New Zeland Rugby World Cup City Wellington
New Zealand Rugby World Cup city guide: Wellington
New Zealand's capital is hosting group matches for Wales and Scotland. Blogger Nick Churchouse shows our writer where to find the best food, drink and beaches between games. Tomorrow: Auckland
To see matches being played in Wellington and other cities click here
- Rachel Dixon
- The Guardian, Tuesday 7 June 2011 <li class="history">Article history Capital gain ... the beach at Island Bay, Wellington. Photograph: Alamy
The New Zealand capital has a special place in the hearts of visitors and locals alike. It is small (the country's third-biggest city, with under 400,000 inhabitants), arty – and windy. Residents are defiantly proud of the poor climate, seeing it as an annoyance that only those who truly love the city are willing to put up with. Unlike Auckland, Wellington is compact enough to be enjoyed without a car, although there are some interesting areas to visit outside of the centre, too. Blogger Nick Churchouse (wordonthestreet.co.nz/author/nick) gave me a guided tour.
Maranui Café. Photograph: Alamy Cuba Street is the hub of Wellington's eating, drinking and shopping scene. Notable cafes include Fidel's (234 Cuba Street), a Wellington institution, and Midnight Espresso (178 Cuba St), a narrow but funky space serving great breakfasts. For more substantial fare, Phoenician Cuisine (10 Kent Terrace ) is the city's best-loved kebab shop.
Riddiford Street in the suburb of Newtown is a sort of poor man's Cuba Street, and sees far fewer tourists. There was a festival there when I visited (there is always a festival on somewhere in Wellington), and Newtown's colourful characters, including a gangster restaurateur with a huge waxed moustache, were thronging the streets. Try Baabab (baobabcafe.co.nz) at No 152, and Pranah (pranahcafe.co.nz) at No 120 for tasty vegetarian fare.
Further out, Maranui Café (maranuicafe.co.nz) at Maranui Surf Life Saving Club, is a busy surfers' hangout with great views over Lyall Bay, and Café Polo (cafepolo.co.nz) at 82-84 Rotherham Terrace, Miramar, is a more grown-up affair serving bistro-style food.
Matterhorn bar. Photograph: Alamy You could eat at a different restaurant on and around Cuba Street for weeks, from Malaysian/South Indian Rasa (+64 4 384 7088) at No 200 (the cheapest BYO in town), to eclectic Matterhorn (+64 4 384 3359, matterhorn.co.nz, at No 106), a historic restaurant catering to New Zealand's glitterati – the Lord of the Rings cast loved it.
For casual but great-quality New Zealand cuisine, head to The Larder (+64 4 891 0354, thelarder.co.nz), a newish place in the emerging foodie hub of Miramar. I had a memorable lunch of sweetcorn fritters with bacon, avocado and tomato relish, plus a side of pork belly and black pudding hash.
For seafood, try Ortega on Majoribanks Street (+64 4 382 9559, ortega.co.nz), a self-styled "fish shack" with friendly staff. I went for the kippered alfonsino on kedgeree, followed by lemon posset with strawberries.
S&M’s Bar Edward (baredward.co.nz) at 167 Riddiford Street is a good example of the trend for "brewpubs", a hybrid of a traditional pub and a boutique brewery. Try local brew Tuatara (tuatarabrewing.co.nz) – the limited-edition APA is particularly good.
Notable bars around Cuba Street include the Kreuzberg Summer Café
(kreuzbergsummercafe.co.nz) on the corner of Webb St, a garden centre-cum-bar that's great on nice evenings; Mighty Mighty (Upstairs at No 104) is the younger, bohemian sister bar to Matterhorn; and S&M's (scottyandmals.co.nz) at No 176 is one of Wellington's few gay bars.
Motel (motelbar.co.nz) on Forresters Lane is a secret bar serving great cocktails to the intrepid drinkers that find it. Don't go if you're in a rush – it's table service only, and staff won't be hurried.
The Lighthouse (+64 4 472 4177, thelighthouse.net.nz, doubles from £90) is a wonderfully romantic B&B by the beach with great views over Island Bay.
The Ohtel (+64 4 8030600, ohtel.com, from £120) is a beautiful, if pricey, boutique hotel with vintage Scandinavian furniture. And the Museum Hotel (+64 4 802 8900, museumhotel.co.nz, from £90) is a sumptuous hotel with an incredible modern art collection, right opposite Te Papa (tepapa.govt.nz), the unmissable Museum of New Zealand.
For backpackers, YHA Wellington City (beds from £14, +64 4 801 7280, yha.co.nz) is a good bet: it's won several awards and is very central. The recently refurbished, historic Cambridge Hotel (0800 375 021, cambridgehotel.co.nz) has a 'luxury' backpackers section (beds from £11), as well as 25 well-priced rooms (doubles from £42).
Miramar, or Wellywood, is the hub of Wellington's movie-making industry. Not that you'd know it from a drive around the studios – it looks just like suburbia. Call in at the Weta Cave mini-museum (Corner of Camperdown Rd and Weka St, wetanz.com/cave) if you're a diehard Peter Jackson fan.
Cobham Drive, the road from Miramar back to town, has several interesting wind sculptures (sculpture.org.nz/engine/SID/10007/AID/1258.htm) – the city is trying to make an asset of its challenging weather.
Bats Theatre on Kent Terrace, (+64 4 802 4175, bats.co.nz) is a small arts co-operative staging edgy, alternative shows. According to Nick, these are "sometimes excruciating, sometimes fantastic".
Surfers at Lyall Bay. Photograph: Alamy Wellington has more scuba divers per capita than anywhere else in New Zealand, because it has so much accessible coast. Try it yourself at Island Bay, which is also good for fishing, has a seal colony within walking distance, and amazing sunsets. Locals like to grab some fish and chips and a couple of beers and watch the sun sink over the Kaikoura mountains. Lyall Bay is the best surfing beach – regular, windsurfing or kitesurfing – within easy reach of the city. Upmarket Seatoun, where Peter Jackson lives, is a good place for swimming.
Just west of the city, Zealandia (visitzealandia.com) is a pioneering conservation project 10-minutes' drive away. It is the world's first fully fenced urban wildlife sanctuary. Go there to see New Zealand in its pre-human state, when there were no mammals but countless unique birds, reptiles and insects. Best of all is the night tour, when you have the chance to spot the lovable kiwi fossicking for food. I saw two!
• Remaining tickets for the Rugby World Cup go on sale on 4 July at tickets.rugbyworldcup.com. The Real New Zealand Festival (realnzfestival.com) will feature more than 1,000 cultural events during the tournament. Emirates (0844 800277, emirates.com/uk) flies to Auckland and Christchurch from Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Newcastle from £950 return
Last edited by DexteR; 08-06-2011 at 01:17 AM.