I’m excited to welcome Sonya of Sea Salt & Caramel to the blog with a picture-perfect Wellington, New Zealand travel guide!
Overlooking the ocean and surrounded by hills, Wellington is a small city located on the southernmost tip of the north island of New Zealand. I moved to Wellington in February and have spent the last three months exploring every inch of the city.
As a San Francisco native, I’m used to quaint, colorful and artistic environments. Upon first exploring Wellington, I saw a few similarities between these two beautiful cities. Both share Victorian-style architecture and infamous hills. Wellington is filled with street artists, coffee carts and food-truck filled evenings. Your every interest and hobby is catered to, whether you’re a foodie, a ukulele lover, a graphic artist or a rugby player.
Click below to see all some hidden gems of Wellington, New Zealand!
Eat + Drink
- Ekim Burgers — For any of your burger needs you must go to Ekim or, as we fondly refer to it, Backward Mike’s. Ekim doubles as both a food truck and a restaurant. You order at the counter and take a seat in their outdoor dining area. They’ll serve you chunky fries and homemade ‘tomato sauce.’ Their generous portion sizes, delicious ingredients and great prices make this restaurant a must.
- One Red Dog — Overlooking the waterfront, this restaurant and bar is a great place to gather with friends over a thin-crust pizza and a pitcher of beer. Not only does it have a great view, but it also promises to serve you really good food.
- Logan Brown — If you’re in the mood for a fancy occasion, Logan Brown is the place to go. Though I haven’t had the chance to experience it for myself, I have only heard glowing and positive reviews the decadent meals and elegant atmosphere.
- Jano Bistro — In the Aro Valley district, which sits between the residential area of Wellington and the Central Business District (CBD), is a French-inspired restaurant. They cook with locally sourced products and create seasonal menus.
- Mish Mosh — This is by far my favorite bar in the city. It caters to your every need. Not only does it serve delicious cocktails and spirits, but it has a makeshift patio for when you want to sit outside, an indoor dance floor and, if you really want to get down and dirty, there’s a lower level dance floor. Mish Mosh is also located on Courtenay Place, home to many popular bars, so it’s the perfect place to start if you want to spend your evening bar hopping.
- Alice — For a quieter evening experience, head to Alice. This off-the-beaten-track bar is located in another nightclub called Wonderland. Its name and location should give a hint as to the wonders it holds. From the decor to the cocktails served in tea cups, the entire bar is themed after Alice in Wonderland.
- Butler’s Chocolates — For any chocolate fix, in any form, head over to Butler’s on Willis Street. They have thick and decadent hot chocolates and delicious desserts.
- Maranui Cafe — Slightly outside the bounds of the city in Lyall Bay, you’ll find this famous brunch spot overlooking clear blue water. It has existed for decades and burned down a couple years back, but with the undying support of the community it was quickly rebuilt. Be prepared to wait a while if you head over during the weekend. Still, it will be worth every minute.
- Harbourside Market — Near the national New Zealand Museum and overlooking the waterfront, the Sunday morning farmers market is a must-do. There are food trucks and a myriad of fruit and veggie stands. Its location allows you to explore many other local attractions. Head over early in the morning to explore the waterfront with fruit and coffee in head.
- Te Papa Tongarewa Museum — With six levels, Te Papa contains a myriad of topics from marine biology, to contemporary art and seasonal exhibitions. The museum caters to all ages with its kid-friendly zones and exhibitions. The museum is located alongside many other attractions on the waterfront.
- City Gallery Wellington — If you’re more interested in contemporary art, then you must pay a visit to this gallery. City Gallery Wellington focuses on photo essays, film screens and other multimedia productions.
- Mount Victoria — If you want to see a 360-degree view of the city and you’re ready for a small hike, then this is the place to go! This hike should take approximately 45 minutes to an hour, excluding transportation to the start of the hike.
- Wellington Botanic Garden — Located in the Kelburn suburb, this quiet and relaxing area overlooks the city. If you want to have a beautiful view of the city without climbing Mount Victoria, this is the perfect alternative. There is a playground and beautiful lounging areas, perfect for an afternoon picnic. There is also the Cable Car Museum and the observatory, so you can hit a few birds with one stone.
- Cuba Street — In the heart of the city, Cuba Street is home to tattoo parlors, bars, restaurants and other shops. Stories Espresso Bar is a great place to explore with a traditional New Zealand coffee, a flat white.
- Cuba Dupa — A festival held at the end of summer transforms the Cuba Quarter into a playground with food trucks and performing artists.
- Wellington Food & Wine Festival — Restaurants and wineries all around Wellington gather during this event to share their food and wine expertise. Unlike the previous activities, this is the only one with an entry fee. The festival lasts a few days and you can buy tickets for the entire weekend or for certain days. If you’re a foodie at heart and you’re around Wellington in March, this is an event to attend.
- The General Store — Started by a creative duo, this hole-in-the-wall store is home to handmade and refurbished products. All their pieces are unique and have a story, so their store is constantly changing. Head over before your dream item disappears!
- Coco Wellington — Whenever I pass by their window displays I am enticed and attracted to the clothing inside. All of their designer clothing are NZ-made and absolutely stunning. Though this store is expensive, it is definitely worth at least a look.
- Matchbox — This adorably decorated shop caters to your every need and whimsy — even to the ones you never knew existed. From the intentionally-designed matchboxes to the multicolored stationery, this creative shop has become a gathering space for both artists and designers.
- Made It — This small shop focuses on craft products and high quality handmade items. Since it opened in 2012, Made It has stretched their network beyond the city and brought to their store the best craftsmanship in New Zealand.
- Iko Iko — This is another store that offers a myriad of products, but doesn’t have as much of a focus on locally sourced craftsmanship. That being said, it is adorable and definitely worth a visit if you’re looking to buy a souvenir and don’t have the opportunity to go to Matchbox, Made It or The General Store.
- Moore Wilson’s — In a nutshell: Whole Food’s but better. Moore Wilson’s has a myriad of products which they’ve imported from abroad making this the mecca for any foodie. They’ve got French cheeses, speciality drinks, Mexican chocolate and Italian bread. You simply can not go wrong.
- Pegasus Books — One of those bookstores in which you could get lost for hours. They’ve got novels, short stories and poetry stacked from floor-to-ceiling. Any true book lover’s dream.
- Pencarrow Lighthouse — New Zealand’s first permanent lighthouse is located on Wellington’s eastern coast. If you’d like to take a closer look you can take a scenic route along the water all the way to the lighthouse.
- Lyall Bay — Though Lyall Bay is still considered to be part of Wellington, as you drive towards this quiet and picturesque place, you’ll feel like you’ve left the hustle and bustle of the city behind. This area is home to the Maranui Cafe I mentioned earlier and to other eateries and local shops. For a calming and relaxing retreat out of the city this is the place to go. This is also the go-to surfer beach, so if you’d like to catch some waves, drive out to this beautiful beach.
- Weta Workshop — If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan then you must make a stop at Weta Workshop. This company has spearheaded the special effects, costumes and set designs for a multitude of American films including, but not limited to, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ & ‘The Hobbit’ series, ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ and ‘Divergent.’
Sonya is a California native splitting her time between San Francisco and the Los Angeles area, sharing her adventures and musings on Sea Salt and Caramel.