Wellington: New Zealand’s artistic and culinary capital, widely known as a creative hub similar to Melbourne, Australia; caught our attention like no other city in NZ. With the amazing coffee culture and relaxed lifestyle, we wanted to share our discoveries and tips for spending a couple of days in the most southerly capital in the world!
This post is just a small chapter of our extended road trip throughout the North and South Islands of New Zealand. Make sure to check out our whole trip and detailed itinerary within the main post!
Wellington has been labelled as the ‘coolest little capital in the world’ by Lonely Planet’.
Check out our travel vlog above for a glimpse into our two days in Wellington, then read on for more details about our trip!
Studio and exhibitions
Nothing reflects Wellington’s reputation for creativity, than its solid position within the filmmaking industry. Weta Studio has been named ‘one of the world’s top ten film studio tours’ by The Guardian.
You can immerse yourself within heaps of props and crafts made for productions such as the Lord of the Rings, Avatar, King Kong, District 9, Thunderbirds Are Go and many more. They’ve worked on over 100+ films in the last few decades, alongside projects for museums and exhibitions, such as Gallipoli: the Scale of our War, or Bug Lab in Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
The tours at Weta Studio are extremely informative about their work as world-class leaders in physical effects and prop design, but also about Kiwi culture and their proud national symbols. Interestingly, the Thunderbirds Are Go tour was actually the first place we were officially introduced to a Swannie. We haven’t stopped seeing them everywhere since!
If you haven’t visited a film studio before, or even if you’re not much of a film buff or creative person, you’ll still be in awe of the details put into their crafts.
Wellington is a pretty small city, so it’s great for wandering around, as everything is within walking distance. If you’re looking to do something for free, you could start with the Wellington Writers Walk and walk towards Oriental Bay, walking past all the cute little houses.
People often suggest taking the cable car to get a view of the city, however we’d actually recommend heading to the Mount Victoria Lookout instead. Although, if you’re looking to go to the botanic gardens, then the cable car is easily the quickest way to get there and back, as it’s a 5 minute ride each way.
To get to Mount Victoria Lookout, you can either drive or walk. There’s a car park at the very top or if you’ve parked your car in the city for the day like we did, then you can take one of the multiple walks up to the top. One of the best routes to walk is from the park at the top of Majoribanks Street, which takes around 30 minutes to climb.
During our two days in Wellington, we were booked in to visit Zealandia: The Karori Sanctuary where we saw some of New Zealand’s rare native birds, reptiles and insects in their natural habitat. If you’re interested in seeing some animals, but have only planned a short visit to New Zealand, then Zealandia is a great place to explore, as it’s only a few minutes drive from the city.
Zealandia is a interesting and ambitious concept. The aim of the park is to restore the whole valley to it’s natural untouched landscape, complete with native wildlife and zero pests! It’s a 500 year project, so there’s still a massive way to go…
There are two main drinking cultures Wellington is well known for: craft beer and coffee.
One of the coolest places to experience craft beer is Garage Project. They quickly got on people’s radar with the release of 24 different beers in 24 weeks. They go way out-of-the-box with their flavour experiments, utilising weird flavours such as chilli, kumara and erm… cereal milk?
We went in for a tasting at the brewery, followed by a few swift ones at their bar ‘Cellar Door’ which is down the road from the brewery.
Garage Project stand out with their creativity across all angles; from their experimentation of different beer concepts to the awesome packaging design.
In terms of coffee, it’s been mentioned to us multiple times, there’s a bit of competition between Wellington and Melbourne on who has the best coffee. Since living in Melbourne for 7+ months, we’ve definitely become somewhat coffee snobs and developed an acute taste for good coffee. But we can’t really comment too much on Wellington, as there’s only so much coffee you can have in two days without bursting an artery.
However, we did get a good fix at Flight Hangar, which seems to be the place to go for coffee in Wellington. FYI, they recently opened up a place in Auckland!
Travellers will understand the concept of always saving money, so in terms of food, cheap is sometimes the only option. We were looking for dinner on a Monday night and didn’t think many places would really be open, but Little Penang was packed out. They have great reviews, with fast service and good food. You really can’t go wrong.
Scopa Caffe Cucina is an Italian place with great deals during the week. We managed to pop in for lunch for their $8 Margarita pizza (Joe added spicy sausage) and $12 pasta of the day.
Tommy Millions on the corner of Courtenay Place is somewhere that caught our attention last year in Wellington, so we had to go back for a slice this year. On a separate day to when Joe had the pizza at Scopa, of course.
Great price, for a great slice 🍕 (no extra cheese necessary)
Wellington is an incredible place to eat out and offers so much for massive foodies, it’s a shame we only had two days here!
One of the main reasons why people visit Wellington when travelling around New Zealand, is to travel between the North and South Islands. To get to the South Island, you can either commute by ferry or plane.
The ferry takes around 3 hours in total and we were quite lucky to have another calm crossing like our trip last year. But be warned, the crossing is usually known to be quite rocky, however it’s been perfectly fine when we did it twice.
Thanks for the Interislander Ferry in getting us into the South Island and continuing on our adventure! We think it’s definitely worth spending at least a couple of days here to experience this cool city, so make sure you don’t skip it on your way to the South Island!
During our stay in the city, we stayed at the YHA Wellington, which is a great location right in the city centre with everything within walking distance.
To find out more about our itinerary and where we’ve been staying whilst travelling around New Zealand, check out the round-up road trip itinerary below!
Follow our 6 week New Zealand road trip itinerary—including accommodation and activities across the North and South Islands—starting with a flight from Brisbane to Auckland with Air New Zealand.
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We’d like to thank our partners for supporting our content and allowing us to experience Wellington as guests, namely the Weta Workshop, Te Papa Tongarewa, Zealandia, YHA and Interislander ferry. All thoughts and comments remain our own.