Shall I tell you about the most expensive sleep of my life… With return flights starting at around R18K for the 18 hour trip from Joburg to Wellington, New Zealand (with one brief stop at Sydney), you’re looking at travel cost of around R1000 per hour. I slept for most of the flight over the Indian Ocean, and woke up realizing that my sleep cost me R12000! Nevertheless, I was off to the land of Lord of the Rings, the Haka, and my family.
I was visiting New Zealand for the first time to see my nuclear family, who had immigrated to the country six months earlier. My stay in Wellington was also at the end of a 3 month sabbatical, travelling around the world. Despite my travel fatigue and desire to just crash on the couch with a new series, Wellington lured me out and very quickly I refound my energy and fell in love with this gorgeous city.
What to do
Wellington has the reputation of being the southern-most and windiest capital city in the world – and has a lot to offer travelers. Here are my top 5 Wellington experiences:
- After weeks traveling what I really needed was some pampering and the Intercontinental Hotel Wellington provided the perfect opportunity. My sister and I were treated to one of the best massages ever; ensuring that my body tired from travelling, and hers from mothering a toddler, were both left rejuvenated and rested. High Tea followed thereafter – a variety of fabulous teas, and enough cakes and treats to fill us until dinner the next day. I cannot rate this experience high enough, and it a must do if visiting this city. Kudos to the staff of the Intercontinental for making us feel so wonderfully at home.
- Marvel at the views of Wellington from Mount Victoria. It’s one of the highest hills and gives gorgeous panoramic views of the city.
- The Te Papa is the national muesum and you’ll lose yourself for hours in this incredible building. Best of all, the entrance is free!
- The funicular ride up the hill to the Botanical Gardens is a fun excursion: just make sure you also give yourself at least an hour to explore the gardens at the top.
- Of course a visit to the windy city wouldn’t be complete without a walk along the promenade. If the weather permits this is the finest way to see the city with ocean vistas to your left, and cityscape to your right. Join the locals for a jog along it’s length, and if you’re brave enough – in summer a jump into the harbour for a swim!
Where to eat & drink
- Bangalore Polo Club – This was one of the most fascinating dining experiences I’ve had! The eclectic design, unique meal options, and customary cracking open the starter treenuts and throwing the shells on the floor make it a must visit
- The Tasting Room – In their words, this trendy spot is a is a ‘modern interpretation of the traditional public house’. Join local hipsters and other urbane city slickers after work for a jug of locally brewed beer, thankfully at a great price
- One80 Restaurant – every restaurant list needs a listing with a view, and the One80 restaurant hits the nail on the head. Make sure to try out the breakfast buffet – the heartiest and highest breakfast in the capital
Where to stay
– QT Wellington
Golds, blacks, and velvet brocades warmly welcome you to this quirky, yet elegant hotel. When staying at an ‘art hotel’ you don’t have to leave the building to appreciate local art – the entire interior becomes a gallery itself! The QT Wellington (formally the Museum Art Hotel) allows you a self-guided tour of over 70 pieces of art in the hotel. This blend of art and accommodation is well complemented with fine dining at the in house Hippopotamus restaurant, great leisure activities, with spacious and elegantly finished rooms.
My introduction to the world of boutique hotels has been a rather recent one, and whilst I love the energy, size and facilities that come with a bigger hotel, I’ve really come to love the intimacy, uniqueness and family-feel of these boutique offerings. The Ohtel in Wellington is the perfect example of this. It has a small selection of rooms, and is a family-run hotel that is classy, crisp and chic. The detail and design of the rooms from artwork, linen, and bespoke furniture is 5 star. A tasty continental breakfast, and two minute walk to the promenade will ensure you will be itching for your next visit to the Ohtel.
I’ve never felt so home in a capital city before – and I’m sure Wellington’s uncanny similarity with Cape Town had something to do with it. A beautifully sculptured city, nestled along a natural bay, and surrounded by mountains – no surprise then that this Capetonian felt so at home!