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Wellington buzzes with cafés, delicatessens and restaurants - the waft of roasting coffee beans tells you quickly that this city likes to get everything exactly right.
It's easy for visitors to experience the different personalities of the city on foot. Courtenay Place is the nightlife nerve centre - it’s packed with restaurants, bars, cafes, cinemas and theatres. Cuba Street is bohemian and alternative - a great place to find ethnic cuisine.
Lambton Quay is thoroughly upmarket, with designer fashions and food to match. And the Wellington Waterfront is for daytime exploration with parks, museums and landmarks to discover.
Special Wellington food experiences include a chocolate café, a restaurant that puts a new spin on traditional Maori food and a seafood restaurant that’s housed in a restored historic woolshed.
Zest food tours do a ‘walking gourmet’ tour of the inner city, which culminates in a three course tasting lunch with matched New Zealand wines.
From downtown Wellington you can catch a ferry to Eastbourne, where you’ll find an excellent selection of cafes and restaurants. Another recommended excursion is the Moore Wilson Farmers’ Market, which is held every Saturday in Porirua. The market sells high quality, locally produced food - pies, cheeses, sweets, olive oils, pickles and chutneys, spices and artisan breads.
Just over the hills from Wellington, the Wairarapa region has become something of a gourmet’s paradise in recent years. Not only does it have a fabulous wine culture, with pinot noir taking centre stage, it’s a veritable Garden of Eden in terms of great ingredients.
Most visitors head for the village of Martinborough, where you can take a leisurely stroll or bike ride around the local vineyards and olive groves. Some of the vineyards have a restaurant or café, to keep your energy levels suitably topped up.
Other towns to visit include Greytown and Masterton, both known for good restaurants and excellent boutique shopping. These towns are at the very heart of the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail.
Northwest from Wellington is the Kapiti Coast, where a temperate climate and innovative entrepreneurs have combined to create some great opportunities for food lovers.
Visit an organic winery on the shores of Lake Horowhenua; enjoy country cooking at a pioneer museum; taste New Zealand-made schnapps, liqueurs, infused oils and vinaigrettes at the Prenzel Kapiti Tasting Room Cnr State Hwy 1 and Raumati Road; and visit Lindale Farm, where you can buy locally made cheese and ice cream.
A real treat on this coast is the Ruth Pretty Cooking School, which runs most weekends from March to December. Ruth’s a living legend in New Zealand food circles, and she often invites local food personalities to assist with her classes.