Big Night Out: Wellington

The nightlife's red hot - the jazz is as cool as the breeze
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The Independent Travel

The vibe

The vibe

Wellington is one of the Southern Hemisphere's most dynamic and diverse cities. The Windy City is cosmopolitan and scenic - and as Wellington's main areas are all within walking distance of each other, getting about is easy. It's not enormous, but it's got everything you could want: shopping and eateries in the Lambton Quarter, offices in Willis, funky markets in Cuba and nightlife in Courtenay Quarter.

Wellington's bars and restaurants are justly praised for the huge variety of local wines and the fresh food at low prices. The nightlife is excellent, and there is a good public transport system, with regular buses and trains throughout the city and outer regions. Don't miss a ride on the red cable cars and trolley buses with their overhead wires.

Liquid

CO2, 28 Blair St, is one of Wellington's hippest venues, serving champagne and sparkling wines. Another popular favourite is the recently revamped Matterhorn Bar and Lounge, 106a Cuba Street, which serves good retro-style cocktails. For something more chilled, head to the Q Bar and Lounge, 26c Courtenay Place, where you can shoot pool or down divine chocolate martinis.

Refuelling

For foodies, Wellington is heaven. Logan Brown, 192 Cuba Street (00 64 4801 5114), is famous for its innovative use of fresh local fare. Best of all are the taster plates of starters and the mini-sized dessert portions. About £27 per head.

Anise, 161-163 Cuba Street (00 64 4381 2212), is the creation of Paul Blain, whose mentor David Thompson is the chef credited with putting Thai food on the map. Expect Kiwi classics such as kumara (native sweet potato) and lamb shanks. Around £20 per head.

Hummingbird Café, 22 Courtenay Place (00 64 4 801 6336), has a wide range of menus from light or substantial lunches, pre-theatre or late suppers and all-day weekend brunches. Approx £15 per head.

Go native

Don't miss Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, Cable Street, (00 64 4 381 7000; www.tepapa.gov.nz) the new, interactive-style museum on the waterfront. Open late on Thursdays until 9pm. The city plays host to a number of major festivals throughout the year including the New Zealand International Arts Festival (27 February-21 March), the largest multicultural event in the Southern Hemisphere, offering classical, jazz, pop, opera, international writers and poets, Maori dance and theatre and modern dance.

Party

The Motel Bar, Forresters Lane, plays funked-up jazz in a cool interior and is Wellington's coolest nightspot - if you can get past the velvet rope. For bohemian fun, head for Bar Bodega, 286 Willis Street, a legend in Wellingtonian nightlife, featuring live bands and top international DJs. Go to the Good Luck Bar, 126 Cuba Street, for Cambodian cuisine and live DJs. If you get the munchies, follow the locals and stars alike to The Chocolate Fish Café, 497a Karaka Bay Road, Seatoun, for the best late-night snacks and cakes in town.

Get active

Drive to nearby Lyall Bay and learn to ride the waves with Wellington's surf set or head north to Kaitoke Regional Park for a spot of hiking, swimming or even whitewater rafting.

Quest Travel (0870-442 3542; www.questravel.com) offers an eight-day self-drive tour of the North Island, taking in Wellington, from £1,199 per person, including return flights with Air New Zealand, seven nights' b&b accommodation, car hire and two half-day sightseeing tours, one of Wellington and one of the surrounding coast. Air New Zealand (0800-028 4149; www.airnew zealand.co.uk) offers return flights to Wellington from £667 per person. For further information contact Tourism New Zealand (09050 606060; calls cost 60p per minute; www.newzealand.com).

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