07 DEC 2016:  Kia Ora (means welcome in the Maori language) to Wellington, named “coolest little capital in the world,” by Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel for 2011. Not only is Wellington New Zealand's official capital city, but also it is also widely regarded as the Kiwi capital for culture, cinema, cocktails and cuisine.

Tucked neatly around Lambton Harbour, at the southern tip of New Zealand’s North Island, Wellington succeeds in packing a big cosmopolitan punch into its compact, windy and hilly streets.

Here's where to save and splurge in what the friendly kiwis affectionately call “Windy Welly.”


The Artful Lodger

The Museum Hotel is by far the funkiest in town. Owner Chris Parkin loves motorcycles and art, both of which you’ll find in his eclectic lobby No doubt Mr. Parkin has a wry sense of humor as demonstrated by the communal table with an artwork centerpiece of a gun pointed at a skull covered with cake decoration sparkles. Book one of the apartments, each equipped with dishwasher, fridge, washer/dryer and enough dishes and pots to whip up a dinner for eight. Better still, dine at the hotel’s Hippopotamus restaurant where French cuisine reigns supreme in jewel-box setting complete with Versace-style decor. www.museumhotel.co.nz

Fancy That

Pop into Madame Fancy Pants’ whimsical boutique (217 Cuba Street) for trinkets, bags, swimwear, jewelry and more surprises. You are bound to find something you never knew you needed. You can also shop on-line. www.madamefancypants.com

Cocktail Craze

Wellington boasts a vibrant cocktail scene. The Matterhorn is a worthy recipient of numerous accolades, including “NZ Bar of the Year Award.” The cocktail menu proposes more than 50 unique concoctions from the resident mixologists. If the gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, absinthe and lemon juice in the Corpse Reviver won’t bring you back to life, nothing will. Don’t like to drink alone? Try the shared cocktails. www.matterhorn.co.nz

Reservations Required

If you want a table at Wellington’s top-rated restaurant (and you do), you must book well in advance. Logan Brown Restaurant, the “Supreme Winner of the Restaurant of the Year Awards,” deserves its coveted place on top of the city’s food chain. If they ever took the signature dish—paua (abalone) ravioli with basil, coriander and lime beurre blanc—off the menu, the regular clientele would probably stage a riot. Owners Alister Brown and Steve Logan prove that fine dining need not be a formal or stuffy experience. For a memorable splurge, try the Saturday night degustation menu. Reminder: pre-book or don’t blame me if you can’t get a table. www.loganbrown.co.nz


Pick your Beach

Pick up picnic fixings at the Saturday farmers’ market beside the Te Papa Museum. You can easily walk from there to golden beach at Oriental Bay. Or, take a bus to Scorching Bay where the locals hang out. Cool off with a Tip Top ice cream cone or lime milkshake.

Flat White or Short Black?

I read that Wellington has more cafés per capita than New York, even though it boasts a population of just 180,000.  Which one serves the best coffee? Some would vote for Mojo with 13 outlets around town. But Café D’Affare has its die-hard fans too. Both roast their own beans and have seriously dedicated baristas.

And now for some coffee 101 terminology: A “flat white” (similar to a latte) is one third espresso, two thirds steamed milk and a touch of froth on top. If you want skim milk order a “trim.” A “short black” is a single shot of espresso. A “long black” is a single shot with an equal amount of hot water. I tried in vain to discover the origin of the name “flat white.” Anyway, kudos to whoever created it.

Easy as Pie

Buy a savoury steak and mushroom pie from Trisha’s on Cambridge Terrace near the Embassy Theatre. Don’t bother asking for a plastic fork because the server will inform you that it’s to be eaten with your hands directly from the white paper bag. Top it with a squeeze of Watties tomato sauce (ketchup), wash it down with a Tui beer and you’ve gone truly local.

Treasure Chest

New Zealand’s National Museum, Te Papa (means container of treasures in the Maori language) is literally a multi-level treasure chest open every day of the year and admission is free (donations appreciated). Collections span five areas: Art, History, Pacific, Māori, and Natural Environment and exhibitions are interdisciplinary and interactive. Unique souvenirs abound in the gift shop and children love the Kids’ Store on level 2. www.tepapa.govt.nz

Stellar Views

Ride the red cable car past Victoria University to the Botanic Gardens and don’t forget your camera. Work your way down through the lovely gardens and then visit the Executive Wing of the Parliament Buildings (known as the Beehive due to it’s shape).

Cupcakes Galore

Floriditas on Cuban Street has the Old-World ambiance of a Parisian café. Sample the sinful toasted coconut and almond bread with mascarpone cheese, banana and passion fruit syrup www.floriditas.co.nz

For more information: www.wellingtonnz.com

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Anita Draycott

Quite aside from being an award winning writer, whose travel articles and photography regularly appear in golf and lifestyle publications and websites, Anita Draycott is a self confessed golf fanatic, who has chased dimpled white balls over five continents.  

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