Wellington - Stunning Harbour Capital
Replacing Auckland as the country's capital in 1865, Wellington hugs the southwestern tip of New Zealand's North Island, on Cook Strait. Named for the British Duke, the city enjoys a bustling harbour, a lively Central Business District (CBD), more cafes, bars and restaurants per capita than New York City, a university, a botanical garden, and rows of colonial villas.
Despite Wellington's status as the most remote capital city in the world, you're never far away from anything here – whether it be shops, museums, restaurants, parks, galleries, harbours, even beaches – the picturesque waterfront area in particular is a hot-spot for those who like everything in one place.
A short ferry ride from the harbour, is Days Bay, a quaint seaside village, that puts one of Wellington's best swimming beaches at your disposal, whilst a funicular ride up into the hills will lead you to many peaceful, leafy walking trails and shady picnic spots.
Known as 'Windy Wellington', the city can often feel colder than it actually is. The best months to visit, for warm days and little rain, are the summer months, from November to the end of March.
For standard, commercial retail therapy, shoppers will enjoy the 'Golden Mile', Wellington's main shopping district, covering Willis Street and Lambton Quay. You'll find numerous malls, department stores and arcades here, together with cafes and restaurants in which to rest your weary feet.
Those after a more eclectic purchase, will most definitely head for Cuba Street; a bohemian's paradise full of curio shops, specialist boutiques, colourful cafes and an abundance of street art, including the famous Bucket Fountain. Cuba Street also hosts Wellington's popular Fringe Festival (amongst others) and it would be hard to pound the pavement here without spending a few dollars.
If you love a good barter, then make for the Harbourside Market, on the corner of Cable Street and Barnett Street, next to the Te Papa museum. The oldest produce market in Wellington, you can haggle over your own Sunday dinner - anything from fresh fruit and vegetables, to specialist gourmet foodstuffs.
Wellington Restaurants and Bars
The self-proclaimed culinary capital of New Zealand, Wellington is packed full of hip cafes and upmarket, chic restaurants. Head to Courtenay Place and Cuba Street for a lively night with many venues showcasing live music. Traditionalists may head to the Boulcott Street Bistro to enjoy pleasant, no-nonsense cuisine, whilst the more adventurous foodies will lap up the experimental menus of Icon and Anise. The CBD is home to many cocktail bars – as popular during the hectic working day as they are after hours (!), and coffee-lovers will be inundated with places to get their caffeine fix.
Beer aficionados will doubtless set their radars to either the Hotel Bristol or The Courtenay Arms, for a proper pint, or plant themselves for the night in The Malthouse, where it takes a fair few hours to work one's way through the 30 or so New Zealand brews on offer.
Te Papa Tongarewa
Also called the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa ('Our Place'), is Wellington's leading tourist attraction. Innovative and interactive, the museum is dedicated to educating - and entertaining – visitors about five core areas: Pacific, Maori, Art, History and Natural Environment. It's free to enter, although the well-stocked gift shop might take some of your hard-earned pennies, offering as it does a wide range of traditional, and original, souvenirs.
Wellington Cable Car
Running from Lambton Quay up to the Botanic Gardens, the Wellington Cable Car takes just five minutes to whisk you up to one of the most fabulous views of the city. Costing around $3.50 for a one way journey, once at the top, many travellers choose to amble back down to level land via the Bolton Street Cemetery and Beehive (Parliament Buildings), or through the many acres of gardens and woodland that surround the city.
It's easy to spend a whole day at the Waterfront, and difficult to leave. Aside from Te Papa, the area houses many parks with children's attractions; a beach at Chaffers Marina; fishing off the pier; plus many bars and restaurants. Take a boat ride out to explore Somes-Matiu Island in the middle of Wellington Harbour, before spending the evening at a concert in the TSB Arena.
Architecture-lovers will want to take time to explore the eye-catching Parliament Buildings found in the suburb of Thorndon at Lambton Quay and Molesworth Street. There are three, distinct structures: the Edwardian Parliament House; the Victorian Parliamentary Library; and the 1970s-style Beehive building. Free, guided tours of the latter are available, which last around one hour.
Wellington Virtual Tour and Video
Click on 'Select View' to view the different Virtual Tours. Click on 'Select Video' to view our guide video.
Photo Credits: Te Papa Museum Photo - Rob Poletto, Columbus, Ohio, USA; Wellington Trail photo - Steve Attwood, New Zealand
William Gilbert Rees Statue, Q...
Shaky Bridge - Alexandra
Fruit Stall - Cromwell
Skydive Lake Wanaka
"One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are " - Edith Wharton