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24 hours in the world’s coolest little capital

On our trip home to New Zealand in late February this year, we  managed to sneak in a whirlwind 24 hours in our adopted home city of Wellington. We’ve both written about this wonderful city before (here and here), but today I thought I would show you some of what we did on our short visit. Being back for such a lighting-fast time (it couldn’t be helped; commitments of the exceptionally-exciting-and-wedding-related-kind kept us in Auckland!), we tried to jam in as many of our favourite things that the city has to offer. This was always going to be hard; for a small city, this is a place that sure does over-deliver on fantastic things (Art! Nature! Culture! Cuisine! Sport! Friendly locals!), but I think we did pretty well (more time would, of course, be optimal!). The day we arrived, low hanging clouds and mist loomed over the harbour, creating a beautifully eerie and mystical sight.

By early next morning though, late summer Wellington greeted us at its exceptional best, and a walk around that glistening, clear turquoise harbour reminded us again of why we love the city so much. On days like that, the ferocity of 100km per hour winds (yes, really!) certainly seem worth enduring so many other days of the year. Surely this is one of the world’s best harbour front walks?

The cotton-candy clouds topped it off…

As did a delectably delicious ice cream from possibly the best and friendliest gelateria on earth (big call I know, but it totally matches up to gelato found in Roma and other such places!):

Something else we love about Wellington is the concentration of incredible eateries peppered throughout the central city; whatever cuisine you feel like, and however much or little you are willing to pay, a meal or snack to fit your desires can pretty much always be found. Happily, we discovered that one of our favourite noodle joints had opened up a new branch which we happened upon, so that was us sorted for lunch! We liked their new, stripped back zen-like interior (and the noodles were still incredible, we found with relief! After 18 months away, I guess some things don’t change!):

A trip back to Wellington wouldn’t have been complete for us without stepping into one of our absolute favourite places anywhere, Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand’s national museum. We are huge fans of its innovative and consistently excellent special exhibitions (and the permanent ones too), the building itself (striking both inside and out), the resident colossal squid, incredible collection of New Zealand art – Toi Te Papa (we only wish more of the collection was on display more of the time) the unique, rooftop sculpture terrace (although this has recently stopped being an exhibition space, my to my sadness) among many other hidden gems waiting to be found. I am sure we will write more about the wonders of Te Papa in the future, but for now, here’s an interior shot taken looking down from the fourth floor to a circular light work by New Zealand artists Ralph Hotere and Bill Culbert:

Elsewhere, uphill, the botanic gardens were looking terrifically vibrant:

Another great thing about Wellington that we were reminded of on this visit is its kinetic, dynamic nature as a city space. There’s always something new and exciting happening, perpetuating a sense of interest and excitement. It is the kind of city that just makes you want to be there. Two of the coolest things we discovered this time around are pictured below. The first is the new marae-inspired building, Te Wharewaka o Poneke. The building is home to two ceremonial waka, and is a fantastic fusion of traditional maori architecture and contemporary influences. It makes a striking addition to the waterfront area:

My favourite thing to come across though was the very cool pop-up community garden in the already awesome space of the civic square (what’s not to like about a public space encompassing the art gallery, central library, amazing sculptures (Neil Dawson rocks!), grassy spots to lie on, hidden corners to get lost in and plenty of seating?!). But anyway, pop-up community gardens: what a great idea! From what I could see, various edible plants were growing in moveable wooden structures, with the idea being that when they are ready, anyone can pick them for their own use. A great concept I think, and one that the city council should be encouraged on. It got me thinking more about how we produce and consume food, and that we need more community initiatives like this one!

Seeing this was a nice reminder of the strong sense of community existing in this city, and that this is one of the many things that makes Wellington such an oustanding place to be.


Photos taken by PJD and CIA in Wellington, February 2011. The title of this post is riffing off the city’s status as dubbed by Lonely Planet, who in 2011 also wrote that Wellington was “cool with a capital C”.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. What a lovely tour! Thank you!

    June 7, 2012
    • Thanks Margarita! Glad that you enjoyed this little tour. It’s nice to be able to share a slice of this city that we love. Have you visited Wellington, or New Zealand before?

      June 8, 2012
      • No, I have not. New Zealand is one of the places on the planet that I’d love to explore and have a little time in. As a student of hula, I’ve been exposed to other Pacific Islander cultures – including the Maori – and I enjoy seeing how many ways we humans have to express a single concept! 🙂

        June 8, 2012
      • Well I do hope you get to experience NZ one day! It really is a special part of the planet (and even though I am biased being from there, I think I am well backed up by the same sentiment coming from many who have visited from afar!).

        It’s interesting to hear you are a student of the hula! Yes there are many similarities (and differences too, of course!) between the pacific cultures, and it is so fascinating to learn about them. So you are familiar with our Maori “war dance”, the haka, as made famous by the All Blacks then?!

        Are you currently based in NYC? I am enjoying the pictures and thoughts on your blog, especially the photo of the suspended spring rolls! Where was that taken? A novel way to display for sure!

        June 8, 2012
      • Yes, there are differences among the Pacific cultures. However, I find the similarities comforting and the differences simply a refinement of the individual expressions…all wonderful! Yes, I’ve seen the haka performed, and other traditional dances as well…although I don’t remember which. What I do remember is a feeling of fierceness and tenderness, very multi-layered and nuanced.

        I do live in NYC, and have been here for over three decades, and, as the photos attest, I love it here. The picture of the spring rolls was taken at a recent event hosted by Hawai’ian Airlines, and put together by Hawai’ian Chef Chai. They were as delicious as the presentation was inventive! Hawai’ian Air is inaugurating its direct service from JFK-HNL this week, so we are definitely basking in the Aloha spirit! 🙂

        June 8, 2012
      • Thanks for the info! NYC and Hawaii what a great combo!

        I like your interpretation of the Pacific arts, indeed, multilayered and nuanced is a good way to describe them, I think.

        June 14, 2012
  2. Emma Semple #

    I’m a NZer, but have only been to Welly once, to visit the Pompeii exhibition at Te Papa. I would LOVE to go back there, but unfortunately, we just don’t have the time! It’s such a brilliant place.

    June 7, 2012
  3. Hi Emma,

    Cool to hear from another Kiwi! Do you live in NZ still, whereabouts? The Pompeii exhibition was superb wasn’t it?! Glad to hear you like Welli too, I hope that in the future you find the time to get back there, there is so much to discover! I’m sure it would be a fun place to take your daughter when she is older and you can have fun exploring together!

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting, hope you will keep enjoying!

    June 8, 2012
  4. If you ever make it to North Stradbroke Island, QLD, try the Gelato at Point Lookout – possibly the best view in the world whilst eating your icecream and you may spot a passing whale or two 🙂

    June 9, 2012
    • Thanks for the tip! Sounds like a great spot – and I love the sound of whale spotting while gelato eating 🙂

      June 14, 2012

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