Why I’m Obsessed With Wellington, And You Should Be Too
When most Aussie fly across the ditch for a New Zealand holiday, the cities are often skipped over in favour of ski fields and adrenaline activities. While Queenstown is a perfectly great destination, it’s time for some other places to get the attention they deserve. Namely Wellington, the coolest little capital city in the world.
The laid-back charm of Wellington
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In Wellington, strangers smile at you on the street and baristas are always up for a chat while making your flat white. Its small population and relatively low number of tourists mean you can wander around the city without battling crowds, and find a spot in the best coffee shop even on a busy Saturday. But unlike a small town, Wellington has a thriving food scene, a scattering of microbreweries, even a winery. And coffee is probably the only thing locals take more seriously than rugby.
You don’t even have to get out of the city to experience some of Wellington’s best hikes. The trail to the peak of Mt Victoria starts at the edge of the CBD, and it’ll take you about 30 minutes to get to the top. It’s steep, but the views over the city and harbour are more than worth it. On the other side of town, at the top of Aro Street, you’ll find trails snaking into bushland that are perfect for exploring on a sunny day. Not into walking? Take the cable car from the harbour to the top of the hill. Once you’re there, catch a bus to Zealandia, a beautiful nature reserve with native flora and fauna.
If you want to be blown away by the famously jaw-dropping New Zealand scenery, the Escarpment Track – 10km of rugged coastline from Paekakariki to Pukerua Bay – is a must-do and is easily accessible by train.
Kiwis love their coffee too
Apparently Wellington has more bars and cafes per capita than New York City. Though it’s hard to find the statistics to back it up, just walking through the city feels like proof enough.
For coffee, you can’t go past Flight Coffee Hangar on Dixon Street. They grow their own beans on a farm in Colombia, and always have a huge number of brews to try. Or Lamason, tucked down a side street, has some seriously top-notch brewed coffee.
Getting hungry? For a cheap restaurant with large portions of delicious Malaysian food, call into Little Penang. On a sunny day, grab some fish and chips from the Mt Vic Chippery and eat it down on the roofs of the Oriental Bay Boatsheds. Polish it off with a scoop of ice cream from any dairy or corner store – be sure to try the iconic Kiwi flavour Hokey Pokey.
Brunch options abound, with options from the upscale Egmont Street Eatery (seriously good whitefish hash browns), to the grungy Enigma Cafe, where you can get a giant serving of pancakes and a damn good coffee.
Enjoy the nightlife with Wellington locals
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For a night out on the town, you’re gonna have to go bar hopping to visit all the good places in one visit. Start your afternoon at the Garage Project Taproom on Aro Street, where they brew their own beers and have endless options for you to try. If you’re more of a wine drinker, the nearby Te Aro wine is an urban winery using local fruit. Their cellar door is a funky spot to try some of their fun wine.
Heading into the city, Rogue and Vagabond have craft beer, delicious pizzas, and a front lawn with beanbags just waiting for you to lounge in. Goldings is a dive-y bar decorated with kitsch memorabilia, The Library is a trendy space filled with books that has great cocktails and desserts, and Dirty Little Secret is a rooftop container bar complete with fairy lights. After a boozy night out, pick up a pizza slice or two from Tommy Millions.
See? Plenty of options.
You may get a beach to yourself
If a day of recovery is on the cards, Wellington’s beaches are the perfect spot to lounge around and do nothing. Oriental Bay is the only “typical” beach (ie, with sand), but can get pretty packed on a hot day. Keep walking around and you’ll come to Point Jerningham – look for a small set of stairs that leads to a tiny rocky beach. Chances are you’ll have it to yourself, but bring a yoga mat or pillow to get comfortable on the rocks. BYO wine and picnic. If you’ve got a car, drive to Breaker Bay for more secluded serenity, or Scorching Bay for a busy beach with a great cafe.
Wellington is the perfect place for a long weekend away, though by the end you’ll surely be kicking yourself you didn’t book for a whole week.
In case you needed more excuses to visit New Zealand, check out this gallery of stunning photography of the country.
(Lead image: Shutterstock)