Destination: Wellington New Zealand
Wellington has really come of age within the past decade…
Once upon a time it was a sleepy windswept capital with little to do or see and even less to draw the tourists in. Fast-forward to 2012 and Wellington is really showing off its tourism potential. Its café culture is similar in vibe to that of Melbourne but not only béret wielding arty types are being drawn to Wellington… there’s a little bit of something for everyone.
At the southern tip of the North Island of New Zealand, Wellington straddles Cook Straight which can basically be called a massive wind tunnel – naturally to blame for Wellington’s hair-ruining windy conditions. You will hate wind after your stay in Wellington but don’t let it put you off – when the sun is out and your walking along the foreshore it’s simply magic.
The CBD itself is fairly long and narrow, with the Interislander Ferry and Parliament at one end of town and the nightclubbing district of Courtney Place and Te Papa (the National Museum) at the other. To walk the distance from Parliament to Courtney Place your probably looking at 30 – 60 minutes, depending on the boutique and local shops you stop at on your way (which are mostly located around Lambton Quay and Willis St areas).
Accommodation in Wellington
Hotel wise, there aren’t a huge amount of trendy accommodation options in Wellington. The prices are fairly expensive at the top end of the market as there is simply a lack of competition. Hotels we’ve tried are as follows:
The Intercontinental. Pretty much smack bang in the middle of Wellington CBD and is great spot to base yourself if your keen on hitting the shops and boutiques. Costs can vary but are generally on the high side.
The Bolton Hotel. Great if you want to be up at the Parliament end of town though the walks to and from Courtney Place can be quite tiresome (especially after a few cocktails). Attracts a business crowd and prices reflect this demographic. We weren’t blown away by this property, but will definitely suit the suits and older generations.
Ohtel. OK, I lie. I haven’t tried this yet because whenever we go to Wellington we can never get a room! This must be a good thing though and reviews on TripAdviser are positive. I’ve spoken to guests who have stayed here previously and they speak highly of it. Ohtel has a funky vibe and is very close to the Courtney Place party district. Expensive, but worth it if you have the cash.
Copthorne Hotel, Oriental Parade. We were quite surprised by this hotel because it wasn’t hugely expensive and the view is to die for. If you can afford the $230 NZD price tag, go for the suite – it’s the best room and your on the top floors. Nice and close to the party district but far enough to avoid the trashy-trashy. Basic rooms look a bit… basic… and narrow.
On the restaurant front this is where Wellington excels. There are small café-restaurants everywhere the eye can see – you are spoilt for choice. At the top end we were particularly impressed by Logan Brown and the White House. At the middle end of the market there are so many restaurants to mention (so we won’t) – just find anything that serves New Zealand seafood and you will be right. Generally.
In terms of nightlife Wellington is getting better but it still isn’t world class. There is a distinct lack of gay clubs for our gay bois and gals (The Ivy was good and so was it’s smoking lounge downstairs: Terrace Bar, which by the way had the most awesome DJ on Friday nights). The high end classy venues you can expect to find in Sydney and other international cities are fairly hard to find. I didn’t find many high end bars and clubs except for perhaps Matterhorn, which was nice but not really my sort of place.
Terrace Bar, Courtney Place
The majority of nightlife sits around Courtney Place, though please note that the locals gets trashy early in the night and drunk bogan kiwis can be unglamorous after 20 beers…. especially at 10pm. There is no late night clubbing culture in Wellington, so forget the 8am day parties and nightclubs (though if anyone finds them, let me know!).
Further afield you have the Kapiti Coast and the Hutt Valley which are roughly 30 mins drive – though be advised that both don’t offer much to the wandering tourist. Wine-Mecca Martinborough is under 90 mins drive from Wellington if you want to get a nice Pinot Noir. If you can stomach the often choppy conditions of Cook Straight, Marlborough is a beautiful destination in it’s own right but is often a perfect day excursion for the time poor. Wellington is a fantastic spot to base yourself in if you want to explore the central parts of New Zealand.
So there you have it… Wellington is a nice spot that is certainly worth a visit.. If only for the restaurants, views and the opportunity to laugh at drunk kiwi bogan’s on Courtney place…. xx