The Wonderful, Windy, Wellington
a local’s guide to NZ’s capital city
“You can’t beat Wellington on a good day.” A well-known quote for the New Zealand capital city, which refers to its unpredictable weather. One day could be sunny in the mid 20s, the next with wind up to 140kmph. As the most southern capital city, Wellington sits in a bay at the southwest end of the north island. On a clear day [from certain viewpoints], you can even catch a glimpse of the southern island. Forget good hairs days because Wellington is the world’s WINDIEST CITY, but don’t let that deter you from visiting. This city offers everything you could imagine in one walkable city.
When the sun is shining, head to the waterfront for a plethora of activities. If you are up for adventure, hire a kayak, paddle board, or paddleboat to cruise along the harbor. If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground, rent a bicycle, roller-skates, or even a paddle bike that fits the whole family. For those daring few, planks like the one pictured below are open to the public to take a plunge into the cold sea below or even dive off a two-story platform whilst a crowd cheers you on. Sidewalk cafes, shops, and restaurants wrap along the waterfront, some swap patio furniture for bean bags for you to really relax in the sun.
If leisure is your style the local, man-made beach on Oriental Bay provides sunshine until around 6pm or catch some waves at the local surf beach in Lyall Bay, just a 15min bus ride from the city centre.
[Lyall Beach aka the local surf spot]
My favorite thing to do when the sun’s out is hike to find the best views of the city. Head to the top of Mt. Victoria to catch a 360 degree view or get lost wandering the many trails in the town belt. Where else in a capital city can you escape into the woods in just minutes and be surrounded by beautiful, native birdsongs and trees as tall as buildings. And you must stop by the Botanical Gardens [grab the cable car from Lambton Quay to get the full tourist experience] and wander through parks, pathways, and the lovely Lady Norwood rose garden. For a breathtaking coastal hike, drive over to Red Rocks Reserve, walk along volcanic rocks and hang with a fur seal colony.
[Mt. Vic Lookout]
[Lady Norwood Rose Garden]
[Town Belt via Thorndon]
[Red Rocks Reserve Walkway]
Zealandia is an inviting nature reserve that is preserving New Zealand’s native species that have been fighting extinction since humans arrived. This massive park is a safe haven for all such things and allows you to explore New Zealand’s unique flora and fauna. Wander through dense woodlands listening to the tui’s amazing range of calls and catch tuataras bask in the sun. Hop on the free shuttle to the conservation park from the city center or grab it from the top of the cable car.
[sun shining through in Zealandia]
In the very possible chance of not-so-lovely days, Wellington is full of entertaining options. Explore the massive Te Papa museum [for free] where you can soak up Kiwi culture all in one go. Book a worthwhile tour at the Weta Cave for a behind-the-scences glimpse of some of Hollywood’s best hits [Avatar, Mad Max, and of course Lord of the Rings]. Have a lazy day at the vintage-style Lighthouse Cinema where you can have a drink or few while catching the latest films in oversized chairs and couches.
If you are a fan of beer, you’re in the right place. As the country’s craft beer capital, you can snag a map at one of the many beer bars and tour breweries, beer bars, grabbing stamps to complete the beer trail [www.craftbeercaptial]. My favorite spot, just voted the best beer bar in Welly, is a hidden, underground bar tucked in an alley. Hashigo Zake offers 11 taps that are always rotating from the USA, Australia, Europe, and of course New Zealand. Catch live jazz tunes in their lounge every Saturday.
This city is full of concealed watering holes. Here’s what’s worth checking out:
Poquito Cafe & Bar [11 Tory St] – heavenly coffee in the am, and delectable hand-crafted cocktails
Hawthorne Lounge [82 Tory St]- a speakeasy craft cocktail lounge perfect for late-night drinks
LBQ [Little Beer Quarter, 6 Edward St] – another alleyway beer bar with a living room-like atmosphere and outdoor seating.
[Visit Garage Project‘s taproom for out-of-this world brews]
[I’m biased because I choose to eat a vegan diet, but I promise these spots won’t disappoint]
Aunty Mena’s [167 Cuba St]- an affordable veggie restaurant that offers dishes from all across Asia that leave you full and satisfied
Ekim [257 Cuba St]- this burger joint operates from an old trailer and offers mouthwatering burgers [veggie as well] along with the best chips [fries] on Cuba Street. Enjoy your burger in their refurbed junk-yard.
Midnight Espresso [178 Cuba St] – this late-night cafe offers coffee, fresh juice, a counter full of enticing bites, and a massive menu of brunch and lunch items
Sweet Mother’s Kitchen [5 Courtenay Place] – this New Orleans influenced joint provides home-style cookin’ with a cajun kick and is always rocking with customers
Olive [170 Cuba St] – escape to a luscious jungle on their beautiful, sexy back patio while enjoying French/Italian meals with a modern twist
Friday Night Market – Just off Cuba Street this market offers an array of cuisines while local musicians play in the square
Sunday Harbor Market – Spend little, leave with loads at this fresh produce market or snag food from one of the many food trucks [and bring cash!!]
[cheapest produce in town]
[the infamous Cuba St]
As the San Fran of the southern hemisphere, Wellington won’t disappoint! Relax on the harbor, drink award-winning beer, and experience wind like you never have before! As a current resident, I’m more than happy to offer advice, tips, or answer questions about the capital to ensure you enjoy your Welly adventure.