Wellington has recently been named the world’s most liveable city in a global survey conducted by Deutsche Bank. Yay for Wellington! I, too, am fond of New Zealand’s capital so here are some worthwhile things to do on a day spent in the very loveable, very liveable city.
8am: Some famous Wellington residents: Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson; All Black rugby star Beauden Barrett; the wind; Cuba Street’s bucket fountain. The first couple of Wellingtonians you’ll see if you’re lucky; the third you will hopefully dodge; the fourth you can’t miss.
The bucket fountain is an iconic sculpture on an iconic street. Cuba Street is really one of Wellington’s major life forces and this colourful cascade – like a child’s beach buckets attempting a circus act – is its clackity, arrhythmic heartbeat. Fan or foe, you can’t visit New Zealand’s capital without stopping by, so naturally we begin our Wellington weekend on Cuba.
Fresh off an early flight, Wellington is still waking up as we shamble up Cuba St looking for the perfect spot to caffeinate. We find it at Olive, a Wellington stalwart. The interior is well-loved and welcoming, and the courtyard out the back is a cosy home to the café’s namesake, a giant olive tree.
If you’re looking for conventional this is the place to come. If you’re looking for an original breakfast concoction, this is also the place to come. Because while Olive does the usual eggy suspects in several different ways, you’ll also find surprising delights like tiramisu waffles or a salmon fillet with pistachio yoghurt.
10am: Walking down from Cuba Mall to the Te Papa museum is only about a ten-minute journey, so you could take the long way and walk down past the waterfront, as we do. Though, if it is a spitefully windy day (Wellington is known for its hefty gusts) then perhaps take the swifter route.
When we visit, Te Papa is showcasing its awe-inspiring exhibition, Gallipoli: The Scale of our War. The museum has collaborated with Weta Workshop (the Wellington-based design and effects wizards behind such amazements as The Lord of the Rings and Avatar) to present an exhibition that truly reflects the emotions of war unlike any textbook can.
The lines are long because numbers inside the exhibition are restricted. It is worth the wait – the models created are just so incredible you could stand there and gawp at them for hours. The participants of the Gallipoli campaign are here depicted in 2.4-times human size. Every pore, every eyelash, every tear is apparent in pain-staking detail that it leaves a lasting imprint on your mind and a stubborn welling force in your tear-ducts. On display until April 2019, you really must get here if you can.
1pm: Wellington is a foot-friendly city in the sense that the distances between many of the main attractions are walkable (but be prepared to tackle hills). We continue on foot to Hannahs Laneway, an alley rich with hedonistic pleasures. Carbs, booze, sugar, it’s all here and it’s all great.
We dart into various establishments, sampling chocolate at the Wellington Chocolate Factory, staring at bakers stretching out their dough at Leeds Street Bakery, and take a seat at Six Barrel Soda, where we order a soda tasting. We tried out a coffee soda and a coffee and sarsaparilla drink, both unusual but tasty.
The place we lingered at the longest was Goldings Free Dive, a bar with an abundance of character featuring coloured lightbulbs festooned along the ceiling and a big neon light screaming “BEER” in case you forget where you are. Star Wars collectables decorate the walls and revered boutique beers flow from the taps.
3pm: I am not a regular beer drinker. I would normally choose a dry Riesling or espresso martini over an ale. But I was with Ryan and his brother, two men who really appreciate their beer, and Garage Project’s cellar door was hollering. We had done a lot of walking by this point and the cold beer was a refreshing reward. Get a jet of their brews to enjoy on site or hitch a flagon to your wagon and enjoy it later. I recommend the Hāpi Daze pale ale.
7pm: I was drawn to Mr Go’s on the recommendation of a colleague and all I heard when she was describing the Asian hawker restaurant was “mince and cheese dumplings”. I had to know more. For the unacquainted, mince and cheese pies are our jam in New Zealand. Well, any type of meat pie is really – it’s our ‘world-famous’ cuisine, like the pop-tart to America, I suppose.
We arrive at Mr Go’s and perch at the bar while we wait for our table (the cocktails are very good). Once seated, we order a medley from the menu: tofu gua-bao – in our opinion, the dish of the night and we ordered two rounds of it – pork dumplings, lamb ribs, Taiwanese popcorn chicken and those mince and cheese dumplings. The latter were in fact greeted with a mixed reception but they were a novelty worth trying. With a fun atmosphere and a menu of food and drinks that will make you salivate, Mr Go’s is a great dinner option.
10pm: If you’re staying overnight in Wellington it is best to stay as central as you can to enjoy an easy radius of entertainment and shopping. We stayed at Park Hotel in Lambton Quay and it fit the bill for our needs. It was within walking distance of the places we wanted to visit, it was clean, quiet and – a major requirement – the bed was very comfy. Seemingly aimed at business guests with its standard rooms and simple creature comforts, we were happy there. Dreams came easily.