Most of this blog is about where I go. Here’s the part about where I’m from.
Before I moved to Wellington, I didn’t identify as a Kiwi. There were parts of the country I liked, but nowhere that felt like home. My social media profiles showed my hometown as being in Australia, but that changed shortly after my move to the capital.
So in no particular order, here are the things I love about the Greater Wellington Region.
Before Wellington became the capital city, New Zealand’s government was based in Auckland. As air travel had yet to take off (pun intended), this involved a difficult sea journey for representatives based in the South Island. Several central locations were considered, including Nelson and Whanganui, but Wellington’s superior natural harbour was the deciding factor.
One of the first things I suggest to people visiting Wellington is taking a ferry trip between Days Bay and Queens Wharf, especially in on a clear day. Days Bay has one of my favourite brunch spots, Chocolate Dayz, where if you’re lucky you can get a table with views across the harbour. In the warmer months, the rata and pohutukawa trees bloom creating a splash of signifying summer has arrived.
The East-by-West ferry also calls in at Matiu-Somes Island for an extra charge, but it is worth every penny. The island previously served as an internment camp and a quarantine station, and wandering the old buildings makes for an interesting afternoon. The island is now a scientific reserve and animal sanctuary, and is easy to hike around.
The ferry also occasionally stops at Seatoun (and until recently Petone) allowing for an njoyable circuit on the water.
Wellington’s waterfront is a stroll I never get tired of, heading down from the railway station to Oriental Bay. You’ll come across random poetry, heritage buildings, and sculptures including the excellent Solace in the Wind.
Wellington is basically a harbour surrounded by hills, so a lot of the developed areas are either reclaimed land or built on terraces. This means there are many parts of the city itself where it is possible to get a great view. One of the easiest to get to is the lookout at the top of the Kelburn Cable Car. This lookout is where a lot of postcard pictures get taken, along with the top of Mount Victoria. Lesser known is Stellin Memorial Park, which can be accessed either by car or by walking up the forested Tinakori Hill.
For something a bit more active, Colonial Knob in Porirua is a great hike, which if followed all the way can lead to the hills above Karori, with views to the Makara windfarm. Further up along the Kapiti coast in the new Pukerua Bay to Paekakariki Escarpment track, with stunning views of Kapiti Island between two of Wellington’s most charming satellite towns.
Zealandia (previously called the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary), is a significant nature reserve easily accessible by bus, with free shuttles leaving from the information centre and Kelburn Cable Car stop. Previously the major water reservoir, Zealandia is now dedicated to protecting native wildlife. One of the first things I did in Wellington was the night tour, where I got to see kiwi up close. It’s been a big success, as the predator-free enclosure has allowed native birdlife in particular to thrive.
Otari-Wilton’s Bush is accessible by bus, and is a public garden dedicated to native plants. It’s a good free option for a bushwalk, with the highlight being an 800-year old rimu tree.
Wellington is often referred to as NZ’s coffee capital, and is home to many of New Zealand’s best roasters. It used to be that I’d always bring my own coffee whenever I visited other parts of New Zealand, although other cities are beginning to catch up. Highlights include Memphis Belle (Flight Coffee) in the CBD, as well as People’s Coffee in Newtown. The best service I’ve found is at French Kiss Café, a coffee cart operating out of Post Office Square on weekdays.
Wellington is also known as a craft beer capital of New Zealand – an important distinction from Nelson’s status as the craft brewing capital. Both are fantastic beer cities and I highly recommend Nelson as well. But this page is about Wellington!
Wellington has a wide range of pubs and clubs catering to all tastes, but it’s the craft beer bars I personally seek out. Malthouse on Courtenay Place have a wide range and knowledgable staff, but can get crowded quickly. It’s best visiting on quieter nights, especially when there is no DJ on site. Hashigo Zake and Golding’s Free Dive are both intimate places with excellent service. Rogue and Vagabond is next to a public park, and is a great place to chill out on summer with a pint and a bean bag.
Leuven on Featherston Street has a great range of Belgian beers, and Munchen on Queens Wharf has both imported German beers and German-inspired NZ beers.
Wellington is also the home of some excellent breweries. Garage Project do some really interesting experimental beers. Kereru Brewing in Upper Hutt have made some amazing brews (their toasted coconut porter is to die for), and I’ve loved every single ParrotDog beer I’ve ever tried.
Wellington is two hours away on train from the Wairarapa, one of my favourite parts of the country, where I often take my bike and cycle around in the countryside. The Wairarapa is home to several vineyards, with most clustered around the town of Martinborough. The Wairarapa is famous mostly for pinot noir, but I’ve enjoyed a wide range of wines grown in the area. (Slight segway – the Wairarapa has also recently seen a few gin distillieries open up, including the excellent Reid Brothers gin).
Wellington is also a short flight away from the Nelson and Marlborough regions, with multiple airlines allowing for weekend wine trips to the top of the South Island. Alternatively the Wellington-Picton ferry also takes in the gorgeous Queen Charlotte Sound, although the Cook Strait can be a bit choppy!
The Bucket Fountain
Possibly the greatest public sculpture in New Zealand.