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Wellington

    The Ultimate New Zealand Roadtrip: The North Island Edition

    Aoteoroa, Land of the Long White Cloud, God’s Own. New Zealand is known by many names, including ‘home’ for me. At least once in your life, you must do a North Island road trip. With gorgeous waterfalls, geothermic oddities, amazing beaches, snoozing volcanoes – the North Island is gorgeous, but it often plays second fiddle to the glory of the South Island. 

    Cathedral Cove Ultimate New Zealand Roadtrip Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What qualifies me as an insider? I’m a born and bred North Island lass of New Zealand. I’ve lived in gorgeous cities from Auckland all the way down to Wellington, and beautiful places in between like the Art Deco capital of the world Napier and spent a lot of time the beautiful shores of Tauranga. 

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    Recent Adventures in New Zealand

    There is nothing more precious than time. When I’m home in New Zealand, my main focus is spending quality time with my family and friends, but they are sweet enough to indulge my insatiable curiosity about our nation and we end up exploring in between coffees.

    A trip home with family in New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    My home country is astonishingly beautiful, exceedingly friendly, full of easy-going locals and, unfortunately, literally on the other side of the world from my adopted home, so every moment, every peal of laughter seems even more precious.

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    10 things to do in Wellington, New Zealand

    The capital city of New Zealand is my spiritual heart (I fell in love whilst at university there) and with more cafes per capita than any other city in the world, it always feels like home. Walking down Wellington streets, my mind overlays so many memories – and I’m always amazed at how after a decade I still know how to get around without a map. I suspect it is indelibly etched on my heart.

    10 things to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    10 things to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I could actually suggest a zillion different reasons to visit Wellington, but for me, the most important ones are my brother, sister-in-law, two rosy cheeked nephews and my best friend (who I managed to also get to see up in Auckland!). Even if you don’t possess such filial ties, Wellington is a brilliant city.

    Capping off the bottom of the North Island, and overlooking the Cook Strait towards the hills and valleys of the South Island, Wellington is a compact city surrounded by tree shrouded valleys and hills. 

    10 things to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    1:- Sit on the harbourside and people watch.
    Honestly, it is one of my favourite things to do, coffee in hand. Simple things huh?

    10 things to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    10 things to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    2:- Brunch. 

    I have so many recommendations of old classics that I wrote an entire post of my favourite Wellington brunch spots. Wellington brunches are simply at a sublime level of flavour and inventiveness – and that’s before we even begin to look at the delectable dinner options.

    10 things to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    10 things to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    3:- Explore Te Papa Museum.
    Te Papa is New Zealand’s national museum and gallery. You can explore the great treasures and stories of my home country – the unique natural environment, Maori culture, art heritage, and fascinating history. There are always innovative and interactive exhibitions both changing and permanent – I always lose hours here.

    10 things to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    4:- Meander along the quays and do a little shopping.
    There is art on practically every corner and excellent coffee on every other. What more could a person ever need?

    10 things to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    10 things to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    5:- Ride the cable car up to the Botanical gardens and nibble a picnic.
    Once you’re there, I’d also recommend stargazing and check out the amazing planetarium show at Carter Observatory. There are exhibitions that explain the significance of Matariki and the role of the star cluster for the Māori New Year, and the importance of the stars in Polynesian and Māori navigation.

    6:- Take in a Parliament tour at the Beehive. 
    Our national seat of governance is infamous for having a tractor driven up the steps in protest of a methane tax. Because, New Zealand… I’m also rather proud that it is where women were granted the vote – we were the ifirst

    What to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    7:- Visit the Bucket Fountain on Cuba Street.
    You get bonus points if the university students have poured dishwashing liquid to bubble it. Many of the more bohemian shops and characters inhabit Cuba Street – I have vivid memories of juggling fireballs here as a student.

    What to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    8:- Hike up the steep lanes of Wellington Zoo.
    Not only do the animals have amazing views over the valley, there is a great kiwi exhibition and they have several unique animal experiences – I got to pat a Lion a few years ago.

    What to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    9:- Visit Weta Workshop.
    Get an inside peek into Wellywood at The Weta Cave in Miramar – it is the multi-award winning special effects workshop set up for filming Lord of the Rings. Did I mention that I was in one of those films as an extra? It’s usually my party piece. (Nb: image is unrelated, but of my gorgeous, tousled haired nephew.)

    What to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    10:- Pop around the harbour to Petone.
    Not only is the train ride stunning as you skim the sea, Petone is becoming a real foodie hub with fantastic cafes and restaurants. We popped into Comes & Goes for an exquisite array of brunch dishes.

    What to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What to do in Wellington New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I do have a little disclaimer to sneak in – the weather in Wellywood can be extremely tempestuous and living there you soon learn to walk sideways, but with the fantastic vibes, the bohemian underbelly and really friendly atmosphere it is well worth a visit. And on a sunny day? The city is utterly unbeatable!

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    New Zealand, Lord of the Rings and confessions of a guilty expat

    The most I had ever seen of New Zealand’s South Island was in Lord of the Rings movies. There, I said it, my guilty secret.

    For all the world that I’ve been lucky enough to travel, I’ve carried a skeleton in my travel wishlist with me that made me ashamed to call myself a New Zealander. Most Brits that I’ve met remark on how Kiwis and Aussies on their OE have explored more of the UK in their (usually) 2 years, than the Brits have in their entire lives. It’s the hometown tourist enigma – why would you want to travel there when it will always be there, right?

    Christchurch New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi
    Pastoral farmland…
    Christchurch New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi
    …to alpine mountain ranges…

    Well, New Zealand has two main islands (not to mention a few smaller,
    isolated ones). I grew up in the North Island – as an ex-navy kid we lived in a
    few towns – I guess you could say I was raised with travel in the blood. But,
    despite living for a stint in Wellington, our capital city at the end of the
    North Island and only a short ferry to the South, I had never bridged the gap between the two.

    Yes. Despite hopping to Paris for lunch, exploring a
    continent on the other side of the world, cruising around America and a few
    short trips to Singapore and Australia, I had never managed to explore one half
    of our island nation. Luckily, my passport hasn’t been seized despite this and the Kiwi border agents kept letting me in…

    Nelson New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi
    …tropical islands to…
    New Zealand Volcanoes Adventures of a London Kiwi
    …to snow capped volcanic lakes, all in one 2 hour flight.

     Most tourists are told to fly into Auckland before hopping
    to the South Island for the truly gorgeous scenery Aoteoroa is famous for. Compared to the picture postcard magnificence south of the Bombay Hills, Auckland
    gets a rap that it doesn’t deserve, but when we flew home recently, having
    caught up with family at Christmas with a return trip planned in 12 months, our
    surprise short trip on the cusp of Autumn and Winter provided us with an
    unexpected opportunity to discover some of the other half of my home.

    Cardboard Cathedral New Zealand
    Christchurch’s now infamous cardboard Cathedral

    Public transport is a little skeletal in the North Island,
    and whilst it is possible to navigate without a private set of four wheels, it
    makes for much less of an experience in the South Island, where like Skye,
    Scotland, I’m told you want to stop every 5 minutes to admire the ever changing
    view. As an unexperienced car driver and a Mr who doesn’t drive, it did present
    a few problems in a country where car is king. As such we decided to condense
    our trip a little (fitting in more room for family hugs) to puttering around
    the top half of the Island, leaving a few surprises for another time.

    Christchurch cafes New Zealand

    We decided to make Christchurch our base for the whirlwind
    trip (literally 2 days in Auckland, 3.5 days in Christchurch, 3 days in
    Tauranga and another 1.5 days in Auckland before flying back to London – the joys
    of an annual leave entitlement restriction – hey, can’t complain at
    circumnavigating the globe 3 times in 12 months though!).

    Christchurch cafes New Zealand

    Still very much recovering from the devastating Earthquake 4
    years ago, Christchurch broke my hear twice – once with the rubble strewn building sites and a second time with the wonderful can-do spirit of city-dwellers, some who still don’t have their homes back.

    Christchurch Earthquake damage New Zealand


    We witnessed a couple of wizards enjoying a coffee, experienced a train crash, had our breath taken away, discovered kindness, ate way too many pies and experienced a touch of disappointment. More to follow soon…

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    Ripe Coffee – an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana

    Speciality coffee in New Zealand is simply booming. And I LOVE it! Inde-Roasters are beginning to pop up everywhere, rocketing up the standards of flavour to be found in our mugs, on our kitchen benches and most importantly fuelling brunch sessions. I mean important work things.

    It’s not often that a caffeine junkie is invited, nay, driven to exploring the hallowed ground that is a coffee roastery. Ripe is a small owner-operator set up just on the harbourside of foodie boom-town Petone, Lower Hutt in Wellington. I do have to make a small confession here. I’m not the only coffee junkie in my family. My Dad mainlines his with as much sugar as he can get away with, my sister takes hers in soft-drink format, but my brother is the worst of us all. He works for Ripe, testing freshly roasted slurps of coffee hot off the roaster.

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana

    Out the back is where the magic happens. A mischievous team of roasters cast their spells over selected green coffee beans, in an alchemical recipe of flavour, texture and deliciousness. My bro explained to us in depth the processes they go through to retain complexity of flavour, uniformity of batches and experiments of seasonal roasts that they’re known for. Alas, I hadn’t remembered to pre-load with a cup of Joe so my note taking was scanty at best. Ok, I admit it, I only took photographs.

    Bad blogger.

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana

    So come with me, on a wee tour of their HQ; a scatter of retro design, passion, humour, delicious taste, mysterious brewing equipment, chocolate fish and last but definitely not least, Betsy their gorgeous mobile coffee van.

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana
    Their refurbished and modified 1923 Whitmee coffee roaster. Credit.

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana


    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana
    Ubiquitious, essential Chocolate fish – a kiwi staple

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana

    They supply to a growing number of North Island cafes, hotels, coffee bars and home roasters. Just listen to the mouthwatering description of their Ethiopia Yirgacheffe;

    “The coffee is spicy & fragrant, with a slightly chocolatey or nutty
    quality. This washed processed coffee produces a bright & clean
    acidity with subtle peppery notes with lemongrass & tangerine, with a
    medium to light body.

    • Roast Depth: Light

    • Aroma: Rosy, Cardamom, Apricot

    • Sweetness: Preserved Orange, Paw Paw

    • Acidity: Citrus, Clean & Bright

    • Body: Silky & Light

    • Flavour: Peppery, Palm Sugar, Tangerine

    • Finish: Toffee & Honeycomb”

    Yum.

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana

    Ironically I never managed to photograph any of the coffees we drank over the course of the week I was on the fair shores of Wellington; too busy enjoying that incredible taste, childhood treats and baby cuddles. I wonder how long it will take my nephew to realise what kind of a family he’s been born into…

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana
    Didja think I was kidding about Ripe’s dreamy location?

     Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana

    There ends the tale of a fortnight in my home (New Zealand). It was with a heavy heart that I left her shores, but a paradoxically a happy one excited to be headed towards my hearth and home in the sprawling urban chaos that is the London I love. Seeing New Zealand’s shorelines disappear slowly from the corner of the
    plane was utterly bittersweet. Every single expat will know exactly I
    mean.

    My trip was short, sweet, wonderful and I was a very lucky girl to be able to spend so much time with my family; a relaxing Christmas, enjoy a day at the beach, enforce hairy-toed stereotypes visiting Hobbiton, realise a lifelong dream feeding a Lion, snuggle my beautiful Nephew and literally take a stroll down a foodie memory lane in Wellington.

    What a country, eh?

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