Wellington is the cultural capital of New Zealand and is bursting with creativity in every form. Wind, coffee, nightlife, art, bays, beaches and cake tins. As the saying goes: “You can’t beat Wellington on a good day!”
Wind is good for you
No matter your port of entry, the first thing that will sweep you off your feet are the gale-force winds that come blustering in from Cook Strait. This is known as the infamous Wellington Southerly. Arrive by Ferry from Picton and chances are you’ve spent the last 3 hours on the side of the boat regretting your choice of Kaikoura Crayfish for lunch.
Arrive by plane and chances are you’re counting your lucky stars you’re still alive. Although, the locals will reassure you that these pilots are in fact trained for such treacherous conditions, as long as they fly with Air New Zealand. There are no promises with rival budget airline, Jetstar. So hold onto your hats and strap yourself in folks.
Long Blacks as well as All Blacks
Wellingtonians take their coffee very seriously. If you are ever caught drinking a spicy chai latté or think Starbucks is a viable coffee destination, then hide your face and weep!
In the capital city caffeine beverages come in two forms: double shot Long Blacks or Flat Whites. No beating around the bush. For our foreign friends, a Long Black is not simply an Americano and a Flat White is not merely a Café con Leche…
- Long Black: A shot of espresso served over hot water. Often accompanied with a small jug of hot water on the side, making your Long Black go that much further. For the more fluffy personalities out there, you might request a dollop of cream or a splash of milk too.
- Flat White: The most common coffee in New Zealand is made up of one-third espresso, two-thirds steamed milk and a touch of swirled froth. Expect exquisitely designed silver ferns on top for full effect.
While the form of coffee is crucial, the brand of coffee bean is just as important. Wellington is home to well over a dozen local roasteries that provide a rich tapestry of craft and taste. Some familiar brands such as Mojo, Supreme and People’s Coffee are reliable sources of caffeine but one brand in particular stands head and shoulders above the rest: Havana Coffee.
In 1990, Havana Coffee Works designed and built a fluid-bed, hot air roaster that runs on electricity. Their method is hot air roasting – ecofriendly, fast, resulting in clean and sweeter tasting coffee. Look out for their unmistakable label.
Best coffee joints in Wellington
- Fidel’s Cafe
- Lamason Brew Bar
- Flight Coffee Hangar
- Memphis Belle Coffee House
- Peoples Coffee Espresso Bar
Cuba and Courtney
Wellington is a compact little city perfect for all those travellers who enjoy getting outside for a good walk. Cuba Street is famous for its bohemian and alternative vibe. Fidel’s Café serves quality coffee, Havana Bar offers tasty cocktails and tapas, and Southern Cross showcases some sweet live music. If you’re after nightclubs then Courtney Place is where you want to be.
But let’s not forget the Waterfront which has its own unique appeal. If the sun is shinning, grab a bean bag and brunch at St John’s Bar. Then make your way to Foxglove and enjoy the harbour views. And if you’re feeling silly and tipsy enough jump on a croc bike sporting a pair of crocs. Only in Wellington!
Cakes and Caketins
No other city in New Zealand does a sports event as well as Wellington on a good day. Of course, this goes with the general motto of the city: “you can’t beat Wellington on a good day”. When the wind and rain decides to ease up the city’s true colours shine through.
Wellington stadium or the ‘caketin’ is home to the Wellington Lions, Hurricanes, and All Blacks when they’re in town. If you’d like to experience a local rugby match we recommend watching a Hurricanes game or if you’re lucky enough an All Blacks test. On game day the city comes alive. The bars are full with local supporters and travelling fans. And the long walk up the concourse provides a genuine sense of anticipation for the game.
The Sevens tournament hosted in Wellington every year is another great city event. Dress up in the outfit of your choice, enjoy a few drinks (responsibly of course!) and party over 2 fun-filled days. While recent attendances have been disappointing, it’s only a matter of time before the tournament makes a comeback to relive its glory days!
Art for arts sake
Wellington is the cultural capital of New Zealand home to a wide range of museums, theatres, galleries and boutiques. If you’re stuck for ideas, or it’s a rainy day, check out one of the following:
- Visit Te Papa Museum
- Critique the art in City Gallery Wellington
- See a show at the Wellington Opera House
- Catch a flick at the Embassy movie theatre
- Check out our movie industry at Weta Workshop
- Tour the Beehive and Parliament buildings
- Walk through Botanical Gardens
- Hike up Mt Victoria
- Ride the Cable Car
- Explore Zealandia
Drive around the bays
One of the best drives in the country is weaving your way around the Wellingtons bays. Starting in Oriental Bay, follow your nose until you arrive at Red Rocks Walkway. This can take anywhere between 45 minutes and a whole half day depending on the places you stop for a swim, a bite to eat or for a photo of the stunning coastal horizon.
On your way you will make it to Lyall Bay, home of Fat Freddys Drop, and the secluded Houghton Bay. Once you make it to the end of the road at Te Kopahou visitor centre you may be fortunate enough to get a sneak peak of the South Island. The surrounding bays are one of the best spots in the city for a sunset, beer and parcel of Fish n Chips.
100% pure Petone
Petone is a true Kiwi community. From Wellington Station catch the train along the seaside track until you reach the first stop at Petone. Make your way down Jackson Street and you’ll find a number of boutique café’s, galleries and shops.
Petone beach is a fantastic spot in summer. Fisherman come to cast a line and kids participate in the traditional ‘wharf jump’. The Esplanade is buzzing with locals walking their dogs or taking in the harbour views from the cafés. Petone’s newest café – Cabaret – sits above the Petone Rowing Club overlooking the foreshore.
Petone also boasts of having the cleanest and purest water in the world. Te Puna Wai Ora, known as the spring of life, is a communal spot just off Jackson Street. People come to get bottles of free, untreated water straight from the earth.