Summer is the perfect time to pay a visit to Wellington, particularly when you’ve got the freedom to take in the museum marvels at a more leisurely pace. Set to start its long summer run at Te Papa, Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality offers an intimate and immersive encounter with a selection of the remarkable 2,300-year-old terracotta warriors. For more than 2,000 years, they secretly guarded the tomb of Qin Shihuang, China’s First Emperor. The summer blockbuster exhibition features eight warriors standing 180 centimetres high and two full-size horses from the famous terracotta army, as well as two half-size replica bronze chariots, each drawn by four horses.
Few places stir your sense of patriotic pride, and awe for Wellington’s creative verve, quite like Weta Workshop. Whether you’re a film aficionado, pop culture connoisseur, or just a curious observer, Weta Studio Tours offers irresistibly immersive film making encounters on the Miramar Peninsula. I highly recommend the Combo Tour, which takes in the Weta Cave and also the miniatures magic of Thunderbirds Are Go. From Middle-earth to Tracy Island, you’ll get up close with the mesmerising miniatures, props, weapons, armour, creatures, vehicles, models and so much more - all artfully and oh-so meticulously crafted in Wellington. I was staggered how huge the miniatures for Thunderbirds are – and so wondrously crafted by Weta Workshop.
The fully escorted studio tours are expertly led by passionate, effusive guides with an intimate and first-hand knowledge of the entire movie-making process, employed as crew members at Weta. Whether you’re Christmas shopping or souvenir hunting, the Weta Cave shop is a one-of-a kind retail trove of creativity, brimming with collectibles, prop replicas, apparel, jewellery, DVDs and art prints and more. Grab your own slice of movie magic and buy a premium sculpture made by the filmmakers at Weta Workshop. While you’re there, don’t miss the short documentary about the history of movie-making on the Miramar Peninsula. With a rolling roster of tours throughout the day, Weta Workshop’s abiding popularity strongly suggests you should book a tour in advance for guaranteed inspirational escapism. www.wetaworkshop.com
No matter when you visit Wellington, there’s always trending players on the culinary scene to check out. I’m a big fan of Noble Rot, an edgy and inventive venue established two years ago by an incredibly talented group of sommeliers and restaurateurs, eager to imbue the Capital with a specialist wine bar. With the wonderful wine regions of Marlborough and Wairarapa sandwiching Wellington, why not! You’ll find Noble Rot in Swan Lane, jutting off Cuba Street, in the space formerly occupied by Duke Carvell’s. Firmly focused on using locally sourced seasonal produce, it’s all about shared food and small plates, in addition to raw bar awash with oh-so fresh seafood and charcuterie to pair with every drop. The extensive wine list understandably showcases New Zealand product, with a special selection of European wines.
Have you ever come across a nut buttery? No, me either – until I discovered the boutique production prowess of Fix & Fogg, a pint-sized business in Hannahs Laneway that’s become a city staple. Established several years ago by two Wellington lawyers, Roman and Andrea started making peanut butter as a hobby, selling it around farmers markets, until it morphed. Fix & Fogg takes its name from Around the World in 80 Days, and the staff will happily offer you samples from the streetside counter window. Making just a handful varieties of their boutique spread – smooth, extra crunchy, Dark Chocolate and Smoke and Fire – the focus is on high-quality products, without additives or preservatives.
Another unmissable is Golding’s Free Dive is a whimsical little craft beer bar, tucked down Hannahs Laneway, largely decorated from recycled materials, with plastic buckets for lampshades and awnings made from old skis. Golding's Free Dive is a free house - meaning they aren’t on the short leash of any brewery, and they constantly showcase a range of fresh brews. True to the collaborative spirit of this laneway, you can also order pizza from Pizza Pomodoro (across the courtyard) who will deliver it to your table. Nice!
Where to stay? Check in to the property that was ingeniously shifted to clear the decks for Te Papa, and has been given a next-level artistic rejuvenation as QT Wellington Hotel. It continues to capture the world’s imagination for its wondrous collection of artworks, opulent décor, distinctively designed guestrooms, celebrated hospitality and award-winning cuisine at Hippopotamus restaurant, with the most extravagant selection of gins in Wellington. Formerly known as the Museum Hotel, it was a natural acquisition for QT Hotels & Resorts who have cultivated a solid reputation for daring to be different, while lustily celebrating their sense of place.
More than just a hotel, QT Wellington is an unabashed cultural playground, underpinned by its eccentric and ever-expansive art collection. The lobby alone boasts New Zealand's largest privately owned art collection, sporting wondrous works by the likes of Dick Frizzell, Seraphine Pick, Liz Maw and BMD. With art and design at the core of the hotel’s identity, QT Wellington recently issued a challenge to all creative types, artists and culturephiles. The hotel’s 'Your Art. Our Rooms.' initiative canvassed hundreds of entries from Kiwi creatives, eager to dress the behead walls of QT Wellington’s nine new rooms.
Given the exceptional quality of the submissions, the hotel splashed out and selected 19 Kiwi artists to unleash their artistic genius across the entire fourth floor, in all 25 guestrooms. Dubbed Gallery 4, bespoke artwork graces the walls, balconies and ceilings, throughout Level 4’s accommodations. This bold collaboration was officially opened at the start of November, and the Gallery rooms feature a stirring array of artworks from established New Zealand names like Angus Muir, D Side and Johnson Witehira, while also showcasing a new breed of artists.
The ever-evolving hotel is committed to continuing to grow its own art collection, staying true to the hotel’s history with the accent on eclectic and immersive art. A QT Wellington stay is the chance to luxuriously bask in the lap of creative brilliance, with all the frills and creature comforts the hotel is legendary for. QT Gallery and QT Harbourview Gallery rooms include the option of a private balcony facing out to dreamy watery embrace of Wellington Harbour. Another heroic capital canvas. Truly distinctive hotels are what great breaks are all about and Qt Wellington is in a class of its own. Make a date with all that art! https://www.qtwellington.com
The capital’s summer events programme lays it on thick with a rolling schedule of activities and entertainment. Start laying out plans for a bumper break in Wellington this summer. www.wellingtonnz.com
Mike Yardley is our Travel Correspondent on Jack Tame Saturday Mornings.