Life is always at its best kicking back on holiday, eating and drinking your worries and woes away. Luckily for you, we’ve just so happened to find the ultimate foodie destination not too far from home—Wellington. This epic city at the bottom of New Zealand’s North Island has been dubbed as ‘the coolest little capital in the world’, and we couldn’t agree more.
Said to have more restaurants, cafes and bar per capita than NYC, Wellington’s been on our radar for a while now, and we thought it’s about time we shared it with all you Listers (thank us later). Whether you’re on the hunt for the world’s best flat white, on a craft beer buzz, or just love being around seriously good food and friendly folk, Wellington is hands down the best place to experience just that.
Since we’re crushing so hard on this city and its food culture, we should probably spill the beans and let you know why. Credit cards at the ready, people, ‘cause you’ll be wanting to head over the ditch after this. Here are 9 reasons why Wellington is the coolest foodie destination right now.
1. Wellington’s coffee culture is unstoppable
Ask any Kiwi where New Zealand’s best coffee lives, and you’ll receive a unanimous choir call of ‘Wellington!’. When we say Wellington’s baristas have mastered the art of the perfectly smooth, silky coffee, we mean it.
The dudes at Flight Coffee are the loveliest coffee nerds you’ll ever meet. Their ‘Hangar’ (love a good airline pun) sits on the corner of Dixon & Willis Street, where they brew some of the best coffee in New Zealand.
On the other side of town, Havana lures Wellingtonians into their Tory Street café and roastery with the scent of their hard-hitting coffee beans.
2. Wellington is all about food and booze with views
From top-notch restaurants and chilled out bars on the bustling waterfront, to gorgeous cafes at Oriental Bay and around the coast, food, drinks and views go hand-in-hand in Wellington.
Head out to Shelly Bay’s (a 15-minute car ride) Chocolate Fish Café, home to true-blue Kiwiana kai—think Westcoast Whitebait sammies and ice cream spiders—or walk along Oriental Bay to Beach Babylon for their famous rosti. Grab a Kaffee Eis gelato and watch Wellington from the beach in all its glory. Lyall Bay lifeguard lookout-turned-epic brunch spot, Maranui Café, is also not to be missed.
A bit closer to the city, Dockside on Queens Wharf is a Wellington local favourite. Or plonk yourself down on a beanbag and soak up the rays with a beer in hand at St Johns Bar.
3. Wellington’s market line-up is a foodie’s playground
Wellington’s markets crank all year long with more local culinary goodies than you can shake a stick at. Wellington’s oldest market, Harbourside Market hijacks the Wellington waterfront every Sunday with fresh produce, entertainment, and local food stalls—roti rolls, fluffy longosh, and of course, great coffee among other damn tasty offerings. Tucked inside Chaffers Dock Building, City Market brings live beats, fresh seafood, and great, hearty food under one roof.
And for some night market action, Wellington Night Market offers a lively, what’s-that-delicious-smell kinda atmosphere and all sorts of different cuisines.
4. Wellington’s bar scene is dotted with hidden gems
Navigating Wellington’s bar scene is a treasure hunt of sorts. Some you’ll find at the end of a dimly lit alleyway, others will require entering an unmarked doorway and climbing up an equally dimly lit stairwell. However, what awaits you are some of the best bars in New Zealand.
Hawthorn Lounge is a speakeasy-esque bar off Tory Street. Welcomed by the soothing sound of jazz, Hawthorn will transport you another era with bespoke cocktails, leather armchairs, and quality banter. The salted caramel rum infusion and unassuming vibes at C G R Merchant & Co are worth checking out, and Thief Bar is sure to steal you with their cocktails and Italian-inspired small plates.
However, if you’re after something exotic, Havana Bar is an epic little watering hole with a focus on all things Cuba, and Basque’s new rooftop makes for the perfect Sangria sesh spot.
5. Wellington knows a thing or two about craft beer
Speaking of drinks, Wellington is home to some of the best craft breweries in New Zealand. The Garage Project lads brew it up out of the old Aro Valley petrol station, which you can view (and sample their beers) from the cellar door. Down the road, ParrotDog are making their legendary BitterBitch beer and a couple of other Wellington favourites.
The Third Eye Tuatara Temple of Taste is Tuatara’s very own hub in the Cuba Quarter. They’ve got an in-house microbrewery, and a food menu of pizza and other nibbly bits.
6. Wellington can do fancy food
When it comes to gastronomic domination in New Zealand, Wellington takes the crown. The city has a handful of mighty fine fine dining restaurants headed by some fantastic chefs. Cuba Street’s Logan Brown has been leading the pack since 1996 with its innovative, ever-changing menu, closely followed by Matterhorn which has gone from Swiss coffee house to a Wellington institution of unpretentious elegance, and brilliant food.
Ancestral on Courtenay Place is giving Wellington a taste of Asian fusion through set menus and mouth-watering food—crispy hoisin glazed duck, Buddha’s hot pot and mango pudding are must-orders.
7. Wellington specialises in cheap eat feasts
On the other end of the spectrum, when the bank account is looking a tad sad, Wellington’s multitude of cheap eats will no doubt make any traveller happy. The ever popular Chow does 2-for-1 mains (blue cheese and peanut dumplings, jungle curry, and possibly the best salt and pepper squid you’ll ever have on Mondays, and 2-for-1 desserts at the neighbouring Library Bar on Tuesdays.
For a low-key feed, head to Lebanese kebab joint, Phoenician Cuisine, or KK Malaysian for a truly authentic meal without having to empty your pockets. Food court, Capital Market off Willis Street is also serving up an impressive selection of cuisines, from Sri Lankan to Vietnamese, barbecue, and Italian seven days a week.
8. Wellington has the coolest (and tastiest) laneway in New Zealand
Wander round Wellington city and you might be lucky enough to stumble upon Hannahs Laneway on Leed Street, Te Aro. Here you’ll find Six Barrel Soda Co. with its weird and wonderful milkshakes, sundaes and speciality sodas, the lovingly made chocolate of the Wellington Chocolate Factory, Leed St Bakery’s perfectly chewy cookies, best eaten with a cup of Red Rabbit Coffee Co., and Fix and Fogg—a boutique peanut ‘buttery’.
Pizza fiends can also get their fix at the family owned and operated, Pizza Pomodoro, a resident of Leed Street for more than a decade. (Or cruise back to Courtenay place for a slice of Tommy Million’s).
9. Wellington showcases naughty food at its finest
If you don’t treat yo’self when on holiday, you’re doing something wrong. Wellington is full of ridiculously delish yet slightly naughty food offerings. From chicken and waffles at Sweet Mother’s Kitchen, to snickers milkshakes at Fidel’s and Scopa hot chocolate, you’ll be glad that Wellington city is made for walking. Burgers from Ekim Burgers on Cuba Street, or Burger Liquor on Willis are worth getting your hands around.
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