Choosing where to live in Wellington
When you are moving to a new city, especially a new country that you don’t know well, or even have never been to before it can be super hard to decide where you want to live. Choosing the right area of a city to suit what you want as well as your budget can be a really difficult task. This was definitely an issue for me when I was choosing where to live in Wellington without ever having visited before. I wanted to start browsing for places that I would like to live but I didn’t even know where to begin. Even when I got to Wellington I did not have enough time to become a seasoned local before I locked in a place to live.
There are so many questions to answer about what is an appropriate place to live for individuals. What is the vibe and the location? Does it have all the things needed close by? Is is close to the things you like to do? All really difficult questions to answer from afar. When I moved to Wellington, I took out an Air BnB for a month, while I looked for a new place, but I was looking everywhere and anywhere. Had I known at the time, that some of the places I was looking wouldn’t actually be places I wanted to live it would have cut out half my search before I even got there.
In light of all this, I have decided to create this run down of the different suburbs/areas in Wellington. For each Wellington area I will evaluate factors such as location to the city, price, types of houses, demographic of the area, close by cafes bars and restaurants to give you a sense of what it is like. As well as this I will also make a comparison to areas in London (as close as possible) to give you an idea of the vibe of that place.
Quick tips for looking for somewhere to live in Wellington
Bare in mind, my experience is with renting, so this relates mainly but not solely to renting.
- Look on TradeMe.com and on Facebook groups for rental properties in Wellington (just search Wellington Rent in the Facebook search box to find them). There are a lot of people posting property on here and often. Sometimes you bypass the agent fee this way.
- Try to avoid February. I say this because this is the month when all the students relocate and it is really busy. On one hand it means that there are more places becoming available but there is also a lot more competition.
- Look for somewhere with sun, and don’t take the current tenants word for it when it comes to this. Sun is so important in Wellington. Someone once said that New Zealand is a cold place warmed by the sun and this couldn’t be more true in Welly. The sun is priceless so try your hardest to get somewhere you can soak up the sun.
- Watch out for damp and mold. This is strongly related to looking for somewhere with sun. Because the houses are quite dark and damp sometimes, this can lead to humidity and to mold. Check the walls and ceilings for signs of this. Don’t forget about these little details.
- Bring references with you. You will need a reference from your job and a previous landlord for at least one of the people hoping to go on the lease so have these ready to go and this will make things quicker.
- If you find something online, call the number straight away. Because competition can be feierce, you often need to get in there as quick as you can for a viewing. There will often be other people viewing too, so if you know you are interested, take the forms filled out in advance so if you decide you want to go for it, you can just apply straight away.
- Think about your location to shops. Wellington, is not like the UK, where there is a supermarket/cornerstore on every corner. Sometimes it could be a kilometer or 2 to the nearest food store. Factor this in, especially if you don’t have a car.
- The housing standard is not as good as in the UK, so know what to expect in advance. Dont expect central heating and double glazing etc. you wont get it! See my post in central heating in NZ by clicking HERE.
- Think about your commute. The traffic at rush hour can be crazy. For example, if you are commuting in a car across town and through the Mount Vic tunnel at 5pm it will take you a LONG time! Every other time it is fine. Wellington is a little behind in terms of effective transport systems.
- Remember that Wellington lies on the tip of the island. There is only one route out, if you are going to be leaving the city a lot at weekends, it would pay to be in the northern parts of the city (Thorndon/Kelburn/Brooklyn, Aro Valley) for the pure reason that it makes it easier to leave the city. Something to consider.
What about cost?
To be realistic, a decent place in any of the Wellington central suburbs is probably going to cost you in the region of $350 – $500 per week. If your looking at buying, sorry I am not a good source for that. This is a large bracket I know but sometimes you can get lucky. If you move a little further a field, say Petone, Kandalah, Johnsonville, you can expect to pay a bit less than this for more space.
The most expensive areas will be those close to the CBD and to the bay, so Mount Vic, Oriental Bay and Roseneath. Karori, up at the top has also become expensive due to the quality of property you can find there. But this is just a rough guide, you can also find very reasonable priced rentals in these areas too.
In case you are interested, I personally live in Northland/Kelburn near Tinakori Road. This area is great because it is super near the city, really green and near the botanical gardens. The downsides of where I live are that you cant really walk to a supermarket and it is a little bit shaded from the sun. I pay $350 per week for a one bedroom flat with a study. It is not the most ‘happening’ area and now that I know Wellington a lot better, I am looking at maybe moving so this assessment of the areas in the city, will also be really useful to me too. Whether I could give up my current 20 min walk to work though, remains to be decided.
Where to live in Wellington? An overview of the different areas.
I am going to look at areas, and by this I mean either just one suburb or a cluster of similar suburbs in the same location. If you are looking into a place and I haven’t listed the suburb, have a quick look at what neighbours it for a similarity. Wellington is so small that all the suburbs are tiny and you can easily float from one into the next.
PLEASE NOTE: I am going to make a comparison for each suburb with one in London. The reason for this is to give an idea of the vibe and feel of the place and they type of cafes/shops/people you will find there. This is NOT about the look of the place or the views or the price anything like that. I hope it makes sense to you.
So here we go with the different Areas/Suburbs of Wellington…
TE ARO (this is pretty much the CBD) – Fun, Fun, Fun
If you are looking at places in Te Aro, this will be most likely around the Cuba Street part of town. This would be a super buzzy and happening, lively and vibrant place to live. It is basically the centre of town and there are loads of bars, shops and cafes in this area.
Te Aro will have a few tourists milling around, students and just the general Wellington folk coming here to spend time, especially on weekends. The great part of living here is that you would be super close to the action, the bad part is you might no get a whole lot of privacy or space. In terms of quality of the houses, you will get some really nice flats and some, not so nice, but they will all be on the apartment scale, rather than houses ususally. For food you have the metro stores of New World and Countdown close by, as well as awesome kiwi (expensive) store Moore Wilson and loads of the Sunday markets are in this area. This is the fun centre of Wellington so would be a cool and easy place to live.
Like London Area – Brixton/Dalston/Soho
Check out my post: 10 Things I love about Wellington, where Cuba Street and Leeds Street (in Te Aro) are featured.
ARO VALLEY – Quirky, Village, Good Location
Aro Valley is a great area. I am a big fan. It is super close to town, right next to the Cuba Street side of Te Aro but is also its own little suburb. It is compact with cute little wooden houses. There is a real community feel with a small but nice selection of cafes, restaurants, artist workshops and an op shop. This is also the suburb of Garage Project, the Wellington hipster brewery, and they have an amazing little bar here serving up the latest on tap.
Some people say Aro Valley is a darker/ less sunny side of town, so you would need to check this relative to a particular place, but i have seen people sitting out on the balcony in this area on sunny afternoons. Aro Valley has a community centre offering things like community yoga and also a community store for general supplies.
Like London Area – Stoke Newington
KELBURN – Studenty and Family, Green, Pretty
This is a big student area as it is very close to Victoria University but it is also full of some beautiful large family houses too. It is situated almost on top of the Botanical Gardens, so can get lots of sun and is a brisk walk town to the city/cable car up to the top. There is not a whole lot going on bar/cafe wise, but there are a few little places such including the Kelburn Cafe, a great Indian Restaurant Yellow Chilli Indian and a Glengarry wine shop.
You can also walk down in lots of directions to get to different parts of the city without going too far. Being next to the Botanical Gardens is such a joy too. You might find a bargain in this area but be careful not to be on the wrong side of Glenmore Street as you wont get much sun! Good location. A bit of a hike/drive to supermarkets so not great if you don’t have car.
Like London Area – Dulwich
THORNDON/NORTHLAND – Close to town, Hidden Gems
This is the area where I live. It is on the northern side of the city surrounding the motorway leaving town. It is not a particularly “happening’ area but the locality to the city and motorway makes it a really easy place to live. You can walk into the city in 10/20 mins. This area also includes the Botanical Gardens (neighbouring with Kelburn), which give it a really great green feel.
You are fairly close to the New World in Thorndon depending on which part you are in. Also in this part of town is the lovely Tinakori Road, an underrated little place with cute antique shops and cafes like Doppio and Hillside Kitchen and Cellar. Just make sure you check how much sun your potential flat will get as some places in this area can be sheltered from the sun.
Like London Area – Chiswick
KARORI – Mountain village vibes
Karori sits above Wellington in the hills behind Kelburn and Brooklyn. This is a popular area for families as there are some large and beautiful houses here. There are also some good flat rentals for less money than closer to town as you are a bit further out from the mainstay. Being a frequent local of Karori shops as they are close to where I live in Kelburn I can confirm that this is a nice area.
However, it does feel quite far from town despite only being a 20 min drive. Being high on the hill makes it feel like a mountain town sometimes which can be really lovely but also makes you feel kind of seperate to the action.
Like London Suburb – Hampstead Heath
BROOKLYN – Underrated, Villagey, Family
Brooklyn is a really nice area of town that is becoming more popular, especially with families. It feels a little like it is on the edge of town, but it is still close to the centre, just a 10 min bus ride. Up in the hills you get lots of sunshine all day long and are close to awesome localities such as the Penthouse Cinema and brilliant restaurant, The Salty Pidgin.
There are loads of buses into town but it is also walkable in about 30 mins (uphill on the way out of town). Again it is a little far from major supermarkets but you can get down into Newtown quite easily to shop. Brooklyn has amazing views over the hills and feels like a safe and lovely part of town. Not very ‘happening’ if that is what you are after but definitely one of the nicer suburbs and a bit of an underdog.
Like London Area – Fulham
MOUNT COOK – Good location, Quiet, Sunny
Mount Cook is a very desirable area to live. Although it isn’t a village hub at all, its very much a residential area but it lies very close to both the city and Newtown and has some really lovely sunny areas. You can take advantage of quiet streets and well presented houses.
Like London Area – Camberwell
MOUNT VIC/ORIENTAL BAY – Top Location, Sun, Pretty
Now these are the creme de la creme of location in Wellington. Right by the sheltered side of the harbour, with loads of sunshine, great views and very close to town. If you can find a property here that is good, snap it up because its a great area to be. Mount Vic lookout lies just about mount vic, great for leisurely strolling and great sunsets. You are close to a great giant New World Supermarket, organic stores and the weekend market down at the waterfront. This area is ideal and well located for almost everything.
Like London Area – Russel Square
NEWTOWN – Cool, Fun, Creative
(Melrose/Berhampore are up the street, a bit further out and less happening but close in locality and similar in houses, also a little nicer than Newtown)
A favourite of mine! I LOVE this area. It is nice and flat so a great place to be if you want to cycle. It is not really close to the CBD so feels like its own town and has tonnes of cool shops, bars and cafes. Moon Bar is a favourite bar for beer and pizza. There is a huge and brilliant Veggie Market on Saturdays at the school, a great community centre and a festival in April. There are loads of op shops here too (although they are not the best).
The only downside to Newtown, depending on how you want to look at it, is that there are a lot of homeless people around and you can come across some characters. However, having come from living in Brixton, London, this doesn’t bother me personally, its part if life but you might choose not to live here because of that. Everyone is different. There are a couple of large supermarkets that you can walk too as well as corner shops for grabbing the odd thing. I’d probably describe this as the coolest, most creative area to live in in Wellington. Newtown is the melting pot.
Note that situated around the outskirts of Newtown are some really top class houses, in fact my fave house in Wellington is here, 103 Corr0mandel Street, SO BEAUT.
Like London Area – Peckham / Brixton
HAITAITAI – Views, Quiet
This area has the most wonderful views over the back of the harbour looking towards the south. You can see the boats and the hills and the ocean for miles. Bar far the best views I’ve seen from a home in Wellington have been in Haitaiatai, and that is saying something! This area is very small and residential but super close to Newtown for shops and fun and also close to the bays for walks and views. Also its proximity to Mirimar means there is a great cinema close by. Don’t come for the amenities but the views are everything in Haitaitai, and because its through the Mount Vic Tunnel you can also get reasonable prices. Perhaps not good if you are driving into the city though as this Tunnel gets very busy at rush hour.
Like London Suburb – Parsons Green
KILBIRNIE – A useful but pass through hub
This is a great hub of an area. Definitely not a place for cool bars and cafes, but you have a great sports centre, supermarkets and stores such as Bunnings and The Warehouse for all your supplies. More of a pass through than a desirable living area. A useful place to be close to though.
Like London Suburb – Hammersmith
MIRAMAR (ALSO STRATHMORE PARK) – Amazing Village, Artsy,
Miramar is a great little place. It is a long bus ride from the city so don’t pick it if you need to be really close to the CBD. Mirimar’s main attraction is the amazing Peter Jackson cinema The Roxy. It is also definitely one of the more intact villagey suburbs of Welly, with good cafes and restaurants and little boutiques.
There are some of the better Wellington Op Shops too. This is also the location of the Wellington movie studio, Weta Works. Its an interesting and artistic suburb with great houses and views. The downside is definitely that it is pretty far from the city but if it is a nice village you are looking for, this is your spot.
Like London Suburb – London Fields.
Check out my visit to Miramar in my post about Wellington in May
ISLAND BAY/HOUGHTON BAY/LYALL BAY – Coastal, Rugged, Village, Surf
For all you surfers out there. This is the coastal area of Wellington on the southern coast. It is super beautiful and lovely over here and the views over the cliffs and the ocean can be amazing. You are on a rugged coastline side of town and it almost feels like a different world to being in the centre of Wellington. It can take a little while to get into the centre especially when taking public transport, but you have the best of both worlds, you are living in Wellington, but its also like your in a rugged coastal village.
Island bay is particularly lovely and Lyall Bay has a really popular surf and dog walking beach. There are big supermarkets close by, but depending on which part of this area you live in, you may not be a quick walk away. Great area if you dont mind the distance from the CBD.
Like London Suburb – Richmond
JOHNSONVILLE / PETONE / KANDALLAH – Bang for your buck
This part of town is more like the outskirts of Wellington, it requires a drive/train along the coastal motorway to the north, leaving town to get there. In these suburbs you are a fairly quick drive/bus or train from Wellington but it is not classed as the city. Petone is a particularly lovely place with an old high street with cute boutiques and some trendy cafes. These areas can be appealing because whether renting or buying a property you can get a larger space for less money.
LOWER HUTT/UPPER HUTT – Further a Field
The Hutt is actually not Wellington, they are separate towns located on the highway north. But I am including them here as people often choose to live in the Hutt and commute into Wellington. Similar to Petone etc, you will get a lot more bang for your buck in this area. But you sacrifice the convenience of being in town. However many people do this and it is a beautiful area too. There are great trainlines and buses travelling through, so living in the Hutt is not a bad option for many. There are also loads of shops, cafes and it has its own brilliant community. Wouldn’t be a bad choice.
Like London Suburb – Home Counties!
I hope my run down of areas of Wellington helped to shed some light on what might be a good area for you to live. This is general of course, just to give you an idea. Bare in mind that every area has some really nice and some not so nice houses. ALSO NOTE: suburbs do not differ quite like they do in London, they are all pretty similar in housing look and vibe.
Let me know in the comments below if you have a particular place you want some info about and hopefully I can answer your question.
If this was useful, you may like to read my post about why I love Wellington here : Why I LOVE Wellington, My New Home
You can read all this and more in my Wellington Life Posts
Thank you for reading. Come back soon!