There’s a lot to love about Wellington. Everyone told me this was the case, the first time I went to NZ and skipped the nation’s capital. ‘It’s like a windy Melbourne by the sea,’ they told me, where all of the art and culture is. ‘You’ll love Wellington,’ was the oft-repeated promise. When planning this year’s trip, ultimately giving ourselves just a week in NZ meant ‘doing the south island next time’ and spending just a few days on the north island – including a couple on Waiheke Island. We zeroed in on Wellington.
Like Canberra, Wellington is often forgotten as the country’s capital city by those of us inclined to recall the more visible cities (Auckland, Sydney etc) but it’s a deserving capital. Sitting at the bottom of the north island, it curves around Wellington Harbour, its classic white timber houses, and pretty, clean CBD spooned by lush, green forest. Its beautiful Botanic Gardens, reachable by cable car, are set against this very backdrop – endlessly rolling green.
Despite having an excellent public transport system – as a Sydneysider, the first thing I notice about any new city is its public transport, and how extraordinarily better it is than Sydney’s – it’s an entirely walkable city. Indeed, it’s by walking that you get to duck down the Melbourne-esque lanes and alleys and find delicious places for breakfast. The Kiwis, I especially noted this trip, seem to love breakfast, particularly eggs benedict and a flat white. (I did one eggs benedict and was reminded of the specific feeling of fullness Hollandaise sauce always results in, one I first encountered in Münster.) Gotham Cafe and Bordeaux Bakery are both worth checking out.
In fact, in general, Wellington has excellent food and coffee. Cuba Street is bumper to bumper with cuisines from all over the world. We had what SG has deemed, the Best Indian Ever on one night, then sensational Malaysian the next (one forgets the slow burn that is unique to Malay curries, my God). We also got to the cafe that’s home to 2013’s best barista in NZ. It was a splendid brew. In fact, all of the coffee we had in Wellington was excellent. SG has already bemoaned his return to Germany’s beloved filter stuff.
We happened to be in Wellington on Waitangi Day, New Zealand’s national day that marks the signing of the Waitangi treaty. The city’s fantastic Museum of New Zealand – Te Papa Tongarewa – was where we spent the afternoon, learning about New Zealand’s history, one that is so different to Australia’s despite our proximity, common language and erroneous global perception that we’re pretty much the same. We aren’t. We really, really aren’t. And it was so rewarding, as a fellow Antipodean, to learn about our neighbours alongside SG, and how their country came to be what it is today. There is also the world’s largest squid to behold, and the skeleton of Phar Lap. Honestly, it’s a museum worth checking out.
The winds blew us out of Wellington after a couple of days, and we caught a punctual bus with free wifi, back to the airport. But a couple of days was enough to know they were right about this windy city by the sea, with its weatherboard houses and wide clean streets. It is is by far and away, my favourite Kiwi city.