A weekend in Wellington: what to see and do

“You can’t beat Wellington on a good day,” says bloody everyone from Wellington.

A weekend in Wellington

As it turns out, they’re not that far off the mark. New Zealand’s capital city is no Barcelona, Sydney or Rio de Janeiro, but we couldn’t fault the Wellington weather when we flew down there for a long weekend in early June.

Normally Wellington is notorious for some pretty wild weather (its Super Rugby team isn’t called the Hurricanes for nothing), but we had three gorgeous days. It was a wee bit chilly in the morning and evening, but otherwise the sun was shining with nary a cloud in the sky.

It was perfect weather for a weekend in Wellington.

What to do in Wellington (what we did, anyway)

A weekend in Wellington

Drink craft beer!

We flew to Wellington late Saturday afternoon, caught a bus from Wellington International Airport into the city (tickets were $9 each; just pay on the bus) and, after dropping off our bags at the Trinity Hotel, headed straight to the pub for some sustenance .

All long-time followers of this travel blog will know that I think one of the best things about travel is trying the local beer. Well, fortunately for me, Wellington bills itself as the “craft beer capital” of New Zealand.

Naturally, I tried more than my fair share of craft beer in Wellington. My favourite craft beers brewed in or near Wellington include:

  • Tuatara Pilsner, which I enjoyed at a delightful little wine and cocktail bar on Manners Street called Crumpet.
  • Tuatara Aotearoa Pale Ale; a brilliant craft beer that I had a pint of at Espressoholic, a funky cafe on Wellington’s Cuba Street.
  • Tuatara Hefe – yes, I love me some Tuatara! I paid just $7 for a bottle of this tasty wheat beer during happy hour at Fidel’s, near the top of Cuba Street in central Wellington.
  • Panhead American Pale Ale, which was probably my favourite Wellington craft beer. I had a bottle of this while I waited for a table at Sweet Mother’s Kitchen, which is a funky restaurant specialising in Cajun cuisine, 5 Courtenay Place.
  • Panhead Pale Ale, which is another really good beer that I tried while I waited for a table at Sweet Mother’s Kitchen (the place gets packed on a Saturday night).

A weekend in Wellington

Wellington markets and waterfront

Sunday was a fine day to spend along the water, so we set out on a long walk along the Wellington waterfront, where we knew there’d be some markets, including:

  • Wellington City Market – a weekly food and wine market undercover in the atrium at the Chaffers Dock Building, 1 Herd Street, on the Wellington waterfront. It’s open from 8.30am to 12.30pm.
  • Wellington Harbourside Market – Wellington’s oldest market, on every Sunday from 7.30am to 2pm, on the waterfront near Te Papa and Waitangi Park. The Harbourside Market has got a ton of awesome food stalls, as well as fruit, veg and coffee for sale.

Both markets have a ton of amazing food options, such as organic beef burgers, Thai and Mexican food, Chinese dumplings and even Hungarian chimney cakes.

As we made our way along the Wellington waterfront, we had to dodge out of the way of oncoming bikes, which you can hire from a stand near the Wellington City Market. You can hire normal bicycles or “quadricycles”, which fit up to four people and are considerably more expensive (starting from $25 for a half hour).

A weekend in Wellington

Oriental Bay

We didn’t stop walking until we got to Oriental Bay, Wellington’s answer to Mission Bay in Auckland, Barceloneta Beach in Barcelona or, um, the Streets Beach in Brisbane. That is to say, it’s the beach closest to the city – and can get pretty busy as a result.

This being winter in Wellington, this was not the case. However, we still saw some people swimming in Oriental Bay – the weather was nice, but I still think those swimmers were crazy.

Oriental Bay is only about 1.5km southeast of Wellington’s city centre. It’s a pleasant walk along the waterfront that’ll take you past all the markets listed above. However, we were disappointed there weren’t more cafes or restaurants when we got there.

The cafes and restaurants in Oriental Bay were either too busy or pretty shit, if you’ll pardon my frankness. You’re better off heading back to town or grabbing something at the Sunday markets on your way through.

Things to see and do in Wellington

Circa Theatre

After spending all night Saturday either eating or drinking, and all day Sunday in the sun, we decided it was time to get some culture. First, we got tickets to see a play at Wellington’s Circa Theatre, early Sunday evening.

To be perfectly honest with you, I hated the youth theatre double bill that we went to see at Circa Theatre (the less said about it, the better). Normally vouch for the quality of the theatre’s productions, though. We went to see a terrific play here called Fat Pig about five years ago.

You’ll find Circa Theatre at 1 Taranaki Street, on the Wellington waterfront. Tickets to Circa Theatre productions are usually relatively inexpensive. Some shows sell out fast, so buy your tickets online if you don’t want to miss out.

Te Papa

Finally, our last day in Wellington was spent shopping on Lambton Quay and on Cuba Street, before heading to Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, or “Te Papa” for short.

I love a good museum, especially ones that deal in natural history and society in general. For me, the highlights at Te Papa include:

  • The colossal squid exhibition. See a complete colossal squid on display in all its glory! I kept waiting for it to wake up and for its tentacles to start thrashing around.
  • Earthquake house. Need I say more? I probably do. It’s this little house that you can go inside and it shakes and rocks like a house would in an earthquake.
  • A collection of everyday, household items that illustrate each period in New Zealand’s history. I particularly liked the fact that it showed a number of action figures from my youth, in the 1980s part of the exhibit.
Things to see and do in Wellington
The colossal squid exhibit at Te Papa – yes, there’s a squid in there.

Te Papa is a large museum by New Zealand standards, but I don’t think it’s any larger than the Natural History Museum in London, say, and I’m sure it’s a lot smaller than the Louvre in Paris. Still, it’ll take you a couple of hours to walk around the entire museum.

Te Papa is free to enter; you will find the museum at 55 Cable Street, on the Wellington waterfront.

While you’re here, check out my top 5 travel regrets and the 30 best places to visit in Europe.

About Simon Petersen 309 Articles
Travel blogger, journalist, sports and movie fiend. Chronicling the life and times of a Kiwi at home and abroad.

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