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Why I love Wellington so much

wellington new zealand visit

When I first decided to move to New Zealand, I really REALLY wasn’t anticipating on not only living in Wellington, but loving it. Six months later and I never want to leave.

After all, I was coming to New Zealand for mountains, for nature, for Middle Earth, not some city, let alone the capital. In my head I always saw myself living on some mountain lake in the South Island, not in an urban backdrop on the North Island. Also I have this thing where when people hype up a destination, it tends to NOT live up to it and I end up being disappointed.

When I polled in you guys on Facebook about where I should live for my first month in New Zealand, everyone and their mother pointed to Wellington.

Cue eye roll. Seriously? I’m sure Wellington couldn’t be THAT awesome.

wellington new zealand visit

WELL talk about eating my words. It took less than 24 hours for me to fall head over heels in love with Wellington. Nickname the coolest little capital in the world by Lonely Planet, Wellington certainly lives up to expectations and then some.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to put into words exactly why I love Wellington so much, but I figured it was high time I tried to capture my feelings and put them on here. After all, I’m now one of those people who can’t shut up about Wellington.

So what is it that makes Wellington so freaking awesome? Here are my 15 reasons why I love Wellington so much and why I never want to leave.

wellington new zealand visit

1. All the bays and all the beaches

One thing I love the most about Wellington is getting to live on the water. On the bottom tip of the North Island, Wellington sprawls out over several bays, beaches curving around on the coast, which means you’re never too far from the sea.

Many of the bays and beaches are part of their own little neighborhoods, like Scorching Bay in Miramar, Lyall Bay on the other side where the surfers head, Island Bay further on, Oriental Bay right in town with a proper beach.

Pretty much no matter where you are in town you are only 15 minutes or less from the turquoise water and the smell of the sea, something that I can’t get enough of.

wellington new zealand visit

View of Evans Bay and Lyall Bay Roseneath

wellington new zealand visit

Tidepools in Island Bay

2. Hilly city

Besides the bays, I think the other main reason why I love Wellington to pieces is how the city is built. There are huge hills that drop down to the waterfront which means the houses are built up into them, giving great views and leaving the city feeling very “green.”

There are tons of places in and around town where you can climb up to the top of the hilly mountains for fabulous views. Probably my favorite spot is Mt. Kaukau which is a little ways outside of the city center near Johnsonville and Khanallah, and the highest peak around town. It’s a beautiful park and walk up through the woods to the top with spectacular views out of Wellington.

wellington new zealand visit

wellington new zealand visit

3. Awesome brunch and coffee culture

Yeah I know I’ve raved on before about brunch in New Zealand, but it warrants repeating because it is SO good! Oh, and the coffee? Phenomenal!

Coming from Spain where brunch doesn’t exist, and the concept of eating eggs for breakfast is alien, I revel in every opportunity here to go get my breakfast fix. A fabulous cafe culture combined with a growing foodie scene means there are tons of variety in choosing a brunch location.

In fact, there are more bars, cafes, and restaurants per capita than New York City!

wellington new zealand visit

For my heavy southern American fix, I head to Sweet Mother’s Kitchen. When I want to have a fabulous brunch with views of the water, I go to Maranui Cafe in Lyall Bay. For a classier meal, I hop on over to Duke Carvell’s or Floriditas on Cuba Street. If I want to stuff myself and then sleep on the beach, I run over to Beach Babylon on Oriental Bay.

Really I could go on and on, these just happen to be my personal favorites. And of course, Olive Cafe on Cuba Streets, has the best wifi around.

wellington new zealand visit

Brunch at Olive in my A.B.S dress

wellington new zealand visit

Turkish eggs at Finc

4. Mt. Victoria

Pretty much everyone who visits Wellington climbs or drives up to the top of Mount Victoria at some point or another for incredible views over the city. Standing at the top it’s hard to believe you are right in New Zealand’s capital.

Back in the 1840′s when Wellington was founded, a big U-shaped chunk of land around town was set aside and left undeveloped. Though parts of it over the years have been built on, there are still plenty of large green spaces around Wellington that have been preserved, including Mt. Vic.

wellington new zealand visit

Mt. Victoria in my A.B.S. by Allen Schwartz dress

wellington new zealand visit

Hiding from Black Riders on Mt. Victoria

Heading town from the top, there are deep woods and forest perfect for walking, running and even mountain biking. Here are there are plenty of look outs and fields to hang out and look out on the town, there even used to be a great swing about halfway up, though someone took it down recently.

Then of course, plenty of scenes from the Shire in the Lord of the Rings were shot up in the woods on Mt. Vic, which are always good fun to find.

wellington new zealand visit

wellington new zealand visit

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5. Friendly and awesome Wellingtonians

Perhaps what makes Wellington so special is just how awesome and friendly its people are! I mean, how many capital cities boast having some really nice people? In general the more urban you get the more jaded you get, but that sure isn’t the case for Wellington.

No matter where I go in town, I’m always greeted with a friendly smile and chat, whether ordering a coffee or buying groceries, it seems everyone is willing to say hello and offer advice.

Everyone here seems to be well-educated, cultured, friendly, fit and outdoorsy and really care about the city. It’s as if Wellingtonians know their city is something special and do their part to keep it that way.

wellington new zealand visit

6. Cool marine life

Because Wellington is right on the water, there are all sorts of awesome marine animals that frequent it.

I noticed it for the first time a while back when I was sitting on the docks with my feet dangling over the side eating an ice cream when a massive stingray swam by.

Many of the bays get dolphin pods that swim through, and if you’re really lucky, a few times a year orcas swim right into the harbor and you can see them. How cool is that?

wellington new zealand visit

Source

wellington new zealand visit

7.  Hip bar scene

Wellington has a pretty young and fun population which means that there’s a great bar and going out scene in town. And while there are plenty of university party bars and your average pub, we are in the Queen’s land after all, there are also tons of classy, thematic or nice bars around town to meet up with friends after work.

Places with a great craft beer list and quirky delicious cocktails.

wellington new zealand visit

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite, but I really like the Library, a book themed bar on Courtenay Place and the Motel Bar, a speak-easy retro bar cleverly hidden as a motel. It’s one of those spots you would never know is there unless someones tells you, and even then you have to buzz to get let upstairs.

Oh, and I have to mention Alice, an Alice in Wonderland themed bar that serves cocktails in teapots and Havana Bar, a Cuban-style bar with great music built into two old workman cottages in Te Aro.

Many places offer deals and discounts, happy hours and two-for-one deals, like at Chow, which also happens to have the best pho in town.

wellington new zealand visit

The Library

8. Zealandia

In Karori, about 15 minutes up the road from my house, there is a massive eco-sanctuary called Zealandia. As soon as you cross the fence that keeps out mammal predators, you step back in time and get to experience New Zealand as it once was, i.e. Jurassic Park.

Here many of the endangered birds and animals roam free, and exploring the many trails and paths it doesn’t feel like you are 10 minutes from downtown Wellington.

And the best part? Zealandia offers night tours which will give you the opportunity to go look for the kiwi, New Zealand’s famous bird, which are nocturnal. I saw two on my night tour, not something I’m soon to forget.

How many capitals have a place like this?

wellington new zealand visit

9. Honking in the Mt. Vic tunnel

A totally random but awesome fact – when driving through the tunnel between Mt. Victoria and Hataitai, you honk your horn. Someone told me it’s because it’s the only tunnel in Wellington where it isn’t illegal to honk, but who knows.

I just love that every time I drive through there I can honk my horn as much as I want. I’m pretty much a child, but who cares. And you know what? Everyone honks back!

I think I’ve only driven through it once when no one honked, and it was a Monday morning, which is totally understandable.

wellington new zealand visit

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10. Wellington cable car

It’s no secret I call the Kelburn area of Wellington home. Up behind the university, CBD and harbor high on a hill, walking up here is in fact a NIGHTMARE.

Luckily, there is an old-fashioned cable car that runs up to the top of Kelburn next to my house from downtown, cutting the hike way down and only taking a few minutes. It passes through the beautiful and free botanical gardens which are worth a wander when in town too.

Just avoid it when cruise ships are in town because everyone wants to ride up and the lines are insane! Usually it’s empty. Oh, and the views at the top are to die for.

wellington new zealand visit

11. Middle Earth in Wellington 

For nerds like me, Wellington is home to Peter Jackson and Weta Workshop. It was here that the Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit and many other movies have been filmed and produced over the years.

Before PJ took charge, as I understand it Wellington used to be the gateway to the South Island, a place tourists stopped over on their New Zealand trips. Did you know after the movies came out that tourism increased by over 700% in Wellington?

Holy shit! That’a lot of Tolkien fans over here.

wellington new zealand visit

wellington new zealand visit

The best place to visit Weta Studios and take in the Lord of the Rings vibe is over in Miramar, where pretty much everything took place. It can be hard to find the individual filming on your own, even with a guidebook, so most fans hop on a day tour that will take you around to all the spots.

I joined in on a full-day LOTR tour with Viator a few weeks ago, and it was magical.

Also being home to Weta Workshop, there are usually some events going on in town, like the one time I got to listen to Peter Jackson speak about filming or getting to see an early screening of the Hobbit 2 with the Weta staff.

wellington new zealand visit

Just call me Gandalf

wellington new zealand visit

Stamp from an early screening of the Hobbit with Weta

12. Crazy roads

In general Wellington is a really, really walkable city. You don’t need a car here at all; I only have one for my road trips around the North Island.

That being said, there are some gnarly, winding roads around town. Thanks to all the steep hills that the houses were built into, Wellington has to be the only city I’ve been to that actually has switch-back roads getting up to the different regions.

Most of them are only 2 lanes, one in each direction but residents can park on either side, meaning it’s really only one lane. Oh, and the giant yellow buses head up most of these streets too. It’s either a nightmare or an exciting challenge, depending on how you see it.

wellington new zealand visit

Crazy roads in Kelburn where I live

13. Windy Welly

If you haven’t heard it before, here you go.

Wellington is nicknamed “Windy Welly” and for a good reason, it’s windy as all hell here. To give you an idea, Wellington has what’s considered “gale force winds” for around half the year. Imagine that.

Back home Chicago is nicknamed the “windy city” with average winds around 17 km/h where in Wellington it’s 30 km/h. I was unprepared, to say the least.

wellington new zealand visit

Basically this means leave the umbrellas at home and don’t plan on wearing any dresses without leggings or tights underneath.

I don’t really know why I put this on a list of things I love about Wellington – I really hate that the wind makes the city cold all the freaking time, but it does lend it some character and a moody vibe that I love.

wellington new zealand visit

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14. Somes Island

Somes Island was one of my favorite surprises about Wellington. Smack in the middle of the harbor, sits a little island that used to be a quarantine area for ships coming into town. Nowadays it’s a nature reserve and park you can visit.

I almost didn’t go when I was invited, thinking it was going to be boring and not interesting, and my goodness I was wrong.

wellington new zealand visit

A quick 20 minute boat ride from town will drop you off and you can explore the island for the day. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can camp up there too, which is really exciting.

I went with friends a few months ago, witnessed the most beautiful sunset and explored the island after dark, seeing giant weta bugs, tuataras, little blue penguins and of course, sheep.

wellington new zealand visit

wellington new zealand visit

15. Sunday market and Te Papa

My favorite Wellington ritual is heading down to the waterfront on Sundays and picking up all my fruits and veggies for the week. This farmer’s market is so much cheaper than the grocery stores by the way, so you save loads. There are also stalls and food trucks with all sorts of munchies to get, live music and a general fun atmosphere going on.

Next door is Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum which is FREE and filled with loads of cool things. And they have free wifi. Winning.

I won’t give too much away but they do have a giant squid and tons of fascinating Maori facts.

wellington new zealand visit

wellington new zealand visit

Quirky street art, including a shark mural by Te Papa

wellington new zealand visit

Harbor with Te Papa behind the docks

Wellington is the city for everyone. I couldn’t have been more surprised when I visited, and I know that if I decide to stay in New Zealand longer, it will be here.

Have you ever been to New Zealand? Would you like to visit Wellington? What would you add to the list?

** I have created a map in Google marking all of these places I’ve mentioned. You can find it here.

***You can find my gray and white A.B.S. by Allen Schwartz dress here and follow them on Facebook here. My brown leather camera bag is by ONA and you can find it here.

wellington new zealand visit

128 Responses to Why I love Wellington so much

  1. Roberto February 28, 2014 at 11:27 am #

    Hey its nice to see what you are doing here, Im thinking about moving to NZ and I find your review excellent thanks for sharing all your experiences with the web we appreciate!

  2. Em February 28, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

    Oh my goodness! Thankyou so much for sharing this post I am heading to NZ in Jan next year and really wanted to visit Wellington as it’s a place close to my heart for personal reasons yet I’ve never had chance to visit and this really gave me an insight into this capital.
    Cannot wait to get out there!
    x

  3. Rachel February 28, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    Hey girl-

    I’m moving to New Zealand in August of this year. I have a serious headache trying to figure all this stuff out. I would love it if we could be like penpals or something? Email pals? Haha, Your blog is so encouraging. I am strongly considering moving to Wellington because I like that is centrally located….. My head is just swimming with too much info. I want to live in or near a city with lots of cool sites to see around. Suggestions? Stick with Wellington? Helpppppp!

  4. Offonalittleadventure February 28, 2014 at 7:57 pm #

    I arrived in Australia yesterday and I am already counting down the days until I visit NZ.

    This has just made it much worse, you’ll have to help me with tips. Looks amazing.

  5. The Travel Junkie March 5, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

    And I love this post so much!

  6. Mohan March 6, 2014 at 6:31 pm #

    I have heard so many nice things about New Zealand and Wellington. But nothing I have known matches your blog. It is such a visual treat with lots of new information that only a person with a keen sense of observation can provide. It is good to know that you do not mind the Windy Welly for the other attractions it provides with its hills and water bodies.

  7. Heather March 10, 2014 at 8:53 am #

    Thank you so much for this! I’m in the process of planning my move from Canada to New Zealand. I’ve been trying to figure out which city I want to move to and I think I’ve been swayed that Wellington is the way to go! Really enjoying your posts, it’ll be so useful for me over the next 6 months!

    I’m wondering about how easy finding a job is? Did you find something before you arrived or did you wait until you were there? Same with a flat?

    Thanks!

  8. Ellery March 12, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    you forgot Wellington’s own adventure tourism activities: earthquakes and landing at the airport during a northerly gale ;-)

  9. Sebastian March 16, 2014 at 12:13 am #

    100% born and bred Wellintonian here!

    Interesting that you take the cable car too.. I use the cable car every day and must walk right past your house! I’ve probably been on the same cable car as you.. and yes the lines have been horrible lately with all the cruise ships coming in! I almost feel like a foreigner in my own city when I jump on the cable cars after a cruise comes in! The cable car is definitely a great alternative to walking up to the university/kelburn!

    How long are you staying here for?

  10. Ellie March 19, 2014 at 7:45 pm #

    It just so happens that I’m a Student Abroad Student in Auckland, NZ at the moment, a place and a country I didn’t know much about. Actually I though Auckland was the main capital until I got the LP-book for Christmas! Since everyone is travelling by the LP-book these days, I decided to go online, and here I found you, mostly because of your post about the Internet (people ask me what I miss the most back home; it’s definitely the Internet!). I loved the post “23 things I’ve learned my first month in New Zealand” by the way! So I kept on reading, and now Wellington is on the top of my Bucket List. I kind of fell in love with the city through your words. And I have to paraglide over Queenstown. Apart from that there will be a lot of other South and North Island-exploring, or as much as I have the time and the money for of course. Looking forward to your next post on New Zealand! Travel safe! :)

  11. Rachel April 11, 2014 at 3:00 am #

    I’ve always wanted to get to New Zealand ever since I saw Lord of the Rings and became very friendly with a teacher from New Zealand here in Bangkok, and really should as, from Bangkok, it’s not really that far to travel.

    Your photos are gorgeous btw, and thanks for the recommendations. I have this page bookmarked with the hope that I’ll eventually get to Wellington some time next year :)

  12. Lauren April 12, 2014 at 11:10 pm #

    Hi Liz, I’m a NZer and I live in Wellington (Brooklyn). So wonderful to hear how much others love our little city – I feel thankful to live here every day. I’m going on a trip to Spain in June – would love to meet up or something and share tips! Cheers :)

  13. Kim April 16, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

    I made a list for friends too – so here are a few more fabulous Wellington things.

    1: Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra: http://www.ukulele.co.nz/

    2: Toi Whakaari performances. See our young actors while they’re just sparkles, not stars. http://www.toiwhakaari.ac.nz/ Cheap theatre. AndBats Out of Site.

    3: Rimutaka Forest booked huts. Yay for Jan who built Jans Hut
    http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-stay/lodges-cabins-and-cottages-by-region/wellington/jans-hut/ (although this one is Turere)

    4: High Tea. Although the tea of choice for many is Martha’s Pantry and it has a lot of charm, I’d like to suggest the High Tea at Hippopotamus at the Museum Hotel. They have gorgeous French waiters, provide a selection of High Tea cocktails and it’s just swish. See the menu here:
    http://www.hippopotamus.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Museum-HIgh-Tea-November-2012.pdf

    5: Pencarrow Lakes, New Zealand’s last remaining pretty much unmodified wetlands, right on Wellington’s doorstep.
    http://www.doc.govt.nz/conservation/land-and-freshwater/wetlands/wetlands-by-region/wellington/pencarrow-lakes/

    6: The Oyster Saloon, Cuba Street carpark. While Wellington on a Plate is on

    7: Arthur’s and Martha’s when Wellington on a Plate isn’t on

    8: The best hot chocolates ever at L’Affaire au Chocolate in Berhampore (and really really good chocolates too) http://www.affairechocolat.co.nz/(although Caffe Italian on Cuba also does an amazing hot chocolate)

    9: Archives New Zealand, where the Treaty lives. Go see it. It’s what makes our country. Literally.
    http://archives.govt.nz/exhibitions/treaty

    10: Mt Kaukau – I always climb from Truscott Ave but there are many other tracks http://www.wellington.govt.nz/services/resbelt/recreation/recreation.html

    11: Tauherenikau Races on Waitangi Day and the secret swimming hole to which we return every year.
    http://www.tauherenikau.co.nz/

    12: Farewelling the godwits – okay it’s Foxton but so close. You can meet real twitchers with fabulous telescopes and they let you look at these fat little birds who are about to fly to Alaska! http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/what-we-do/events/wairarapa-farewell-the-godwits
    14:Matiu Somes Island. Our own desert island

    13: The Farmers carpark. $2.50 an hour, has an attendant, is not owned by Wilson’s or Tournament. Open when Farmers is. Access off Victoria Street. No need to shop in Farmers to get a park. Added bonus: sparrows flitting around.

    • Kim April 16, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

      Oops I forgot – the Treaty moved to the National Library.

  14. R Fletcher April 23, 2014 at 6:34 am #

    Hi,

    Me and my wife are starting our adventure and are moving to Wellington In November. We loved your blog and I read it aloud on a 4 hour drive up from London to North of England.

    Amazing reading and has made us so excited.

    Thanks! Rob

    Ps: if your still in Wellington can you be my wife’s friend? :-)

    • Mike April 23, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

      Bell us when you get to Wellington and come for a curry and some boardgames.
      Mike
      0211071120

  15. Katie - The World on my Necklace April 24, 2014 at 4:14 pm #

    Wow you have definitely convinced me to go and spend some more time in Wellington! I have been there a couple of times and really like the vibe, there is still so much I need to explore there. Thanks for the post

  16. Chelsea May 10, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this list! I moved to Wellington a week ago and am in love already!

    • Liz May 12, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

      It’s so cool, isn’t it?!

  17. Amy May 24, 2014 at 2:07 am #

    I studied abroad in Wellington about 4 or 5 years ago (Has is really been that long??) and I fell in love with it, too. I was bawling on my flight out. I need to go back there someday.

    • Liz May 24, 2014 at 8:19 am #

      It is awesome!!!

  18. Jen June 10, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

    I only spent 2 days in Wellington and never wanted to leave! Such an amazing city for all the reasons you listed and more! Thanks for sharing :)

  19. caitlin June 20, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

    glad to know there are other kiwi-americans living in wellington!

    you’ve described wellington quite accurately :)

    message me if youre ever interested in hanging out with other welly americans!
    (thats pretty much impossible to say without sounding creepy – i swear I’m not)

    • caitlin June 21, 2014 at 1:03 am #

      oh, and i am also from VA :)

      small world!

  20. Laurence June 28, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

    Thank-you so much for likeing my home town this much, and showing me some things I could appreciate about it more than I do now.

    You know how it is… as a visitor to a place you find all the exciting things, as a resident… somehow it does not shine as much…

    kind thoughts, and all the best for your future adventures
    LB

  21. Jisu June 30, 2014 at 2:33 am #

    best blog ever! I love your blog postings especially about NZ.
    I’m planning to visit NZ and thanks for useful tips :)

  22. Davie July 27, 2014 at 8:58 am #

    I fell in love with New Zealand and reading this brings back great memories of my time there!

    Wellington is a fantastic spot, thanks for sharing this!

    To anyone and everyone thinking of going to New Zealand, don’t think twice! That place is in a world of it’s own. The sheer beauty of the landscape, the people and the lifestyle are all incredible!

    Best year of my life!

  23. Ani August 2, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

    Your pictures from New Zealand are such a treat, Liz. Wellington looks like a lovely place. My friends tell me that it’s really cold there – eeks! how do you feel about that ? :)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] Why I love Wellington so much by Young Adventuress: When I firstly visited Wellington, I actually didn’t expect much. I didn’t knew a lot of facts about the city and I was in New Zealand to see the beauty of nature – exactly as Liz states in her post. She is now living there a few months and totally enjoys the city. Find out what she likes about it. […]

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