A Local’s City Guide to Wellington

Welcome to the 6th instalment of my city guide series, in which I am inviting travel-savvy women to share local knowledge about their home city. This Local’s City Guide to Wellington has been written exclusively for The Travelista by Emma from Adventures of a London Kiwi. Emma is a fellow travel blogger and Expat Kiwi now living in London. Although she now calls London home, Emma knows her home city of Wellington inside out and so I thought she would be the perfect person to write this guide. If you’re planning a trip to Wellington or just fancy some New Zealand inspiration, read on and jump two feet first into this diverse and thriving city.

A Local’s City Guide to Wellington
An Introduction to Wellington

Capping off the bottom of the North Island, and overlooking the Cook Strait towards the hills and valleys of the South Island, Wellington is a compact New Zealand city. It has the highest ratio of cafes per person in the world, and a gourmet food scene that punches well above the weight of most cities that size.

Only an hour’s flight from Auckland (New Zealand’s biggest city) or Queenstown (the adventure capital of the world), Wellington is our national capital, and a major hub for people travelling to and from the glorious landscape of the South Island.

Wellington is also my spiritual heart (I fell in love whilst at university there) and every time I visit it always feels like home. Each time I find myself walking back down Wellington streets, my mind overlays so many memories that are indelibly etched on my heart that I fell like I’ve never left. I lived there whilst studying an architecture degree and whenever I’m in New Zealand I always make sure to spend a few days there – not to mention visiting my family there who take me to all of the best new restaurants and bars.

I do have a little disclaimer to sneak in – the weather in ‘Wellywood’ can be extremely windy and living there you soon learn to walk sideways, but with fantastic vibes, a bohemian underbelly and really friendly atmosphere, it is well worth a visit. And on a sunny day? It is utterly unbeatable!

A Local’s City Guide to Wellington
8 Things To Do In Wellington

1. Ride the cable car up to the Botanical gardens and nibble a picnic.

Once you’re up there overlooking the harbour, I’d also recommend stargazing and check out the amazing planetarium show at Carter Observatory. There are exhibitions that explain the significance of Matariki and the role of the star cluster for the Māori New Year, and the importance of the stars in Polynesian and Māori navigation.

2. Take in a Parliament tour at the Beehive. 

Nicknamed for the unique architecture, I’m rather proud that Wellington has the seat of government where women were first granted the vote. It is also infamous for having a tractor driven up the steps in protest of a methane tax because, New Zealand is special like that. I am also pleased to confirm that our sheep to person population ratio that we are internationally teased about has decreased from 22:1 to less than 6:1.

3. Visit Weta Workshop.

For a look at the inner workings of the Hollywood version of Middle Earth, you can go behind the scenes of the Weta Cave in Miramar; the multi-award winning special effects workshop set up for filming Lord of the Rings.

4. Explore Te Papa Museum.

Te Papa is New Zealand’s national museum and gallery. You can explore the great treasures and stories of my home country – the unique natural environment, Māori culture, art heritage and fascinating history. There are always innovative and interactive exhibitions both changing and permanent. I always lose hours here.

5. Enjoy the bohemian vibe of Cuba Street.

Many of the more quirky Wellington shops and characters inhabit Cuba Street – I have vivid memories of juggling fireballs here as a student. One of my favourite features is the bucket fountain and you get bonus visitor points if the university students have poured dishwashing liquid to ‘bubble’ it which they do fairly often.

6. Catch a local festival.

Wellingtonians love their culture and food, and two of the best festivals are: Welly On A Plate, in August – a region-wide culinary takeover of the restaurants and food establishments and in late September ‘The World of WearableArt’, known as WOW, is a renowned international design competition that attracts hundreds of entries from all over the world.

7. Sit on the wharves and people watch.

Honestly, it’s one of my favourite things to do, coffee in hand. Simple things huh?

8. Hike up the steep lanes of Wellington Zoo.

Not only do the animals have amazing views over the valley, there is a great kiwi exhibition and they have several unique animal experiences. Many of the animal enclosures are interactive and fascinating. There are some incredible picnic spot views.

A Local’s City Guide to Wellington
Top 5 Restaurants

1. Logan Brown
192 Cuba St, Te Aro, Wellington 6141

This 5* star restaurant in the heart of the city is beautiful and serves up delectable cuisine. Housed in an old bank, the staff provide an attentive service without being intrusive or pretentious.

2. Ortega Fish Shack
16 Majoribanks St, Mount Victoria, Wellington 6011

The food is delicious, and unsurprisingly the menu is fish focused with umami sauces, fresh vegetable sides and delicious duck fat potatoes. The setting is weird, wonderful, and full of character.

3. Satay Kingdom
212 Cuba St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011

Tucked down a tiny alley, Satay Kingdom is a little rough around the edges, but their Roti Chanai is simply out of this world. It is impossible to get a weekday lunch there if you don’t rock up super early or super late, and weekend brunch hours can be even worse.

4. Boulcott Street Bistro
99 Boulcott St, Wellington, 6011

A local’s gem of a converted house, this is one of my favourite spots to go with friends. They don’t take reservations, but it’s worth the walk up the hill for their desserts alone.

5. Whitebait – Clyde Quay Wharf
G04/1 Clyde Quay Wharf, Te Aro, Wellington 6001

For fresh seafood, it’s hard to beat Whitebait. I love the scallops, the clams and the really interesting interior design features playing homage to the harbour.

A Local’s City Guide to Wellington

Top 5 Bars 

1. The Library – Courtenay Place
53 Courtenay Pl, Te Aro, Wellington 6011

One for literary buffs and cocktail connoisseurs alike, the drinks menu extends to almost 20 pages and every single one that we’ve tried over time has been exquisite.

2. Foxglove
33 Queens Wharf, Wellington, 6011

Serving an intriguing choice of original cocktails based in traditional cocktail making with a twist that reflects New Zealand’s culture and agriculture, and hidden behind the secret door of an oak wardrobe, Foxtail is another a personal favourite.

3. Vinyl Bar – Courtenay Place
66 Courtenay Pl, Te Aro, Wellington 6011

Everywhere you look in the Vinyl Bar, an ever-growing collection of vinyl records – already exceeding ten thousand – crowds the walls. It’s somewhere to enjoy the music, wind down and enjoy some great tunes and a couple of pints.

4. Motel Bar
Forresters Ln, Te Aro, Wellington 6011

This is where you can get tropical twists on brilliant traditional Polynesian cocktails and an interior bursting with beautiful Tikis.

5. Good Luck
Basement, 126 Cuba St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011

Good Luck is a low lit, mellow lounge focusing on crafted cocktails & a late-night menu of Asian light bites.

A Local’s City Guide to Wellington
Top 5 Breakfast and Brunch Spots

1. Fidels Cafe – Cuba Street
234 Cuba St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011

Somewhere I went to at every possible opportunity as a student, when I’m in Wellington I always plan to visit Fidels – if just for their ridiculously delicious iced coffees, served with a mountain of whipped cream and a chocolate marshmallow fish (a kiwi favourite).

2. Ti Kouka Cafe – Willis Street
76 Willis St, Wellington, 6011,

Don’t be put off by the somewhat random entrance, Ti Kouka has some of the best brunch dishes I’ve ever tried. They are so good, I went back twice in a single day…

3. Maranui Surf Lifesaving Cafe
7A Lyall Parade, Lyall Bay, Wellington 6022

This is such a popular spot – and for good reason. The food is delectable, the view over the ocean is brilliant and the thick shakes are especially good!

4. Hanger
119 Dixon St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011

For food & coffee, Hanger almost can’t be beaten. It is a relaxed cafe serving house-brewed coffee, sandwiches & light eats in a trendy space.

5. Floriditas
161 Cuba St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011

Floriditas, oh Floriditas. Simple, straight forward and excellent is their mantra – and they pull it off according to the weekend queues out the door.

A Local’s City Guide to Wellington

Top 5 Instagram-worthy spots 

1. Petone

Not only is the train ride stunning as you skim the sea, Petone is becoming a real foodie hub with fantastic cafes and restaurants. We popped into Comes & Goes for an exquisite array of brunch dishes that are utterly stunning – in fact almost too pretty to eat!

2. Mount Victoria

Providing some of the best views of Wellington City and harbour, visiting Mount Victoria lookout is definitely a must-do if you are planning to visit Wellington. With panoramic views from Cook Strait, through central Wellington, up Hutt Valley, over the harbour, then back to the southern suburbs, it’s a winner. The flock of Tui (a native bird) that have taken up home  there are an added bonus.

3. Wellington Botanic Gardens

On clear days, you can see the Rimutaka Ranges in the northeast, which may just be snow-capped after a good amount of snow has fallen higher up in the hills – usually in winter or early spring.

4. Matiu/Somes Island

Take the East by West ferry to Matiu/Somes Island to check out the view from the southern lookout. Its position in the centre of the harbour makes it the perfect spot for a bit of boat watching.

5. Wellington Airport

If you fly in or out of Wellington Airport, the views overlooking the bay are just incredible (and I always love the ‘WellyWood’ signs in the hills that pay homage to Peter Jackson and his Lord of the Rings movies.)

About The Author

Emma is a wanderlustig Kiwi who moved to the UK for a couple of years, and a decade later she finds herself still there with no plans to return home (except for holidays to see her family).  Adventures as a London Kiwi is her travel and food blog charting all of the escapades that she can fit in with a side of uniqueness. Emma has always wanted to live life to the full, explore as many corners of the globe as possible, nibble as many different delectations, experience history and seek out the special things in life.

Be sure to check out Adventures of a London Kiwi and follow Emma on social on Twitter and Instagram
What did you think of Emma’s Local City Guide to Wellington? If you enjoyed this post or would like to contribute to my ‘Local’s Guide to’ series, please leave me a comment in the box below. Jess x 

Jessica Ruth Gibson is the Founder and Editor of Travelista and an award-winning travel content creator of 10 years. She lives in York, UK with her son and has travelled to over 50 countries; her favourites being Italy, Canada and Vietnam.


  • Nice! If you want to capture your Wellington Tour moments with you, do meet me. I am doing photography here in Lower Hutt, Wellington.

  • I loved Te Papa, the exhibit on WW1 made me in tears and OMG the coffee in Wellington is Amazing! I recently went to NZ for the third time for work and absolutely loved every minute of it! Happy to contribute to your local guide series. My closest city is NYC.

    • Thanks for your comment Shannon! The coffee definitely sounds like reason enough to visit Wellington! My sister lived there for a year and loved it also x

  • Mine too Angie! I think the scenery looks incredible and Wellington sounds perfect for some time in a buzzy little city x

  • This couldn’t have come at a better time as I’m off to Wellington tomorrow. A lot of these things were on my list but it’s always good to get some additional recommendations.

    • Oh Nicola I am so pleased to read this! I hope you have the most amazing time in Wellington. Let me know what you do off this guide. Look forward to following your adventure! 🙂

  • It’s totally on my list to go to New Zealand! Fortunately I know who to go to for advice 😉

    • Mine too Angie! I think the scenery looks incredible and Wellington sounds perfect for some time in a buzzy little city x

  • YAY you’re sort of back! I would love to follow this for South Africa,


    • Thanks for your comment Jet! Yes I am back! Sorry for the dip in posts recently. I’ve got lots of exciting New York posts planned so watch this space 🙂

      • Ah sorry my corrective text really screwed me over there – I re-read my comment and thought ‘wait…what?!’ I meant to say – I would love to do a guest post for South Africa xx

        • Ohh I understand now! Not to worry. Wow that would be amazing if you could contribute for South Africa! Which city would it be? Can you tell me your email address and I can send more info? Or you can send me an email directly my address is jessicagibson@live.co.uk x

  • LOVE this series you run lovely – such a nice way to feature other bloggers too! I’ve never been to NZ but would absolutely love to visit in the next year or two – I’ll be sure to head back to this page when I visit love!

    Hayley xo

    • Ahh this is such nice feedback, thank you Hayley! I love featuring other bloggers and building a little community here. I’ve never been to NZ either so this was a great chance to feature it on my blog. My sister actually lived in Wellington for a year and loved it. I’d love to go there xx

Leave a comment

Travelista is an online publication and community for the adventurous modern woman covering travel, style, family, home, career and wellbeing.