Wellington is such a compact city that it’s easy for visitors to find their way around and to wander at ease. You can pick up the free guides, The Fashion Map and The Arts Map, at the visitor center. From the department and designer stores of Lambton Quay (nicknamed the Golden Mile) up Willis Street to the funkier side of town on Cuba Street, you’ll find markets, alternative boutiques, secondhand stores, and great cafes. It’s all easy and shopper-friendly. Store hours are usually Monday through Friday from 9am to 5:30pm, Saturday from 9am to 4:30pm, and Sunday from 10am to 2pm.
The best place to start is Lambton Quay, which has three linked arcades, and Capital on Quay, at 250 Lambton Quay (tel. 04/473-8868). There are boutiques, a heap of shoe stores, music shops, and excellent bookstores. It’s also where you’ll find Wellington’s most famous department store, Kirkcaldie & Stains (tel. 04/472-5899; www.kirkcaldies.co.nz), which has been offering traditional service and quality merchandise since 1863. Nearby, Untouched World, 147 Featherston St. (tel. 04/473-2596; www.untouchedworld.com), showcases renowned lifestyle clothing in merino and possum fur.
The historic Bank of New Zealand building on Lambton Quay is now the Old Bank Arcade & Chambers (tel. 04/922-0600; www.oldbank.co.nz), a retail arcade after the style of Sydney’s Queen Victoria Arcade. It has attracted interest from top national and international retail stores and includes cafes, restaurants, and designer clothing stores.
As you move onto Willis Street, you’ll find more fashion, books, and music; and Quoil, 149 Willis St. (tel. 04/384-1499; www.quoil.co.nz), a gallery representing New Zealand’s top contemporary jewelers. Further along, Aquamerino, 97 Willis St. (tel. 04/473-9106; www.aquamerino.com), sells a beautiful range of New Zealand merino clothing for men and women. Turn down Manners Street and make your way into the weird and wonderful Cuba Street area, which gets more interesting the higher up the mall you go. If you want your future predicted, your sexual preferences catered to, your body pierced or tattooed, or if you’re just craving a cup of damn good coffee, you’re in the right area. For the finest New Zealand contemporary art, head for Hamish McKay Gallery, 1st floor, 39 Ghuznee St. (tel. 04/384-7140; www.hamishmckaygallery.com); collectible designer toys are just along that street at Pop-Ups, 57 Ghuznee St. (tel. 04/801-5105;www.popups.co.nz).
Another good specialty-store area is the Tinakori Road Village. Much more upmarket than Cuba Street, it’s not overly big, just a few smart, little gift stores, galleries, and the like. My favorite is Millwood Gallery, 291b Tinakori Rd., Thorndon (tel. 04/473-5178; www.millwoodgallery.co.nz), an art-and-book boutique filled to the gills with divine papery offerings. It specializes in original works of art based on Wellington and has a range of cards and gift wraps. Antiques fans will love Tinakori Antiques, 291a Tinakori Rd. (tel. 04/472-7043), which has two small stores crammed with collectibles, furniture, and antique jewelry. I spent far too much time here. Groom, 306 Tinakori St. (tel. 04/472-5605), will appeal to the men. This tiny little squeeze of a store is home to barber and stylist Johni Rutene, a former rugby player who has covered the walls in rugby paraphernalia. Complete with an old-fashioned barber chair, it is one of the few barbershops offering hot-towel cutthroat shaves.
Shopping for Souvenirs
The always popular Simply New Zealand, 13 Grey St. (tel. 04/472-6817), has a huge range of gifts, jewelry, and crafts, as well as wool knitwear, Maori carvings, and America’s Cup souvenirs. Te Papa Store, Te Papa, Cable Street (tel. 04/381-7000; www.tepapastore.co.nz), has one of the best selections of New Zealand arts, crafts, and souvenirs in the city. Everything is top quality and attractively laid out, and you don’t pay local tax (GST) if you’re mailing gifts overseas. Ora, 23 Allen St., Courtenay Place (tel. 04/384-4157; www.ora.co.nz), open daily 9am to 4pm, features a big range of top-quality handmade New Zealand artworks in glass, fiber, ceramics, native timbers, and mixed media. They post goods overseas tax-free.
Other worthy places to browse top-notch arts, crafts, and jewelry are Avid, 48 Victoria St. (tel. 04/472-7703; www.avidgallery.com); Kura, 19 Allen St. (tel. 04/802-4934; www.kuragallery.co.nz); and Vessel, 87 Victoria St. (tel. 04/499-2321). And for all things woolly, drive around the bays to Sheepskin Warehouse, Evans Bay Parade, Greta Point (tel. 04/386-3376; fax 04/386-3379). New Zealand has the best technology in the world for sheepskin products, and if you doubt that, come here. An overseas shipping service is available and GST is deductible. For top-quality Maori art, both contemporary and traditional, step into Iwi Art, 19 Tory St. (tel. 04/803-3253; www.iwiart.co.nz).
Moore Wilson Fresh Food Market, at Moore Wilson's on Lorne Street (tel. 04/384-9906), is where you'll find a wealth of organics, fish, flowers, breads, and other edibles. Jackson Street Market, corner of Jackson and Elizabeth streets, Petone (tel. 04/939-2811), features fine goods and gourmet products and is held Sunday mornings from 9am to 1pm.