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8 Reasons Why A Long Weekend In Wellington Is Not Only Possible, But Completely Epic

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When you suggest New Zealand as a long weekend getaway to Australians, the initial reaction you’ll usually get is a laugh. Let me just tell you that I am dead serious.

I recently took advantage of the newly opened borders and took the easy three-hour flight from Sydney to Wellington for a four-day weekend. Besides it just being really bloody good to not be in Australia for the first time in just over a year, it was the perfect destination for a shorter getaway.

Here’s why.

#1 It’s Easy To Get There

Yes, NZ is an international destination, which makes it seem like a big deal to get to. The thing is (especially if you’re on the south side of Down Under) travelling to Wellington only takes about three hours. It’s actually as fast and on par for pricing as heading to the other side of the country — hell, even just to the middle of the country.

If you’re on the other side of the country well, you’d be spending that time getting anywhere in Australia anyway.

Not to mention Aussie don’t need a visa, or to quarantine. It’s genuinely as easy as popping up to Cairns.

#2 The Foodie Scene Is Unrivalled

There are more bars, restaurants and cafes per capita in Wellington than in New York. So if you’ve been thinking the Big Apple is a foodie destination, it’s got nothing on Wellington.

What surprised me was that there’s really not much need to research, you can pretty much walk in anywhere and have a tasty feed. That’s not to say there aren’t standouts.

First of all, a big cheers to Wello’s craft beer scene. There are so many to choose from, but we asked a local to give us his top picks here. If you have the chance, I strongly recommend booking yourself on the Axes & Ales tour with NZ Craft Beer Tours, to get an insider look at these breweries — and to throw axes, obviously.

 

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My first dinner here was in Nolita, Wello’s first plant-based pizzeria and pastaria. The food is amazing and the decor walks a line between kitsch and modern. Lola Stays is a cute brekkie spot along the waterfront at Oriental Bay, and Chocolate Dayz Cafe over at Days Bay is the perfect place to warm up with a hot choccie before going out to explore.

Hillside Kitchen was the most unique dining experience I think I’ve ever had. While the venue has been famous for it’s meat and vegetables for years now, they recently made the switch to become completely plant-based and it’s got nothing to do with dietary requirements.

As owner and head chef Asher Boote told me, “I’ve eaten meat my whole life, still do though I’m very selective about what meat I do eat. Honestly, it’s a taste thing. That sounds weird, but if you think about it — you can pick a peach off a tree and it’ll taste delicious. There’s no meat anywhere you can just bite into and enjoy without doing anything to it first”.

 

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Mr Go’s Asian hawker-style street food with a twist of Kiwi influence was another standout for me. I was exhausted and just took away a feast, but it’s so cute inside the restaurant you should absolutely sit down.

Meanwhile, Hannahs Laneway is basically a one-stop-foodie-shop with a range of venues surrounded by cool street art all in one back street. Wellington Chocolate FactoryFix and Fogg peanut butter bar and Leeds Street Bakery are all must-tastes.

#3 The Natural Beauty Is *Chef’s Kiss*

 

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As with all things, New Zealand just cares a little more than we do. They’re fully aware of how lucky they are to have such a beautiful country, and they’re taking steps to restore and protect it. Case and point with Zealandia Eco-Santuary.

Just outside the city, staff and volunteers are working hard to return a large patch of land to what it would have been before humans set foot on it. This lush forest area is home to over 40 rare species of native wildlife — from kiwis to glow worms.

For completely free views, you can head up to Mount Victoria lookout, with 360-degree views of the city and surrounding bays. You can actually see the South Island on a good day. Oriental Bay has plenty of cafes and restaurants where you can sit and enjoy the view, along with wide boardwalks the locals love to use for walks, runs and bike rides.

 

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A short ferry ride (that’ll cost you about NZ$15) from Oriental Bay is Days Bay, with jagged, rocky waterfronts, deep green foliage, dramatic cliff faces and more than one lighthouse. Think every moody NZ drama you’ve ever watched. Oh, and there’s a whole bunch of goats living their best wild lives.

The best way to explore the island is by e-bike. Hire one from Wildfinder then wheel your way around the (mostly flat) circumference of the island. Heading up to the main Pencarrow Lighthouse is pretty uphill and will test your legs a lot more, but the views from the top are worth it. Give yourself a whole day over here if you can.

#4 The Arts And Culture Scene Is Strong

The Museum of New Zealand: Te Papa Tongarewa here is one of the best-curated museums I’ve been into for a while. Sadly, I was short on time during my visit and this place is HUGE. So I chose to visit the culture level, and it was truly moving.

For an, shall we say odder, experience, City Gallery Wellington is a space for contemporary art. There are always new exhibitions coming through here, and the space is used very well. I know nothing about art, and while a lot of these pieces felt like they were made for other ‘arty people’, it’s free entry and was an enjoyable time.

Not to mention the blossoming street art scene around the city. As mentioned, Hannah’s Laneway is particularly good for this, but keep your eyes peeled elsewhere as you walk around.

#5 The Luxe Hotels Have Plenty Of Character

While there are all your regular hotel offerings, for those travellers who enjoy having accommodation that’s actually memorable, Wellington won’t disappoint.

I stayed at boutique 5-star hotel Ohtel, right on Oriental Bay and an easy walk to the rest of the city. My room felt a little like I was staying in a 70s-themed rental, in all the best ways. The green and orange decore with wooden trimmings, the record player and accompanying records — all divine. Not to mention the sheer size of this room, plus a balcony looking out to the harbour, did not feel like a modern hotel — and the bathtub, oh my god.

Ohtel Wellington only has 10 rooms, which might explain why the staff is so incredibly friendly and welcoming. The hotel front is an adorable cafe too — Ohtel Pantry — so nothing about staying here feels like a cookie-cutter hotel experience.

Elsewhere in the city, you have options like QTU Boutique Hotel and — if you’re willing to stay just a few minutes-drive out of the centre — a lighthouse and old keep that have been turned into quirky holiday rentals.

#6 The City Is The Perfect Size

 

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You don’t want huge cities for long weekend trips. You want places that are easy to walk around, with plenty to do but not so much that you feel like you’re missing out. Wellington ticks all those boxes.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty more to fit into a longer trip just a short drive away from the city centre (Wairarapa wine country, I’m looking at you), but mostly you can sleep and explore all within walking distance. Maybe add in a short ferry ride, at most.

#7 They People Are Ridiculously Friendly

This won’t come as a shock to every city in Australia, but as I currently live in Sydney I genuinely forgot what a friendly city felt like.

Taxi drivers, art gallery receptionist, waitstaff, random people in the street: everyone was so up for a friendly chat and it felt so damn good.

#8 The Seagulls Are HUGE

You would understand why this was absolutely a legitimate reason if you ever take a trip to Wellington. It’s impressive and ridiculous.


AWOL visited as a guest of Tourism NZ.

(Lead image: Camilla Rutherford via Tourism Wellington)