When I am asked about what would be my ideal city, Wellington comes to my mind. Not too big, not too small. It has everything to please you: a good atmosphere, great cafés, sandy beaches and parks, excellent facilities and work opportunities…
I have lived in this city for about a year and remember those long walks I used to do, going from Cuba Street to the waterfront, where you could watch the sun going down on the ocean. And then, going up Mount Victoria (through one of the Lord of the rings movie forest) to watch the city from above.
Wellington’s architecture, despite being modern, doesn’t lack interest. Pretty much all houses are built out of wood, something not very common in France. The reason being that it resists earthquakes better than concrete.
As an adventure photographer, the nature part is probably what struck me the most. You can literally find yourself lost into real wilderness in about 15 minutes of walk from everywhere you might be downtown. The city lays at the bottom of the northern island of New Zealand, surrounded by ocean and hills.
Wellington also acts as a starting point to go to the beautiful south Island. From the docks you can catch a ferry that will take you to the charming city of Picton. The crossing itself is really worth the experience, since it goes through the Cook Strait. And if you are lucky, you might even see dolphins from the upper deck.
Must do’s in Wellington
Here is a selection of places I recommend you to visit and enjoy while in Wellington. I also advise you to check the official tourism office website, it’s one of the best out there and includes all the details you may need.
Te Papa Museum – This museum host collections about New Zealand’s history and geology, Maories culture but also the largest calamar you will get to see in the world (free entry).
Weta Workshop cave – This small place is a heaven for all of the Tolkien’s and Peter Jackson’s fans, it features a lot of his movies’ items (free entry).
Zealandia natural reserve – A close look to the local wildlife, you might even get to see a wild Kiwi ($18.5 adults / $10 children / free under 5).
Historical cable car – This one is a cheap ride to the top of one of Wellington’s most beautiful hill and garden. A must-do to get a view of the city from the top ($2 – bus ticket).
Places to walk around
Cuba Street – This historical street is a lot of fun. You can shop, watch live performances of artists and then find some of the best coffee shops, restaurants and bars for a short break.
Oriental Bay – It is hard not to like it, located between the city center and Mount Victoria, this bay is probably the best place for a short walk along the ocean. There you can find a beach, nice houses and great restaurants also. And it is just a 5 minutes walk away from the city center.
Mount Victoria – A hill with beautiful walkways in the forest. And once you reach the lookout, you will get the best view over the city.
The cafés I loved
Before going to New Zealand, I was not a big fan of coffee. That city changed everything. It’s well known that Wellington hosts more coffee shops per inhabitant than New York City! All baristas are trained and the coffee is usually roasted in the city itself. Here’s my pick for the best Flat White coffees:
Olive café – This café has a one of the coolest hidden courtyard in the back and also serves excellent food and brunches.
Maranui café – Located next to the Lyall Bay beach, this one offers the best coffee/view ratio and you can get surf lessons next door.
Flight Coffee Hangar – They are famous for making their own coffee beans and also serve drinks and food for a great afterwork atmosphere.
Customs by Coffee Supreme – This is the place I would go to for a take away super-good tasting coffee. They offer plenty of coffee origins if you need to buy some beans.
Memphis Belle – One of the rare coffee shop to have a terrasse. It serves excellent espressos.
Kaffee eis – Located next to the ocean, a good place to take a break and enjoy the life as a Kiwi while eating the best ice creams in town.
The best bars and restaurants
The Library – One of the best atmosphere downtown, you can sit in a coach and enjoy excellent cocktails while listening to live music.
Dragonfly – Asian inspired gastronomic food and courtyard in the back for some of the best drinks in town.
Crumpet – 1930’s atmosphere and custom cocktails made by the Boon Brothers. You can ask for anything and they will make it for you!
Hawthorn Lounge – Get ready for some classiness. Certainly the most well-rated bar in town.
Hippopotamus Restaurant – Probably the best restaurant in town, it offers an incredible view over Wellington’s waterfront as well as excellent dishes inspired by New Zealand and French food. It is also renown for serving one of the best high-tea of the country.