Te Upoko o te Ika a Maui
Windy Welly can’t help but capture your heart the instant you arrive. Being the political capital of New Zealand that it is, it surprises with a positive stance on culture and community. Unlike elsewhere in the country, the CBD is brimful with all the right things, spanning from ocean views, beaches and museums, to more cafes, bars and restaurants [over 300 to be precise] per capita than New York, and – again, unsual to the land of Aotearoa – formidable shopping.
Gustatory and scenic delights aside, don’t just take my word for it. In March this year, the capital was once again ranked first out of 47 cities in a Quality of Life survey published in the Financial Times. Other tags such as the winner of a UN-backed International Liveable award, the 9th rank on a WHO-endorsed Safest City in The World citation as well as the 12th most liveable city in the world as qualified by the Mercer Quality of Living Index make Wellington not too bad as us Kiwis would say.
More of a visual person? Click here to see my Wellington Photo Diary.
For urban explorations, make your way from Oriental Parade all the way up to Cuba Street. With more time on your hands, far-flung adventures await; think Kapiti Island, the Southern coast, Cape Palliser and the greater wine-making Wairarapa area.
All things craft In a country mainly known for wine, the beer brewing and coffee/chocolate roasting business is not be underestimated in Wellington.
Miramar Peninsula & Southern Bays A morning driving along the bays is a real treat, not only for its peacefulness and tranquillity but also its exceptional scenery.
Mount Victoria Lookout A popular, albeit very photogenic vantage point, accessible by both car and foot from Oriental Bay.
Seal Coast Safari They say to go off the beaten path; easier said than done in busy wee Welly. This standout tour sure knows its way around Wellington’s backyard. Expect an adventure, local insider knowledge, and cinematic views of crashing oceans, rolling hills and, naturally, seals. On a good day, spot the snow-capped Kaikoura ranges to your south or Mt Taranaki to your north-west.
Kapiti Island Years ago, when I first moved to Wellington [to study English of all things], I was headed to Kapiti Island for one of my first weekend excursions. Needless to stay, I had a hard time returning to where I came from ever since, and I like to think that this one sunny particular day on a predator-free sanctuary left a long lasting impression.
Te Ahumairangi Hill The ideal viewing point for sunrise. Also, works as an easy nature escape from the city.
Te Papa [The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa] Two words. World-class. This is an experience truly not to be missed! And it’s free of charge, too.
Wellington Waterfront Walk, jog, bike, skate or simply plant yourself somewhere lovely along the waterfront [hint: the entire promenade is beautiful] and let the day go by. Ultimate relaxation with a bonus of prime people watching awaits.
Weta Workshop Tour Wellingtonian Sir Peter Jackson is one of the many contributors to the era of Wellywood. Park Road Post Production is another. Altogether, the creative powerhouse Weta Workshop organises tours for curious Lord of the Ring and Avatar enthusiasts.
Zealandia An ambitious urban conservation project, aiming to educate about and excite for native New Zealand wildlife. Decidedly one of my top three experiences in Wellington.
Cuba Street Vintage Shops are for the dedicated, style savvy shopper. Get lost and find yourself in a new era of your choice. For more sophisticated alternatives, head over to Lambton Quay. If you ever find yourself in Petone south of Wellington, there is an excellent hatmaker that goes by the name of Hills Hats.
Every month, more than 200 gigs register in New Zealand’s artistic capital.
Night Food Markets Every Friday night just off the lower end of Cuba Sreet.
Waterfront Farmers Market Start your Sunday morning the right way.
WOW – World of WearableArt Awards Show [September 21 – October 8] A yearly design competition that takes innovation very, very seriously. WOW is many things, but simply put its a spectacle of light, fashion, and culture. May sound foreign to the unexperienced, but I promise it’s a night you won’t forget.
Wellington on a Plate [August 11-27] 2 weeks, more than 100 events and, most importantly, more special menus than you could ever devour. Click here to plan your eating strategy.
Jazz Festival [June 6-10] It’s time to put your dancing shoes on. Click here for more.
Wellington Marathon [TBC, June 2018] Might as well bring those running shoes, too!
Boquita Plant based tacos, anyone? I think so!
Chow Thinking takeaways? Chow is a classic. Order online for a hassle free movie night.
Cin Cin Authentic Italian I keep on going back to.
Fidel’s Cafe A night out in Wellington is not complete without a breakfast at Fidel’s the morning after.
Hello Saigon Cheap and cheerful Vietnamese deliciousness.
Maraunui Surf Lifesaving Cafe Catch the bus or drive out to Lyall Bay and brunch where the locals do.
Scorch-O-Rama First, go for a swim at Karaka Bay. Then, have lunch or coffee at this pop of colour a few metres over.
Shepherds Can you buy happiness on a plate? I’m pretty sure you can after having dinner at this downtown gem.
Sweet Release Bakery All vegan, no regrets!
Caroline A merry mix of burgers, cocktails and live music.
C.G.R.Merchant & Co. Gin, coffee and rum. Done. Oh, such poetry.
Crumpet Some call this bar Wellington best-kept secret. Psst, only tell your best friends.
Hashigo Zaki Like craft beer? This is your place.
Poquito Charmingly set bar/cafe with an excellent lineup of concerts and cocktails. What more would one want?
The Library Possibly my favourite bar in New Zealand. You can’t not go after reading this! Seriously.
Grand Mercure An upscale delight with two highlights, a spectacular view and flawless service.
QT Museum Hotel Click here to check out my review on this artsy waterfront gem.
The city is relatively well served by public transport, although I recommend a rental for day trips outside the city centre. Train travel enthusiasts are also well catered for with regular trains heading near and far. Check out Metlink for more.
Tip – Wellington Blogs
Welly is home to a bunch of beautifully talented creators, writers and photographers. My favourites include Viktoria Steinhaus, her other halfRyan Domenico and Lucy Revills’ award-winning blogThe Residents.
Go green! In a 2012 survey of the environmental performance of Australasian cities, Wellington was a top performer in greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, waste generation and recycling, and air quality.