Forget The Travel Guides, This Is How You Fall In Love With Wellington

My travel routine is simple. My days are spent exploring the streets and absorbing the culture. Its free yet worth a fortune. My evenings are spent amongst the restaurants, bars and the cities unique culinary experiences. I don’t tick off the ‘Ten Things To Do In X’ list; I create my own as I go. That’s how I find the hidden gems.

So 2017 started with a last minute, off the cuff trip to Wellington. A city I hadn’t explored, other than the odd fleeting visit. Its not that there was anything about Wellington that kept me from paying it a visit; its more that I preferred to save my money to travel afar, to the likes of Europe, America and Asia. I didn’t really have the desire to explore much of New Zealand at all, I’m embarrassed to say! Australia never got much love either, with my first trip to Melbourne and Sydney being in my late twenties. But as the new year loomed, I decided to make 2017 a year of new experiences. Whether big or small, I was going to make the most of my two-day weekends and four weeks holiday exploring the new, both far AND near, starting with the countries capitol, Wellington.

All this talk about the wind, and the cities constant ‘battle of egos’ with Auckland, I wanted to see for myself what it was about Wellington, that JAFFA’s had such an issue with. It was a place I thought I might enjoy, but not love. Oh how wrong was I! I fell head over heels, thanks to these guys …

 

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Havanna 

I’m usually stumped when people ask what my favourite food is…. I actually love it all. But if I to chose where I would rather park on a Saturday evening I would have to say it would be in front of table full of flavorsome tapas. So we did just that and Havana Bar solidified this choice without question.

Nestled amongst the cities backstreets, the twin fronts look straight out of Cuba and contrasted with the surrounding buildings, but I liked that. Inside was just as Cuban as the outside. The dining area was blush pink with pockets of Cuban art and furnishings while the bar area was dark mahogany wood, palm trees and dark red velvet. For $60 odd dollars we had a glass of wine, Haloumi with Sweet Red Pepper Relish and Rosemary Oil on grilled bread, Sautéed prawns in Kashmiri chilli and garlic, baby rocket and fresh herb salad with a lemon chardonnay dressing.

After dinner we sat in the bar and watched the two bartenders do their magic. Hands down the best Margarita I have ever had. If you love a good Margarita this is worth the flight down to Wellington, I can assure you!

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Hippopotamus

This should be a landmark in its own right! Hippopotamus lives inside the cities most luxurious boutique hotel, The Wellington Art Museum Hotel. The hotel was previously owned by Chris Parkin and recently bought by QT Hotels (which couldn’t be a more fitting alignment). Chris showcases his personal collection of pieces throughout the walls of the hotel, I highly recommend taking a look around first.

Hippopotamus is the epitome of a dining experience and had me breathless from the minute I stepped foot in the door. Located on the 4th floor it’s perfectly positioned to provide the most breath taking 180 views of the harbour. Despite the view on the outside, it was what was on the inside that had me feeling like I was somewhere intimate in the city of Paris. Dressed in bright pink velvets, sparkling chandeliers, gold trims and life-sized peacocks, I can confidently say I’ve never experienced anything like it.

This is what travelling is all about. Creating memories. The more unique an experience the more memorable it becomes. Hippopotamus has done just that, created a life long memory. We chose to take a seat in the Duchess chairs in the bar area and sip on a few of their signature cocktails and nibble on a cheese and desert platter. I recommend the Plata O Plomo!

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Hawthorn Lounge  

Hawthorn is clearly THE cocktail bar for the locals. With its hidden entrance and subtle street branding, I get the feeling the owners want to keep it this way. Dressed floor to ceiling in thick velvet curtains, the dimly lit, intimate bar reminded me of some of the late night underground bars in Manhattan.

What was meant to be a quiet cocktail before we took ourselves home, quickly became four thanks to the mixology skills of Jamie. Take a seat at the bar. Not only do you get to eavesdrop on the weird conversations and life stories of total strangers, but also you can watch Jamie at his finest, mixing you a unique cocktail specific to your tastes. This is my memory. He asked me what my favourite cocktail was, which I replied ‘anything with Tequila, sour not sweet’ and that I loved lemon. From this, three new cocktails were born. Three cocktails I wouldn’t be able to order anywhere else other than here. Maybe this is his way of keeping people mesmerised with not only Hawthorn’s but Wellington!

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Capital Market

This was one of the gems we discovered by accident. We were about to walk down a street we had already explored a few times, so we took a different route and walked right into the Capital Market, a collection of international street food that ticked off most regions of the world.

This was no ubiquitous run down food court styled experience. The area was brightly coloured, the stalls greeted you with smiling faces and the smells immediately took you to the bustling streets of Vietnam, Mexico or Japan. We had a Vietnamese Roll, a Chinese Crape, Japanese popcorn chicken and a beetroot and vege juice. This is an easy, cheap lunch or dinner option without sacrificing taste, quality or experience

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Emporium

One regret I had about this trip was the timing. It couldn’t have been worse. Off the back of Xmas and New Year there was little left over for my monthly clothes allowance. Maybe that was actually a good thing as I could easily have filled a wardrobe with items from Emporium. Flicking through the racks was like a walk down memory lane. The pale pink Reeboks, the Starter jackets and denim overalls, all items I had worn years ago yet still had so much love for.

This place would have queues down the street if in Auckland. Barney had me at ‘hello’ with his smiley eyes, banter and cute af outfits. The man behind the stores social accounts; he loves a good visit and is clearly in his element working here. Both Emporium and Barney are well worth a visit!

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Burgers with a sea breeze at TuaTua

We stumbled across a little burger joint TuaTua, nestled in the old boat sheds in Frank Kitts Park. Their ingredients are sourced locally so it only takes one bite of their $8 Beef Burger to appreciate how good fresh ingredients are! $8 for a pure Angus beef burger served on fresh focaccia with all the bits and bobs is already a steal, but to pair it with the most beautiful view of the Wellington Harbour, the salty sea breeze and bright blue skies, is a memory worth a lot more than a few dollars.

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City Gallery – Cindy Sherman Exhibition

The City gallery on its own is well worth a visit. Take a picnic or enjoy an ice cream outside on the bright green astro turf garden. We had been walking all day so quickly took the opportunity to lie down in the middle of the city and stare up at the blue skies. I must admit, the astro turf garden is a bit weird but to lie down on a squishy surface without getting my clothes damp was just what I needed! So no complaints here!

I had planned on seeing the Cindy Sherman Exhibition before we got there, it was something I was really looking forward to. Cindy Sherman is a well-known New York artist whose photography explores a range of stereotypes, my favourite being the socialites and fashion victims featuring in her collaborations with fashion houses Balenciaga and Chanel. The show is on until 19th March.

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Arborist

A cute garden inspired rooftop bar, perfect for an afternoon Sunday session. Take a Backgammon set or a pack of cards and spend the afternoon playing a few games with a frozen margarita in hand.

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Shepherd

If you are like me and place equal importance on the bustling atmosphere of a restaurant as you do the food, then look no further. Shepherd won me over before I even stepped foot inside, with its bright pink staircase and fluro sign. Its packed with locals and always busting so I would recommend booking a table. Or if you enjoy a bit of a live show, sit on the kitchen bar and watch the the chefs fine tune the art of plating (you can also watch all the dishes go out so you don’t get any post order food envy).

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Sweet Mothers Kitchen

South American done right! This little establishment has been in business for 15 years. You know it’s a winner when its still causing a line down the street 15 years later. Go for the fried chicken (comes with slaw and curly fries) and the Po Boy’s.

 

Walk the streets!

Walk around the harbour, past the cute boat sheds through to Oriental Bay. The houses are picturesque and when the winds not blowing its full force along the beach, is gorgeous. I also got lost walking up the back hills of the CBD near the cable car and quickly found out that there is no better way to see the city!

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Auckland, you need to get over it, spend the lousy $150 – $200 on a plane ticket and live a few days in the wind. As my Grandmother always said ‘It’ll blow the cobwebs away’. I’ll be back this year to create a few more memories to fold into the sequel to this post!

 

A Glimpse Of The City

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See you soon Welly!

xxx

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