A Weekend In Wellington
Here's a little known fact about myself...I'm half Kiwi. Well, when I say that what I mean is my mum was born in New Zealand and so every time the rugby is on I claim to be born and bred.
My brothers and I spent many a Christmas with my grandparents and aunt in beautiful Nelson, a sleepy little beachside town in the south island. In fact one of my favourite holidays growing up was the time we spent a whole month travelling around the south island in a ginormous motor home. It was the best.
However as is often the case when moody Australian teenagers grow up, the minute I was old enough to travel alone I hopped a plane to London and New York and Paris. I figured I'd "done" New Zealand. Boy, was I wrong.
So when Tourism Wellington asked if I was interested in "crossing the ditch" and coming to check it out what Wellington has to offer now, I jumped at the chance.
Wellington is a little city with a big heart. Perched on the harbour’s edge and surrounded by nature, New Zealand’s compact capital is packed with arts, culture, cuisine, disruptive technology and wild ideas.
I decided to treat my manager and best friend Gen to the weekend away as a thank you for all her hard work so we hopped a quick flight (only 3.5 hours) and spent a long weekend sussing out all the best places to eat, stay and play.
Here were some of our faves:
- Loretta: Scandinavian-style design meets Californian-style menu meets Wellington’s Cuba Street. Highly recommend the house-made crumpets with coconut yoghurt or the chicken pot pie!
Noble Rot: Wellington's award-winning wine bar, founded by a group of talented sommeliers. We had the wonderful Maciej Zimny who gave us a few Wairarapa wines to taste as well as a brief rundown on the wine region which is only an hour’s drive from Wellington. On top of the delicious wine, we pigged out on a cheese board featuring a truffle cheese (Moliterno Black Truffle Pecorino) that I have literally been dreaming about ever since.
Shepherd: Perhaps the food highlight of the trip was our dinner at Shepherd. Tucked away in the heart of the Hannahs Laneway, the menu is fresh, seasonal, and local, and the team try to use every part of everything they cook with – to incredible effect. We were lucky enough to be sat at the bar, able to watch Shepherd himself cook and work his magic. Up there with the best food I've eaten in years. An absolute MUST!
Crumpet: One of Wellington’s best kept secrets yet everyone we spoke to suggested we check it out! Crumpet serves up delicious cocktails and, of course, crumpets. Expect jazz tunes, old-fashioned tablecloths, dim lighting and knowledgeable staff reading to whip up a custom-made cocktail.
Lulu Bar: One of Wellington's newest bars (so new, most of the locals hadn't even heard of it!), prepare yourself for an epic journey tasting and drinking your way through the pacific, from Hawaii all the way to Aotearoa. Think bright Instagrammable neon signs and fruity cocktails in novelty tiki glasses.
Hippopotamus Restaurant: Situated in the QT Museum Wellington you'll experience exquisite French influenced cuisine in a glamorous environment that boasts breath-taking views. Treat yourself to high tea in the day and channel you're inner Marie Antoinette surrounded by velvet couches and stuffed peacocks.
Charley Noble: Charley Noble showcases wood-fired cooking, local ingredients, natural wine and craft beers. We recommend the freshly shucked oysters and crispy pork belly. The cocktails and wine list were also pretty extensive and impressive.
Havana Bar: Looking a little like an attraction at Disneyworld from the outside, this Cuban themed bar opens up into its own exotic world – step inside and be swept away. Havana is a lively night-time haunt with frequent live music and DJs and highly-skilled bartenders who’ll keep you watered throughout the evening. Personal favourite was the bathroom hidden behind a bookshelf...who doesn't love that kind of thing?
- Sofitel Wellington: New Zealand’s newest luxury hotel, Sofitel Wellington, has just opened its doors in the city, bringing French hospitality and elegance to the country’s capital. 5 stars Sofitel Wellington is the latest 5-star, internationally branded hotel to open in the city in over 10 years. The rooms were beautiful, beds were like sleeping in a cloud and the bathrooms? Perfect for a pre-dinner selfie. Luxe and bougee.
- QT Museum Wellington: listed on Yahoo's list of 'Ten of the Best Hotels with Magnificent Artwork of the World', QT Museum Wellington is both a backdrop and an active muse. This hotel is where those in the know come to create and hunt for a taste of the avant-garde, all while indulging in their most creative selves. Think Art, design, curiosities and a dash of the absurd. A hipster's heaven!
- Mount Victoria Lookout: Rising 196m above the city, the Mount Victoria Lookout is a Wellington must-do. Head to the lookout and be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of Wellington city and harbour, and beyond. Take a picnic with you, settle in on the hillside for an amazing sunrise or sunset!
Wellington City Scenic ride with Wellington Helicopters: If possible, I always suggest you check out a new city from above, there really is nothing quite like it. In an instant the Wellington landscape was brought into perspective, so green and beautiful. A definite highlight of the trip.
Te Papa: Toi Art: An absolute must for those of us who love all things art and culture is to check out the new national art gallery. Fierce Pacific fashion, jewellery made out of skateboards and cellphones, and a flood of colour was unveiled when the spectacular new art gallery at Te Papa which only opened in March 2018.
Harbourside Market: Nestled beside Te Papa Museum and sprawling alongside the foreshore, the Harbourside markets host a colourful array of food purveyors, providores and peddlers of the city’s finest foods. It was a lot of fun to walk amongst the locals, checking out all the fresh produce and delicious food stalls. There was even a boat pulled up to the wharf with people buying fresh fish and crayfish etc straight from the boat, caught that very morning! If that's not fresh, I don't know what is!
Forme Spa: Are you even on a girls weekend away if you don't make time for a spa day? Forme Spa, located in the bustling hub of city offers everything from express nails and waxing to luxurious massage and facials. Gen and I opted for a 60 minute relaxation massage and I am not exaggerating when I say the massage was up there with the top 5 massages I've ever had the pleasure to enjoy.
Zealandia By Day Tour: Look, we'll be honest. We really really wanted to see a Kiwi bird in the flesh however after being told they are in fact nocturnal animals, we were still excited for our day trip at Zealandia. We spent two hours walking through the picturesque sanctuary, witnessing native wildlife while learning more about New Zealand’s unique ecological history. Definitely one to check it if you like getting out and about in nature.
Wellington Cable Car: One of Wellington's most popular tourist attractions, the Wellington Cable Car runs from Lambton Quay in the commercial heart of the city and emerges at the top of the Wellington Botanic Garden for a stunning view of the capital. Fun little touristy activity that gives you yet another point of view on this thriving little city.
All up, we had a really jam-packed and fun little weekend away! The food especially blew my mind; we didn't have a bad dish or meal anywhere we went and discovered so much about Wellington's culture, New Zealand's history and perhaps most importantly...how delicious the wines are in both Marlborough and Martinborough. So next time you're thinking about booking a long weekend away, give Wellington a go. You will not regret it.
BRB, just dreaming about that truffle cheese...