Our BFF does Wellington
Our QLD blogger Andrew headed back to Middle Earth for a life-changing trip to Wellington, NZ
Most Aussies would be forgiven for not making a trip to New Zealand a high priority, especially when we live in such isolation from the rest of the world – and it’s easier to get the European working holiday out of the way when you’re young before prioritising a visit to our eastern neighbours. However, for a long weekend away, with very competitive fare prices, Wellington, is a superb offshore alternative to the usual city breaks to Sydney or Melbourne. In fact Lonely Planet has dubbed it the “coolest little capital in the world” so we went there to check it out.
Our first day in Wellington and we hit the pavement for a walking foodie tour of the city hotspots starting in Courtenay Place, downtown Wellington, which is dotted with tiny cafes, boutique galleries and eateries.
First stop, produce store Moore Wilson. Here, you can pick up anything from Persian saffron fairy floss to fresh live ‘hairy’ mussels. There’s an ample selection from the cheese room, from gouda and gruyere to aged cheddar, but our favourite has to be the Hawke’s Bay’s ‘Te Menta’ Kidnappers brie. We seriously could not get enough of the beautiful local cheeses complimented by pastes made by Ruth Pretty – Wellington’s Maggie Beer – delicious!
Next stop is Caffe L’Affare where we met Jess, a passionate barista. Wellington boasts 16 coffee roasters (more than London) all with their own techniques, blends and flavours. Jess shows us beans being roasted into coffee and we learn about the importance of darkness, body and acidity – foiling the recent trend toward a light roast. We leave feeling like coffee professionals.
Full up from numerous tastings and high on the caffeine buzz we head across to Te Papa – New Zealand’s national museum. Culturally, locals are respectful of the country’s heritage and familiar with Maori language and traditional custom. We were very impressed with the preservation and integration of the Maori culture in New Zealand and the stories told at Te Papa are really interesting. Our tour guide Richard shows us Te Marae (Meeting Place) – where two tribes come to meet each other in ceremony, discussion, celebration – a very spiritual experience for us both. We end with kai (food) and menu items include pikopiko pesto, horopito aioli and manuka honey, all ingredients picked from plants in the museum’s ‘Bush City’ outdoor garden space.
We head back to our central city hotel and prep ourselves for our night out. We stroll across to Pravda, a popular hotspot in the CBD with a wide selection of tapas-style tasting plates and continental mains, all using fresh local produce. We matched with crisp white wines from the region’s famed vineyards in Marlborough. After sampling some of the cool city watering holes we end the night in the very trendy Foxglove. It’s one of the district’s popular after work haunts and one of our stand-out favourites of the trip. We suggest you try and find the secret entrance…
Unless you have large, leathery hobbit feet, slip into pair of comfy walking shoes that aren’t afraid of a bit of mud and walk the Wellington Lord Of The Rings tour. You can stand in frame of some of the iconic scenes from the movies and tread the very paths used by Frodo and his mates on their quest in Middle Earth.
Even if you’re not a huge fan of the films, the tour is worth it just for the eerie and magical scenery the forests provide. In fact, if you head there now you might even catch them on set for the upcoming Hobbit films.
We end the tour at the WETA Cave in the heart of the city’s filmmaking hub, controversially labeled Wellywood. Here we see sculptures, costume and collectibles from the movies and watch how the fascinating make-up, armoury and prosthetics processes come to life on screen.
All that walking and we’re ready to kick back and relax. We head across to the Roxy cinema, a recently restored movie hall with the original façade intact. You can grab a bite to eat from the restaurant before catching an early evening flick. It’s a popular spot with the locals and the food is gorgeous. Plus, we met Johnny, a man who knows his cocktails. In particular, he told us the secret to sipping the perfect martini. Our lives are changed forever!
Our time in Wellington comes to a close and we don’t want it to end. We’ve come to the conclusion that Wellington is a pretty cool little capital with all that you love about Melbourne or San Francisco. Funky designed cafes, public art pieces, cool galleries and hip nightlife support the unique urban feel of the city’s streetscape and surrounding hillside architecture. The vibe of the place is truly inviting, bursting with character and loaded with things to see and do. A return visit is definitely on the cards.