Wellington is probably one of my favourite places to visit in New Zealand. Although, I haven’t seen much of the South Island, so that may change. For comparison, the closest city I’ve visited for atmosphere, size, and terrain is Oslo, Norway. Both are often frigidly cold, have great public transport, an ecclectic bunch of residents, and are nestled in amongst towering hills and rough seas. The only difference being that in Wellington you can buy an entire university education for the cost of an Oslo cappuchino.
Last weekend I got to visit the city to perform a wedding ceremony for Kylie and Luke, two seriously awesome bogans who had a full-on goth ceremony. (I am still officiating NZ alternative weddings – so let me know if you know anyone getting married who needs a celebrant!) Since I was flying down for the wedding, I figured it’s as good a time as any to visit friends and family and get some fun times in. So that’s exactly what I did.
Now, I travel to Wellington quite often – I’ve already been once this year for a show with my husband’s punk band, Skulls. And we’re heading back last weekend of May for his birthday celebrations (which basically involve seeing friends, eating food and visiting his favourite bookshop). So I feel like I’m getting to know some of the cooler things to do around the city. If you’re in Wellington for a day or a month, here are a few things I recommend checking out:
1. See a band at the local alt bars.
There are three bars in Wellington that commonly feature metal bands on the bill. First up is Valhalla, nee Bar Medusa, nee Hole in the Wall, nee Valve, on Vivian Street, which has basically been the local goth / metal / alt bar since time first began, despite multiple owners and multiple names. Stumble in on a Friday or Saturday night and you might be able to catch a Beastwars set, or be brutalised at Capital Punishment V on 24th May with Malevolence, Metal Tower, Insidious Wretch and others. For those who remember Eden’s Bar in Auckland, it’s got a similar layout and vibe.
Bar Bodega is much larger, and usually hosts the international metal acts and larger shows when they bother to come to Wellington. I saw Goatwhore and Impiety here in 2012 with about 30 other people. It’s a wicked venue.
And third is the San Francisco Bathhouse, which hosts a huge array of different acts. You’re just as likely to catch a local metal show here as you are an amateur comedy night, some rockabilly, or a poetry slam. I love the atmosphere here and all the different people who go.
2. See a show at one of the local independent theatres.
I love theatre. I try to see a few shows every year, and especially when I go to Wellington. Home to a huge community of NZ theatre talent, Wellington always has a steady steam of plays, monologues, acts and dramatical fancies, many of which are only a tenner or two to see. Last weekend I went to the tiny, dimly lit Gryphon Theatre on Ghuznee Street to see Absurdities, a monty-pythonesque sketch show featuring Napolean Bonaparte going to a job interview, and the end of the world as we know it. Check Eventfinder for what’s on when you’re down there.
3. Tour of Parliament
OK, this is not remotely metal, but I found it quite interesting, and it’s free, and gets you out of the GODFORSAKEN WIND for an hour or so. So it’s a win. They go every hour, so just head toward the Beehive and rock on inside.
4. Weta Cave
You probably can’t be a member of the movie-going public these days without having heard of Weta Workshops, probably the most prominent props and visual effects company in the world. Weta was created by Richard Taylor and his wife Tania Rodger in their back shed in to work with director Peter Jackson on some of his early films, like Braindead, Meet the Feebles, and the Frighteners. And then, when Jackson got the opportunity to direct the Lord of the Rings triology, of course he turned to the local studio tfor his needs. Weta have since worked on major movies like Avatar, District 9, and Halo3, and the brand comprises two different companies (Digital and Workshop) that comprise 11 different departments covering every aspect of digital effects and art department production.
So Weta are badass. Their main studios and warehouses are in Wellington, and if you’re heading out Miramar way, you can visit the Weta Cave – part movie props museum, part extravagent gift shop. You can also pay $20NZ to take the Weta workshop tour, taking a behind-the-scenes look at some of the most impressive props, and meeting some of the creative people behind some of the coolest movies. Mother Metal and I headed out to have a look, and this is SO AWESOME, and I can highly recommend.
OK, again, not metal, but apparently, this small, crowded cafe is a Wellington institution. My friend Shane took me to Fidels for lunch, and I had a Snickers milkshake and HOLY SHIT SNICKERS ALL THE THINGS.
6. Te Papa
OK, you probably can’t go to Wellington and NOT visit Te Papa, the national museum of NZ. Situated out on the waterfront, this museum is free to the public (for a given value of free – all the travelling exhibits cost money), and houses a collection of natural history (including a Collosal squid, which is my favourite thing to see. If you ever doubted Cthulhu exists …), a fun bush walk and a dinosaur dig (yes, still fun at my age), and currently an exhibit about the World of Wearable Arts which is fascinating and pretty awesome.
7. Harbourside Market
Beside Te Papa is the Harbourside Market and food truck extravaganza every weekend. Mother Metal and I went through looking for lunch and weren’t disappointed – Moroccan kebabs (chicken and preserved lemon, anyone?) and French crepes for dessert. Soooo good.
8. Vintage Shopping on Cuba Street
If you are that way inclined. You can also go just to hipster-watch.
I haven’t been here yet, but the next trip it’s going to happen. The Zealandia project aims to turn 225 hectares of land back into a prehistoric state. You can walk through the bush with volunteer guides who can tell you all about the project, and apparently if you’re eagle-eyed (which I’m clearly not) you might even spot a kiwi.
10. Movies at the Roxy
The Roxy Cimema in Miramar is a great place to head after you’ve visited the Weta Cave. We had some time to kill before my flight home, so we went around to watch The Grand Budapest Hotel (which is brilliant, BTW). The theatre began its life in 1829 as The Capital Theatre, and reponed it’s doors in 2011 after an extensive rebuild. It’s a beautiful building that evokes a sense of romance and magic – so going to the movies feels more like an event and less like something you do to kill time till the pub opens. The seats are enormous and cushy, and you don’t so much buy popcorn and candy as coffee and custard slice to bring in. There’s amply armrest space (very important) and the whole experience is just brilliant. The Roxy also shows a lot of film festival and independent films, so check out their website to see what’s on.
What are your favourite things to do in Wellington?