Wellington has been on my hit list for a while, so my pre-birthday weekend was the perfect opportunity for a two day amble around the worlds ‘coolest little capital’. As this was such a short trip I wasn’t going to bother writing a blog post, but we were surprisingly charmed by the city and I’ve been talking about it non-stop ever since so I decided to put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard?) and share my trip…
Wellington is just a 45-minute flight from Auckland, so we finished work early on Friday to pack in as much as we could. The plane takes you down the West Coast of the North Island and over the majestic Mt Taranaki and rugged coastline encircling Egmont National Park. As you approach Wellington, the South Island comes into sight and you can see the snow topped Southern Alps far off in the distance. I’m now pining for another South Island adventure; it’s been way too long since we’ve graced those magical shores.
Wellington is green and hilly, and the view out of our window was straight out of the Hobbit. As we touched down onto the tarmac, there were surfers catching waves alongside the plane in Lyall Bay.
Where we stayed
I think Matt found the perfect spot when he booked this Airbnb apartment on Willis Street, less than a five minute walk to bustling Cuba Street and about 20 minutes from Wellington’s waterfront. The apartment was full of character and had so many cool finishing touches, I wish we had more than just a weekend there.
Where we ate
Wellington has a huge selection of restaurants and a weekend is just not enough time to eat all the food! For this reason we definitely need to pay another visit. As a vegetarian, there were so many good options, and refreshingly a lot of the menus had several veggie options to choose from rather than just one (Auckland take note!). Here’s where we ate:
- We visited Olive on our first night and were not disappointed. Grab a table in the garden courtyard (they have blankets for colder nights) and check out the live music. We were serenaded by a jazz guitarist and singer who added so much ambiance to our evening. The food was exceptional – I had a vegan slow roast tomato and red pepper lasagne with cashew cheese croquettes, which was phenomenal. The cheese strangely (and wonderfully) tasted like smokey bacon.
- Five Boroughs is an American style diner, complete with booths, tiled walls and milkshakes, which we happened across on our way down from Mt Vic. It’s as cool as the soundtrack on their website and has tasty brunch options and bottomless coffee. I got the eggs on sourdough with grilled tomato and Matt got a burger. Two thumbs up.
- Loretta’s aesthetic is cool and industrial, with exposed concrete floors and walls. It’s menu offers fresh seasonal produce, good service from the wait staff and some decent craft beer options. We ate buffalo mozzarella to start, aubergine pie for mains, topped off with a New York cheese cake, which while not on par with the food at Olive, was still tasty. Although my pie could have done with a little less salt!
- On our last day we got breakfast at Fidels on Cuba Street, another of Wellington’s hipster cafes where the staff are tattooed, pierced and decked out in vintage pieces. It has a covered outside courtyard, cuban inspired decor and all round relaxed vibes. I ate bruschetta with avocado, which was both tasty and the perfect breakfast portion. The vegan breakfast looked tempting but I can’t deal with that much food in the morning.
- A few people had recommended Ekim Burgers so we headed down there before our flight home on Sunday for a cheap dinner. Ekim is a food truck with some al fresco bric a brac seating around it. I was pretty impressed to see five vegetarian burger options up on the board. I got a corn patty with refried beans and jalapeños, which quickly warmed me up as the sun disappeared for the day. We also shared some chunky chips with Ekim’s homemade tomato sauce. Verdict? Affordable, tasty, fresh fast food.
Where we drank
Wellington has a rad craft beer scene, with several local microbrewies, and endless pubs and bars to sample all the hoppy delights. Some of our favourite watering holes from the weekend:
- Goldings Free Dive // Plum Plum Plum sour beer (by Garage Project)
- LBQ // Cherry lambic beer
- Rogue and Vagabond // Kiwi fruit wheat beer
- Garage Project Taproom // White Mischief salted peach wheat beer
What we did
- Mount Victoria (free) – wait till you see a blue sky and then follow the track through the woods, past the toad stools and up to the lookout point for panoramic views of the city. This is the first thing we did on our trip and it was the only part of the weekend that was overcast; we definitely could have taken better photos later in the day. Take the slide on your way down!
- Te Papa museum (free) – this is voted one of the worlds top museums and it’s easy to see why. We only got through two floors of Te Papa, exploring the Gallipoli exhibition (the giant sculptures made by the Weta Workshop – who also did LOTR – are insanely good!), the Mountain to Sea exhibition with it’s giant squid, plus a few others. It is so big that you could end up spending the whole day here, so we saved the other floors for our next visit.
- Te Papa is right by Wellington waterfront, which is good for a sunny afternoon stroll. Here you’ll find bars, cafes and shops, as well as weekend markets – we stopped in at Mac’s Brew Bar to try the new mead beer, which was a little too medicinal for my tastes.
- Cuba Street – a bohemian treasure trove of second hand bookshops, vintage shops, record shops, plus a gift shop come art gallery where I found myself staring at some artwork next to Jermaine Clement! Good spot for grabbing some tea and cake, and people watching.
- Zealandia (get the free shuttle bus from the I-site / $18.50 for an adult ticket) – this is an eco sanctuary straight out of Jurassic Park, and is home to native Kiwi wildlife. We found the Kaka, Tui and pre-historic Tuatara basking in the sun. A great way to spend the afternoon when you’ve had too much city time and want to escape into nature.
- On your way back from Zealandia, get the free shuttle to the top of the Cable Car and walk back into the city via the botanical gardens and cemetery. You’ll also find a perfumery and the Space Place up by the cable car, which are well worth exploring.
We left with a little bit (ok, a big) crush on Wellington. It’s alternative and a little rough around the edges in the best possible way.
There were so many cool little places to eat and drink and not enough time to try them all – we will definitely come back! Next time I think we would come for longer, rent a car and explore the South Coast beaches and surrounding towns of Wellington.