Chasing the sun: Where to Dine Al Fresco in Wellington
Found a good day in Wellington? Make the most of it by heading to one of these eateries for a spot of al fresco dining.
Words by: John Son
Photos by: Anna Briggs
When Wellington turns on one of its good days, it’s the cue for residents to venture outside for a spot of al fresco dining.
Hidden laneways and dark, moody speakeasy bars may be synonymous with Wellington hospitality, but some of the city’s most popular eateries are renowned for their outdoor dining culture.
Just visit the capital in summer, and you’ll see why - nothing screams ‘Wellington on a good day’ like hordes of punters soaking in the sun over craft beers and burgers, or perched outside a cafe sipping on their flat whites. From laid-back breweries complete with beer gardens to cute courtyard cafes, there’s a plethora of al fresco dining options in Wellington.
Here are some of the best places to head to.
264a Cuba Street, Te Aro
Head towards upper Cuba Street on a warm day, and you’re guaranteed to see throngs of people parked on the tables around the lawn outside Heyday. It’s not hard to see why this pastel-toned brewpub continues to pull the crowds, and it’s not just because of the top-notch craft beer and burgers. Fun is the name of the game here, with cornhole and other outdoor and indoor activities to keep you entertained in between drinks, adding to the laid-back, communal nature of the place.
103 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay
Coene’s claims to have “the best view in Wellington”, and honestly, they make a solid case. One of the most frequented eateries along Oriental Bay, Coene’s is buzzing no matter the weather, and on a good day, you’ll be extremely lucky to grab a table on the deck, right by the water’s edge. Gaze upon the shimmering waves while taking in the brunch, lunch, or dinner range - from the ever-popular seafood chowder to the hearty mushroom linguine, the options are as expansive as the views.
232 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay
It’s a scene that’s an indelible part of the Oriental Bay landscape: the small cluster of packed tables outside Beach Babylon, filled with punters soaking in the glorious sun. A retro-themed cafe and restaurant, the colour scheme certainly sticks out on the waterfront, but the food and the vibes here are timeless. With a separate dog’s menu as well (because why shouldn’t you treat your four-legged pal to their own meat platter?), Beach Babylon is simply one of the best outdoor eateries in the city.
160 The Esplanade, Petone, Lower Hutt
Petone is one of the most popular beachside suburbs in the Wellington region, with Seashore Cabaret one of the jewels in its crown. The beach comes to life on calm, sunny days, and the deck outside Seashore Cabaret offers splendid views across the harbour. The breakfast and lunch menus here are highly regarded, with some very hearty options, complemented by a cabinet full of great sweet and savoury treats. Wash it all down with one of their famous milkshakes or smoothies.
497 Karaka Bay Road, Karaka Bay
Tucked away in reclusive Scorching Bay, with the neighbourhood’s beautiful beach on its doorstep, Scorch-O-Rama is a funky, colourful cafe that’s been deliberately designed to make the most of its natural surrounds. With a substantial proportion of its tables right by the beach - you can practically taste the sea spray with your latte - few other cafes in Wellington get you this close to the water. Bonus points if you’re a film or comic book buff - just one look at the decor and the names on the menu will tell you this place is a nerd’s paradise.
170-172 Cuba Street, Te Aro
If you want to get away from the city centre but your transport options are limited, Olive is the perfect place to retreat while tucking into your brunch. Head through the entrance and straight out the back to the cafe’s famed tropical courtyard, which feels like a world away from the chaos of Cuba Street. The sea of foliage provides a welcome, relaxing environment to enhance your dining experience - try Olive’s waffle of the day for a surprise treat.
Little Beer Quarter
6 Edward Street, Te Aro
Wellington is renowned for its hidden foodie laneways and the classy eateries that call them home, and Edward Street’s Little Beer Quarter is one of the picks of the bunch. The pub’s cosy interior makes it a fantastic all-weather spot, but when the sun’s out, the tables out front are always packed with craft beer lovers, bringing the otherwise quiet street to life. The pizzas here have a cult following and make the perfect accompaniment to your beer, don’t forget to bring your pooch to this dog-friendly venue.
Southern Cross Garden Bar Restaurant
39 Abel Smith Street, Te Aro
A sprawling, family-friendly restaurant in one of the quieter ends of town, Southern Cross has a space to suit every kind of occasion. The centrepiece of the place is undeniably the outdoor garden, which has been cleverly designed to be enjoyed in all sorts of weather conditions. The fireplace makes even the harshest of Wellington days bearable (aided by a mulled wine, of course), and needless to say, it becomes an oasis in summer. With regular live gigs, quizzes, and plenty of other activities, it’s no surprise Southern Cross continues to be a popular community hub.
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Samuel Flynn-Scott's Wellington
I’m one of the singer-songwriters in The Phoenix Foundation and I make music for film and TV with Conrad Wedde and Lukasz Buda as Moniker. On top of that I write about food for The Spinoff and Cuisine magazine and am generally obsessed with anything delicious.
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