Quintessentially wacky and quirky Wellington has to be one of those ‘must-visit’ destinations on anyones holiday to New Zealand. The marriage between quirky and Wellington tends to take on a thoroughly organic air perhaps because, so often, it is not actually intended. Its slight (to far end extreme) meanderings from the mainstream are as natural as tree limbs which have strayed from the perpendicular and turned corkscrew…….. but actually end up twice as lovely in their off-beat form as their straighter cousins. Where Wellington is concerned, nowhere is this truer than with regards to its eating and drinking establishments. Of course the cocktails served in teapots at the Alice in Wonderland-themed ‘Alice’ could be considered to be contrived if there is more of the cynic than the dreamer in you but it definitely registers as a break-from-the-norm nonetheless.
The wacky or should we say quirky series of horn honks is an almost obligatory part of passing through the Mt Victoria tunnel at the weekend. Who started it is open to long-standing and conflicting theories while debates of the heated kind occasionally rear their heads with the tooters and anti-tooters figuratively squaring up to each other. A single pip is perhaps the hail of choice but it is not uncommon to hear complex musical compilations which you might typically associate more with jazz clubs than driving. The Mt Victoria horn honk has no other purpose than frivolity – how wonderful is that………if you stand in the pro-tooting camp that is.
Any number of the cafes, bars and restaurants – particularly those centred around the Cuba Street/Courtenay Place area – serve up the unconventional especially where clientele and atmosphere are concerned; eccentricities range from the vaguely quirky all the way through to the fully-blown bizarre. Expect just a dash of off-centre at the 1920/30s atmospheric Hawthorn Lounge where you can play scrabble as you sip your cocktail; for something a little stranger head to the watering hole known as the Wayward. You’ll be welcome here should you have a hair-free upper lip or no particular thoughts on facial hair but you may feel a little out of place among a crowd of moustachioed men and females who, although not necessarily facially hirsute themselves, are presumably appreciators of the moustache-toting clientele.
Of course Cuba Street is in itself the place to go for encounters with the beautifully bizarre. Sit yourself by the marvellously kitsch and clunky bucket waterfall and be prepared for anything. Here you will find suited business men enjoying their lunch but so too might your field of vision take in a clown lurching past on a unicycle, a balloon sculptor reciting poetry or an old lady in a rainbow wig expertly twirling 3 hula hoops simultaneously in time to a jazz trio; not all of these are necessarily street performers either. Perhaps the biggest quirk of all in this anything-goes place is that truly anything goes (which typically only means the more unusual will feel at home) and the strait-laced rub shoulders happily and seamlessly with the wonderfully wacky. It all works, melds and flows.
Shopping experiences abound in colourful Wellington with all things modern to be found but the capital’s alternative aspect is represented here too. Again head to Cuba Street and its surrounds to find vintage and retro second-hand stores by the bucket-load covering original boho and yesteryear styling in everything from clothes to furniture and jewellery to music memorabilia. Names to look out for include Rag Mama Rag Vintage, Spacesuit, Emporium Vintage Boutique, Ziggurat and Hunters and Collectors.
And if you’ve never seen a shopping village of shipping containers get yourself along to Queens Wharf from Tuesdays to Sundays where Wellington’s artists and designers sell you their handcrafted-range of delights…..from tiny metal boxes.
Actually the more you unearth the more you realise that Wellington could probably produce a whole book featuring and celebrating its quirky side. Things that appear to be one thing can easily turn out to be another. For example, yes, Underground Arts on Vivian Street is a tattoo studio where you can go and get yourself permanently painted but it’s also home to the free-entry Moko Museum/National Tattoo Museum so you can learn heaps about traditional Maori tattooing.
Even such seemingly conventional establishments like the magnificent award-winning national museum ‘Te Papa’ have their share of quirks. As well as being the size of three rugby fields and resting on earthquake-protecting shock absorbers, this museum houses the body of the largest colossal squid specimen ever found. It was once a lot bigger – an estimated 10 m/33 ft when it was caught but shrank a little on being thawed and prepared for exhibiting. Still, 4.2 m/14 ft is still large enough to qualify as very impressive…….and quirky.
Basically, where Wellington is concerned expect the unexpected and, should you happen to be a lover of the off-beat, eccentric, zany or unconventional, you’re going to find plenty to keep you happy, entertained and feeling right at home.
Photo by Rob Suisted, Nature’s Pic Images, Wellington, NEW ZEALAND. Photo copyright to Rob Suisted – All rights reserved. Fees payable for all uses. Please contact us for licencing at: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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