Wellington, New Zealand, travel guide and things to do: nine highlights

THE ONLY BRUNCH

Eggs, bacon, oats, avocado on toast. There’s nothing wrong with them, but European soul food specialists Field & Green should be dubbed Left Field & Green after designing a very different brunch menu. Think a Red Leicester cheese scone with butter; kedgeree, soft-boiled egg and curry oil; corned beef and hash browns, poached egg, mustard sauce and pickles, or, the clincher: a fish finger sandwich, tartar sauce and arugula. The dinner menu offers richer comfort food: roasted marrow bones and white anchovies on sourdough bread; Cloudy Bay clams and saffron risotto are a taste. Sit down at a table or perch in the kitchen to watch the chefs work their magic. And ice cream lovers rejoice: 17 homemade variety options are available, from vanilla to saffron to cardamom. See fieldandgreen.co.nz

THE SINGLE WAY

The nooks and crannies of Hannah’s Laneway, the area in and around a former shoe factory, is now home to a mix of must-see tours celebrating Kiwi inventiveness, irreverence and love for all things sweet and dirty. Here you’ll find the Wellington Chocolate Factory (see below); Leeds Street Bakery (leedsstbakery.co.nz), birthplace of a salted caramel cookie that’s been on the lips of Wellington locals for a while now; Pizza Pomodoro (pizzapomodoro.co.nz), an authentic pizzeria certified by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, and the Hanging Ditch cocktail bar (hangingditch.co.nz) where your drink of choice is delivered via bungee cords suspended from the ceiling – peak NZ. There’s also the self-explanatory Donnie Taco food truck and Fix and Fogg, which create monstrously delicious peanut butter creations behind a tiny window. See fixandfogg.co.nz

THE ONLY CHOCOLATE GOURMET

Wellington has its own Willy Wonka in the form of Gabe Davidson, co-founder of the Wellington Factory at Hannah’s Laneway. His mission ? Produce quality organic chocolate through ethical means. To do this, the factory pays a premium for its organic beans in places like Vanuatu and Peru, to guarantee growers a better standard of living. Come have a cup of hot chocolate or sample some of the award-winning artisan chocolates, wrapped in papers designed by local artists. Or join a chocolate-making workshop where you mix, temper, place, and wrap your own chocolate bars—no Golden Tickets required. See wcf.co.nz

THE SINGLE VISIT

If Zealandia sounds like a magical land, you’re right. This 225-hectare urban eco-sanctuary on the outskirts of town opened in 2000 with the aim of doing what seemed impossible: reestablish populations of native birds and wildlife that had nearly disappeared in the wild. The result is best articulated by the whistles of the North Island kaka parrot, which is making a vigorous return to Wellington’s backyards after having all but disappeared, thanks to Zealandia’s zealous maintenance of its anti-predator fence. 1.83 meters high that runs along the nine-kilometre perimeter. On our 2.5 hour tour of Zealandia by Night, we spot plenty of parrots, frogs, lizards, glowworms – and most excitingly – two kiwis hopping around in the wild. Night tour adults NZ$85 ($76.80). See visitZealandia.com

THE ONLY HOTEL

It doesn’t take long after arriving in the cool Kiwi capital to realize that there are two places you’ll want to be: on the spectacular waterfront and in the bustling shopping and dining centers around Cuba Street. The Intrepid Hotel on Ghuznee Street is a short walk from both and has all the little extras that make boutique hotels, well, boutiques: funky interiors, good-sized, comfortable rooms, a mini- free bar and The Puffin – a destination bar, featuring natural wines and a lounge vibe. And who can resist a hotel that delivers free hot croissants and jam to your door each morning, has brewed coffee and common spring water on tap, and leaves Pinky chocolate bars on your bed at night? . See theintrepidhotel.com

THE SINGLE BAR

Noble rot is the beneficial form of a gray fungus that affects wine grapes. And any Kiwi with a nose for the good stuff knows it’s also the name of one of Wellington’s most innovative and popular wine bars. Come here to taste drops by the glass – or even half a glass – with advice from sommeliers on a mission to delight your taste buds with an incredible wine list. Pair your choice of over 500 drinks (80 to try by the glass) with canapés or plates to share such as salmon caviar with cultured cream and blini, smoked fish rillettes with crostini or chicken liver parfait with marinated carrots and salted dough. See noblerot.co.nz

THE UNIQUE MUSEUM

Lonely Planet named it one of the top 500 places to see on the planet, and Te Papa Tongarewa on Wellington’s waterfront doesn’t disappoint. Housing floors of cultural, scientific, natural and artistic treasures, the scale of this building and its exhibits is breathtaking. My visit coincides with the first national holiday to celebrate the Maori Matariki festival, so a tour of the te iwi taketake or First Peoples treasures is particularly poignant. Feel the earth move beneath your feet in the earthquake exhibit; marvel at the egg size of a now-extinct giant moa (hint: it makes an emu egg look like chicken food) and marvel at the exquisite workmanship of traditional Maori canoes. Admission fee. See tepapa.govt.nz

THE ONLY RESTAURANT

Liberty lives up to its name, with a freedom of cuisine that diners appreciate. And so tostadas, pulled pork, ‘nduja, tomatillo sit alongside fish and shrimp balls, chili oil and crispy shallots on the menu, which also features smoked lamb, lime pickle and coriander. All dishes are designed to be shared. This sleek new restaurant with large windows where you can see the happenings of Cuba’s bustling street is Steve Logan’s latest delicious venture from longtime dining destination Logan Brown, which is just up the road. See libertyrestaurant.co.nz

THE ONLY TRIP

Wellington is a city with no shortage of spectacular views, but a five-minute ride on the beautiful red Wellington Cable Car or Funicular is one of the best ways to experience them, soaring 120 meters over a length of 612 meters . The cable car, in operation since 1902, takes five minutes to drop you from the heart of Wellington at Lambton Quay, through Kelburn, with its distinctive wooden houses, to a lookout and cable car museum (entry included in price NZ$9 round trip). From here, it’s an easy walk to the 1868 Wellington Botanical Garden, home to 25 acres of native forest and colorful European gardens. See wellingtoncablecar.co.nz

AND ANOTHER THING

At a time when so many shopping streets around the world are the same and not really different, Wellington’s Cuba Street has a bit of everything that makes shopping worthwhile. Head here for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a drink, vintage clothing, bookstores and record stores, quirky cafes and designer clothes. See WellingtonNZ.com

Jane Richards traveled to New Zealand as a guest of WellingtonNZ.

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