What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you think of Wellington?
New Zealand’s Political hub?
Yes, Wellington is all of these things. It’s the capital city of New Zealand and is home to dozens of government departments and ministries – in fact, most people here seem to work for one. But it’s also so much more. Wellington is culturally vibrant, beautifully green and packed full of fun free things to do virtually every night of the week. Whether you’re passing through for a few days, or coming here to live for a few months or a few years – here’s the low down on what I consider ‘must do’s’ in this little but lively capital city.
New Zealand’s National Museum is always on the top of every tourist’s visit to Wellington, and for good reason. It’s highly interactive, loads of fun and has a plethora of interesting displays covering New Zealand’s rich history – from Maori settlement, to the European influx and the all important Waitangi treaty. If you’re visiting up until 2018 you’ll also have the chance to visit Te Papa’s brilliant exhibition to mark the centenary of WWI. Entitled ‘Gallipoli: the scale of our war’, this exhibition is harrowing yet beautiful, and tells the story of the Gallipoli campaign through those ANZAC’s who stood on Turkish soil and fought in 1914. Huge figures created by Weta only add to the experience – you can see the blood, sweat and tears, along with the pain etched across their faces. This exhibition is truly gut-wrenching and should not be missed.
Wellington Cable Car and Botanic gardens
The Cable Car is one of Wellington’s most iconic and historic attractions. This funicular railway is over 100 years old and provides easy transportation from Lambton Quay to the top of Kelburn – a suburb on a steep hill (as is the norm in Wellington). A return ticket is pretty cheap at only $7, but I would recommend getting a single ($4) and walking back through the beautiful Botanic Garden – which also boasts some fantastic views over the city.
Sample the Craft Beer
Wellington is famous for its craft beer scene. There’s an abundance of fantastic beer bars and breweries that have a continuous turn-over of weird, interesting and delicious beers. As an avid real ale drinker back in the UK I loved trying out all the new beers on offer, and was even happier when I found out that most craft beer pubs have at least one ‘hand-pulled’ beer on tap. YES! An almost British ale! Complete with no fizz and a warmer temperature, I felt practically at home. My favourite bar has to be Rogue and Vagabond, who always have at least 10 beers on tap – which are changed weekly – and one or two hand-pulled options. I love the vibe in this bar, it’s always a great place to hang out with friends, sample a couple of beers and listen to the live music – which is always excellent and happens every Thursday – Sunday.
Sit back, relax and have a coffee
I’m a typical Brit, I usually prefer my tea to my coffee – and at home I wouldn’t typically go out for one. (Probably because in my hometown of Reading it’s filled with Starbucks and Costas – none of which produce a good coffee.) But here in Wellington it is definitely a must. There are many great cafes dotted around the CBD – especially along Cuba Street. But my all time favourite has to be Maranui Cafe which though a bit of a trek from the city centre, is definitely worth it. The cafe is housed at the Maranui Surf Life Saving Club in Lyall Bay – situated right next to the beach. The views out to sea are stunning, the coffee is excellent and the food delicious.
Cuba Street – the cultural hub of the CBD – is packed with some amazing cafes, which are often next to hipster bars, vintage op-shops, graffiti clad walls and trilby wearing buskers. It’s the Brick Lane of Wellington so to speak – you get the picture.
Free concerts and festivals
It seems that a week doesn’t go by without something awesome and free going on in the city. A few months ago at the end of the summer it was street festival season – I went to one in Newtown and one on Cuba Street called ‘CubaDupa’. The roads were closed and instead filled with an abundance of food stalls and stages where live music blared out over the crowds all day long. It was hot, it was fun and it was ‘Absolutely Positively Wellington’. A few weeks ago there was also a jazz festival – over 100 performances crammed into 5 days. I went to 5 gigs, all of which were unique and brilliant. There are also food festivals, beer festivals, art gallery openings, live music on most nights across the city, and much more. Wellington is a city that never stops, there’s always something to do, something to see – come rain, wind or shine.
The outdoors and anything associated with ‘adventure’
Wellington is nestled between beautifully lush green hills, and the sea. You never have to walk far in the city to find nature – whether that’s a cycle or drive around the coast from Red Rocks to Miramar, or an afternoon bush walk in the town belt, or a stroll along the waterfront towards Oriental Bay, or walking up to the top of Mount Vic for fab views over Wellington– there’s always some natural beauty to be easily found in this wonderful city. There’s also surfing, biking, kayaking, rock climbing, and more… Since I’ve been here I’ve joined the amazing meetup group ‘Adventure Wellington’ who plan a variety of ‘adventurous’ events, and it’s also a great place to make friends. I go climbing and do interval training weekly, I’ve also been to adrenaline forest (like go-ape but tougher!), paintballing and trampolining – I truly am embracing the Kiwi lifestyle!
Wellington is a mesmerising city – it’s vibrant, beautiful and it constantly surprises me. There’s always something going on, to the point where I sometimes struggle to find a night to chill and do nothing! I’ve lived here since February and had a complete blast – and made some pretty awesome friends too. It’s only two weeks now* until I leave to head back down to Queenstown for some winter ski fun, and to be honest, I’m now beginning to wonder whether this is the right decision. Wellington gets under your skin, it draws you in and makes it hard to leave. No wonder so many Kiwi’s are proud to call it home.
*Edit. I wrote this a few weeks ago. I’ve now left and am on the South Island – road-trippin back to Queenstown.