When Welly has a good day, there’s nothing better than making the most of it and having a drink in the sun. When Welly has a bad day? There’s no better place to be than in a cosy bar with a drink in hand.
Basically what we’re saying is we bloody love a drink—and Wellington is the perfect spot for it, rain or shine.
Whatever your drink of choice is, we have you covered—here are 19 of the best bars in New Zealand's glorious capital, Wellington.
This inner city brewery and bar sits at the end of a laneway off Ghuznee Street—just follow the fairy lights and funky murals that splash the walls. Choice Bros’ pride themselves on their experimental and innovative brews, so be sure to sample their latest and greatest creations fresh from the tap. If you're feeling a little peckish, sink your teeth into the famed fried chicken. Visit on a Thursday and you can snap up $2 wings to go with your beersies. You can't afford not to.
If speakeasy-style bars with moody lighting and velvet couches are your vibe, then you'll want to hunt down this hard-to-find bolthole. Nestled above 1154 Pastaria, boujee bar Night Flower is accessed through a discreet entrance on Ghuznee Street. Once inside, find yourself a cosy corner and settle in for some serious imbibing. This is the kind of bar where menus don't matter; just put your trust in the dapper bar staff who will whip you up something that is sure to please.
Tucked above Night Flower, rooftop bar The Ascot is also a bit of a secret spot. Wind your way up a few flights of stairs and you'll find yourself in a low-key bar with slightly shabby decor and some serious Melbourne vibes. Natural wines are the speciality here. Pick a tipple from the short and sweet list which changes daily. If wine ain't your thang, opt for a beer or the usual spirits to quench your thirst. As for food, chow down on a hotdog with all the trimmings, or go for a 'Notdog' - a veggie version with a carrot filling. Trust us, it's good.
While hotel bars tend to be—let's face it—a bit naff, we think you'll be pleasantly surprised by this funky spot, located inside Naumi Studio on Cuba Street. Old-world charm meets the modern age in cosy bar Lola Rouge which beckons the weary traveller. Settle into one of the couches, surrounded by eclectic items gathered from all corners of the globe, and treat yourself to an exotic cocktail or two. Make your tastebuds zing with a One Pillar Pagoda made with Bird's Eye Chilli-infused vodka. Or if you want something that'll look good on the 'Gram, choose the Invisible Rose—a fruity concoction topped with a Passionfruit Smoked Bubble. Class.
Book lovers (and drink lovers), you’re definitely going to want to visit The Library. Much like a regular library, it’s cosy and comfy with book-lined walls. Unlike a regular library, you can drink alcoholic beverages without being asked to leave—ideal. For a refreshing drink on a warm Wellington day, go for The Last Golddigger, a zesty wee number featuring cucumber-infused tequila, watermelon syrup, lemon & soda. On those colder days (which are, let’s be honest, a lot more common), indulge in a To Rome with Love, which decadently combines Vanilla vodka, saviorardi syrup, Mr Black coffee liqueur, mascarpone & Italian meringue. Swing by on a Wednesday and you can grab two house cocktails for the price of one. It'd be rude not to.
If Wellington were a bar, The Puffin would be it. Just like our beloved capital, this spot is quirky, cosy, cool, and a little rough around the edges. Taxidermy is dotted around the walls (keep your eye out for the fabulous peacock) while plush booths invite guests in for a quiet drink or several. The Puffin has jumped on the natural wine bandwagon, with a carefully selected list that will please both the serious wine buff as well as those that just dabble. Pair your drink of choice with charcuterie and cheese, and you've got yourself a good time.
Walking into Hawthorn Lounge feels like stepping back in time to the roaring 20s, and you’re guaranteed to feel instantly more sophisticated as soon as you sit down at the bar. Once you’re there, let one of the talented bartenders help you decide which cocktail to drink. Not only do they do the classics impeccably, but Hawthorn also does inventive, modern mixes, which we recommend trying if you’re feeling daring. Chic and cosy, Hawthorn Lounge is the perfect place to while away a few hours with some top-notch drinks and conversation to match.
Dirty Little Secret
We love a rooftop bar. Is there anything better than 1) drinking 2) outside and 3) with sweeping views of the city? By day, bask in the sun and take in the views while sipping on one of the many craft beers they have on offer. At night, sit under the festoon lights and enjoy a gin cocktail. If you get hungers, get yourself a sharing platter to snack on. Dirty Little Secret is the perfect addition to the Wellington bar scene, with some of the best views in the city. Plus, any bar that shares a name with the All American Rejects 2005 banger gets a big yes from us.
A far cry from many of the modern, industrial-style spaces in Wellington, stepping into Crumpet almost feels like stepping back in time. Black and white tiled floors, small round tables (covered in vintage tablecloths) and jazz music all contribute to the old-worldly charm of the establishment. Pop in for a cocktail and either choose a classic from their menu or if you’re feeling daring, let one of their super talented mixologists make you something new. Simply let them know what kind of flavours you like, and they’ll do the rest. Best of all, Crumpet isn’t just a name—the bar/café also serves crumpets with a huge variety of toppings, which are a perfect little in-between-cocktails snack.
Heyday Beer Co
Heyday is pastel perfection and a funky addition to upper Cuba Street. The bar/brewery sits in an old car-battery garage, which has been completely made over in true Wellington style. Heyday’s exterior is an eye-catching mint green, with outdoor benches that sit under—you guessed it—strings of fairy lights. The interior is modern and fresh, with more pops of pastel throughout—the vibrant décor making it the perfect fit for Cuba Street. Not only do Heyday serve up their own brews, but also other craft beers from around Wellington, wines, ciders and spirits from the rest of New Zealand, and some NZ non-alcoholic classics like Six Barrel Soda or Almighty juices. Pair your drink of choice with a cheese and charcuterie board and you’re set.
C.G.R Merchant & Co.
Three words: Salted Caramel Rum. C.G.R Merchant & Co sits proudly above the rough and tumble of Courtenay Place. It’s classy, quiet and comfortable. Glass jars of house-infused rum and gin are lined up behind the bar and contribute to the mouth-watering drinks menu. You can’t go past the salted caramel but the gingerbread-infused gin comes a close second. Drinks are served neat or let the talented bartenders run wild if you’re in the mood for a cocktail. It gives you an old-world feel reminiscent of the spice trading ship it’s named after and while a little pricey, it will keep you coming back on board for more.
We’re going to make the call now—the best Wellington bar exterior goes to Havana Bar. Off the main drag of Cuba street, two historic cottages, painted bright red, green and blue are home to the Cuban-themed bar/restaurant. From their impressive wine list to craft beers from all across New Zealand, to some of Wellington’s best cocktails, there’s a drink for everyone at Havana. They also serve up a wide variety of rums, including a few of the Cuban variety—a must-have in a Cuban bar. The cosy space is the perfect place to head for a drink and a boogie with DJs and live music every weekend. Fun.
Little Beer Quarter
Fondly known as LBQ, Little Beer Quarter is slightly off the beaten track in the Edward Street precinct. A self-proclaimed “beer geek heaven”, LBQ’s offerings are anything but little—they boast 100 Kiwi and international beers in the fridge, as well as 14 rotating taps and two handpulls. If you’re not a beer geek, don’t rule out LBQ because they still offer a tidy range of New Zealand ciders, wines, and an impressive range of international spirits. If you’re thinking of heading in after work, get in quick because LBQ is a super popular spot for post-work drinks—and rightly so.
Golding’s Free Dive
The perfect spot for an after-work drink, Golding’s Free Dive is an OG member of the gang of super cool places down the Hannahs Laneway. With neighbours such as The Wellington Chocolate Factory and Pizza Pomodoro, Golding’s is in exceptionally good company. You’ll see them from a long way off—rainbow festoon lights decorate the inside and outside of the bar, and a large, fluorescent BEER sign sits on the back wall. Golding’s is a free house, meaning that they can serve whatever they like, whenever they like. Because of this, there’s always something new and interesting on tap to try. While you’re there, make sure you order a pizza—made across the laneway at Pomodoro, and delivered straight to your table at Golding’s. Great décor, great atmosphere and pizza and beer make for the perfect combo. Golding’s is truly golden.
For those who prefer a cheeky wine to a craft beer, Noble Rot is an absolute winner. It’s exactly what comes to mind when you hear ‘wine bar’—simple, elegant and modern, with a cosy vibe that makes it the perfect spot to visit in the evening. Their wine list is, as expected, extremely impressive. Offering more than 500 different wines, Noble Rot boasts one of the largest selections of wines in the country. As you can imagine, their staff definitely know their wine, which comes in handy when you’re trying to pick a tipple from such a massive selection. Take advantage of their knowledge and ask for a recommendation because they won’t disappoint.
Feel like cocktails? Book a one-way Uber ride straight to Hanging Ditch. This bar is tucked away in the corner of Hannahs Laneway with a sophisticated and slightly moody setting. It’s a touch more intimate than Goldings right next door. Booze bottles hang from the ceiling and fresh herbs dot the bar, used in their delicious creations. The revolving menu is often based on a theme with breakfast and International Pineapple Day featuring in the past. Don’t know what to drink? Ask the bar staff and they’ll whisk up a beverage based on your mood. Winning!
By day, Poquito serves up flat whites and brunches with the best of them. By night, the intimate space is transformed into one of Wellington’s best little bars. Poquito is as welcoming as they get, and once you’ve nabbed a table, it’s easy to spend a few hours sampling drinks and enjoying the live music. Their cocktail menu is small but perfectly formed. With ingredients such as rhubarb, charred grapefruit and Kawakawa, they’re a far cry from your standard mojitos and cosmos. Where Poquito really shines, however, is its whisky offerings. Treat yourself to a flight of whisky—essentially a tasting board for whisky fans made up of pre-selected whisky—it’s the perfect way to taste a few because choosing just one is way too hard.
The Arborist’s rooftop bar brings the relaxed vibes of drinks in your backyard to the centre of the city. An eclectic assortment of furniture (including some recycled pallets), greenery, and festoon lights (a Wellington bar staple it seems), really make the space feel less like you’re at a bar and more like you’re at a friend's housewarming BBQ, sitting in the garden and enjoying a drink. If you’re there on a hot day you can’t go past a frozen cocktail—something The Arborist prides themselves on. Best of all? They’re 2 for $20 from 4-6pm—and you know we love a good deal. As well as the frozen goodies, The Arborist also offers a killer range of beer, wine, and non-alcoholic sodas. So pull up a beanbag, sit back, relax, and enjoy the urban garden.
Rogue And Vagabond
Rogue And Vagabond hums in the summer. Bodies and beanbags are sprawled on the grass out front that doubles as a dog-friendly zone (water bowls for pooches are provided). The bar’s just around the corner from Cuba Street and very much epitomises the cool, eclectic vibe the neighbourhood is known for. Rogue is all about the live music—from jazz to funk to rock’n’roll, musicians from all genres play here. Don’t forget to look at the food menu, the portions here are huge. There’s a $12 lunch deal Monday to Friday and delicious pizzas with names like ‘Nevermind the Bollocks’ and ‘Simply the Best Reggae Vol. 2’. Rogue is where you want to be on a sunny Sunday afternoon, or any time at all, basically.
All that drinkin' fired your appetite? Check out Wellington's best restaurants.
Image credit: Choice Bros, Lola Rouge, The Puffin by Wono Kim, Dirty Little Secret, C.G.R Merchant & Co., Golding’s Free Dive, Hanging Ditch, The Arborist.