Well, Well, Wellington

There are more than a few things that make Wellington stand out from New Zealand’s other urban areas. It’s a beautiful harbor city perched at the southern tip of the North Island, known for good food and beer, a thriving café culture, hip residents, and above all, its oft-inclement weather. The blustery conditions of New Zealand’s capital city have earned it the nickname “Windy Wellington.” They even have an unofficial slogan with a weather-dependent caveat built into it: “You can’t beat Wellington on a good day!” On a good day…boy does that sound familiar to a born-and-raised Seattleite.

So, I'll admit, when I was considering potential places to live in New Zealand I heard that slogan and promptly crossed Wellington off the list. Sorry, I thought, but I’ve lived 25 years in a place that’s good on a good day. Heck, Seattle is superb on the good days. You know, the days when we remember why we put up with four to six months of vitamin-D deficient, soggy, gray depression.

Fickle weather patterns aside, I was really looking forward to this one-night stop on the Carlindsay road trip. But I’m not going to lie to you here, it was primarily because we would get to visit the Garage Project Brewery and Taproom. When I moved to New Zealand, Garage Project quickly became my favorite beer to splurge on at the supermarket. It’s dank craft beer that you can only get in New Zealand, and each type had a distinct bold label that was created by a different local artist. Honestly, what more could you want?

So, if you find yourself in Wellington, definitely make a stop at Garage Project. If you don’t have much time you can stop by the Cellar Door and pick up some beer to takeaway (or some dope merchandise, I’m a sucker for a sticker) but if you’ve got an hour or two to spare, the Taproom just down the street is a great place to waste away an afternoon drinking among Wellington’s hippest.

Probably take your Instagram photos of it before your'e two beers deep on an empty stomach though...just a suggestion.

Another place that I wanted to make sure to visit in person was Havana Coffee Works. Since first drinking it two months into my travels at an AirBnb in Auckland, I was hooked. It’s delicious, it’s only available in New Zealand, and it packs a heck of a caffeine punch. (I learned later that their slogan, “Coffee You Feel,” refers to the way you literally feel the coffee hit your veins, because the method they use to roast the beans enhances their caffeine content.)

The roastery is connected to a cute little café decorated in the style of Old Havana. Lindsay and I headed there in the morning and grabbed a bagel breakfast and chatted about life while the sun started to break through the clouds outside.

Around that time I got an email from the ferry company that our sailing to the South Island would be delayed due to the weather conditions. We were a little bit confused because it was shaping up to be a beautiful day in Wellington, but if you’ve seen the videos of the New Zealand inter-island ferry crossings on bad days, you’ll understand why we didn’t question it. (If you haven’t seen the videos, here’s an article with a few firsthand documentations.)

We spent the extra hours roaming the city and counting the number of boys we passed with stocking caps rolled up over their ears. The softboy aesthetic has fully permeated Wellington street style: almost every dude you pass is wearing chucks with jeans rolled up to reveal their wool socks. Maybe the street style is what makes Wellington feel familiar to me—it reminds me of Seattle in that it feels like everyone decided septum piercings were cool at the same time. And I have a feeling that if you were to look inside the closets of young Wellingtonians the vast majority would contain a Kanken and a graphic tote bag for every day of the week. It’s the kind of place where it feels only natural to take a moody photo with the David Bowie mural (while holding your takeaway Havana coffee.)

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We popped into The Ferret Bookshop (um, how cute is their tagline: “Poke your nose in!”) where I picked up a used copy of Once Were Warriors, which I had been meaning to read since I arrived. It’s the novel on which the 1994 film is based, a raw and often painful portrait of the Maori experience in modern New Zealand. I highly recommend it because it tempers the widespread perception of New Zealand as some kind of utopia void of crime, poverty, violence, oppression, racism…you know, the works. It’s also ideal for travelers because, despite incredibly heavy themes, it’s a lightweight book that won’t add much to your pack.

Before our three-hour ferry crossing, we used Yelp to help us find a light lunch at Fidel’s, a café on Cuba Street…yeah, the Cuba theme is a thing here. With bellies full of halloumi avocado toast, we made our way to the dock and got in line for the ferry.

Now, Lindsay and I have been traveling by ferry since before we can remember. Our families were vacationing to Orcas Island together since we were born, so we’re no strangers to driving onto boats. But to us, “ferry” means a white and green government-run double-sided boat with open-air car decks and vending machines on the passenger deck. So Lindsay sat in amazement in the passenger seat as we drove through the single-sided car entrance into the hull of this big ship, whispering dramatically (and somewhat jokingly) into the GoPro, “This is unlike anything I’ve ever been on before!”

Lindsay soaking in the view outside on the lower passenger deck.

Even though the later sailing did mean that we had to navigate the winding roads from Picton to Nelson in the dark once we reached the South Island, it also meant that we were treated to a serene afternoon crossing.

Rolling green hills and a stellar sunset greeted us as we cruised into the Marlborough Sounds. I like to think it was the South Island’s way of saying hello and welcoming us into the next twenty shenanigan-filled days, the second leg of the Carlindsay Road Trip.