The Wellingtonista

Random stuff about Wellington since 2005

This post is sponsored by Wilderness Motorhomes

Freedom camping area at the entrance to Te Kopahau Reserve.

Freedom camping area at the entrance to Te Kopahau Reserve.

We love telling people what to do. Especially telling people what to do in Wellington. That’s why we exist. So when we were offered this sponsored post we were happy to take up the challenge of what to do in Wellington if you’re an out-of-towner visiting in a motorhome. Most of our advice in the play and eat sections will still be useful to any out-of-towners, of course.


First of all, you’re going to want somewhere to stay, and your first bet, Wellington Waterfront Motorhome Park is closed for winter.  Fear not though, because Wellington City Council has the downlow on legal camp grounds. It’s important to note that camping is not permitted in Wellington’s reserves, including the Town Belt and Reserves around the Coast.

There are a number of freedom camping spots around Wellington like Te Kopahau Reserve carpark (not the reserve itself), but please make sure you pick up after yourself, because reading negative articles about freedom campers is really boring.

If, like us, you don’t ever want to be too far from the good coffee, as long as you’re self contained, there’s a powered parking site just a block or two from Cuba Street. Chances are that your motorhome might be bigger than some inner city apartments anyway!


So what to do while you’re in Wellington? We’ve got a couple of ideas for you.

Firstly, we sent our intrepid Kris out in a van to get a feel for the roads. She reports back

“I went for a drive along Wellington’s slim twisty roads on Sunday in the wind and rain. I think any campervans bigger than van size would be able to drive the roads (if the bus can they should be able to) but honestly they should just park up somewhere and take the free shuttle bus out to Zealandia and the Botanic Gardens (Zealandia tell people in campervans to contact them if their vehicle is over 3m). Some of those roads are pretty steep and windy!”

We do recommend a drive up to see the view from the top of Mount Victoria if you’re confident in your driving, but suggest going via Newtown/Alexandra Road instead of the more direct route. Plus that way you could stop in at the Wellington SPCA too!

Otari-WiltonMakara Peak Mountain Bike Park, and Wright’s Hill Fortress, all have carparks suitable for van-sizes but the turning would be a bit tight for anything bigger. There is enough space to park bigger vehicles further away from the carparks and that usually happens before the roads narrow and/or get twisty. Bonus for driving to Otari-Wilton is Ian Galloway park which includes a skate ramp and an off-lead dog area.

And here are some other ideas…

City Creatures

Make sure you take a stroll around our waterfront (and do look up from your devices, even if there is free wi-fi available). There’s a sculpture tour to be done, and many things to be photographed! We particularly recommend Sundays, so you can also go to the City Markets at Waitangi Park, where you can try all kinds of delicious local produce. You will be able to park in the Te Papa carpark (and while you’re there, why not check our national museum as well), but it will cost you.


Wellington is well known for its coffee culture. Most cafés in the inner city, and many in the suburbs, know how to pour good espresso, latte, or that Australasian speciality, the flat white. Local chains and roasteries whose outposts are generally reliable include Peoples (sic), Supreme, Flight and Mojo.

There are also a several places that stretch the boundaries a little and may be worth a special visit: among these are Customs Brew Bar on Ghuznee Street, Memphis Belle on Dixon, and Lamason, Wellington’s first siphon bar; all three of which make fine espresso as well as single origin beans brewed in a number of interesting ways.

Inner city parking isn’t easy at the best of times, so once you have your motorhome parked in one place, we recommend getting around on foot, bus or taxi.

Eva Street / Leeds Street

This little laneway gets a special mention because it’s packed with Wellington foodie destinations — Six Barrel Soda Co, Fix & Fogg Peanut Butter Company, Leeds Street Bakery (try the salted chocolate chip cookies) and the Wellington Chocolate Factory, as well as a pizza joint and two bars. Oh, and a strip club on the corner.

While you’re there, you might want to pop into one of our favourite bars, Hanging Ditch. This bar is pretty new but it’s rapidly become one of our favourites. It offers exquisite cocktails, decent wine list and a beer selection that’s all craft but limited out of deference to Golding’s next door. You’ll be entertained by all the bottles hanging from the ceiling and there’s plenty of space to sit and chat.


Need to buy presents? The Frank Kitts Underground Craft Market on Saturdays is a good bet. If you’re looking to fill your facehole, the Harbourside Market right next to each other on Sundays in Waitangi Park is the place to be. Friday nights has the night market in Leftbank off Cuba Street, and Saturday night has a food market in Lower Cuba Street.

Movie fans

You’ll want to head out to Miramar (but if you’re driving your motorhome, be careful during heavy winds cos it gets real gusty going past the airport). There you’ll find the Weta Cave, as well as the Roxy Cinema, which is co-owned by Weta guy Sir Richard Taylor. The Roxy has recently reopened, restored to its former glory with bonus amazing murals by Greg Broadmore — it has to be seen to be believed. While you’re there, get great Mexican food at La Boca Loca — we love them not just because they’re delicious but also because they pay their staff a Living Wage.


You can walk around Wellington so easily that no doubt you’ll be browsing freely, but here are the Wellingtonista’s nominees for the best shops in town:

  • Wanda Harland (Petone): Owned by one of the Wellingtonistas, we‘d still pimp this quirky design/gift shop even if we didn‘t get drunk with its owner.
  • Holland Road Yarn Company (Willis Street): You might not realise it but Webstock Special Agent Tash 2.0 is not just a girl with an earpiece – she also makes fantastic yarn and runs her own shop. Holland Road is bursting with knitting supplies and accessories, as well as books and other associated goodness.
  • Unity Books (57 Willis St): It’s an independent bookshop that is a pleasure to browse, with knowledgeable staff who are more than happy to guide you in the direction of a book you’ll love. They frequently host launches and other events too.
  • Slow Boat Records (183 Cuba St): In this modern digital age, where the local record shop is a dying breed, Slow Boat is still around and still thriving with their bins full of lovely lovely vinyl. Whether you’re after something specific or just wanting to browse for inspiration, Slow Boat is a jewel of Cuba Street.
  • Moore Wilson’s Fresh: Recently redeveloped to open it up to the “gentrified” College Street, Moore Wilson will overpower you with its glorious smell when you walk past — a mixture of fresh produce, cut flowers, fresh baked bread and the anticipation of all the glorious cheese and chocolate inside. Although we‘re secretly a little sad you no longer need a club card to shop there, it‘s a great place to load up on food, or to just pop into for a few things.


Free wi-fi is available outside around the waterfront thanks to Trade Me, and in the CBD thanks to @cbdfree. Many cafes and bars — especially the craft beer bars — also offer free wi-fi.


If you’re wanting to save money by catering yourself, hit up the supermarkets. We’ve seen plenty of campervans parked at Chaffers New World at 227 Wakefield Street, so we know they fit into that car park, but Thorndon New World has a height limit. Trying to park near New World Metro at 68 Willis Street or Countdown Metro on Cable Car Lane off Lambton Quay is not recommended but they are on bus routes.

If you want to buy wine or beer, you’ll be able to find it at most dairies in the Cuba Street area and the New Worlds. There is also a very nice wine shop called Wine Seeker on Victoria Street. If spirits are your thing, there’s Glengarry on Courtenay Place, Liquor King at 29 Kent Terrace, or the studenty Liquorland at 233 Victoria Street. Please remember that there is a liquor ban in all of central Wellington, which means you can’t drink on the street or along the waterfront. Unless you’re very very discreet (not recommended).


Wellington is overflowing with craft brewers right now. Keep an eye out for Funk Estate, Parrot Dog, Garage Project (makers of the Webstock IPA and others, which you’ll find served up in craft beer bars like Hashigozake, Goldings Free Dive, the Malthouse and Tuatara’s Third Eye.


Burgers are So Hot Right Now, unlike that phrase. Grill Meats Beer or Burger Liquor have both got what you need and stay in one place. Otherwise, try and track down Nanny’s Food Truck for a jerk take. Please note: we will END you if you refer to burgers as “dude food”.

Food trucks

Food trucks are everywhere in Wellington now, particularly along the waterfront, at Moore Wilson’s, and scattered around Courtenay Place. Some even say there are too many! Your best bets, though, are at the markets mentioned in the section above, where you’ll find many of the most popular food trucks amongst a huge range of other stalls.

Vegetarians, Vegans, Gluten-Free and Others who are Dietarily Challenged

Almost every restaurant & cafe in Wellington will offer you a vegetarian option, but finding vegan is harder to do. Some suggestions:

  • Deluxe Cafe (10 Kent Terrace): This tiny cafe has a big range of food, offering vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free salads, sandwiches, pizza, filos and baked goodness. Everything is clearly labeled too, so you’ll know what you’re getting into.
  • Midnight Espresso (178 Cuba Street): Open until 3amish, this cafe is the perfect destination not just for vegans but also for anyone wanting coffee, cake, hot food or the perfect place to watch people in one of Wellington’s most interesting streets.
  • Aunty Mena’s Vegetarian Cafe (167 Cuba Street): It may look rundown, but you don’t go to Aunty Mena’s for the decor, luckily, you go for a wide range of Asiany food with fake meats.

Your turn now. What else should out-of-towners check out?

This post was sponsored by Wilderness Motorhomes


Opening last night at Circa Theatre SolOTHELLO, is a riotous one man retelling of Shakespeare’s Othello. (An unofficial British Council representative described it as the first time he’s seen Othello  performed as standup comedy.) The mix of original text, Te Reo Māori, colloquial English, and stylised movement used by the four characters conveys the essence of the story. Outrageously funny scenes are balanced by the quieter ones with the ending being particularly powerful. Performer Regan Taylor has the audience in the palm of his hand the whole way through – especially when it looks as though he’s out of control. Outstanding.

Also opening this week was Tiki tour at BATS. Another great comedy solo performance in which Kura Forrester  plays six different characters who meet each other when they’re on a tiki tour of Europe.  Forrester does an excellent job of differentiating the characters with Bronson Atarangi (our main storyteller) and Zsuzanna (who doesn’t speak English and mainly communicates through smiling) being the two characters I’d like to see more of. It’s a little uneven with some of the scenes too long and some too short for my liking but is also full of laughs.

Continuing at BATS this week  is The Vultures.  This is the wordiest and most politically pointed of these three shows. It’s witty and amusing with beautiful costuming and a cool tilted set which the cast play around on. Led by fine performances by Awhina Rose Ashby and Carrie Green as sisters on opposite sides of the decision that has to be made about family land the rest of the cast (Hine Parata-Walker, Natano Keni, Tola Newberry) hold their own as the plot thickens around them. Scarily familiar to some in the audience with one jokingly wondering whether the characters had been based on members of their whānau.

Ka mau te wehi!


The Open Space Plan

by Alan on June 12, 2016 in Outdoors, Urban Issues

While the shape of this city is a curse for transportation planners, it is a blessing for anyone who even just occasionally wants to get outside, because the city’s edges are close by and full of opportunity.

We don’t all take advantage of this though. There’s lots of good and bad reasons why people don’t, ranging from a lack of information, or ability, or inclination, or time. I can’t believe it took me nearly 20 years of living here before I discovered the Skyline Track. I just didn’t realise that I could open that gate and walk up that road I’d noticed on the hill across from our house. Now, one of my favourite weekend activities is an hour or so of walking or riding through open farmland followed by the simple joy of standing on the biggest hill around and saying “I can see my house from here”.

On the Skyline Track above Ngaio looking south towards Te Ahumairangi

But as well as hills to climb, there are trails to run, coasts to scramble, forests to breathe, valleys to stroll, and tracks to cycle (this latter being my favoured activity).

Which leads me to the Wellington City Council’s Open Space Plan, on which the Council is collecting submissions right now.

Keep reading →



Eight companies perform eight productions over three weeks in the Kia Mau festival of theatre and dance. Matariki is the perfect time of the year to indulge your senses with world class theatre and dance hosted by BATS Theatre, Te Papa, and Circa Theatre.

First up (tonight!) is Versions of Allah presented by contemporary indigenous theatre company Ohokomo. “Versions of Allah whizzes its audience around the world and back again as cousins Chisholm, Melanie, Dr. E. Bunton and Vicky reconnect to their staunchly Catholic Samoan Grandmother living in Wellington NZ. As they stray far from the Pacific…these girls still manage to reveal what makes them intrinsically Samoan and intrinsically human.“ First seen at the Matariki Development Festival 2015.

Next is the spectacular looking The Vultures presented by Tawata Theatre. I love the poster for this and can’t wait to see Sister Nurse Hinemoa and her siblings, Magazine Magnate Atawhai and Prodigious Businessman Petera, work their way through expanding the empire – even if it means destroying the world in the process.

Also this week is Shot Bro – Confessions of a Depressed Bullet, a black comedy presented by Mookalucky Productions. Written & Performed by Rob Mokaraka he unfolds his ‘depression in an entertaining yet insightful way, shining light on a traumatic event – you will hear why he ended up being Shot Bro.’  After the show a forum will be facilitated by a qualified health professional.

Next week sees the opening of SolOTHELLO, an adaptation of the Shakespeare’s Othello as a solo performance at CircaTheatre.   Regan Taylor  uses Māori Performance Mask (Te Mata Kokako o Rēhia) and mixes together the ‘original prose, modern English and Te Reo Māori to deliver a dynamic and cheeky interpretation.’Presented by Te Rēhia Theatre Company.

On the same night BATS hosts the opening of another solo show –Tiki Tour, a one-woman sketch comedy show written and performed by Kura Forrester.  She plays all the characters including the main one -Bronson Atarangi from Poririua – who  is sharing his story about his recent travels abroad. Presented by Hāpai Productions.

Later that week White Face Crew present the award winning show La Vie Dans Une Marionette. Be drawn into the epic melodramatic world of the Pianist and his Puppet as the Crew combine physical theatre, clowning, dance and live music.

Next Saturday Te Papa host a reading of Whakaahuatia Mai by Kahu Hotere. It “shows a moment of discovery for Miharo, a young boy who must share his birthday with the passing of his kuia. Through his time on the marae he discovers the beauty of tikanga, the importance of Tangihanga and gains a deeper understanding of his whakapapa. Originally directed by Nancy Brunning for the 2004 Te Reo Māori Season, Taki Rua has revived the hit Whakaahuatia Mai for the 2016 tour.”

Mana Wahine is the triumphant finale to this festival. Presented by Okareka Dance Company this piece combines dance, theatre and film to tell a story “inspired by the true story of Te Aokapurangi, a young maiden from Mokoia Island who single-handedly saved her people from slaughter.”

In te reo Māori, kia mau is a call to stay – an invitation to join and find out more about us all.


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Brand new bars

by Tom June 5, 2016

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Review: The Elephant Thief

by Mr Goulter May 19, 2016

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Preview: House of Sand season – Pedal & Castles

by librarykris May 12, 2016

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It never rains…

by Tom May 5, 2016

…but it pours, especially in Porirua today, causing sudden flooding and serious disruption. I downloaded the hourly rainfall data from Greater Wellington’s site (a rather painful manual process, but a big improvement from not long ago, when you could only get the charts as static images) and put together a quick graph. Here are cumulative […]

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Preview: The great maiden’s blush

by librarykris May 2, 2016

From the makers of Hook, Line & Sinker and Taking the Waewae Express comes a new female-centred story rich in drama and emotion. Two first time mothers, Bunny (Miriama McDowell) and Aila (Renee Lyons) end up sharing a room in a post-natal ward after the birth of their babies. A precarious friendship develops between them as they face the challenges […]

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