Confession time — despite previously living in Wellington and enjoying countless visits to the capital, I'd never taken a ride on the emblematic Cable Car, until last month. Sacrilege!
New Zealand's only running funicular railway is a sweetheart, faithfully connecting Lambton Quay to the top of Wellington Botanic Garden, since 1902. En route, two tunnels have been pimped out with a trippy LED light show.
Just five minutes away from the hustle of the CBD, the nation's oldest botanic gardens are a soulful oasis of calm and character, with an array of enticements like Begonia House and the Sundial of Human Involvement.
You can see where the city's pioneers are buried in the historical Bolton Street Memorial Park.
Strolling the shaded paths with heart-stealing city vistas, it's a highly instructive reminder on how visionary it was for the New Zealand Company to create a Town Belt, a hillside garland of green space, after establishing the colonial settlement in 1839.
I lost my ebike virginity in Wellington last month — a city tailormade for electric-powered pedalling. Meeting up with Ryan O'Connell from Switched on Bikes, he led me on a tantalising ride around the bays and up Mt Victoria, unfurling a feast of nuggets and fun anecdotes along the way.
For novices like myself, ebikes are super-easy to ride. Flick the power mode into turbo and hey presto, you've got a sinfully effortless ride. Whether you're navigating a head wind, a steep hill, or both — turbo mode made very light work of that! Despite subsequent incursions, most of it remains intact.
The capital's bragging rights as an artisanal mecca are constantly refortified with an ever-evolving swag of new entrants adding more spark and verve to sample. I staked out some of the temptations in the slinky little alleyway of Lombard St.
Refuelling on fabulous coffee at Pie & Pickle, I popped next door to Denzien, the nation's first destination urban distillery, producing craft gin on site, and scooping up so many awards since opening 18 months ago. Always intended to be a shop-front distillery, the gins are magnificent.
Co-owner Mark Halton remarked that the brand name came about through a dyslexic spelling mistake. Planned to be known as Denizen, the typo actually hit the spot. Denzien is a Nordic word for a clan of people who enjoy the finer things in life. Boom!
When in Wellington, take a transfixing escape to the staggering sanctuary of Zealandia. I've previously enjoyed daytime and twilight tours of this awe-inspiring sanctuary — the world's first fully fenced urban ecosanctuary.
On my latest visit, I joined a night tour where the starring attraction is the chance to see foraging kiwi at night. More than 100 little spotted kiwi call the valley home, so your chances of a close encounter sighting are good. I savoured four kiwi, up-close, on my torchlight tour, beautifully led by passionate, authoritative and intuitive guides.
The glowworms spangling the hillsides turn on a stunning light show to rival the Wellington Cable Car.
The evening birdsong was headlined by the piercing calls of kiwi, singing out to their partners, while the unmistakable call of the morepork was a thrill to hear. Kaka, who should be tucked up in bed, continued to make a racket at will.
Testament to Zealandia's sterling endeavours, tui, bellbirds and kaka are now pervasive in Wellingtonians' backyards.
For a truly distinctive dining experience, make your way to the Beehive to enjoy dinner at Bellamys by Logan Brown. I cannot think of any other parliament in the world which has opened its doors for public dining, within the halls of power. As you'd expect from Logan Brown, the culinary offering at Bellamys is supreme.
Follow the fairy lights down the alleyway off Ghuznee St to find HUSK, an all-in-one eatery, bar, brewery and coffee roaster. Like a celebration of the city's culinary culture, HUSK is the home of decadently rich Karamu Coffee and quirky Choice Bros brews.
At the harbour end of Cuba St, another new head-turner Highwater is fiendishly popular, with nearly everything made from scratch. A must-try on the menu is the Duck & Prune hotdog with gentleman's relish, crispy shallots and fermented cabbage powder. I still dream about it!