I am just realizing how far behind I am with my New Zealand travel tips series – I am still on the North Island and yet I have so much more from the South Island to share with you! Anyway, before we move on and set over the Cook Strait to the South Island, I am inviting you to join me to New Zealand’s charming capital Wellington. In a hindsight I must admit: This was my favorite city in New Zealand as it is so vibrant, it is beautifully located in a bay surrounded by mountains and offers all amenities of a city in walking distances – perfect to explore by foot. But let’s have a closer look now, shall we?
First things first: I was not staying in Wellington city during my visit, but opted for a fabulous Airbnb apartment in close by Paekakariki, a beach town close to Wellington. Once you arrive in Wellington you can simply park your car in one of the public parking lots around town and trust me, you won’t need it for the visit. Unlike Auckland, Wellington is a very ‘walkable’ city. It is compact mostly due to its geography offering all the amenities of a city in close proximity to each other. Downtown Wellington looks like a real city with skyscrapers, public buildings, buzzing commercial streets, public parks, and a wonderful and extensive waterfront. Once you took a first round to get a notion of the city’s size and orientation, it is time to explore a few places in more detail.
One of the must-sees in Wellington is definitely its waterfront – you can walk all the way from the main port to the Oriental Bay and you will get a good idea of Wellington’s size and its charms. These include some beautiful beaches for sunbathing and swimming in the Oriental Bay and wonderful vistas of modern and historical buildings. You will also pass by the impressive Te Papa Museum. This is a must-see too (on a side note: it can get pretty busy in there). The entrance is free and it offers a fabulous and entertaining overview of New Zealand’s nature, history, the culture and tradition of Maori people and much more. And if you want to experience and earthquake that’s where you need to go too – a little room in the museum will shake you up and remind you of all the forces of nature that formed today’s New Zealand.
The waterfront also offers a plethora of good places to eat and have a drink. I stopped at the Crab Shack next to the port and I really loved the busy and vivid atmosphere – it felt like a real port bar with copious amounts of good food. For cocktails head to the close-by Cuckoo Bar and sit in comfy lounge chairs outside while sipping a delish cocktail. If you are into good coffee, yummy drinks, and delicious food, I recommend you stroll around Cuba Street in downtown Wellington. That area is packed with bars, restaurants, shops. Some of my favorites include Floriditas Café & Restaurant, Loretta, or Ekim Burgers with its fun garden.
Just off Cuba Street is Ghuznee Street with a fab place for excellent coffee and an excellent bite in between: Customs by Coffee Supreme. I had a fantastic filter coffee and one of the best treats ever – grilled dark bread with Labneh, avocado, chives and fresh lemon. Honestly, I’d go back in an instant only for those treats! But after this delicious break it’s not over – just next doors is a cool design shop called Precinct35 – do not miss that one either!
If you are looking for a great place to have breakfast or brunch, I warmly recommend the Prefab Eatery. It is a very nice and stylish location with impeccable service and excellent breakfast choices – with many very healthy options. Yet another place I would love to return one day!
Yet another must-do is a ride with the famous Wellington Cable Car. It departs in the city center at Lambton Quay and takes you up on a hill overlooking the entire bay of Wellington. Up there is also the lush botanical garden – but that will be an entire blog post on its own soon! The trip is short but worth it. You can then take the ubiquitous cable car pic (like I did, I’m such a good tourist), then stroll through the botanical garden and descend or take the cable car back to Lambton Quai.
I only had two days in Wellington so I couldn’t see all there is to see, obviously. But hey, there must remain something for another time, right? I think that was enough reminiscing about Wellington and its many beauties. Next time I am taking you to the South Island. Promised!
Photography by Igor Josifovic
Ach ich bereue es total, Wellington nicht erkundet zu haben – außer dem Fährhafen haben wir uns dort nicht aufgehalten aber beim nächsten mal möchte ich mir die Stadt auf jeden Fall genauer ansehen 🙂 viele liebe Grüße Julia
Mach es wie ich Julia – ein paar Sachen muss man sich ja für den nächsten Besuch aufbewahren:-)
What a fabulous job you did of capturing Wellington on a perfect day. Well done.
Thank you very much Carol! I hope to return to Wellington one day!
Most interesting…..nice to see Wellington in this light! Yes much easier to walk than Auckland!
Paekakariki is definitely not 15 minutes by car unless you are doing 200 km per hour
That’s exactly how fast we drove! 😉
Great review Igor, however I agree with Bill. Paekakariki is a good 40+ by car but also very accessible by fast train. Love my city
Well it’s quite a while ago since I visited. Maybe it was a bit longer but I remember it was rather quick so I doubt that it took us more than 40 minutes. We had a good car by the way:-)
love your pics! but no way is Paekakariki 15 minutes, lower hutt is 15 minutes. Paekakariki is atleast 45 mins and thats when there no traffic!
Hahahah seems like driving time is a big issue among New Zealanders!! LOL It might be longer, I don’t remember exactly, but it didnt take us 45 minutes though. We are quick after all;-)
Maybe it wasnt Paekak !!!! Maybe it was one the other places starting with P that are closer !!! What a mystery !
Hahahaha no no it was Paekakariki – the name is so fun I remembered it instantly! But it was back in March so my memory regarding time spans is a bit blurry to be honest:-) I just remember it was not too long and we had (luckily) no traffic issues:-)
Having spent a miserable year in Wellington I’m constantly amazed at positive reviews of the place by visitors. It’s easily the worse city I’ve lived in, and I’m a NZer who grew up down the road.
I guess it was fortunate the author was lucky with the weather, because when its more typically blowing a gale and raining it’s freezing and depressing.
To be fair the coffee and food is good and Te Papa is well done, but everything else from the cable car to the waterfront is underwhelming.
By all means drop by briefly on your way to the South Island if its a sunny day, but don’t spend more then a day there. If you fly in be prepared for one of the hairiest landings your ever likely to experience in the first world.
Also worth noting is that big earthquake that lifted Wellington out of the water is overdue to be repeated, and many of Wellingtons buildings are unreinforced masonry. If you’re unlucky enough to be there when it happens…
If you *have* to go then pack a warm, Everest quality waterproof jacket (umbrellas are useless in the wind), a wool beanie, and maybe even thermals. It really does get that cold.
If you are visiting in Summer don’t bother unpacking your swimmers. Even on a sunny Summer day I wore a full wetsuit to keep warm in the water while surfing. If your home swimming spot is in the North Sea or Iceland then you may survive a quick dip at Oriental Bay, but I don’t recall ever seeing anyone swimming.
Disclaimer: This is just my opinion of Wellington from living there. Your experience my differ. As always make up your own mind from reading a range of reviews or just be brave and chance it. Good luck.
I can’t judge Wellington on a long-term experience as I only spent two days there indeed, but the two days were really fantastic and I loved every bit of it. Maybe I wore my ‘tourist glasses’ and saw evverything in a better way but I don’t recall anything that really caught my eye in a negative sense. I read a lot about the windy and cold weather that is not uncommon in Wellington (hence the ‘City of Winds’, right?) but I was lucky to experience very sunny and very warm days there – with plenty of people swimming in Oriental Bay! That earthquake fact however, that I had in mind and I am very alert when it comes to staying in quake-prone cities. Not the best thing indeed. But apart from that I really loved Wellington as a visitor. Very vibrant, young, fun, and lots to do and see. I wish I stayed a few days longer.
Oh for gods sake! Who cares how lobg it takes to drive from Kapati to Wellington CBD. Hardly the point of this excellent article!
Hahahaha well, it only proves that I am ageing and my memory is somewhat blurry LOL