The lastminute lovelies in Welly
It’s terribly embarrassing, but before the lastminute lovelies’ trip to Wellington, we knew its nickname – “Windy Wellington” – and not much else.
Our assumptions were that it would be a bit daggy, a bit slow, a bit… dull. We couldn’t have been more wrong.
The lastminute lovelies are now proud advocates for the city known as the best little capital in the world, a picturesque foodie’s playground that’s as pretty as it is fun. New Zealand’s capital it may be, but we feel like we’ve discovered a secret gem – albeit a secret we’re happy to share.
Wellington sits on the edge of a magnificent harbour, surrounded by lush green hills. Dotted with quaint timber houses in sweet Golden Girls pastels, squint a little and you could be in San Francisco. Luckily, however, we’re right here, and ready to explore.
Arriving in Wellington after a leisurely few hours spent with our friends at Air New Zealand (Wellington is only three hours flight from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – yay!), we check in to Wellington’s most iconic hotel, Museum. A funky boutique hotel in the heart of the Wellington CBD, Museum’s walls drip with its owners’ contemporary art collection. Half hotel half gallery, we’ve never seen anything like it, and we ogle as we make our way up to our rooms and to bed.
Next morning we’re up early for a relaxing breakkie at Musuem’s award winning restaurant, Hippopotamus, before heading across the road to New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa. A true must see, Te Papa is as interesting as it is fun, with informative, interactive exhibits about New Zealand’s history and environment, including the fascinating Maori culture. We recommend one of the daily guided tours, and be sure not to miss the colossal squid exhibit – Te Papa has the world’s only complete colossal squid on display, and it’s huuuuge!
All cultured out, we head outside and are met by the bubbly Jennifer from Wild About Wellington tours. Jennifer is here to take us on one of her popular ‘City Of Style’ tours, aka SHOPPING! We meet local designers, discover hidden treasure troves and try on some of the most incredible jewellery we’ve ever seen – lucky we’ve left the boys at home (lucky for them!) Finishing up with a glass of bubbly, it’s a lovely introduction to the city from a lovely lady, and we give Jennifer a hug and say goodbye.
Next stop: Marlborough! Wellington is at the very bottom of New Zealand’s north island, while Marlborough is at the very top of the south island, meaning it’s so close you can almost smell the sauv blanc. It also means that you can combine a short break in Wellington with a side trip to Marlborough – two holidays for the price of one!
Home to a heady combination of water, wine and wilderness, Marlborough is jaw droppingly beautiful – sea-drowned valleys sparkle beneath steep green hills, vines dripping with grapes stretch endlessly towards the horizon, and the sun is almost always shining.
We check in to Marlborough Vintners Hotel, our home for the night, and can’t believe how close we are to the vines. They start literally 10m from our back door, and have us well and truly in the mood for tomorrow’s wine tour. Now, however, it’s time to get ready for dinner at the Vintner’s Room.
We start with a glass of wine in front of the fire, and end the same way – with three courses of incredible food along the way. Local greenshell mussels, rock oysters, zucchini flowers, slow roasted pork belly… Yum! Best of all, the service is out. of. this. world, and we leave feeling like we were the only people dining. Sensational.
Next morning we’re up and out of bed quicker than ever before (sore head and all) because we’re being picked up by Marlborough Travel for a tour of the local wineries. Our lovely guide, Ryan, starts by asking us whether there are any wineries that we would particularly like to visit, and then plumps up the list with some of his own suggestions. We start at Saint Clair, then visit Framingham, Allen Scott, Wither Hills and our favourite, Cloudy Bay. With over 130 wineries in Marlborough you could spend days tasting your way through them all, but in just half a day we’ve discovered some new favourites and cemented some old.
Sadly, after our tour it’s time to leave Marlborough, although thankfully we’re headed back to wonderful Wellington! We fly with local operator Sounds Air and relish the incredible bird’s eye view over the Marlborough Sounds, but catching the Interislander Ferry back to Wellington is also reputed to be truly spectacular. Next time!
Back in Wellington, we rug up and head for ZEALANDIA, a unique conservation attraction that is attempting to turn back the clock to the time before humans inhabited New Zealand. The world’s first fully fenced urban wildlife sanctuary, ZEALANDIA provides a safe haven for some of New Zealand’s most endangered native species by keeping predators out – an island of sorts, and all within minutes of the Wellington CBD. Tonight, we’re searching for kiwis on a ZEALANDIA By Night tour – there are over 100 in the park, so there’s a good chance of spotting one.
We step through the predator-exclusion fence and into the forest, with torches and our guides to lead the way. We see glow worms and crazy giant insects and hear myriad calls of the wild, but sadly, no kiwis tonight. Kids will love this, but it’s cold, it’s dark, and the lastminute lovelies are ready for a hearty, warming meal and a glass of wine!
We head to Floridatas, a gorgeous café come restaurant on Wellington’s vibrant Cuba Street. Rumour has it that this is the Flight Of The Conchord boys’ favourite restaurant, and we can see why – a delicious seasonal menu of gorgeous, quality, fresh food, and all washed down with more seriously great NZ wine. If the polenta’s on the menu… have it!
Dinner done, it’s time for dessert. Just down the road from Floridatas is Matterhorn, a legendary bar / restaurant hybrid with a wonderfully eclectic crowd. We order dessert and, of course, dessert wine, and relish every mouthful, while looking around and wishing we had enough time to linger a little longer.
Alas, it’s time to say goodbye to Wellington, a gorgeous, welcoming city that has captured our hearts. Wellington may be small, but it packs a giant punch – and you know what they say about good things and small packages.
The lastminute lovelies xox