There’s an undeniably infectious energy, creative spark and innovative edge that keep refreshing Wellington’s platter of urban temptations.
It’s not called the ‘coolest little capital’ for nothing. The city’s bragging rights as an artisanal and foodie mecca are constantly being refortified, and while it’s compact in size, there’s something here to please every palate on a flavourful short break.
Here’s how to spend 48 hours in Wellington. Book your stay with Choice Hotels.
8am: Enjoy a waterfront walk
Begin your Wellington safari with a wake-up stroll around the city’s world-class waterfront, richly embellished with eye-catching public artworks and sublime vistas. Start from Queens Wharf and head to Clyde Quay. The capital’s tall towers glint in the morning sunshine, as does the thick forest of sails standing to attention at Chaffers Marina. Gaze across the glassy waters to glittery Oriental Bay and that radiant sweep of brightly painted boatsheds that exemplifies Wellington’s perky, playful personality.
9.30am: Do brunch at a bakery
Head to Leeds Street Bakery, where brothers Jesse and Shep will fuel you up for your day’s exploring. The fresh breads, pastries and sandwiches are all gold-standard gourmet, while their salted caramel cookies are the stuff of legend.
10am: Explore Hannahs Laneway
Jesse and Shep have been instrumental in helping to transform the adjoining Hannahs Laneway into a culinary and artisan nexus. Must-visits include the Wellington Chocolate Factory, Golding’s Free Dive wine bar, Fix & Fogg (for nut butter!) and a recent addition – Lashings. The brainchild of British pastry chef Jackie Lee Morrison, Lashings is renowned for their drool-worthy brownies (single-origin chocolate brownies, made from locally produced chocolate). Shop and nosh, heartily.
Midday: Browse the many treasures at Te Papa
Discover the nation’s treasures at Te Papa. Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War is an unrelenting success story, and has been since the exhibition was first launched in 2015 to coincide with the centenary of the beginning of WWI. Another must-see is the natural gallery, Te Taiao Nature, where you can weigh in against a giant moa. (That did wonders for my post-brunch guilt about devouring so many fresh pastries.)
3pm: Let your imagination run wild at Weta
In the afternoon, make tracks to Weta Workshop in Miramar. Whether you’re a film aficionado, pop culture connoisseur, or just a curious observer, Weta Studio Tours offers irresistibly immersive film-making encounters. From Middle-earth to Tracy Island, you’ll get up close with the mesmerising miniatures, props, weapons, armour, creatures and vehicles – all artfully crafted by these Wellington special effects wizards.
6pm: Stage your own state banquet at Bellamy’s
Parliament’s legendary dining room, Bellamy’s, has been democratised. It’s now open to the wider public in a possible world first. Dine within the halls of power, rubbing shoulders with cabinet ministers and staffers. Under the command of Logan Brown, the culinary offering at Bellamy’s is supreme. Don’t miss the smoked brie croquettes. Book in advance.
10am: Pedal the coastal pathway
Head to Shed One at Queens Wharf and hire an e-bike from Switched on Bikes. Wellington is a city tailormade for electric-powered pedalling, so treat yourself to a tantalising ride around the bays on the new coastal pathway. Then zip up Mount Victoria for the prized skyline and harbour view.
Midday: Do a deli and distillery lunch combo
Head to the slinky little alleyway known as Lombard Street, and refuel on fabulous coffee and eats at NYC deli-style Pie & Pickle. Pop next door to Denzien, the nation’s first destination urban distillery, which produces craft gin on-site, and has scooped up many awards since opening in 2019. Chat with the distillers, learn about the botanicals, try a tasting flight or indulge in a cheeky cocktail.
2pm: Ride the iconic cable car and explore the Botanic Garden
Take a ride on Wellington’s emblematic Cable Car and New Zealand’s only running funicular railway. It’s been connecting Lambton Quay to Wellington Botanic Garden since 1902. En route, two tunnels have been tricked up with a trippy LED light show. Just five minutes away from the hustle of the CBD, the country’s oldest botanic gardens are a soulful oasis of calm and character.
5pm: Wine and dine somewhere new
Follow the fairy lights down the alleyway off Ghuznee Street to Husk, an all-in-one eatery, bar, brewery and coffee roaster. Husk is the home of decadently rich Karamu Coffee and quirky Choice Bros brews. After a pre-dinner drink, I then headed to another new head-turner, Highwater Eatery. Situated at the harbour end of Cuba Street, Highwater is a fiendishly popular inner-city eatery, where nearly everything is made inhouse and from scratch. A must-try star on the menu is the duck and prune hotdog with gentleman’s relish, crispy shallots and fermented cabbage powder. You’ll dream about it for days.
7pm: Go where the wild things are
Take a transfixing escape to the staggering sanctuary of Zealandia – the world’s first fully fenced urban ecosanctuary. Join a night tour where the main attraction is the chance to see foraging kiwi. Over 100 little spotted kiwi call the valley home, so your chances of a close encounter are good. You’ll definitely hear them calling out to their partners, along with the haunting call of the morepork (owl). The glow-worms spangling the hillsides turn on a light show to rival the Wellington Cable Car! Just ten minutes away from the CBD, this is a remarkably escapist world unto itself, by night and by day.
Need a place to stay?
Quality Hotel The Angus in Lower Hutt offers an idyllic alternative to staying in the busy heart of Wellington, and you’ll enjoy complimentary parking and Wi-Fi.
About the writer
As a writer, Mike Yardley mixes his life-long passions for travel and current affairs. Born and based in Christchurch, he is a travel editor and syndicated columnist for several newspapers nationally, and can be heard as a contributor on New Zealand’s number one radio station – Newstalk ZB.