Being located across the Tasman and all, Wellington isn’t our typical Out of Towner. But given the fact that it only takes as long to fly to New Zealand’s stunning capital city than as it does to drive to, say, High Country Victoria, it’s as good a weekend destination as any.
So over a recent long weekend, we spent a few days exploring Wellington. It’s a beautiful city, this one. While small and rather quaint, you can cover a lot of ground in a short time and there are countless little treasures in this Kiwi corner. Peter Jackson thinks so too, which is why he’s in town filming The Hobbit at the moment and has permanent offices in the city (the reason Wellington has become affectionately known as Wellywood).
Our first impression of Wellington is that there are an abundance of cafes (apparently more than in NYC, per capita), cinemas and late-night bars. There is a serious coffee scene here; the Coffee Supreme guys have a cafe (like many talented folk Australians like to claim as our own, they’re actually from New Zealand) and there are several other roasters in town likely to entice the humble traveller.
Step outside and Wellington is a seriously pretty place to visit. In a sense, it feels a little like a coastal town in Europe. The quality of life is high in this picturesque city, tucked into the westernmost corner of Wellington Harbour on the south coast of the North Island.
We spent a long weekend meandering from cafes on the water to tiny dark bars, fish shacks to contemporary art galleries, and deco cinemas to ice creameries on the wharf.
There are only 10 rooms at Ohtel, a cute boutique hotel on the waterfront at Oriental Bay. You’re in the thick of it here, so you won’t have to go far to find anything, but you’d happily spend the weekend in your room too. Decked out with mid-century designer pieces, this place has heaps of charm. They also serve a great breakfast down stairs with local Cafe L’Affare coffee on the grind.
66 Oriental Parade, Wellington
Some serious caffeinators in Wellington with various locations across the city, including their flagship Coffee Central at Customhouse Quay.
Shed 13, 37 Customhouse Quay, Kumutoto Plaza, Wellington Waterfront
Next door to Customs and with a bookshop attached, Milk Crate specialises in the fresh produce, sophisticated flavours and organic produce. They also have a hole in the wall cafe, August.
35 Ghuznee Street, Wellington
Delicious ice cream at various locations across the city. A must for sweet cold treats.
Every city needs one bar that throws back to the 1920s prohibition era, serving classic, sophisticated cocktails like they used to. Hawthorn Lounge is Wellington’s.
82 Tory Street, Wellington
Women’s and men’s clothing and accessories by a range of designers including Alice McCall, Bassike, Bea Coops, Claude Maus, Deadly Ponies, Lover, Stolen Girlfriends Club, Taschen and Therese Rawsthorne.
106 Victoria Street, Te Aro
As Good As Gold
Some of the best New Zealand and Australian designers in one small shop: Colab, Dr Denim, Elke Kramer, Handsom, Keep Kids, Karen Walker, Wood Wood, PAM, Nobody, Shakuhachi, Skinny Nelson.
Corner Victoria & Manners Street, Wellington
A super slick, well-edited collection of high-end brands: Comme des Garcons, Lanvin, Marni, Martin Grant, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten and other things you wish you could buy. Fun for a look.
4 Blair Street, Te Aro
Cute, colourful pieces for men and women like knitted ties and World map tights alongside homewares, books and sweet gifts to take home like Tiki salad servers. World Beauty store is just across the road selling sweet scented moisturiser, Ernesto Vegetal Wax Candles and Mason Pearson hair brushes.
98 Victoria Street, Te Aro
Wellington City Gallery
New Zealand’s art scene has long been world class and this two-storey contemporary gallery on the water showcases a mass of local emerging and established artists working across various mediums. It is also home to a great eatery – Nikau Gallery Cafe, on the ground floor – for post art sustenance.
101 Wakefield Street, Wellington
Both of these cinemas are well worth the visit to see limited release cult and art house films. Roxy is an amazing art deco building from the 60s, making a night at the cinema an experience. The Paramount is one floor up, overlooking the main drag; the perfect spot for a beer in the sun before the flick.