The best things to eat, drink, see, and do in Wellington 2021
Our favourite destinations & experiences in the capital city.
BOOK STORE: Minerva
Craft focussed bookstore with a craft focussed staff under the guidance of Anne Scott (Founder of New Zealand Quilter magazine).
237 Cuba St, Te Aro
SECOND-HAND BOOKSTORE: Book Hound
A second-hand bookshop that manages to be both approachable and a bit too cool. Owned and run by award-winning and very funny author Annaleese Jochems, it is known to run regular readings and charges decent prices for fun shit to read.
132 Riddiford St, Newtown
CLOTHES STORE: Good as Gold
From the wild looks of Henrik Vibskov, Brain Dead and Carne Bollente to the top-shelf sporty basics of Veras and Patagonia, Good As Gold is just as bright and vital to the Wellington scene today as when it was launched in 2004.
20 Bond St, Te Aro
FLAGSHIP STORE: Twenty-Seven Names
Its clothes are known and worn all over the land but Wellington is home base for this cult label, known for its beautifully designed, ethically produced pieces made to endure many a season.
27 Ghuznee St, Te Aro
SHOES: The Last Footwear Co.
This shop sells Dr. Martens, Birkenstocks, Timberlands and Blundstones — the boss level of ultra-sensible but also low-key cool AF stuff to keep your feet safely shod.
41 Cuba St, Te Aro
PHOTO LAB: Splendid
A film focussed photo shop. Friendly, helpful and a welcome analogue island in a cold, digital world.
85 Ghuznee St, Te Aro
BIKE SHOP: Bicycle Junction
Bicycle Junction know their stuff and stock seriously good brands of classic bikes such as Surly, as well as some funky folding, cargo and electric options. They also have an in-house cafe and a workshop nearby to tend to your precious steed.
1 Marion St, Te Aro
DRESSY: Wanda Harland
As well as their calling card (the gorgeous dress), Wanda Harland also stock a strong line in accessories, kids’ gear and homewares from a strong list of local and international designers that make it a valuable gift resource for desperate partners.
126 Wakefield St, Te Aro
HOMEWARES: The Axe
Ethically sourced and thoughtfully curated, The Axe has furniture, homeware and assorted ephemera at pleasingly reasonable prices — especially if you’re used to looking around similar concept stores in Auckland.
193 Adelaide Rd, Newtown
To rate a particular second-hand shop based on past finds is a fallacy — by definition, the stock changes on a day-to-day basis. Unfounded recommendations aside, Wellington has a rich seam of thrift stores running through it, ranging from the gloriously outdated sportswear of Kilbirnie, to the monogrammed movie merch of Miramar, to the signed paperbacks of Karori. Persistence is key.
A beautifully realised space that makes use of the lovely old architecture at the Lambton Quay end of town, Australian skin care juggernaut Aesop’s Wellington signature store looks as good as it smells.
150 Featherston St, Central
HOTEL: The Intrepid
Okay, you can’t actually stay here yet but everyone who doesn’t live in Wellington is holding their collective breath until the team behind Golding’s Free Dive and Shepherd open this hotel above their natural wine bar Puffin. The relief will be palpable.
60 Ghuznee St, Te Aro
DAY SPA: Spring Spa
The closest we get to international travel in 2021 is setting our phone to flight mode while indulging in a couple of hours at Spring.
108 Tory St, Te Aro
RECORD STORE: Slow Boat Records
It’s like the record store from High Fidelity, but infinitely better.
183 Cuba St, Te Aro
HAIR: Matt Forsman
Holistic hair therapy.
32 Marion St, Te Aro
Soak up the ambience of one of the world’s prettiest cricket grounds on your bike — that’s right, the bike lane runs right through! Jump off and watch a few overs.
Mt Cook, Wellington
A short ferry ride from the CBD, Matiu was once used as a quarantine station for WWI soldiers suspected of carrying the influenza virus — an especially poignant piece of New Zealand history considering what the world is currently in the grips of. These days, it’s a predator-free, biodiverse paradise, ripe for exploration (and even a cheeky swim).
This place is hard to explain — it’s basically a whole bunch of junk welded together into a sort of dystopian Mad Max-esque village with a mini golf course. There, we did it. And we love it.
281 Happy Valley Rd, Ōwhiro Bay
Next-level playground, unrivalled in all the land.
61 Taita Dr, Avalon
DIY skatepark nestled on top of the next hill over from the zoo. Like the skate gods emptied out their spare change.
113 Russell Tce, Berhampore
GALLERY: City Gallery
Beneath the bizarre gaze of Ronnie van Hout’s Quasi, the City Gallery presents consistently excellent local and international exhibitions, as well as a killer lineup of panel discussions, screenings and live music in the Tuatara Open Late programme.
Te Ngākau Civic Square, Te Aro
ART MUSEUM: The Dowse Art Museum
The Dowse is perfect in a lowkey, 70s-buzz-meets-innovativeand-well-curated-contemporary-art kinda way.
45 Laings Rd, Lower Hutt
THEATRE: Bats Theatre
Watch Aotearoa’s next generation of theatre, dance, improv, standup and experimental performers spread their wings, fly and emit sonar signals (went too far on that metaphor). Bats is also the spiritual and physical home of NZ Fringe, the cutting-edge arts festival running 26 February to 20 March.
1 Kent Tce, Mt Victoria
CINEMA: Roxy Cinema
Wellington is a great place to watch movies — that isn’t just a joke about the weather. There are numerous beautiful old cinemas dotted around town, all offering a nice mix of independent, nostalgic and mainstream releases. The Roxy was lavishly refurbished by Peter Jackson a few years back, has an in-house restaurant and cafe, and is chock-full of movie memorabilia.
5 Park Rd, Miramar
LIVE VENUE: Meow
It might be slam poetry, standup comedy or an incredible Welsh songstress, but a show at Meow will never be boring.
9 Edward St, Te Aro
LIVE MUSIC: San Fran
Since opening its doors in the 1960s as San Francisco Bathhouse, this perfectly proportioned small to medium venue has hosted pretty much every local and visiting musical act worth its salt. The Opera House is lovely and the Michael Fowler Centre is fancy, but San Fran is forever.
171 Cuba St, Te Aro
FOOD AND DRINK
CAFE: Seashore Cabaret
Maranui’s cooler, younger sister across the bay.
160 The Esplanade, Petone
SODA SHOP: Six Barrel Soda
Follow your nose down Lukes Lane and seek out the source of NZ’s best mixers. It smells nice because they cook up all the syrups in-house, including cherry and pomegranate, raspberry and lemon, and a seriously good ginger ale. Free tastings are available from the in-house Aarke.
Lukes Lane, 40 Taranaki St, Te Aro
BURGER: Moore Wilson’s Buttermilk Fried Chook Burger
Trudge (or drive!) upstairs to a caravan (the Chook Wagon) situated in a carpark above Wellington’s culinary lungs. Stuff face with deepfried buttermilk heaven. Wipe face with napkin, dispose of evidence, carry on with day.
Corner of Tory St & College St, Te Aro
CURRY: Little Penang
As well as burgers, Wellington has a rep for its Malaysian food, and Little Penang is the long-time reigning champ. It moved around the corner recently, but the Nyonya chicken remains as godly as ever.
175 Victoria St, Te Aro
BAR: Bar Mason
The meteoric nationwide rise in housing prices can be solely attributed to Newtown’s newest kid on the block, as we all scramble to live within walking, driving, or non-quarantine-flight distance of its fluffy cloud flatbreads and modern Middle Eastern natural wine-complemented yumminess.
3 Wilson St, Newtown
CHEAP EATS: One Sushi Chicken Katsu Donburi
Are you a fool? If not, stride confidently to this wonderfully unglamorous shop and order the small chicken katsu donburi. No one has ever ordered the large and lived to tell the tale.
89 Courtenay Pl, Te Aro (and other locations)
EVEN CHEAPER EATS: Tommy Millions‘ 2 for 1 Pizza
On Mondays and Tuesdays, you can buy two very large and tasty slices of plain New York-style cheese pizza for five bucks, then you can eat them and kind of hit snooze for the rest of the day until it’s time to head home.
105 Courtenay Pl, Te Aro & 142 Featherston St, Wellington Central
WHOLESOME LUNCH: Sixes and Sevens
Wild rice this and freshly squeezed that, along with a gang of sausy rolls and crème brûlée doughnuts. It’s like being in a relationship with a hard-partying yoga instructor, but only at lunchtime. If only that was a thing.
51 Taranaki St, Te Aro
BEACHSIDE CAFE: Onepū
Our ideal weekend situation: grab a takeaway real fruit ice cream from Onepū (see: cover) and head to the beach, man.
226 Onepū Rd, Lyall Bay
SOUL FOOD: Field & Green
British-raised chef Laura Greenfield knows about delicious, bold flavours and showcasing great fresh ingredients. Her restaurant, co-owned with Raechal Ferguson, is suitably unfussy and a perfect location for a fancy, memorable dinner.
262 Wakefield St, Te Aro
PLANT-BASED: Hillside Kitchen
Innovative and delicious restaurant leading the charge in New Zealand for gourmet vegetarian dining. Also incredible bread.
241 Tinakori Rd, Thorndon
NOODLES: A Taste of Home
The only way to go wrong at this incredible hand-pulled-noodle joint is to turn up on Sunday or Monday when it’s closed.
128 Vivian St, Te Aro
SOURDOUGH: Shelly Bay Baker
An early face on the now-thriving Wellington naturally leavened scene, Shelly Bay Baker has outgrown its namesake locale and now bakes around the corner in Miramar, complete with an on-site shop.
133A Park Rd, Miramar
CAFE: Customs by Coffee Supreme
It’s hard to fault this place, unless you’re not keen on piping-hot filter coffee served in lovely little mugs, or iced coffee spiked with ‘naughty milk’, or amazing focaccia sandwiches, or avocado toast, or… cool young people. We love the gorgeous bastards.
39 Ghuznee St, Te Aro
DATE-NIGHT BAR: Puffin
Enter the bar through a long corridor and it’s like a warm, moody, all-enveloping hug. You may never leave.
60 Ghuznee St, Te Aro
ICE CREAM: Duck Island Ice Cream
People go nuts for this stuff ‘up north’, but you already knew that. Thing is, there’s a dedicated scoop shop in the capital now.
168 Cuba St, Te Aro
Parrotdog has built an old-school pub in its brewery and it’s perfect, right down to the dedicated exhibition space, proper pool table and selection of board games.
60-66 Kingsford Smith St, Lyall Bay
WINE STORE: Everyday Wine
Really good, affordable natural wine on tap, plus some of the best and most interesting wines from around the world. There’s nowhere else like it.
177 Cuba St, Te Aro
SANDWICH: Romeos Deli and Bar
Bringing NYC bodega-style deli dining to the city that sleeps, this new hole-in-the-wall bar offers killer bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches, bottomless filter coffees, and a smart selection of wines, cocktails and beer, which, it must be said, is far beyond the scope of any actual deli in NYC.
3/126 Vivian St, Te Aro
WINE BAR: Glass [now closed]
Interesting natural wines and proper French fare at the traditionally less interesting and decidedly un-French end of town.
8 Chews Ln, Wellington Central
Fancy yet affordable deep-fried standards, burgers and raw-fish salads (!), a stone’s throw away from the beach. Fresko also supplies a mean line of fresh seafood.
53 Kingsford Smith St, Lyall Bay
STREET SWEETS: Montfoort
A stroopwafel is not a Dr Seuss character but a Dutch spiced biscuit with a chewy caramel centre that melts into almost embarrassing deliciousness when used as a lid on your hot drink of choice. Montfoort make their stroops fresh, along with other sugary Dutch masterpieces, and sling ’em from a caravan.
Harbourside Market every Sunday
BISTRO: Restaurant Amok
Run to Amok for oysters, handmade pasta, things cooked on charcoal, natural wines and an eminently ‘grammable square steak tartare.
18 Majoribanks St, Mt Victoria
FINE DINING: Hiakai
Duh! Put your name down for any table you can get as soon as new bookings open and plan your trip around it.
40 Wallace St, Mt Cook
This content was created in partnership with WellingtonNZ.