Artsy capital extolled

MATT STEWART
Last updated 05:00 24/09/2012
Michelle Kozminski
PHIL REID/Fairfax NZ

HYPED UP ON WELLINGTON: Yes, it's windy, but the occasional gust isn't enough to dampen Wellington's charms for tourists - as visiting Americans Michelle Kozminski, Molly O'Malley and Nicole Ensz proved while exploring Mt Victoria yesterday.

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Lonely Planet's love affair with Wellington continues to blossom with the bestselling travel guide again crooning over the capital's charms.

After last year declaring Wellington the "coolest little capital in the world" Lonely Planet's 16th New Zealand edition praises the city's "compact and vibrant" CBD for its artsy mix of theatres, galleries, boutiques, museums and a "cocktail- and caffeine-fuelled hospitality scene" that fairly "fizzes and pops among the throng”.

It seems Wellington is not only charming, but also easy on the eye: "It's lovely to look at, draped around bushy hillsides encircling a magnificent harbour," one of the guide's five authors wrote.

Wellington's seismic susceptibility rates a mention, while CBD traffic comes with a helpful warning for those who remember 1980s television - "negotiating the inner-city one-way system is like the Krypton Factor on acid".

Analogies abound, with Wellington's entertainment scene described as "a bit like the Tardis: it looks small from the outside, but inside it holds big surprises".

New Zealanders' welcoming nature and eagerness for travellers to enjoy their stay impressed the authors, as did our hardiness. After enduring a testing two years that included the Pike River coalmine explosion, the Rena oil spill, and two Christchurch earthquakes, the authors said "New Zealanders have soldiered on stoically, with the people of Christchurch proving remarkably resilient”.

Hamilton was "surprisingly buzzy" and a "good place to plot a pub crawl", New Plymouth boasted "a bubbling arts scene, some fab cafes and a rootsy, outdoorsy focus", Palmerston North was "a town of two peoples: tough-talkin' country fast-foodies in hotted-up cars and caffeinated Massey University literati”, and Whanganui was "a raggedy historic town . . . with rafts of casual Huck Finn sensibility".

However, the authors did vent some spleen on our two most far-flung municipalities, - Southland's capital elicited the following barb : "Flat and suburban, with endlessly treeless streets, Invercargill won't enthral you if you came here via the Catlins or Fiordland."

Meanwhile, there was mixed approval for Whangarei. "Hardly New Zealand's most thrilling city but you may be pleasantly surprised by the thriving artistic community and the interesting selection of cafes and bars.”

WONDERFUL WELLINGTON

Weta Cave: "Film buffs will enjoy the Weta Cave, a fun, mind-boggling mini-museum of the Academy Award-winning company that brought The Lord of the Rings, King Kong, The Adventures of Tintin and The Hobbit to life."

Days Bay and Matiu-Somes Island by ferry: "Locals have been jumping on a boat to Days Bay for decades, where there's a beach, park and cafe, and a boatshed with kayaks, rowboats and bikes for hire. Matiu-Somes Island is rich in history, having once been a prisoner-of-war camp."

Len Lye's Water Whirler: "The largely lifeless needle of experimental kineticist Len Lye whirrs crazily into life on the hour several times a day."

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Martinborough: "The sweetest visitor spot in the Wairarapa, it's a pretty town with a leafy square and some charming old buildings, surrounded by a patchwork of pasture and a pinstripe of grapevines."

The Dowse Art Museum: "The Dowse is worth visiting for its architecture alone (the pink is positively audacious). It's also a friendly, accessible art museum showcasing New Zealand art, craft and design."

Sweet Mother's Kitchen: "Perpetually full, predominantly with young cool cats . . . it's cheap, cute, has craft beer and good sun."

Malthouse: "At last count there were 150 reasons to drink at this, the capital's original craft-beer bar. Savvy staff will recommend brews from an epic list that showcases beers from New Zealand and around the globe."

Shinobi Sushi Lounge: "Super-fresh fish, Japanese training and Kiwi flair combine to create the most exciting sushi joint in town."

Hunters & Collectors: "Off -the-rack and vintage clothing (punk, skate and mod), plus shoes and accessories. Best-dressed window in New Zealand."

Unity Books: "Setting the standard for every bookshop in the land."

Bats Theatre: "Wildly alternative Bats presents cutting-edge and experimental New Zealand theatre - varied, cheap and intimate."

HYPED UP ON WELLINGTON AND ITS COFFEE

Yes, it's windy, but the occasional gust isn't enough to dampen Wellington's charms for tourists - as visiting Americans Michelle Kozminski, Molly O'Malley and Nicole Ensz proved while exploring Mt Victoria yesterday.

Travel guidebook Lonely Planet is again singing the praises of the city it last year dubbed the "coolest little capital in the world".

In the 16th New Zealand edition, released today, Wellington's vibrancy and "cocktail and caffeine-fuelled hospitality scene" are among its most celebrated elements.

Tourists soaking up the spring sunshine and view from Mt Victoria Lookout agreed with the guidebook's sentiments.

US exchange student Molly O'Malley, 20, from Boston, described herself as loving the cafe scene and, as a coffee drinker, said she found the coffee "fantastic".

She was loving her time in the city.

"If I was coming back I'd study in Wellington, rather than Auckland," she said.

The "great shopping", Te Papa and the Botanic Gardens were highlights - and even the weather was pretty good.

"It's windy, but it's not too bad."

She was also in love with the cafe culture, calling the coffee "fantastic".

Twenty-one year-old Nicole Ensz, from South Dakota, said the architecture and the way sculptures were displayed around the city was a highlight.

"It's just really creative and well designed."

The pair were heading back to Auckland and Dunedin this morning. However, they had planned dinner out and one last harbour stroll to complete the weekend.

- The Dominion Post

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