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  • Sabrina Gates

Fresh Finds for Freshers

Explored and Catalogued by Sabrina Gates (she/her)

When I first decided to make the move to Te Whanganui-ā-tara, my Wellington-native Dad was delighted. All his fond and foolish memories flooded into his mind’s eye as he recounted, “you know, I probably have a memory on every street corner of that place”. After three short years in this city, I already felt I could agree to his statement. Wellington can feel small, especially when it’s assignment season and campus feels like a never-ending liminal space. Do not give in to this! Seek the crevasses and hidden gems. 

Coffee, Beer, and Food.

Start your residence here by enjoying the culinary creativity of the city, with so many options and cuisines. These are a drop in the harbour of what the baristas, chefs, and brewers of Pōneke have to offer. 


Swimsuit, 5 Lombard Street

Tucked away in a cosy nook on Lombard Street, a friendly barista brews an unmistakably Wellingtonian oat milk flat white. Lombard Street provides the perfect seclusion for study, hungover debriefs, great coffee, and highly addictive cheese scones. Swimsuits Dixon Street location is also great, its fishbowl interior and outside tables making it ideal for people watching. 

The Rogue and Vagabond, 18 Garrett Street

It’s 4pm on Friday, and you’ve just finished your last class of the week. Outside the lecture hall, the sun beats down on the hustle and bustle of students excited about the new year. Situated just 10 minutes away in Glover Park is a crisp Ginger Fusion 4% beverage from Rogue. Accompanied by live jazzy tunes, picnic style seating, and impeccable vibes—you won’t want to miss out. 

Cafe Laz, 112 Cuba Street

I couldn’t make this without shouting out my favourite kebab spot in the city. With a main restaurant in Newtown, they also have a quaint street stall at the entrance of Left Bank, just off Cuba Mall. The falafel kebab…lord…it’s so fresh and the portions are ridiculous. 

Walks, Swims, and Picnics.

Te Whanganui-ā-tara packs a whole lot of natural beauty into a small harbour. Familiarise yourself with the Metlink app (the Catchy app is not-so-laggy alternative) and get exploring!

Brooklyn Windmill, entrance at 231 Aro Street

If you are new to Wellington, I challenge you and a friend to walk off the Sunday scaries with a march up to the windmill. Taking in Pōneke from above the hills changed my perspective of the city, and provided me a sense of direction and place—so important when moving somewhere new. If walking isn’t an option, the windmill is accessible by road so anyone can enjoy the view.

Central Park, Brooklyn Road

When I lived in town, I would trek this short loop every day to clear my head. I find immersing myself in nature helps to balance my mental health during the trimester, something that can be extra hard in halls. Not far from Kelburn Campus, Central Park is an inner-city oasis rich with native and exotic bush, streams, birds, and fungi of all kinds. It’s also a great picnic spot if you fancy!

Princess Bay Beach, Te Aranui o Pōneke

A rocky shoreline cradles this quaint sandy beach. Some of my fondest memories, of building bonfires and enjoying the best sunsets in Pōneke, have been made here. It’s a really special place. You may need to organise some transport to get here, but it is worth it. 

Beyond Courtney Place 

Post O-week, I’m sure many of you are more than familiar with the feral nature of Courtney Place on a weekend. Some can’t get enough of this stretch, and others will be left wondering—is that all there is of Pōneke nightlife? Do not fret, freshers, there is more to discover. 

Meow, 9 Edward Street

Meow is my go-to venue, with a diverse variety of shows and indoor-outdoor spaces. I’ve found the sound to be a let down sometimes, but the energy is always there! It’s also great to support their fundraising mahi, such as the Music 4 Palestine gig last year which brought together community awareness and donations for Palestinian whānau. Keep an eye on their schedule to snag early bird tickets as door sale prices can break the bank. 

Valhalla, 154 Vivian Street

One of the few places left with an authentically grimey club atmosphere where one can boogie into the early AMs. On a busy night, this spot is full to the brim. Here you will see the best (and worst) of the Pōneke DJ scene, which I highly encourage getting familiar with.

Moon Bar, 167 Riddiford Street

If you don’t check out Newtown nightlife at some point, you’re missing out. Moon Bar is where DJs as old as your Dad will be cranking the groove and funk tunes that only a seasoned mixer could spin. The crowd is local so it’s always best to respect the veterans by having a bloody good time.

These are just a handful of the spaces my peers and I have come to love in the city, but there are many more! Finding your own spots to frequent is half of the fun, so go forth and enjoy all that Te Whanganui-ā-tara has to offer!


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