Play, stay, eat, drink or simply be in Wellington’s Oriental Bay

Because it’s sheltered, blessed with a beautiful beach, drop-dead gorgeous water views, countless things to do, not to mention fabulous places to stay, eat or simply be, Oriental Bay is one of the city’s great escapes.

Oriental Bay Beach
Oriental Bay Beach

First on the list of Oriental Bay’s attractions is, of course the beach. In summer, Wellingtonians are there in their thousands – swimming, sunbathing, lounging on the pontoon, or diving off it, belting balls over a net or at a wicket, strolling, running or cycling along the promenade and playing in the park. In any other season including winter they’re there too, doing the same things (except perhaps sunbathing) just in smaller numbers.

When the swimmers are not at Oriental Bay beach, you’ll find them powering up and down the lanes at the Fryberg Pool or pounding along the treadmills in its gym.

Just along from the Fryberg Pool, Oriental Bay’s  historic Port Nicholson Yacht Club, Wellington’s oldest, founded in 1902, brings salts old and young, out when the winds are fair. For those not lucky enough to get aboard, those little white sails out on the blue or those boats bobbing at their moorings in the Clyde Quay Marina is a fine sight. For aspiring yachtsmen, Port Nicolson Yacht Club also offers sailing lessons.

Of course, the seaside means ice-cream and down in Oriental Bay, you’re spoilt for choice. The world renowned Movenpick is here, along with taste of Italy at Gelissimo Gelateria. Kafee Eis, whose very name sounds deliciously cold, is famous not only for its gourmet gelati but also for its boutique coffee. At Beach Babylon, you’ll find the divine local Kapiti ice-cream which, if you’ve jetted in on Air NZ, you may have already met. Then, for a taste of old times, try the local dairy.

For dining, lunching or coffee, Oriental Bay has a wealth of restaurants and cafes. Just stroll along Oriental Parade and take your pick. Sea views are pretty much a given. However if you want to be right on the water and also steep yourself Oriental history, there are two great possibilities. Tied up, more or less alongside the Fryberg pool, is the old harbour tugboat Tapuhi II which is now dressed up and fitted out as the Tugboat on the Bay restaurant. While the menu offers a great range and the food is excellent, it’s ambience and the experience that are memorable here.  Housed in the old Band Rotunda and surrounded by the sea on three sides is the Bluewater Bar and Grill. The views here are amazing and at a window table on a cold, blustery winter’s night, you feel as if you’re at sea, (yet safe and warm behind the band rotunda’s solid concrete walls) Again, the experience does eclipse the cuisine somewhat. However, the fish was melt-in-the-mouth fresh and the salad bar offered a wide and colourful variety.

While there are several accommodation options in Oriental Bay, nothing compares, in my opinion to the unique boutique Ohtel. Tiny, arty and totally different, it occupies one of those iconic wooden Wellington villas that spill down the hills here.  The front bedrooms have views to die for with two man balconies overhanging Oriental Parade. The decor is pure kiwiana. The throws and bedcovers are in the traditional colours of Maori Art, red, black and white on grey army blankets. A feature photo on the wall shows waist-down shot of a piupiu (flax skirt) a pair of fabulous legs and an equally fabulous pair of red high heels. The ground floor lobby has a cosy fire, armchairs that invite you to curl up, a pile of magazines and window onto the parade and the sea.

Just to be in Oriental Bay, rain, wind or shine, is great for the soul. Sit on a bench or lean on the sea wall. Enjoy!

Oriental Bay is just short stroll from the city. It’s also en route from the airport!