The picturesque Miramar Peninsula is where our story all began – an iconic suburb of Wellington surrounded by sea views and home to a treasure trove of experiences. Often nicknamed as ‘Wellywood’, the area has a rich and illustrious film history dating back to the 1920’s, when the first Miramar Film Studios were launched to create scenic travel films to promote tourism to New Zealand.
Decades as the National Film Unit followed, before Sir Peter Jackson purchased the facilities in the 1990’s, producing the cult classic Braindead and then going onto partner with Sir Richard Taylor to launch what we know now as the award-winning Wētā Workshop and Wētā Digital.
Today, Miramar continues its legacy as a filmmaking destination; with studios, sound stages and pre- and post-production facilities peppered throughout the peninsula. Combined with Wellington’s renowned coffee scene, spectacular scenery and a thriving community atmosphere, read on to find out how you can spend a day spent soaking up everything the seaside suburb has to offer.
Wellington is well-known as the coffee capital of New Zealand, and Miramar’s talented local baristas serve an important role in fuelling the creative minds at Wētā Workshop.
Some of the crew’s favourite spots to caffeinate and brunch-up are the laidback and welcoming Swimsuit Coffee, the quirky neighbourhood haunt Mystic Kitchen and the seaside stunner Chocolate Fish Café – where Orlando Bloom would walk his landlord’s dog along the beach with the café’s owner during the filming of The Lord of the Rings.
After enjoying breakfast or lunch, be sure to top up your Instagram feed with a scenic snap at the Wellington Blown Away sign, just down the road from Wellington Airport. Originally planned to read ‘Wellywood’ and resemble the iconic Hollywood sign, the end result is a creative ode to the capital’s infamous gales and gusts.
Head to Wētā Workshop and embark on a journey into showstopping creativity – as you get up close and personal with the props, costumes and special effects from Oscar-winning movies and TV shows alike. Named by The Guardian as one of the world’s top ten studio tours, your passionate and knowledgeable guide will enlighten you with behind-the-scenes stories and insights into how fictional worlds from films like The Hobbit, Avatar and King Kong are brought to life on the big screen.
The Wētā Workshop Experience consists of two parts – firstly an exploration of their world-famous craftmanship, as you interact with swords, weaponry, helmets, chainmaille – in which 12.5 million links were created for The Lord of the Rings trilogy – and more, and meet an artist on the job as they work on the latest project right in front of your own eyes. Secondly, you’ll enter a big world of miniature proportions, marvelling at the colossal cityscapes and mansions seen in Thunderbirds are Go, that have been expertly handcrafted at a fraction of the scale!
Add on an extra special hands-on workshop, where you can learn leathermaking, sculpting and SFX make-up techniques from an expert artist – an authentic insight into the industry you just can’t find anywhere else. Round out your visit at the Wētā Cave – where you can pick up one-of-a-kind movie memorabilia and collectibles, and peek into the mini-museum.
On the Eastern side of the Peninsula lies Scorching Bay, a favourite beach amongst locals for its golden sand and clear blue water, which comes alive on a scorching hot summer’s day. Take a dip, have a picnic, play a round of beach cricket and sweeten your afternoon with a Wellington-famous milkshake from Scorch-o-Rama café – adorned with plenty of ‘nostalgic and nerdy’ comic book covers and memorabilia. Further down the road, the Eastern Walkway is a scenic 2-hour loop walk leading you along a picturesque native forest ridgeline before meandering around the coastline – with WWII-era observational posts, historical Māori sites and harbour views aplenty.
Finish your evening with a cold brew at Double Vision Brewery’s Taproom, just down the road from our HQ on Park Road. Open from Thursday to Sunday, taste your way through the latest innovative beers on tap, brewed on-site or Guest Taps from across the country. Their chicken wings are also a must-try!
Then, head to the Roxy Cinema to enjoy dinner at Coco, before settling in for a blockbuster flick in the beautifully restored art deco theatre. A true gem in Wellington’s film history, it originally opened as the Capitol Theatre in 1928 and screened silent, black-and-white, and then colour films until the mid-1960’s.
After decades of derelict, it was restored and re-opened by Jamie Selkirk and our co-founders Sir Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger in 2011, and now boasts custom-made Italian leather seats, 1930’s-esque décor, a mesmerising Sistine Chapel-sized ceiling painting and even an actual Oscar trophy on display. Even the filmmakers at nearby Park Road Post Production will occasionally pop down to use the state-of-the-art screens and sound systems, to see how their content will look like in a real cinema environment.
So grab yourself a speciality cocktail from a top mixologist, peruse the pictures of A-list celebrity guests gracing the walls, then take your seat. It’s a favourite amongst Wellingtonian moviegoers – and is the perfect way to round out your day exploring the magnificent Miramar Peninsula – a film-lover’s paradise.