Otari Wilton's Bush Walk, Coffee at Fidel's, Fergs Kayak Outing, Wellington, NZ, 10 Do's and Don'ts

After 10 Do's, No Don'ts of Burlington Vermont (December 29, 2013), this first installment of 10 Do's and Don'ts for 2014 takes us a world away.

It's a family thing as it was written by my cousine, Francoise, who is a passionate photographer, a passion she indulges in when her job as a librarian allows...She lives in Wellington.


Wellington, the southernmost capital in the world.

The little capital (150,000 people) hugs the rocky southern tip of New Zealand’s North Island, looking directly out towards Antartica and faces its fierce southerly winds.

Dotted with old wooden villas and cottages dating back from its colonial past, it’s a handsome city with amazing views from the many steep hills it is built on.

The Cook Straight, gateway to the South Island at its doorstep adds to the city’s wild backdrop of evergreen native bush.


(The city from the Brooklyn hills)


-Spend time at Oriental Bay Beach on a sunny southerly day and eat Eis cream: The “inner city’s” beach you can walk to from anywhere downtown in less than 20mn is the southern hemisphere’s miniature answer to the Riviera. Sheltered from the southerlies thanks to Mount Victoria, it is a glorious heaven when the south coast is beaten by the harsh wind from Antartica. In summer it is just an amazing place to stroll along, from which you can admire the city against the hilly backdrop. Kaffee Eis is a diminutive establishment that can serve you one of the excellent coffees you can drink throughout the city or a delicious gelato style ice-cream you can go and lazyly savour along the beach’s promenade.


(Oriental Bay Beach On Christmas Day 2013)

- Maranui Cafe: This is the centre point of Lyall Bay beach, the south coast Surf & Dog beach where we walk our dog Manu regularly. Set in the old Surf Life Saving Club building, right on the beach, the café was rebuilt a couple of years ago, from a devastating fire that had the café closed for almost a year.

-Cafés in town: According to Lonely Planet’s 2011 Best in Travel book, "Wellington is the country’s most innovative and inspiring city; it might just be the best little capital in the world and it is crammed with more bars, cafes and restaurants per capita than New York’’. So where to start? There is of course Fidel’s, at the top of bohemian Cuba street and the fittingly named and themed after the Cuban revolution (unlike the street which gets its name from an early settler ship, the Cuba). The atmosphere is relaxed, the food and coffee good and the eclectic crowd always there. Among my other favourites are, Olive for its hidden walled garden, also on Cuba street.

Olive walled garden

(Olive walled garden)

A little further down, The Hangar on Dixon street where you savour fair trade coffee among bean sacks and the delicious scent of coffee roasting by your side. And finally, the recently open Prefab for its busy sleek and minimalist interior and its wholesome food.

In the suburb of Newtown, another great coffee stop has to be People’s Coffee where members of the local Somali and Ethiopian community have found a little taste of home and gather daily outside the shop when the weather allows. Seriously good and ethical brew in a cool little store!

Ekim burgers

Going back to the south coast and Lyall Bay’s Surf beach, whether you have braved the cold southern waters for a surf or just had a stroll on the beach and feel like hearty food, head to the Ekim burgers caravan for some of the best burgers I’ve had.

-Fresh local oysters: Welllington’s ocean outlook and shipping heritage make it the perfect venue for savouring the best oysters the country produces. Visit the new Charley Noble and order a platter of freshly shucked ahurangi and Stewart Island oysters and savour with a local white wine or beer.

Have a drink and a bite at The Black Sparrow Lounge and Drinkery, the Embassy cinema’s ( the only custom-built 1920's cinema still in use in New Zealand) old orchestra pit lounge. A stylish addition to the historic building fit for a sophisticated yet relaxed moment, before or after a film.

Go for a run or a ride round the bays, starting in town and going all around the Miramar peninsula where you will discover a string of little coves and beaches nestled around the rocky and hilly landscape.


(South coast)

-Whatever the weather, the view is worth the effort. And you’ll always find a sheltered spot from the prevailing Wellington winds where you may want to venture for a swim or a dive (delicious seafood abound on these shores – mussels, crayfish, kina (sea urchins), paua (abalone)). If you are a fan of Peter Jackson’s films, you can wrap up the excursion with a visit to his lair, the Weta cave situated at the centre of the peninsula.


-Walk around the city and enjoy the amazing views from the many hills that form the landscape: the most central is Mount Victoria, which you can start climbing from downtown. It is a very pleasant, if exerting walk up through the bush or round the pretty Roseneath streets overlooking the harbour. Go for a hike in Otari Wilton’s Bush, the only public botanic garden in New Zealand dedicated solely to native plants. The Garden is a unique plant sanctuary and forest reserve and includes 100ha of native forest and 5ha of plant collections. Some of Wellington's oldest trees are here, including an 800-year-old rimu. And all that 15mn’s ride from the city centre!


-Back downtown, on a rainy day, visit the Central Library and the City Gallery, both on the Civic Square, a stone throw away from the waterfront which you can always escape to once the sun is back (often within hours).

The Central Library is a large 3 level building that also houses Clarke’s café. Perfect for a quiet read through the enormous and up-to-date collection of books and magazines on all subjects or a cosy corner with a view to catch up on your email. The City Gallery is a small but significant art institution in New Zealand. Located in former Wellington Public Library, transformed into elegant gallery spaces in 1993 by local architects Architecture+. Since then, it has achieved a reputation for innovation and style. Its permanent collections and national and international exhibitions are always worth a visit.


(Central Library)

And once the sun is truly back and you are graced with calm water, kayaking in the harbour thanks to Fergs Kayaks is one of the greatest ways to see the city from the water.


Don't forget to check the weather forecast.

Stay away from Courtenay Place at the weekend (but do eat at Kazu Yakitori & Sake Bar, Sweet Mother’s Kitchen, have a drink at The Library)

Don't come in June.

Don't fly, ferry cross in a storm (if you have the choice)

Don't forget sunscreen, raingear & merino layers

Last, don't think about earthquakes…

Merci, Francoise

(* All photos by Francoise except Ekim burgers and Weta Cave from their respective Facebook pages)

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