One week wasn’t long enough. I realised that immediately. Carried by the famous winds of Wellington, I wandered through streets of coffee shops, vibrant wall art, bustling shops and low-key bars. A paradise for anyone who loves a city with soul, Wellington makes a big first impression.
I’d landed on a bright Monday, and for two days enjoyed cider in the sun and warm walks along the waterfront. A comedian at a stand-up show had warned me these were the best two days Wellington had ever seen (a slight exaggeration), but true to her word, the rest of the week rained.
But who cared? When you have so much to explore and taste and try and do, let it rain and blow a southerly storm. After over a year of living in New Zealand, I’d finally arrived in its capital, and was ready to cultivate my list of top things to do in Wellington…
Breakfast at Fidels Cafe
If you google: ‘best breakfast in Wellington’, Fidels Cafe is going to pop up, and with good reason. After a stroll down Cuba Street, you’ll arrive at a colourful cafe with an artsy garden and bright deco. The place is buzzing with customers and bohemian waiters, but the service is quick and friendly.
One sip of my smoking Americano and I know this is what coffee snobs call ‘A Great Cuppa’. It might even be the best coffee I’ve had in New Zealand, and seeing as I have one a day in a country that prides itself on the best baristas and beans, that is one humongous statement.
The Eggs Benedict with homemade hashbrown was a plate of foodie heaven too. Wellington might be a city full of quirky cafes and great places to eat, but Fidels feels like a local favourite.
Te Papa museum
Stories of this magnificent museum had filtered down to me whilst living in Queenstown. I saved it for a rainy day (I didn’t have to wait long), and spent the afternoon wandering through time as each exhibit touched on different aspects of New Zealand history. Highlights were: the Giant Squid (the largest in the world to be exhibited in a museum), the earthquake shack (where you can hold on tight to experience what an actual quake feels like), and the fascinating history of the peaceful Moriori tribes who settled on the Chatham Islands.
Mount Victoria Lookout
I won’t lie, it was a beast to climb (196m above the city), but the Mount Victoria Lookout is a stunning spot. I optimistically ‘jogged’ up it in the rain, but could still admire the boats coming into harbour and the planes flying in and out of the airport. If the weather’s nice, there’s no better place to watch the sun rise and set over Wellington.
Bars, bars and more bars…
It was tough to do the homework for this one, but I narrowed down my favourite bars after a week of testing.
For a sunny day, Karaka Cafe won me over, with waterfront beanbags, tasty tapas and free cowboy hats for those who burned easily. For a cocktail to knock your socks off, The Library has an array of fancy drinks with ingredients like duck fat, homemade meringue and vodka-soaked strawberries. But to top off a night, there is only one watering hole to rule them all: Laundry. Craft beer, live DJs, cool clientele and the ‘we don’t need to try’ vibe, this was a great place to dance and drink the night away.
Guide your own art walk
One of my favourite things to do in Wellington was simply to walk it. Like any city with a balance between culture and commerce, art is everywhere.
If you want a vibrant walk, start at Fidels Cafe on Cuba Street, heading north towards the waterfront. Make sure you pop into Aunty Mena’s Vegetarian restaurant on the way, or grab a bagel from The Ugly Bagel on Swan Street.
Keep walking towards the waterfront to Frank Kitts Park, coming back over the bridge where the City Gallery lies. There’s a number of great free exhibitions on at the moment, including ‘Occulture: the Dark Arts’, an unsettling collection of Magick through the ages. (Be warned, artists have cast spells on the walls!)