One part Sydney, two parts San Francisco and three parts nothing but itself: Wellington is one of New Zealand’s most bewitching destinations. This creative mecca is often outshone by the hustle and bustle of Auckland, but in-the-know travelers head to this capital city first. The restaurants are unbeatable, the bar scene is thriving, and the bayside scenery is beyond majestic. Ready to uncover this sparkling gem? Let us guide the way.
Because Wellington is such a compact city, it’s not difficult to browse your way through the downtown area’s shops, galleries and museums within a day. Stretch your stroll over a long weekend, however, and you’ll be duly rewarded. Wakefield, Featherston and Cuba Streets are jam-packed with hip boutiques — we like the vintage wares at Ziggurat, but you might cotton to the stacks of vinyl at Slow Boat Records — and the Past Te Papa, or Oriental Parade, is a breath-taking place to walk along the bay. Outdoor enthusiasts can even scuba dive through a sunken frigate, hike to the top of Mount Victoria from Courtenay Place or take a cable car up to the stunning Botanic Garden.
By far the most iconic Wellington sights, however, are the Te Papa museum and Zealandia conservation park. Te Papa houses a vast collection of Maori artefacts and an authentic marae, and it’s a great place to bring children on a stormy afternoon. Zealandia, on the other hand, is an outdoor paradise designed to give visitors a peek at the region’s prehistoric landscape. Rare birds tweet from the trees, and the forest conjures images of an era before high-rise condos and bustling avenues were de rigeur landmarks. Want a little inside advice? Take a look at the American Express travel insurance for Canada before you go; these plans offer everything from trip cancellation to emergency medical, and you’ll want to be covered when you venture into the wild.
The Hottest Foodie Haunts
Any city this creatively inclined is bound to feature an abundance of incredible restaurants, and foodie travelers won’t be disappointed with Wellington’s offerings. Sweet Mother’s Kitchen captures the essence of New Orleans with its authentic po’ boys, smoked meats and sugary beignets, and the French-inspired Floriditas is known for savory brunch dishes. On the more refined side of things, Logan Brown wows patrons with a haute-cuisine take on New Zealand favorites, and the Larder gets inventive with classic bistro dishes. It’s tough to go wrong.
Of course, Wellington is a cafe and cocktail city at heart, so any trip to the area should include a stop at several of the local hot spots. Caffe L’affare is renowned for its coffee — it’s home to a dedicated roastery — and Cuba Street’s Fidels boasts impeccable pork sambos and a camouflage-netted courtyard. If you’re in the mood for an after-dinner tipple, however, Hawthorn Lounge is the place to be. Don’t be fooled by its red curtains and 1930s decor; this tiny bar offers some of the most innovative drinks in the city, and you could easily spend an entire evening sampling the array of spirits. Start with a leisurely cocktail, and then make your way to the nearby club Mighty Mighty to end your stay with a more neon-tinged experience.