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I’ve said this before and I will happily say it again. I absolutely, positively am in LOVE with Wellington city. It is one of a handful of cities where I feel completely at home.
Before you start on a “I don’t like cities”, rant…. let me tell you, Wellington is not like other cities. Though it is the capital of New Zealand it is not a built up mass of grey structures. It is light and bright and airy.
You can always see the sky without damaging your neck. There are plenty of open spaces and mountains to climb nearby. It is an outdoorsy and arty city whilst still having all the comforts and luxuries of a capitol city.
Without further adieu let me give you a Kiwi guide to Wellington.
Where to stay?
Base Hostel. I’ve always been a fan of Base. Their hostels are cheap, clean and always a little more spacious than others. There is also always a wonderful social atmosphere, with plenty of offers and activities available. Wellington Base is right in the centre of town, 2 minutes from Courtenay Place and a short walk to the Harbour.
Trek Global is another backpacker’s that I highly recommend. It’s funny because I actually used to live in that building before it was converted into a backpacker’s. I know the layout by heart. The communal kitchens are spacious with plenty of storage. There is one on each floor. The communal bathrooms are also giant and modern. It is also right in the middle of town. Just a short walk from everywhere of importance.
What to do?
There is no shortage of activities to indulge in. BUT I’ll curb my enthusiasm and mention a small number that are particularly important. Being a Kiwi myself, here’s a few things I love to do in Wellington.
1) Rollerblading around the harbour. This is so much fun. You rent the skates and all the kit from Ferg’s Kayaks just on the harbour. $15 for an hour or $20 for 2hrs. Then stop for an ice cream at Oriental bay.
2) Te Papa is the legendary museum at the harbour. It is free entry and full of wonderful exhibits to entertain adults and children alike.
3) Swim in the harbour. Again, this is free. But, be warned, the water is pretty cold. There is a platform for jumping in just in front of Mac’s Brewery.
4) Go to a cricket game. Ok, this isn’t for everyone. It isn’t even for me. But if you’re into cricket (like most New Zealanders) this is the perfect place to catch a game. The whole place goes crazy.
5) Mt Victoria viewing point. Make sure you head up Mt. Victoria to get a birdseye view of the city. It is particularly lovely at night. Bring some fish & chips (or chuppps )!
6) Weta caves Miramar. The Weta Caves are where all the Peter Jackson magic happens. You can take a tour and see some of the amazing props and costumes. It’s a bit out of the city, closer to the airport. But you can get the number 2 bus there from the city centre.
7) Half price cinema on Tuesday! The main cinema is in Courtenay place. Tickets are only $11 on Tuesdays so if it’s a wet and windy one you can catch a film and not worry too much about your funds.
8) Take the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens. Its $4.00 one way or $7.50 return for an adult. The last stop is the Kelburn look out point which has lovely views of the city. You can then wander around the lovely Botanic Gardens.
Those are top of the list on a Kiwi guide to Wellington.
Where to eat?
If it’s Asian food you’re looking for try Cha on Courtenay place. The “Grilled Cheese Chicken Curry”, is AMAZING! Seriously. Don’t even question it.
If you’re feeling pizza it HAS to be Wholly Bagels/Pizza. There is a small one on Willis street. This is some of the best pizza I have ever had in my life, and I’ve spent some time in Italy. The pizzas are giant and the combinations of toppings are spectacular. The “Manhattan Pie”, is my favourite. This place is the most important part of a Kiwi guide to Wellington! For real.
If you are craving something sweet Strawberry Fare is where you need to go. It’s just off Courtenay place on Kent Terrace. They do sell main meals but desserts are their speciality. They are HUGE and decadent and unforgettable. You could definitely split one between two…… but where’s the fun in that?
If you’d prefer something a little more unusual I recommend Beach Babylon, a café/eaterie on Oriental Bay that is famous for it’s fabulous fondues. I’m a MASSIVE cheese lover so this was amazing for me. You need to go. One can never have enough cheese, right? RIGHT?!
There are so many quirky coffee shops all around the centre of Wellington, and Enigma Café is one I would recommend. But my favourite one is actually in a suburb called Brooklyn. It is the Penthouse cinema café. I think I just love it because it’s in an old fashioned cinema, I’m shallow like that.
If you want Mexican that’s a little different, try Mexico. Nope, not the country, the restaurant! It’s just off Cuba street and they do the BEST coconut margaritas. The prices are reasonable and it’s got a great atmosphere. The Mexican chicken is UNREAL.
Where to drink?
Motel Bar is my new favourite place to drink in Wellington. It’s down a side alley just off Courtenay place. There are no bouncers. You ring a door bell and if they like the look of you then in you go. You are then given a drinks menu and shown to a table by a friendly server wearing a very bright tropical looking shirt. It feels exclusive but not snobby.
The cocktails are excellent and fairly priced. They’re not cheap, but you get what you pay for. The vibe is fun and social. You can hear yourself over the music, which is refreshing. On Wednesdays it’s buy one get one free. This Kiwi is in love with this bar.
The Library is a similar style to Motel, but there are bouncers so bring your passport. It’s on the top floor of a building on Courtney place and essentially looks like an old English library. Vintage chairs and book cases lining the walls. It’s quirky and lively.
If you’re after a dance then it’s The Establishment for you. With way more of a club vibe than my previous two recommendations this place is where the party really kicks off. Again, it’s on Courtenay Place.
You can walk everywhere you need to go in Wellington. However, if you are staying with friends in a suburb you will need to look into public transport.
The public transport is pretty good. Buses come fairly frequently, though they tend to taper off at the weekends. You don’t have to have the exact change for the bus fare, though it is always appreciated.
The trains have been modernised lately and it would be hard to miss your stop. You can buy a ticket on the train, just make sure you have change.
If you plan on renting a car be prepare for very narrow winding steep roads with hairpin turns a plenty. But you shouldn’t need a car in Wellington to be honest.
To be honest, I recommend staying in the city centre so that you don’t have to use too much public transport. Getting home after a night out drinking is a whole lot easier if you don’t have to worry about paying for a taxi.
MARKETS are an integral part of a Kiwi guide to Wellington. I love the underground market. This is down by the harbour every Saturday between 10am and 4pm. It is an art and design market.
For more information on all the different markets in Wellington (and there are a few) then make sure you take a look at the Absolutely Positively Wellington website.
If you have a kitchen and need to do a good food shop, Pak n Save is the cheapest….. but you need to drive there. New World, on the other hand, is in the centre of town and where most people shop.
Otherwise, with regards to clothes, it has all the usual stores you’ll see in any major NZ city. For example, Cotton On, Supre, Hallensteins, Glassons and so on.
That’s All Folks
There are so many other reasons why I love Wellington and a million other wonderful things to do in this amazing city. BUT I’ll leave you find them for yourself. My guide is just to give you a starting point. Go explore for yourself and fall in love with one of my true loves. I don’t mind sharing 😉