With at least some level of street cred established by publishing the bestselling guide to the capital – The Best of Wellington – we were commissioned to cover our home city of Wellington for three editions of Lonely Planet’s New Zealand guidebook (2012–16) along with associated titles including The North Island and Discover New Zealand.
This was an unmissable opportunity to tell it like it really is…
A small city with a big reputation, Wellington is most famous for being NZ’s constitutional and cultural capital. It is infamous for its weather, particularly the gale-force winds wont to barrel through, wrecking umbrellas and obliterating hairdos. It also lies on a major fault line. And negotiating the inner-city one-way system is like the Krypton Factor on acid.
But on the other hand…
… don’t be deterred, for these are mere trifles on Welly’s multi-layered, jam-packed stand of sweet treats. For a starter it’s lovely to look at, draped around bushy hillsides encircling a freshly whipped harbour. There are super lookouts on hilltops, golden sand on the prom, and spectacular craggy shores along the south coast. Downtown, the city is compact and vibrant, buoyed by a decent smattering of museums, theatres, galleries and boutiques. A cocktail-, caffeine- and craft-beer-fuelled hospitality scene fizzes and pops among the throng.
We enjoyed the opportunity to recommend some of our favourite local cafes and restaurants like Ortega Fish Shack, Aunty Mena’s, the Regal, Pizza Pomodoro and Prefab. And bars like The Malthouse, Havana, LBQ, and Mighty Mighty (RIP) described as:
… the hippest of the capital’s drinking and music venues. Inside-a-pinball-machine decor, pink velvet curtains, kitsch gewgaws and Wellington’s best barmaid make this an essential port of call for those wanting to tilt or bang a bumper. A colourful slice of NZ bar life.
… and The Laundry, as written up pun-tastically by Lee:
Tumble into this junkshop juke joint any time of the day or night for a tipple and a taco, and hang-out with the hipsters in a wrinkle-free zone. Carousal is encouraged with regular gigs and deejays, lip-smacking libations, and colourful, carnivalesque decor pasted up with a very rough brush. Trailer-trash back-yard complete with a caravan.
We also relished the opportunity to highlight great indy retailers like Mandatory, Starfish (RIP), Hunters & Collectors, and Unity Books – ”setting the standard for every bookshop in the land’. (Still does. Hopefully will forever.)
Over the years we also described the Bucket Fountain variously as ‘ridiculous’, ‘malicious’, ‘out to get you’ and as living to ‘wet your trouser leg’. We were a little surprised not to get any hate mail.