Wellington is famous for its restaurants and cafés – it’s said to have more per capita than NYC. But what to do when you’re between meals? We’ve got you sorted (warning: there’s food. More food. But you’ll find room).
Get close to a kiwi
Cue the Jurassic Park theme song because on entering Zealandia, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to prehistoric times. And that’s the idea: the 225-hectare conservation park in suburban Wellington was established in 1995 with a 500-year plan to return the land to a pre-human settlement state. Already, birdlife is thriving. Book a night tour and you’ll be armed with a flashlight and a guide to help you spot the elusive – and nocturnal – kiwi.
Shake it up
Couture cocktails are everywhere in Wellington and you’d be hard-pressed to find a bad one. Among the top spots is The Library, where walls are lined with books (you can borrow one) and waitstaff dress as librarians. For beats, there’s live jazz, funk and soul; and for drinks, there’s the Duck Fat Sazerac, with duck-fat infused whiskey, cognac and spiced-honey liqueur.
Shop for vintage threads
Anything goes on bohemian Cuba Street, where you’ll find cheap eats and quirky shops (it’s a bit like King Street in Sydney’s Newtown or Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, Melbourne). Make sure to hit the vintage stores: there’s Spacesuit for fun finds from the States and Japan (think old Levi’s and Hard Rock Café jackets); Paper Bag Princess for affordable treasures with good intentions (all proceeds go to charities); and for designer labels, there’s Ziggurat and Hunters & Collectors (take heed of the latter’s sign, which says: “Nothing haunts us like the things we didn’t buy.”)
Catch up with Phar Lap
Give yourself a full day to explore the national museum, Te Papa – it’s excellent (and entry is free). It tells the story of Māori migration to New Zealand, featuring traditional buildings and a 19th-century war canoe. Plus there’s a 500-kilogram colossal squid and the skeleton of racing great Phar Lap (fun fact: he was a Kiwi). Brave the queues and don’t miss Gallipoli: The Scale of our War, a moving, almost-cinematic exhibition by Weta Workshop (the effects company behind The Lord of the Rings films).
SEE ALSO: Where to Eat and Drink in Wellington
Hit the streets
Like speed dating for travelling gourmands, Capital Tastes walking tour gives you the chance to meet coffee roasters, gelato-makers and chocolatiers and get a feel for the city’s history – all in three-and-a-half hours. Trips are run by Zest Food Tours.
Get some perspective
For great city views without breaking a sweat, climb aboard the Wellington Cable Car. The five-minute journey from the heart of the financial district to the Botanic Garden has been a must-do for travellers since the little red trams started in 1902 (it’s also an important service for residents in Wellington’s steepest suburbs). For something more taxing, walk the Mount Victoria Loop, a 2.5-hour round trip.
Sugar and soda – and all things nice
Whatever you had for lunch, you’ve got room for Wellington’s favourite biscuit: a salted-caramel cookie from Leeds Street Bakery. The store uses local, mostly organic ingredients and is part of Hannahs Laneway, a small precinct that houses artisanal producers, including a soda-maker and chocolatier. To find the laneway, follow your nose: the smell of chocolate hangs in the air, thanks to the Wellington Chocolate Factory. Once you’ve had their gnarly single-origin bars – made with just cocoa beans and sugar – you’ll find it hard to go back to the sweet stuff.
Head straight to the action
Finally, you’d be mad if you didn’t swing by Weta Workshop, the prop and special-effects company behind The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and Avatar. Weta has transformed sleepy suburbia into a Hollywood of sorts, where filmmakers can produce a film from props to post-production. Take a Weta Cave Workshop Tour to see the painstaking process involved in making the props and costumes.
SEE ALSO: The Best Places to Stay in Wellington