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Especially for Kids

If you’re ready to let the kids loose, head for Capital E, Civic Square, Victoria Street (tel. 04/913-3740; www.capitale.org.nz), open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm and weekends 10am to 4pm. This wonderful place combines a varied program of exhibitions, events, and theater especially designed for families. It’s all about fun, entertainment, and education. Call for current programs and admission prices.

Story Place, at Te Papa, Cable Street (tel. 04/381-7000; www.tepapa.govt.nz), is a magical world of dress-ups, storytelling, songs, and art activities for children 5 years and under. There are daily 45-minute sessions from 10:15am to 4:30pm and admission is NZ$5. Tickets can be purchased at Te Papa’s Information Desk on Level 2 of the museum.

Older kids will get a buzz out of Wet & Wild, Frank Kitts Park, the Waterfront (tel. 04/235-9796), where they can let loose on in-line skates, in paddleboats, or on water bikes. It’s open daily December through February, weather permitting.

Away From the Crowds: Exploring Hutt valley

Located just 15 minutes north of Wellington and easily accessed via the motorway, Hutt Valley is a scenic area made up of two separate cities, Upper Hutt and the larger Lower Hutt. Weaving alongside is the Hutt River, where you’ll find some excellent walking and cycling tracks. The Hutt City and Upper Hutt i-SITE Visitor Centres, have detailed walking trail maps. Wellington Adventure Quad Bike Expeditions (tel. 0800/948-6386; www.wellingtonadventures.co.nz) offers several fun outings from a 1 1/2-hour expedition for NZ$169 per person, to a 2-day exploration of the Hutt region for NZ$399 per person. The Dowse Art Museum, is a key attraction in Lower Hutt; and Jackson Street in Petone is considered a place of national significance as the whole street is listed with NZ Historic Places Trust and the old shops are now home to many boutique stores and cafes.

Excellent beaches wrap around the upmarket seaside villages of Eastbourne and Days Bay, which are a short drive around the coast. Both are also accessible via the Dominion Post Ferry. Regular bus and train services also run to Hutt Valley. If you’d like to stay on this side of the harbor, Guthries Beachfront Cottage, 221 Marine Parade, Eastbourne (tel. 04/582-6221; www.guthriescottage.co.nz), is a 2-bedroom cottage that would suit a small family or two couples traveling together. It’s NZ$300 per couple and breakfast is included; each additional person costs NZ$40. Boulcott Lodge, 615 High St., Boulcott, Lower Hutt (tel. 0800/782-928 in NZ, or 04/586-1558; www.boulcottlodge.co.nz), is an excellent, 17-room motel complex with rooms and apartments from NZ$145 to NZ$200. It has a Qualmark Enviro-Gold rating and Wi-Fi is available throughout. The visitor centers can put you in touch with some excellent camping grounds.

Island Sanctuary

Kapiti Island is a conservation lover's paradise. Managed by the New Zealand government as a nature reserve for over 100 years, it is known for its well-protected native flora and fauna. The island has always been important to a number of different Maori tribes, and of the total 1,965 hectares (4,854 acres), 13 hectares (32 acres) at Waiorua Bay is still designated Maori land. This is where you'll find Kapiti Nature Lodge and Kapiti Island Nature Tours (tel. 06/362-6606; www.kapitiislandnaturetours.co.nz), owned by John and Susan Barrett and John's sister, Amo Clark. John's whanau (family) has lived on Kapiti since the 1820s, and they have a wealth of historical and conservation knowledge about the island, which you'll discover if you take one of their guided walks. Their lodge offers cabins (each with four bunks) set in native bush, plus some oceanview accommodations with en suites. There's a dining room in the central lodge and a wealth of activities from nature and history walks to weaving weekends, amazing photo opportunities, night kiwi spotting, and the chance to swim, snorkel, or scuba dive in Kapiti Marine Reserve. The lodge has a capacity for just 10 overnight guests and 24 day visitors.

Every person visiting Kapiti Island must have a permit, and extra permits are required to enter the Department of Conservation land on either side of Kapiti Nature Lodge. These can be acquired through the Wellington DOC office (www.doc.govt.nz) and cost NZ$12 for adults, NZ$6 for children. Ferries to the island, departing from Kapiti Boating Club at Paraparaumu just north of Wellington, depart each day at 9am and 2:30pm, and cost NZ$65 for adults and NZ$40 for children. The trip takes 15 minutes, and because Kapiti is a strictly controlled conservation area, you will be asked for a bag check to eliminate the possibility of pests and predators getting onto the island. The team at Kapiti Island Nature Tours can help you organize permits. They also offer a day tour to the island if you're short on time. The day tour includes the ferry trip, a guided walk, and lunch, and costs NZ$358 per person. The Overnight Stay and Kiwi Spotting Experience includes all meals, a guided walk, and the tour and costs NZ$567 per person.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.