NZ-raised and Melbourne-based, Lucy is the founder and director of Estuary Yoga Space, North Melbourne. As an artist and a yoga facilitator, she is dedicated to helping each person feel embodied and empowered; to experience the practices of creativity and yoga as a guide in growing through life's challenges and joys.
If Wellington were to be a woman, I'd like to be her bestie. She's a gust of fresh wind, curvaceous, petite but full of vibrancy: the perfect companion for a journey that lights up body and spirit.
There's an abundance to see, do and simply soak up in this little city. Don’t rush: give yourself space to set the tone and intent for your visit. From the airport, one of the first places I make a beeline for is Maranui Cafe, Lyall Bay (about 15mins drive). This local gem is beloved by families, couples, hipster-types and beach-goers alike. This ex-surf lifesaving hub holds an unrivalled view over the beauty of Lyall Ball to the Wellington Airport landing platform, daydream away while distant airborne travellers glide from sea to sky and back.
Simple and rustic, the menu and coffee are familiar, yet diverse enough to please all palates - and the friendly staff are always happy to accommodate dietary requirements.
From here you might head-on into the city for a meander along with the bustle of the famous Cuba St. Expect a touch of sometimes quirky, but definitely unabashed Kiwi authenticity in the diversity of stores, eateries and offerings. An excellent area for op shops - try Hunters & Collectors, Paperbag Princess or Recycle Boutique.
Coffee offerings are aplenty, though one cannot go amiss with the crew at Memphis Belle - hailed as one of the best spots in Wellington for your caffeine ritual. Truly passionate coffee folk, serving options of Syphon, Chemex, V60, Cold Drip, Swiss Gold and award-winning espresso.
Favourites (for the belly and for the piggy bank) include the well-known Fidel's (coffee's great here too), Aunty Mena's Vegetarian Kitchen, or Al Brown's Best Ugly Bagels. For something fancier, try Venetian-inspired Ombra for Italian finesse on a plate.
Take a bus (grab a Snapper card from any convenience store) or Uber your way out towards the salty sea air. Meander along Scorching Bay, or head out further to Owhiro Bay, and walk your way towards Red Rocks Reserve. There's an easy 40min walk that takes you out to the wonderfully unexpected gathering of fur seals soaking up the tumble of this rugged coastline.
For higher ground, you might instead visit the undulating hills and the lush green of Wellington. The Wellington Botanic Garden is a glorious must-see, and not far from here is Mt KauKau, one of the highest visible points in Wellington. This is a steeper, but generous track weaving up through a fountain of ferny green and trellis-like branches, opening out into a panoramic vista of this harbour city's coastal curves. Listen out for the presence of the Tui, one of the most iconic NZ birds with a hauntingly melodic call. As you reach the top, make sure you hold onto your hat and scarf; the wind from the Antarctic adds a refreshing chill!
Before or after your dining experience, try a cocktail at the hidden gem of The Library (upstairs from Courtnay Place). This is a reading room and wine lounge offerings a multifarious array of cocktails, along with sweet treats and sometimes, live music in the enigmatic glow of candlelight.
For a panoramic view of the city at night, savour your meal up high at One80 Restaurant in the Copthorne Hotel (Oriental Bay). Head chef Chetan Pangam is a skilled culinary weaver, threading international influences into a fusion cuisine that inspires the palate. The menu is always changing to stay fresh with seasonal and local produce.
Another favourite outside of the city is Coco at the Roxy. This is the art-deco cinema owned and created by some of Wellington's most creative residents, including Peter Jackson. It features architecture embellished by artisans from Weta Workshop (talents behind The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and is filled with warmth and welcome by the friendly staff. There's an incredible ceiling mural upstairs, the decor of the bathrooms take you back in time, and so much to entertain the art-lovers' eye.
Enjoy a full dining experience, or graze on a mix of the tapas-style dishes (you won't regret trying the Fried Feta with Truffled Honey and Thyme, or the Mushroom Arancini with smoked tomato and kawakawa aioli). You can even savour the delicious offerings and (many) cocktail creations in the cinema! A grand experience, without a trace of pretentiousness.
Te Papa Tongarewa
If you're visiting during a weekend, don't forget to check out the many markets through the city, Friday night through to Sunday morning - a nice chance to mingle with the locals and visitors alike. For kids (and adults alike), learn while you play at the lauded Museum of NZ, Te Papa Tongarewa. Experience the Earthquake House, see the giant squid, learn about the ocean and land of NZ, or find insight in the many rotating cultural exhibitions.
From the harbours of Wellington, you can see the speckles of hillside houses on a vertical, the windows glinting brightly in the sun as the shadows move from dawn towards dusk. This compact city is home to an abundance of creativity, energy and flow (literally!), without losing the humble, down-to-earth friendliness at the heart of Kiwi culture. Take a deep breath, open up and let her breeze sigh lightness through your spirit.