Isn’t it funny how I write a Travel Blog, yet I’ve never once written anything about my home-town.
As a true local, I know everywhere to go in Wellington, places to stay, places to eat, places to avoid and where to go when it’s a beautiful day!
So if you’re coming to the ‘Coolest little capital in the world’ read on to find out all you need to know!
You’ll hear us Wellingtonians say “You can’t beat Wellington on a good day” and it’s true! When it’s calm and sunny, everyone is out walking down Oriental Parade or having after-work drinks in the sunshine at many of Wellington’s bars. Our weather isn’t like that all the time, so when it is we make the most of it.
When you fly into Wellington, be prepared for a bumpy ride as we’ve actually been named the Windiest City in the world. The sea breeze’s from the Cook Straight make a “funnelling effect” through the Cook Strait channel into Wellington Harbour which makes Wellington a very windy destination.
248km/h is the highest gust of wind ever recorded in Wellington.
We’re also much more consistently windy than most places, with gusts exceeding gale-force (75km/h) about 175 days every year at the airport.
See below a video of some of our Airport landings – but don’t worry, there’s never been an accident…yet!
When you arrive in Wellington, you can hire a car if you wish but I personally don’t think it’s necessary. Central Wellington isn’t a big place if you’re just planning to stay in the city. You can literally get from one side of town to the other by walking or taking the bus.
If you’re on a budget, there’s about 15 different hostels to stay at. I personally haven’t stayed at any of them – because why would I need to? But they’re all very central with prices ranging from $20 – $40 NZD per night for a dorm room, or $100 – $170 per night for a private room.
Nomads is the only hostel to offer Free Breakfast and Dinner. They’re located right across from Civic Square and the i-Site Tourist information center.
Hostel St George is located more in the center of the city with all rooms complete with bed, beside table, desk & chair, drawers and a wardrobe. They host single travelers, students and/or couples wanting some cheap accommodation.
Wild Zebra Backpackers, I’ve actually been here before but only to pre-drink before a concert in town with some friends. Even though we where drinking, it didn’t seem like a massive ‘party hostel’ (it could have just been quiet that night though) this is the best place to stay if you’re planning to head out for nights on the town as ‘town’ is literally a 2 minute walk down the road. Plus you’ve got a great Restaurant Lone Star right next door.
If you’re not too keen to stay at a Backpackers and Hotels are more your thing, Wellington has many to choose from. However, they’re not incredibly cheap. New Zealand just seems to be an expensive place to stay.
If you love a deal, check out the NZ Deal website Grabone for the odd accommodation deal or meal deal.
Distinction Wellington is a great hotel. They’re located very close to the main bars and clubs (but not close enough for it to be noisy) and do Studio Rooms, Studio Suites, One or Two Bedroom Apartments and even Three Bedroom Penthouse Suites.
Museum Hotel is very popular, but with rooms ranging from $250+ per night it’s a bit out of my price range. They have a great restaurant & cocktail bar there with a menu consisting of Freshly shucked New Zealand oysters, Southern Alp wallaby loin and Double-baked Stilton soufflé
Rydges Wellington always has a great reputation. It’s super close to the train station and to some of Wellington’s water-front dining. It’s also walking distance to the Westpac Stadium, so if you’re here for a sporting event it’s perfect. They also have a pretty yummy restaurant called Portlander downstairs.
Thing To Do
I’ve actually never been here because I never got into Lord of the Rings – How am I even a New Zealander you scream??!! – but if you love movies like Avatar, District 9, The Hobbit Trilogy etc…. and want to see how the props were made in those movie, head to the Weta Workshop. They’re a multi-award winning design studio and physical manufacturing facility servicing the world’s entertainment and creative industries.
You’ll see some of their work at Wellington Airport too as they’re the ones that made the Giant Gollum that hovers over the food court.
$25 NZD – Studio Tour
$145 – Weta Cave Workshop & 3-course Dining Experience + Return Transfers
Be sure to visit Te Papa when you’re here to learn about our Maori Culture and History of New Zealand. The museum is open every day of the year but Christmas Day. Not to mention it’s free!!
You can do a Te Papa tour for $16 NZD per person if you’d rather take a more informative look.
Te Papa always has short-term exhibits, right now they have Gallipoli: The scale of our war, which is an incredible exhibition taking visitors through the triumphs and tragedies of the Gallipoli campaign. It’ll be there until 2018 to coincide with the WWI centenary commemorations.
I’ll be honest, we have a zoo that probably isn’t as amazing as your zoo back home. However, we do have REAL LIFE KIWI’S!
And no i’m not talking about the fruit, I’m meaning the flight-less bird that New Zealand is known for. (That’s why you’ll hear us New Zealanders be called Kiwis)
You’ll also see Baboons, Cheetahs, Dingo’s, Emu’s, Kangaroos and Goats (Random I know)
This isn’t really a touristy thing to do, but if you love animals and you’re really missing your dog back home, head to the Wellington SPCA. They’re located in Newtown up the gravel road that takes you to Mount Vic.
The building has been used as an isolation ward, geriatric ward and a music school so it’s not your typical animal farm.
This is where you go if you want to adopt a dog or a kitty! You’re welcome to go through the rooms and play with the puppies if they’re not too tired or use the ‘Dog Wash’ if you have a dog with you that needs washing.
If you’re already at the SPCA, you may as well do the walk up to the top of Mount Vic (you can however drive if you can’t be bothered) When you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the whole of Wellington. You can see Tinakori Hill, the Hutt Valley and Eastern harbour bays, Matiu/Somes Island and the Miramar Peninsula. It’s the perfect photo opportunity! – if the wind isn’t too bad.
Want to head away from the city for a bit? Take the Cable Car up to see the Botanical Gardens and explore Space Place (at Carter Observatory) They run every 10 minutes and it’s $7.50 NZD per return ticket.
When the sun is shining, you’ll find plenty of joggers and swimmers down on Oriental Parade. It’s the closest beach we have to the city and the best place to go if you’re wanting to look out to the ocean while eating an ice-cream.
The beach even gets sand shipped from Nelson to make the sand all white and nice for the Summer months.
Head to Beach Babylon if you want something to eat or grab a gelato from the famous Kaffee Eis
Cuba Street – Coolest Little Street
Head down to Cuba Street if you want to see the Bucket Fountain or attend the Friday Night Markets. This is where people busk, shop and dine at some of Wellington’s best hidden gems. Head to Havana for yummy tapas, cocktails and live music. Fidels cafe has a great menu serving up Waffles, Cuban Burritos and Baked Spanish Eggs for breakfast or a a Chili Cheese Burger for lunch. I’m not a coffee drinker myself but I hear they’re pretty good. I much prefer their Caramel Hot Chocolates….
Best Walks in Wellington
I love going for a bit of a hike and New Zealand is known for it’s stunning walkways through lush green trees and easy to navigate paths. Make sure it’s not too wet when you head out though as it can get quite slippery.
Download the Welly Walks App for maps and instructions.
- City to Sea Walkway (6-7 hours) but can be done in stages. Pass observatories, the botanical gardens and see the distant views of the Tararua, Rimutaka and Kaikoura ranges.
- Southern Walkway, between Oriental Bay and Island Bay (4-5 Hours)
- Skyline Walkway – (5 hours) but can be done in stages
- Tawatawa Reserve loop (1 1/2 Hours)
- Wrights Hill loops (about 1 1/2 hours)
- Colonial Knob, I always do this walk because it’s near where I live. It’s a bit of a tramping track so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. There’s many stairs if you take the ‘stair track’ but once you get to the top, it’s all downhill on a gravel path! (Takes me about 45 minutes)
Where To Nibble
- Fidels (as mentioned above)
- Chocolate Fish Cafe in Shelly Bay (Great view of the water on a nice day)
- Sweet Mothers Kitchen (Where you should go after a night on the town, American/South Western Food)
- Joes Garage (On Tory Street, they do pikelets!)
- Scorch-o-rama (on Karaka Bay Road, it’s nice to get out of the city)
- Kaizen Cafe (Situated out of the city in the suburb of Porirua, the service is great and the food delicious) I’d recommend eating here before or after doing the Colonial Knob walk.
- Midnight Express (Mediterranean & Turkish Food) – I hear the coffee is good.
- WhiteBait is really popular with overseas visitors. They have spectacular views across the Wellington Waterfront along with tasty seafood for dinner. *Seafood*
- Monsoon Poon, I went here for a work-do once and tried pretty much all of the cocktails, they’re delicious. *Indonesian/Asian*
- Pizzeria Napoli for yummy wood-fired Pizza *Italian*
- Chow – Feeling like a Banana leaf wrapped free range chicken? or Free range pork & shiitake mushroom dumplings, go here. *Asian*
Phuthai Esarn Restaurant, great for BYO’s and your classic Thai food. They even do $11 lunches*Thai*
- One Red Dog for more wood-fire pizza on the waterfront. Great for a date or hanging out with friends.
- Great India – Great service and true authentic Indian food! Make sure you try a Butter Chicken at least once when you’re in New Zealand.
- The Library is literally set up to look like a Library. With their dim lighting, it’s the perfect place to get to know someone over one of their famous cocktails and scrumptious desserts
- Hawthorn Lounge – with their impeccably dressed bartenders, these guys sure know how to make a cocktail or 4
- Hummingbird located on Courteney Place, you may as well start here before you head to the clubs
Out Of Wellington
If you have a car, or don’t mind catching the train. Head out of Wellington to one of the surrounding areas.
Plimmerton – Just past Porirua
Head to the beach if it’s a really nice day or grab some Hells Pizza from the Mana Esplanade on the way and have it on the beach. The beach is suitable for swimming and there’s bathrooms there to get changed in.
Take the train from Wellington on the Kapiti Line if you don’t have a car available.
Don’t get off until the second to last stop – Paraparaumu where you can check out the Sunny Kapiti Coast.
Situated about 50km’s north of Wellington, it’s the perfect place to go if you want to get out of the bustling city or even out of the wind!
My boyfriend used to live out there and it was crazy how much nicer the weather always was compared to central Welly.
If you’re driving, you can stop off at the Southward Car Museum on Otaihanga Road or carry on to Ngarara Road and check out the Nga Manu Nature Reserve.
If it’s Summer, bring your togs (swimsuit) and paddle in the waters of Peka Peka Beach or Paraparaumu Beach.
There’s also an Aquatic Centre in Paraparaumu for the kids or if you’re wanting a big walk, do the Paekakariki Escarpment Walkway which takes about 3-4 hours one way. (2 hours if you’re a bit fitter)
I personally think that even though Wellington is the Capital City of New Zealand, there’s not TONS of things to do here. The people are great, we’re all very friendly and laid back. We like to drink, we like to laugh and drink a good coffee, however in terms of exciting thing to do every weekend, we’re not really spoilt for choice.
Don’t get me wrong, I love New Zealand and it’s laid-back lifestyle but I probably wouldn’t spend more than 3-4 days in Wellington because you’ll run out of things to do.
If you’re heading to New Zealand from overseas, start in Auckland and make your way down to Wellington. Maybe hire a car and check out all the scenery along the way. Stop in Taupo or Rotorua and do some white water rafting or sky diving in the Summer.
Spend New Years camping in Gisborne if you’re 18 – 26 years old at the annual R’n’v festival where everyone gets drunk and listens to awesome music. (It’s like a smaller version of Glastonbury)
When you arrive in Wellington (and you still have money left) spend a few days here then take the Interislander Ferry across to the South Island. It arrives in Picton but if you can jump on a bus from as little as $1 and head to Nelson (about a 2 hour drive) where you’ll be able to discover the local art and explore the Abel Tasman National Park.
I might do another post on a New Zealand Road Trip, so stay tuned….