21 January 2013 by Alex Stewart
It'll take a lot more than 24hrs to discover and enjoy everything that New Zealand's exciting capital has to offer. Steeped in history, surrounded by natural wonders, full of good taste and buzzing by association with the films of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, the city is a fashionable, energetic hub.
Nicknamed 'Wellywood' in reference to the bustling film and media scene that has sprung up in the wake of the films of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Wellington also changed its name to the 'Middle of Middle Earth' in order to further take advantage of the association and celebrate the launch of the latter film. It's just as well-known though for its café and food scene, great restaurants, stunning museums and superb outdoor spaces.
Peppers Parehua Martinborough
This tranquil retreat is surrounded by five acres of stunning rural grounds, overlooking the Tararua Ranges, close to central Martinborough. Its private cottages and villas offer designer furnishings and New Zealand art. The central Pavilion has a fireplace and board games for lazy afternoons and bikes can be rented to explore the local vineyards.
This elegant apartment-style hotel has 48 studios and 94 one- or two-bedroom suites, each well-appointed and contemporary in design. The suites come with a separate lounge area, fully equipped kitchen, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer. The hotel also has a gym, a pool and an award-winning restaurant.
All of the Amora's well-appointed and spacious rooms have city or harbour views. The hotel has a gym and the restaurant serves up an award-winning mix of contemporary homegrown and international cuisine. It's centrally located, opposite the Te Papa museum too, making it an ideal base for exploring.
A Wellington institution, this popular spot at the heart of the city's shopping and business districts, serves great scrambled eggs, pikelets and freshly roasted coffee, making it an ideal breakfast or brunch destination. Settle on the outside seats or enjoy the vintage interior and spend time people-watching whilst munching your way through familiar fare prepared with flare.
The White House
Spoil yourself at one of Wellington's most recognised and consistently award-winning restaurants. Boasting unparalleled views of the harbour, the place has a reputation for delicious food and fine wines. The seafood in particular is felt to be amongst the finest and freshest in New Zealand, which is some claim in a country that does seafood so well.
Set in an old bank, this fine-dining establishment is lit by a giant candelabrum. Food is surprisingly simple, with the top-notch ingredients speaking for themselves. Local lamb is a case in point although the puddings are equally divine. All in all, it's a great showcase for the country's culinary tradition.
'Curiouser and curiouser!' This lively spot borrows liberally from Alice in Wonderland. Follow the neon white rabbit into wonderland; try a selection of cocktails taken from the Lewis Carrol classic and prepare for a touch of madness. Drinks are served from teapots and sipped out of china cups, adding to the eccentricity of the place.
Good Luck Bar
This dark and moody basement is a sultry space in which to descend. Below ground the fashionable clientele enjoy Cambodian cuisine and fusion cocktails. The design harks back to the Orient although the music is a hip mix of jazz, house and laidback beats.
This compact 1930s-style gentlemen's club bar knocks up excellent cocktails, with the emphasis on the unusual and the historic; the superior, old school drinks match the classic atmosphere, with patrons perched at the heavy wooden bar or sunk into an old Chesterfield sofa.
This long-established haunt originally existed as a coffee house and remnants of the original stule remain. Wood floors and spacious rooms give way to a courtyard full of plants and trees that's perfect on a warm summer evening, when professionals and bohemians mingle to taste the cocktails and inventive cuisine put together here.
Movie Memorabilia, Weta Cave, Wellington. Credit: Weta Workshops
New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa, which roughly translates as Our Place, is highly impressive. Drop in for a spectacular journey through history, culture science and art. Displays are interactive and hi-tech and it's all free. Just make sure to leave enough time to see it all.
This vibrant street is the hippest part of Wellington. Wander down the street, dipping into the intriguing shops, clothing stores, boutiques, bookshops and bars that line it. Enjoy the atmosphere and cosmopolitan mix of people here then refresh yourself with a glass of locally sourced wine or some of the city's best coffee before you go out for round two.
The Weta Workshop, named after a strange, prehistoric cricket, makes film fantasy a reality. An award-winning special effects and prop company, it has picked up several visual effects Oscars, including for its work on The Lord of the Rings. Visit to see what goes on behind the scenes and get a feel for the work that goes into creating characters such as Golum. They also have a treasure trove of props, accessories, armour and costumes for film fans to delight in.
Cable Car to Botanical Gardens
Double up on two of Wellington's top sites by riding the cable car from Lambton Quay high above the harbour and city to the beautiful Botanical Gardens. The birds eye view on the way up is wonderful, whilst the 25ha of protected land at the top are packed with indigenous flora that demands to be discovered along the quiet walking trails.
Wellington is home to the world's first enclosed urban wildlife sanctuary, which contains some of the country's most endangered animals. The centre, an eco-restoration project and education centre, strives to establish an environment that predates human influence. The facility presents 80 million years of natural history with engaging interactive features, guided tours and feeding talks, as well as the chance to see species such as tuatara, hihi and kiwi in their natural environment. For a different perspective, take a guided night-time tour of the area.
Martinborough, just outside Wellington, hosts New Zealand's premier food and wine festival. Toast, on the third Sunday of November sees 10,000 people descend on a mass of stalls and stands run by the region's wineries and best bars and restaurants. Join the through, sample the regional produce and enjoy a whole range of entertainment.