Wellington Part 2- The Foodie Tour

In my previous post, I mentioned that there was a lot more to come about Wellington and here we are. So last time I talked about some of my favourite Things To Do and Walking Tours. This post is about some of my favourite Foodie Places.

1. The Enigma Cafe

Enigma is a late night cafe on Courtenay Place. It is one of my favourite places in Wellington and I have spent many a good evening there catching up with friends. The main attraction of the cafe is, of course, it’s late opening hours, providing an alternative place to go. The other attraction is their cakes. If you ever should visit make sure you try their cakes. They have a great selection of home-made cakes, such as their Bailey’s Cheesecake or any cake involving boysenberry. Boysenberry is a New Zealand hybrid fruit made of the European Raspberry, Blackberry, the American dewberry and the Loganberry. The cafe also serves alcohol, which is included in some of their cakes. When ordering a cake or really any dessert in New Zealand you get the option of yoghurt or cream.

The cafe is decorated with graffiti art, as well as local music and arts events posters. You can also find leaflets on the local events in Wellington or simply ask the staff. The staff are very helpful and knowledgeable about the Wellington Arts scene. The cafe is generally bustling with people no matter what time of day you visit. There is also a smoking area outside.

Enigma Cafe

2. Electric Avenue (now called Danger Danger)

Right next door to Enigma Cafe is the famous, or infamous, Electric Avenue. If you have ever had a night out in Wellington, then you have probably ended up here before the night was over. It is a backpacker friendly bar, with cheap prices and the latest chart hits. Generally speaking after midnight you will find that most of the native Kiwi’s will have left and so you will be surrounded by your fellow backpackers. The drinks on offer are classic Kiwi favourites, including the Sauvignon Blanc that New Zealand is famous for as well as your more standard beers and ciders. Electric Ave has, however, been closed down and is now under the name of Danger Danger. The setup is still the same, except now they have extended their food menu to include Wood Fire Pizzas. I haven’t tried these myself, but they definitely look interesting.

I have had many a good night here when it was Electric Avenue, and if you are a cider drinker, like myself, do try the Wild Side, which is a Kiwi produced brand. Or for the beer drinkers out there, try the Tui or Mac’s beers, both of which can often be found on tap. The music in Electric Ave will change from the Chart Hits to some 80’s or 90’s music. One thing I found about New Zealand is the radio stations do play a lot of 80’s music, so be prepared to sing the night away to the likes of Rick Springfield’s Jessie’s Girl and Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want To Have Fun. From the reviews I have seen, Danger Danger still seems to have the same vibe as Electric Avenue did, it is just under a different name, so definitely check it out.

3. Tank

Moving from one drinking establishment to another.. Tank. Tank is a chain of juice and smoothly bars, which sells some really delicious and healthy fruit shakes, wraps and salads. All of the shops have a large menu of juices and smoothies, which detail the ingredients and whether they are vegan and/or vegetarian friendly. The drinks cost around $9-$11 each and come in a choice of Half Tank or Full Tank. The brand is a stand-out orange colour, so it is easy to spot. You can find a Tank in most towns and cities, such as Auckland, Wellington, Nelson and Christchurch, to name a few. There are 50 stores in total across New Zealand.

My favourite drinks are on the Tank menu are either the Berry Hipster or the All Berry Tank. Both are filled with beautiful berries, as the names suggest, including strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. There is also a great range of illness-fighting shakes, including the Tank Healer and the Xtreme C. Of course, you don’t just have to stick to the menu, as you can customise your shake by adding extra shots, such as the immunity shot (found in the Tank Healer). There is a great selection of drinks and snacks on offer and they are made fresh right in front of you. It is definitely worth a visit after a long night out at Electric Avenue.

Tank Juice Bar

4. Burger Fuel

New Zealand has a lot of great food options, one of which is Burger Fuel. If you talk to anyone in New Zealand about food, you will probably be advised to go visit a Burger Fuel. Mainly on the North Island, the stores are in most towns. The burgers are decently priced and you can choose from a good range of options, including beef, chicken and vegetarian burgers. My favourite burgers are the Bacon Backfire (which is chicken based) and the C N Cheese (beef based).

Burger Fuel is an iconic brand in New Zealand and Australia, which is beginning to branch out into other countries. I’m hoping it will come to the UK some day soon. The burgers are extremely tasty and are more than enough to fill you. Other things to try at Burger Fuel are the Kumara Fries (New Zealand’s native sweet potato made into chips) and Aioli (another New Zealand favourite, of garlic and mayonnaise). The burgers are styled as gourmet, so don’t be expecting the typical fast food style, because these are so much better.

5. Noodle Canteen

If you maybe aren’t a fan of the amazing Burgers served at Burger Fuel, another great place to try is Noodle Canteen. Based at the top of Courtenay Place in Wellington, this noodle bar offers huge bowls of freshly made noodles for around $11.00 each. It is a budget-minded traveller friendly place, as the large bowls can be used for two meals, or more, depending on how much you eat. For me, Noodle Canteen was one of the few places open after a long day at work and it was on my way home. I could pick up a bowl of their Sweet and Sour box (amazing and full of meat and vegetables), which would then do me for dinner that night and lunch the next day. New Zealand food is often influenced by Asian culture, as there are a lot of connections between Asia and New Zealand.

For me, Noodle Canteen was one of the few places open after a long day at work where I would quite often be leaving after midnight. I could pick up a bowl of their Sweet and Sour box (amazing and full of meat and vegetables), which would then do me for dinner that night and lunch the next day. It’s not out-of-this-world food and it may be something you can find in your own country, but it is definitely good food for a cheap price.

6. Wellington Night Market

One of the highlights of Wellington and their food culture is the Night Market and I couldn’t discuss food in Wellington without mentioning it. It takes place just off Cuba Street on Friday and Saturday evenings. The Friday Night Market is located off Cuba Street by the old bank-turned Burger King. The Saturday Night Market is further up Cuba Street and some of the surrounding shops and restaurants also stay open later. The Night Market showcases local Wellington businesses with a good variety of food and crafts on offer. The market consists of food trucks from a number of restaurants in Wellington. The food is decently priced and the market attracts a big crowd, both of visitors and locals. I would suggest you try the deep fried ice cream, if you are a dessert person. It’s something that you probably won’t try anywhere else.

The Night Market showcases local Wellington businesses with a good variety of food and crafts on offer. The market consists of food trucks from a number of restaurants in Wellington, with mini menus for you to try from. The food is decently priced and the market attracts a big crowd, both of visitors and locals. I would suggest you try the deep fried ice cream if you are a dessert person. It’s something that you probably won’t try anywhere else. If you are looking for something more savoury, there is the House of Dumplings cart, which serve a selection of their homemade dumplings for you to choose from. They are great, bite-sized, and you can mix and match which ones you want to try.

Wellington Night Markets

 

In addition to this list, there are many other great places in Wellington to try out. For instance, there is Hell’s Pizza, which makes brilliant pizzas but for a slightly over-budget price for me. Definitely worth a try though if you fancy a treat. Also worth a visit is the Wellington Chocolate Factory- you can buy chocolate there or take a tour to see how it is all made. You will find the Wellington Factory chocolate in the local stores and the museum shop if you fancy trying it first. There are also a  number of more niche or alternative bars in Wellington, such as The Library, which is a more upmarket bar in a library setting, which makes it a chilled place to relax and catch up with friends. There is also Laundry at the top end of Cuba Street, which does a pretty decent reggae night.

So no matter what you are looking for, there is something for everyone’s taste buds in Wellington.

Next: A couple of weeks by the beach.

Wellington Part 1- The Real Windy City

Wellington is a beautiful city on the waterfront, hence the title of a windy city. It is the country’s capital, housing it’s parliament buildings and is also the gateway to the South Island. It’s not as big as Auckland, which is the business capital of the country, but this to me was only a good thing. Auckland can feel a little stuffy and claustrophobic to someone like me who isn’t big on cities. Wellington, on the other hand, has the feel of a small, university town with the sea breeze flowing through it. Victoria University of Wellington is one of the biggest in the country and attracts not only students from New Zealand, but also a great number of international students, which helps give the Capital it’s multi-cultural feel. Massey University and The University of Otago also have campuses in the city, adding to the number of students. The city also has a great cafe culture, which I will talk about more in a future post.

Wellington is a very accessible city, with good transport links, such as the Wellington International Airport; Metlink buses; Wellington Railway Station and The Interislander and Bluebridge Ferries to the South Island. The main shopping streets of the city- Cuba Street; Courtenay Place; Lambton Quay; Manners Street and Willis Street- are all in very close proximity, making it easy to walk from street to street.

When I was planning my post about Wellington, I came up with such a large list of things to do and places to include, that I decided to split it into two separate posts. This one will cover Things To Do and Walking trails and around the city. So here goes nothing…

1. Te Papa Museum

Te Papa is a huge museum on the Wellington waterfront which is free to enter and a place to spend a nice hour or two learning more about New Zealand and its culture. The museum includes a canteen-style lunch area downstairs; a cafe on the upper levels and an art gallery as well as the various displays on offer. Te Papa means ‘Our Place’ in Maori, and that really is how the staff treat it. They are friendly and welcoming, always there to help or to point you in the right direction. It is clear they love their work and are all too keen to discuss the displays if you have any questions. The museum shops are also worth a visit, with many kiwi crafted items on sale. Again the staff here will help you with any questions you have about the objects on sale and, as I experienced myself, are also very good at helping you with postage ideas if you want to send gifts back home.

Te Papa Museum

While in Wellington, I spent many a rainy day here, looking around the exhibits, including the Gallopli exhibit which was created by WETA- the folks behind The Lord of The Rings; The Hobbit; Avatar and many more amazing film and game props. The exhibit takes you through a darkened series of rooms, which have plenty of interactive displays and lots to read. The most significant part of the display is the models- larger than life-sized human models, based on people who were actually involved in the events that took place. These models are incredible- the attention to detail when creating these can clearly be seen. The models have been made to look exactly like they are on the battlefields, from the clothing and cuts down to the very hairs on their arms.

One other huge display in the museum is the exhibition on the Waitangi Treaty. Now, this is a treaty between the British Crown and the Maori people with regards to laws and land rights. It is a topic which is still hotly contested today. The Treaty is celebrated each year in New Zealand, on Waitangi Day on 6th February. The museum has an enlarged version of the original Treaty, along with its translation. While in New Zealand you can visit the Treaty Grounds, where the signing supposedly took place, in the Bay of Islands. To find out more about the Waitangi Treaty before you visit the museum, you can visit the Te Ara website here.

The museum is an un-missable experience and opportunity to learn more about New Zealand; its settlers; military history; nature, earthquakes and people. There is an exhibit on the sea life and rainforest animals; there is another on earthquakes, with a simulation of what an earthquake would feel like as well as displays regarding the Maori culture and the countries history.

2. City Gallery and Wellington Library

If this still isn’t enough culture for you, there is also the City Gallery and the Wellington Library, which both can be found a short 5 minute walk from Te Papa. Both of these have a free entry policy, which is great for the budget minded backpacker. The City Gallery is a good place to go if you want a little peace and quiet and to get away from the bustling streets for a while. The gallery displays are always changing to present new artists to the world. The gallery has a no bags rule, but don’t fear, as this only means that you get to leave your bag with the staff at the reception desk while you wander around the gallery enjoying the freedom of no backpack for a while as well as the glorious art on display. The staff in the gallery are exceptionally helpful and friendly, as with the majority of places in New Zealand (they know how to do customer service). They can provide you with a map, which has details about the artists behind the artwork you will be viewing and if you have any questions, they are the ones to ask. The gallery also has a little store, with books on certain artists along with the usual touristy tidbits.

The library is one of the most useful places for a backpacker in any new city. For a start, most, if not all, libraries across New Zealand have some form of free wi-fi. This can be totally free, or free but with a time limit, it just depends on the library. In Wellington, there is such as thing as city free wifi, which you will find on CBD Free. This means you can stay connect to maps and social media while out and about in the city. The wifi extends to the library, so you can bring along your devices and sit in the quiet surroundings of the library or the cafe for a couple of hours to update family and friends, or blogs. The library also allows the use of computers, printers and scanners, which are very handy if you are looking for work in the city as many employers will ask for a printed CV. So whether you need to look for work or simply want to update social media, so everyone knows where you are, the library is the perfect place to be.

3. The Cable Car & The Botanic Gardens

No doubt if you have done any kind of research or reading about New Zealand, you will have come across a picture of the famous red cable car carriages in Wellington. The Cable Car is an iconic attraction which takes you from the city centre on Lambton Quay to the hill tops and the Botanic Gardens in Kelburn. The Cable Car is a relatively cheap way to see a bit more of the city, as adult return tickets cost under $10.00. It is a gentle journey up to Kelburn, where you can get a lovely view of the city from above. From here you can walk around the Cable Car Museum and learn a little more about the history of the cable car and its use in the city for residents before it became a tourist attraction.

Photo: Jeff McEwan
Wellington Cable Car

The Botanic Gardens is a simple 2 minute stroll from the Cable Car and the Museum. Within the Gardens you can find the Wellington Observatory, where you can pay to take a tour. For those who want to remain outside though, the gardens are absolutely free and stretch back down towards the city centre. The flower beds and trees are well kept by the grounds staff and the gardens are a delight at any time of year. There is the Begonia House, Botanic Garden Shop and the Picnic Cafe all open for visitors. All of these are worth a visit and the shop has some brilliant gifts for any green fingers in the family.

4. Zealandia

Another attraction that can be accessed from the top of the Cable Car is Zealandia. Zealandia is a wildlife reservation which aims to preserve a patch of the native New Zealand rainforest and bush life. There are free buses that collect tourists from the Cable Car and take you to the entrance to Zealandia. The reservation looks after native birds and animals, along with the bush life, including the famous kiwi bird. There are special night time tours available in order to see these wonderful and secretive birds. The staff are very informative and are keen to share their knowledge and passion for the conservation projects that take place there. When you pay your entry to the park, you will receive a map that shows you the various walking tracks, some of which will take 2-3 hours, others taking only 30 minutes. The map also gives you information on the wildlife in the park. Once you have picked your route, you will notice signs and interactive elements to the park that will educate you on your surroundings, such as the sounds of different birds and the rather ugly, but harmless Weta bug.

Photo: Matt Duncan.
Reservoir in Zealandia, Karori Sanctuary.

Stepping into Zealandia is like going back in time, where you can see what the country used to be like. It allows you to imagine what the original settlers of New Zealand would have seen when they arrived to the country. Included in the reservation is also a cafe and shop, with all proceeds going back into the reservation projects. While I was there, there was also a wedding taking place, which apparently happens quite often according to some of the staff I happened to ask about it. It is definitely a very special place and makes an amazing backdrop for your travel photos as well as being educational and a truly fun experience.

5. Mount Victoria

For more walking adventures there is, of course, Mount Victoria. It will take you around 30 minutes to get to the top, at a reasonable pace up a sometimes steep climb. The views make it 100% worth it. I would advise taking the time to walk up the hill, rather than driving up, as there are some lovely little parks along the tracks up the hill. The path up consists of a dirt track and some steps, depending which side of the hill you climb. From the top you get a full view of Wellington, and I have spent many an hour sitting watching the planes going to and from the Airport, which is by the sea. On a clear day, the views are stunning.

For all those Lord of The Rings fans out there, there are some key spots which you won’t want to miss. The film locations come from the first film- The Fellowship of The Ring, when the Hobbits leave the Shire for the first time. The scenes are: A Shortcut to Mushrooms and Hobbit’s Leave the Shire (when the black riders are chasing the Hobbits to the Buckleberry Ferry). You will have to do a little walking around in the forest area to find these, and to anybody else they will look like just a bunch of trees, but to a real fan they are so much more. One way to explore the area and make sure you are getting the right spots, is to take one of the city LOTR tours. For more information on these, you can visit the i-site. The tours will generally provide video footage to remind you of the exact scene as well as some local knowledge about the filming process. Many tours will include a visit to the famed WETA Cave as well.

A Shortcut to Mushrooms

6. The Embassy Theatre

If finding the film locations make you feel like watching one, the best place to go, in my opinion is by far The Embassy Theatre. The Embassy can be found at the top end of Courtenay Place, tucked at the bottom of Mount Victoria. The theatre is the place where the premiere for The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King took place and it is one of the oldest theatres in New Zealand, being built in 1924. When you walk into the main foyer area, you may notice the distinctive floor tiling, which is actually the original flooring from when the theatre was first opened. The theatre contains 3 screens; a bar, cafe and candy bar. By walking down the lavishly decorated corridor, you will find yourself at the Lounge Bar, where the smaller two screens are located. The main screen is up the marble staircase, behind the Candy Bar, where you will also find Blondini’s, the cafe and bar.

Seating in the Main Screen

It is an amazing theatre, with links to WETA. On the walls you will see the film posters from some of the biggest premiere’s that have taken place in the theatre. There are often events taking place in the theatre, and the main screen is definitely an experience not to be missed. If you can afford the slightly more expensive price, it is worth a visit. The main auditorium itself is a sight to see, with the original pit for the orchestra still visible. Having worked there during my visit to Wellington, I can safely say the staff are always keen to help and work hard to keep the theatre in good condition.

Finally…

So that’s the end of my list, or listicle, for Things To Do and Walking in New Zealand’s capital city. I greatly enjoyed my time there and found there were so many things to do and see. Sadly I couldn’t fit them all into my list, but I have instead picked out my favourites. It is a fun, vibrant city with a youthful feel and plenty to keep you busy during your stay.

Next: More on my favourite city.