The Greenwood Guide to New Zealand

Wellington

  • Pick up a leaflet from the tourist information centre and head off on one of Wellington's many heritage trails. Wellington is full of classic architecture and notable buildings such as Parliament House and Old St Paul's.
  • Take the short, steep and scenic cable-car ride from Lambton Quay to Kelburn and Wellington's scent-filled botanic gardens. Lady Norwood Rose Garden, a spectacular wheel of colour, blooms throughout the summer.
  • While in the Botanic Gardens wend your way to the Carter Observatory.
  • Shop in Lambton Quay then drag your bag-laden body to the closest café for an ill-earned coffee.
  • Get cultural in the capital where the variety of shows, theatres, art and dance is endless. Particularly good theatres are The Circa Theatre and The Downstage Theatre. The New Zealand Film Archive is a great cinema.
  • Drive the marine route south of Oriental Bay that weaves from one sandy bay to the next. Precarious wooden villas teeter high above the road and there's a seal colony at Owhiro Bay.
  • Apply for a permit to Kapiti Island, a birding hot-spot.

Coffee culture in Wellington

"You can never get a decent coffee in New Zealand!" Americans and Europeans would cry. I remember this from my backpacking days when I worked as a barista. Well, it seems that Kiwis have taken the criticism on board. Now, try as you might, it is virtually impossible to get a bad cup of coffee in New Zealand. Every bean is best-quality-organic, every cup a delicately-balanced work of art. Coffee here is savoured sitting down and is an experience in itself.

Nowhere has embraced café culture quite as whole-heartedly as Wellington, which is rumoured to have (though I haven't measured it myself) more cafés per capita than New York. There are certainly an awful lot of them and the majority are wonderfully good and serve excellent food to boot. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Chocolate Fish Café: family-friendly and relaxed with an unbeatable beachside location, 497 Karaka Bay Road, Scorching Bay, Tel: 04-388-2808.

The Vista Café: superb light fish lunches with a tranquil vibe, 106 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay, Tel: 04-385-7724.

Nikau Gallery Café - See 'Wellington City Gallery'.

Midnight Espresso: one of Wellington's original cafés open till the wee hours. They have a good selection of vegetarian food and an irresistible cake cabinet. Hot chocolates are bucket-sized and entirely delicious. Young, funky and occasionally loud. 178 Cuba Street. Tel 04-384-7014.

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