideal to be included in partner programs and pre-and post-touring options. Currently Te Papa is hosting “Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War” which is a joint venture with Weta Workshop.
Back to the QT Hotel for a soak in my beautiful luxury bath and quick change into evening attire ready for a number of site tours and bubbles on our way to dinner.
First stop is the InterContinental Wellington where we are whisked up to their King Club InterContinental Harbour View Junior Suite for bubbles and canapes. The original 5 Star Luxury hotel of Wellington, it certainly hasn’t lost any of it charm and is looking very fresh and contemporary with recent renovations. The hotel hosts conferences up to 400 delegates on their dedicated conference floor.
Arriving at Rydges Wellington we are meet with a cocktail and taken to view their conference rooms and a couple of accommodation rooms. The hotel can host conferences up to 230 delegates in the Grand Space or for smaller events the Grand Space can be divided into three. With 280 accommodation rooms and their location on Featherston St, close to Lambton Quay, Sky Stadium and Queens Wharf it is a great location to base your conference delegates.
Bonjour, Welcome to the Sofitel Wellington and the Opera Suite, please have a glass of Veuve Clicquot and enjoy our Sofitel hospitality. What a welcome from Chrissy Cummings – Director of Sales and an icon in the Wellington hotel and events scene.
It is always a pleasure walking into a Sofitel and smelling their signature scent and seeing beautiful flowers throughout the hotel. The hotel is ideal for board meeting and small events.
Situated on Bolton St it very close to Parliament and a short walk to many of the Wellington venues, it is a great addition to the Wellington hotel scene.
Onto dinner at another Wellington icon Boulcott Street Bistro. Set in a historic cottage it is known for its classic bistro and modern contemporary dishes. A great place to host a small faculty or conference board dinner. It has been years since I have taken clients to dinner here and it certainly didn’t disappoint revisiting it on this trip.
After a fabulous night, it was back to the QT Wellington, a nightcap and looking forward to my oh so comfy bed.
Claire is waiting for us again in the lobby with our coffees and it is a sad goodbye as we depart the hotel for the final time. We are off to the Zoo for breakfast.
Wellington Zoo to be precise and our first meeting is with Senga, one of the two Sumatran tigers at the Zoo. She is patiently waiting for us and posed beautifully for all our photos.
The zoo has a full veterinary hospital onsite to look after the zoo animals and to also look after native wildlife. The facility has large glass windows so guests to the zoo can watch live operations and the ongoing care of the patients. We are invited into the operating room and had the opportunity to try our hand at operating some of the equipment on make believe animals. Don’t worry no animals were hurt in our experiences.
We have breakfast at Kamala’s the old elephant enclosure, which can host 100 for a banquet, 150 for cocktails and 120 theatre style.
Wellington is living up to its name “windy Wellington” as we head to the top of Mt Victoria for our group photo and to put into prospective the lay of the land of Wellington.
Our last stop in Wellington is a very special visit to Weta Workshop. Think “Lord or the Rings”. Again, we receive the VIP treatment and are escorted to the Boardroom to watch a presentation from behind the scenes, to view all the expensive small collectables and to hold some of the many Oscars, Bafta’s and other awards they have in the trophy cabinets. Prior to lunch a number of the group volunteer to have some garish head and hand wounds painted on them, which were very realistic. (Not sure how wise this is with our next stop being the airport and security.) We finish off our visit to Weta Workshops with lunch and then it was off to the airport to see if the wounded in the group can make it through security and it’s time to say tena koe to Wellington.
A special thanks to:
The Business Events Wellington team – Tania Barnes and Irette Ferreira and the team who made this famil possible. Their planning was faultless and the whole group had a wonderful time and came away with so much product knowledge of the destination.
QT Hotel Wellington – Claire Taylor who was always on hand night and morning to welcome us back to the hotel and to take care of us. What a fabulous hotel to stay at.
Tranzit – All our transfers were by Tranzit using one of their Ultimate Coaches aka Business Class Luxury coaches. Sunny our driver was amazing, so if you get the chance ensure you request him as your driver. At the start of each trip he would sing to us either in Te reo or English (being a cousin of the famous NZ singer Howard Morrison has certainly been passed onto Sunny) and taught us so much about the Maori culture in NZ.