Enjoy the Coolest Little Capital
Wellington is currently celebrating 150 years as New Zealand’s capital city. The city’s slogan ‘coolest little capital’ is on point – this is a small city, but it’s pretty on-trend with culture, nightlife and activities. Add to this a beautiful location in a coastal valley and you’ve got the prettiest as well as coolest little city in New Zealand.
Here are the best ways to have a cool visit to Wellington.
Wander up Cuba Street
Packed with vibrant bars, great coffee spots, vintage shops, quirky independent retailers and a range of restaurants, Cuba Street is easily the coolest strip in the city. Drink in the bohemian vibe, take a look at the controversial bucket fountain (it’s a love-it or hate-it kind of sculpture) and peruse some of the regular markets. The pre-loved clothing stores at the top end of Cuba are my favourite hangout.
Get some elevation
Fact: Wellington is hilly – there’s a reason Wellingtonians look so toned. The best way to see the city in all its glory is to climb to one of the hilltop viewpoints. Mount Victoria is the most accessible, offering 360 degree views of the city and the coast.
With a summit of 445m above sea level, Mount Kaukau in Johnsonville is the highest peak in the city and boasts a pleasant wooded walk to the top. On a clear day you can see all the way to the south island.
Hit the beach at Scorching Bay
Located on the Miramar peninsula, Scorching Bay beach provides epic views of the ships coming and going from Wellington harbour. There’s a grassed area adjacent to the sand, ideal for picnics and barbeques in summer months. Beachfront café Scorch-O-Rama does great ice cream.
Spend an afternoon at Te Papa
One of the best museums in the world and it’s free to visit! Currently showcasing an incredible exhibition on the ANZAC Gallipoli campaign to commemorate the centenary, Te Papa is the best museum in Wellington (if not New Zealand).
The Weta studio (of LOTR fame) hand crafted the larger-than-life human models in the exhibition – a must see. I also love Te Papa’s rooftop viewing platform for spying on the waterfront.
Enjoy the movies
The Weta cave in Miramar showcases props and costumes from movies such as District 9 and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. You can also take an entertaining 45-minute guided tour of the workshop to see how the costumes, weapons and prosthetics are made (plus play with a few of the props).
There are also a number of boutique cinemas in Wellington which are a great way to enjoy the artistic side to the city. The Embassy theatre on Kent Terrace is where the LOTR movies originally premiered. Roxy cinema at Miramar is at the heart of the Wellington movie-making industry. Its Coco bar has an excellent drinks menu; I recommend the U’lala Mimosa for early evening, or if you’re feeling adventurous try a cocktail made with locally-produced gun powder rum (contains real traces of gun powder).
Drink craft beer
My go-to pub for a locally brewed pint in Wellington is Malthouse in Courtenay Place. I always let the staff recommend something here and they never fail to impress. Other excellent craft beer waterholes are Rogue & Vagabond, Fork & Brewer and Hashigo Zake.
Or go one better and visit the breweries themselves. Garage Project, ParrotDog and Tuatara Third Eye breweries offer regular tastings and an invaluable insight into the New Zealand craft beer industry.
Visit Zealandia to see New Zealand’s wildlife up close
This eco-project is a little slice of nature just a 10 minute drive from Wellington’s CBD. Walking around the park’s grounds you can spot endangered native birds such as the takahe and New Zealand’s living icon, the kiwi.
There are also tuataras – the world’s living fossil – and an old mine shaft full of cave wetas (don’t go in there alone if you are afraid of the dark). Zealandia is a great place to get acquainted with New Zealand’s unique flora and fauna.
Enjoy a flat white (or two)
Coffee culture is a big deal in the capital. Get your fix at one of the hundreds of coffee outlets in the city. Customs Brew Bar and the Flight Coffee Hangar are recommended. I am a big fan of Memphis Belle’s shabby outdoor seating in one of the best people-watching spots in the city. Their laid-back approach to service makes everyone feel welcome. Top tip: to request skimmed milk in New Zealand ask for ‘trim’.
Take a sunset stroll (or rollerblade) along Wellington’s Waterfront
The seafront path from the waterfront to Oriental Bay (Wellington’s main beach) offers great coastal and city views. There’s street art to enjoy, bars to dip in to and the route also incorporates the Wellington Writers’ Walk for added culture and poetry.
Walking along here is my commute to the city every day and I pinch myself pretty much every time. To be as cool as the locals travel by skateboard, scooter or rollerblade – yes, even if you are an adult.
Get in the water
SUP-boarding, kayaking, swimming and rowing are all popular activities in the Wellington Harbour. You can take advantage of the famous windy weather and try windsurfing or sailing. There are a number of waterfront businesses who will lend equipment or provide lessons in various watersports.