I’ve just spent the best two weeks in Wellington with my lovely little sister Margaret. She’s been living in Wellington for over a year now – so I was lucky to have a “local” to show me around the cute lil’ city!
Kelsey and I arrived into Wellington from Picton via the Interislander Ferry – this was my first time using them (my past crossings have always been with BlueBridge). Although this was the worst crossing weather-wise, travelling via the Interislander was the most comfortable I’ve been! We were on the Kakapo Boat, and it was so nice with its two story floor to ceiling windows out the back! Definitely recommend.
Wellington is such a cute, and walkable city. We only had access to a vehicle once; and it wasn’t a burden at all! There’s so many cute houses to wander by, and heaps of cafes to peek your nose into.
So here’s a little summary of what we got up to while there – and some recommendations! I’m not saying that the following recommendations are the absolute BEST EVER in Wellington – because let’s be honest – I don’t have enough money to have a coffee at every single café in Wellington or to buy brunch everyday. BUT; these are the places I did get the chance to visit and would happily visit again!
Wellington is known for its coffee scene. With 15 coffee roasters in the city alone, and more cafes per capita than NYC – you’ve got plenty of choices for a good brew (and I LOVE me a good brew).
It can almost be overwhelming choosing where to go; especially on a backpackers budget – you want that $5 coffee to be worth it!
That’s where having my sister and her mates came in super handy – the cafes we visited were tried and true. Here’s my top three:
Memphis Belle on Dixon Street
Walking by this little coffee shop, you wouldn’t really think too much of it. Mismatched tables and chairs outside, and a small, darkish interior. But, grab yourself a table outside in the sun, order yourself a cuppa and you will not be disappointed. I visited this café twice and both times it was by far my favourite coffee in NZ to date.
Raglan Roast on Abel Smith Street
Another lil coffee shop that has more to it than meets the eye. Opening right out onto a quiet street, Raglan Roast will often have a line up of people waiting for their caffeine fix; but, it’s worth the wait.
With the cheapest coffee we found ($2.5 NZD for a long black), I got a nice buzz (which doesn’t happen often with my high caffeine tolerance). Friendly service and delicious coffee gets points from me!
Even better, if you have your coffee to stay, you can wander to the back of the café which opens up to a large room full of comfy couches that look like they were haphazardly chosen from an op shop. Such a cute and homey vibe! Margaret recommends this place for a nice quiet coffee while reading or studying!
Customs Coffee on Ghuznee Street
This café was too cute. With its bright space and light wood features – it was so very welcoming! Their Cold Brew with naughty milk (which is ksjdghksgh milk) was so delicious and refreshing. Kels says his Black Cold Brew was yum too (we find it much more difficult to find a good cold coffee done right).
We didn’t order any, but their doughnuts and toast options also looked yum based on us creeping on other tables.
We didn’t go out to eat too often (again, saving money) – but we did have a few good meals out while in Wellington. We also had many amazing meals in since my sister Margaret and her boyfriend Rhys are just the most incredible cooks – but I doubt she’s taking random strangers dinner reservations any time soon; so maybe stick with these below!
Maranui Café in Lyall Bay
The best meal I have had since leaving Canada was hands down Sally’s Vegan Goddess Bowl from Maranui Café. This café is upstairs of the Surf and Lifesaving Club (SLSC). The café itself is bright and quirky – with an old, rusty boat hanging above the cash register.
The best part though (other than the food) was the view. If you’re lucky enough to get a seat with a view, you’ll be rewarded with sunshine and ocean views. Since you’re right in the SLSC, you’ll often see people out practicing their surfing or life saving skills in the waves below.
It’s a bit out of the way from CBD, but just hope on the #3 bus, or take a nice long stroll – and you will NOT regret it.
Fix and Fogg
Literally a little window in the wall, down an alley way on Eva Street; this little place serves up the BEST peanut butter on toast.
Fix and Fogg is actually a brand of Peanut Butter here in New Zealand, they make all of the PB in the Wellington Factory. They’re actually one of the few food manufacturers who are Living Wage Accredited (meaning they pay their employees enough that they and their family can live off of). They’ve only been in business for 4 years – but MAN OH MAN have they perfected their peanut butter.
Kels and I ordered 2 slices of toast (at $6 a piece) and then split them for the perfect little (cheap) lunch on the town. He ordered the Dark Chocolate with Coconut and I ordered the Fruit Toast with Fruit on it. The bread was so thick and yum and the toppings on the toast were very generous!
Kelsey and I were keeping ourselves to a tighter budget (minus trying Wellington’s coffees), so we didn’t do much of the touristy things such as Zealandia, The Weta Workshop Tours or The Wellington Zoo. We did however have an excellent time on a small budget anyways!
The Botanic Gardens
A gorgeous garden right in Wellington, we walked through the rose gardens, sat by a little waterfall and also enjoyed live music.
At the Sound Shell in the gardens, there was a summer concert series going on (from January 9 – 28, 2018). We walked down one night to enjoy the live music and heaps of people had the same idea.
They also put on free outdoor movie nights (check their website & Facebook page for more details). If you’re keen for some learning, they also do guided walks through the gardens!
Te Papa Museum
To be honest, I’m not normally a massive fan of museums; but, there was something different about Te Papa. I’m not sure if it was the fact that it was free entry (so I wasn’t worried about not getting my money’s worth), if it was the fact that it was roasty-toasty outside and a little cooler inside or if it was simply the fact that their displays were super interesting! Lonely Planet actually named it one of it’s Top 500 places to see on the planet!
Since we didn’t have to pay for entry, we split up our visit to Te Papa into two days. Even in those two days, we didn’t manage to see everything in there. We did check out the Great Forces Exhibit (where there’s a fun little earthquake room), the Gallipoli Exhibit (where there’s super life-like giant statues) as well as the Maori Exhibit (where we got to learn some history, and step inside a Marae).
I definitely recommend you allow yourself at least a few hours here, take it all in… and then go back again tomorrow and see more!
Any of the Wellington Lookouts
Wellington has heaps and heaps of hills, so there’s a ton of options to get up high and take in the views. Margaret’s number one recommendation is Mount Vic Lookout (we never got a chance to get up there unfortunately). Brooklyn Wind Turbine is another great place to see a gorgeous view of the city. I also recommend Te Ahumairangi Hill Lookout; there’s heaps of walking trails up to it, and you get a lovely view of the harbour!
If you’re anything like me while travelling, you miss your pets back home. So visiting the Wellington SPCA is a great way to get to give some love to some animals who really need it! It’s free to go in, and they have multiple cat rooms, a dog room, and even some bunnies to say hi to!
This activity wasn’t free because we had to pay $25 to take the ferry over (the ferry we chose was to the Island, to Days Bay and then back to Wellington); but, it was so worth it. The ferry takes you over to this little island full of wildlife and history! We caught the 10am ferry over, and Margaret, Kels and I explored the island! The water surrounding it was a gorgeous blue, we saw a Weta Motel (a dark box full of massive Wetas, an NZ insect) and we visited the old human/animal quarantine station. DOC (the NZ Department of Conservation), along with the local Iwi have set up a great walking track around the island, filled with signage for native plants as well as bits of history.
We then caught the 12:20pm ferry from Matiu/ Somes Island across to Days Bay. Where we spent the afternoon sunning ourselves, Margaret went for a swim (I was too chicken to swim in the chilly Welly water), and we watched the kids jump off the boat jetty.
The Paekakariki Escarpment Track on the Kapiti Coast
This one does require either a car, or a long train ride from the city. It is this lovely little 10km hike on the Kapiti Coast, it runs high about State Highway 1. DOC says to allow 3-4 hours to complete this walk; however, Margaret, Rhys (her boyfriend), Kels and I finished it in about 2.5 hours. Definitely bring some water with you, the track is mostly exposed and if it’s a sunny day – you will be hot.
You walk along the coast just about the entire time, and gain a good amount of elevation. There’s heaps of stairs; but, also heaps of views. You also get to walk across 3 swing bridges, which are super fun!
I plan to write a separate post about this track coming soon, so keep an eye out (or subscribe to my blog) if you want more information on that!
Overall, Wellington (as well as Margaret and all her friends and roomies [thanks guys!]) were so good to Kels and I. We has stellar weather, hardly any wind and a good amount of sun. Now that Kels and I are settling down in Auckland, I can see more little trips down in our future! If you have any questions about our time in Wonderful Welly, definitely feel free to leave a message on this post, or send me a message on instagram!