It was bittersweet to leave the South Island of NZ as we watched the mountainous sounds drift from the back of our ferry. We had picked the morning trip with Bluebridge Ferries to Wellington for the slightly cheaper fares than their sole competitor, Interislander. While Bluebridge is more cargo oriented, it still offers an incredible viewing deck, two cafes, a mini movie theater, and free wi-fi. And to all those looking for a bargain, if you wait until the last 10 minutes of the cruise, the cafes will typically offer all their sandwiches and pastries for just a dollar! Ohh the things that the Murphys get excited about.
We immediately had a great feeling about Wellington when we pulled into the beautiful harbor. As we had been told to expect, there was a crazy wind that whipped across the bay and over this hilly city on the water. Definitely bring your walking shoes here as our sweet little Airbnb apartment on "The Terrace" of the city required several hundred stairs to get to the next parallel street.
If we'd had any doubt of our affinity for Wellington, it was squashed as we saw the incredible selection of quality restaurants we had to pick from. Allegedly, the city has more restaurants per capita than NYC but, unfortunately, the meals will run you at about the same price. So we were quite relieved to find a common theme of "cheap and cheerful" asian noodle shops all over town to get more bang for your buck. Our first stop came by recommendation to Little Penang that served up a delicious rendition of the Malaysian dish, char kway teow - fried flat noodles with shrimp, pork crackle, sweet Chinese sausage, fried onion, and garlic...and it was just over $7. From there, a short walk down the lively Cuba Street brought us to, the aptly named, Fidel's for a divine dessert of mudslide coffee, tiramisu, and incredible apple pie (even by American standards). Definitely don't miss this place and make sure to ask the staff about any live music or concerts going on...they all seem to be on top of it.
Needing to work off our residual food coma the next day, we headed up to the scenic Mt. Victoria lookout that offers an incredible vantage point of the city and out across the Cook Straight. You can easily drive to the top but there are a few little walking paths around the peak if you have a nice (and not too windy) day. While out of town, we fueled our inner geeks and continued 10 minutes further to the Weta Workshop where all the costumes and special effects were created for Lord of the Rings and a bunch of other powerhouse movies. Even for non-fans, it's very impressive to see the detail and work these teams put into their craft. Instead of paying for the full tour, we were happy with the free behind the scenes video that runs every 30 minutes...ohh and they have life-sized trolls.
Of course we couldn't miss talking a walk down Wellington's happening waterfront. At around noon on a weekday, the boardwalk was full of food trucks, pop-up shops, runners, and people diving in for a swim on their lunch break. Our time in Wellington lined up perfectly with the sweet Jamie & Randy Watson (of Jamie Delaine Photography & The School Sessions) who were also traveling through NZ, so we met up for a little lunch at Mac's Brewbar by the water. It's always so fun to meet up with other travelers along the way -- especially other creative entrepreneurs. Thanks for your company, Jamie & Randy!
Another great pitstop in the city was the Wellington Central Library (yes those still exist.) This detour was out of necessity, as we needed to print out copies of a rental car voucher, but we so loved seeing how spacious, clean and crowded this library was! (They also had an amazing section of magazines.) We quickly discovered that photography of the library is not allowed, but were able to snap one before getting gently reprimanded.
In hopes of preparing our palettes for Southeast Asia, we chose the Vietnamese restaurant, Nam, for our last dinner in Wellington. Not as good as real Vietnamese food (as we now know) but still darn delicious. The most educational part of our meal was our first run in with Vietnamese iced coffee. We made the mistake of pouring the coffee over the ice, then trying to pour / mix in the condensed milk. It didn't work so well, but we learned a valuable lesson that helped us avoid future coffee embarrassment when in the real 'Nam.
Before leaving this sweet city the next morning, we ventured down the 3 million stairs for breakfast at the Hangar, which proudly brews Flight Coffee (aviation pun intended, I assume) aka coffee geek heaven! They serve every variation of jo you can imagine - fancy espresso, Chemex, cold drip, Aeropress, v60... you name it, AND their branding and ambiance is totally on par.