New Zealand’s Capital City is bizarrely also the least conservative of all New Zealand’s cities. Centred around a port, and the major connection hub between the North and South islands, in Wellington you can expect scenic stretches of water with an extensive backdrop of lush green hills. The saying is “you can’t beat Wellington on a good day” and when the weather is nice, this statement can’t be challenged.
A city which is neatly compact and pedestrian friendly, Wellington city centre is a pleasure to walk around. There’s no shortage of sights or entertainment either; this is the arts hub of New Zealand with arts theatres and sports arenas located in the heart of the city, including cultural centres for travellers to familiarise themselves with New Zealand heritage. A weekend stay or as a gateway to the South Island, Wellington has plenty to offer.
Time Best Spent
With Wellington being so wonderfully condensed, it’s easy to pack many of the cities highlights into short time frames. For many many attractions no motorised transport is needed either; walking from location to location is hassle free.
Start with a visit to Te Papa Museum; the countries most praised museum and a useful place for insight into New Zealand history and Maori culture. Te Papa wonderfully captures New Zealand culture and history in a modern format and entry is free. Doors are open 10am – 6pm daily. From Te Papa walk East along the water front, which has been beautifully landscaped to evoke outdoor enjoyment of the elements. You’ll notice a spectacular landscape in all directions, walk past play areas for children and plenty of seating to sit with a coffee and enjoy the cityscape. There are a number of bars and restaurants along the waterfront too, with views of the Cook Strait. You have the option to walk to the beach edge or head North to The Beehive.
The Beehive is New Zealand’s parliament building and an architectural delight. Shaped like a beehive you can enjoy from the exterior or take a tour throughout the chambers for insight into the World of New Zealand politics. Be sure to stop and notice some of the pedestrian crossing signals which have been modernised to reflect Kate Shepard; the New Zealand female who championed Women to get the vote and a celebrated New Zealand icon. After a trip to The Beehive wander down Lambton Quay to the Cable Car.
The Wellington Cable Car was built in 1898 and has been lovingly restored. Ascending over 120 metres within a distance of just 612 metres the cable car takes passengers back to a time in history where this was the preferred mode of transport to reach Wellington’s infamous hills. At the top you’ll be at The Wellington Botanical Gardens where you can stop to enjoy the harbour and city views before taking a stroll through the garden trails. Perhaps coincide your visit with an exhibition at The Space, before your Cable Car return journey to Lambton Quay.
Back in the heart of the City, make your way to Courtenay Place for a cocktail at The Library. An unassuming yet elegant venue, The Library can surprise with the intimate style and penchant for the odd board game or two during cocktail hour. From The Library walk the length of Cuba Mall to find a restaurant of your liking. There are plenty to choose from and Fidel’s is one of our favourites, but essentially on Cube Street there is something suitable for all budgets and preferences. Cuba Mall often has street entertainment and a bustle of activity to admire along the way.
For your second day in Wellington, begin with a stroll up Mt Victoria where you’ll encounter 360 degree views of the harbour and city. The walk has several route options and is a nice trail to enjoy under clear weather. Make your way back towards Oriental Parade via a stroll past the Sunday Food Market which has plenty of street food vendors to choose from. Grab a bite to eat and sit back on the waterfront before heading to your pickup point for a Weta Workshop tour. Weta Workshop is Sir Peter Jackson’s creative empire, and where The Lord Of The Rings began. Tours include pick up and drop off by the Weta shuttle from the city centre.
Wellington has plenty of tracks and trails for runners, walkers and mountain bikers. Some trails are slightly away from the city and require a full day to visit (The Escarpment Track is spectacular and can be reached by train from the city for those who have a day available). However for a nice trail walk or run closer to the city, Mt Kau Kau is an enjoyable option. This is a relatively short climb under a mixture of bush. At the top you’ll receive views of rolling hills and the wind turbine sector of Wellington. Lyall Bay is also a scenic option for outdoor enthusiasts. A short stretch of sandy beach which also has two surf breaks and is a popular spot for kite surfers. If you prefer a less active outdoor experience, a beach walk is also an option.The Remutaka Range has a popular mountain bike trail for multi day rides, and the Tararua Range has plenty of tramping tracks including multi day options.
Where to Eat
There are too many unique restaurants and eateries to list. Wellington is a social centre with a blend of high end and street food eateries to choose from. Dockside, along the waterfront, cannot be missed you are looking for something special. Tables sit over the water while there is an accompanying bar that is low key and has a screen for watching sports games. Capital Food Market is a large area that has many street food vendors within. The selection is inexpensive and predominantly ethic; perfect for a casual affair. Yeasti Boys is a fun option for the New Zealand version of a cosy pub with pizza and a young adult presence.
Where to Sleep
You can never go wrong with a QT Hotel, and QT Museum in Wellington’s city centre is no exception. The rooms are quality, sophistication and in the usual QT flavour, have a touch of unique class among the decor so that guest’s experience is like none other. At the QT there is also a high end restaurant called Hippopotamus; perfect for cocktails even if you are dining elsewhere. The Intercontinental is also a comfortable, classy and convenient option.
What to Avoid
Wellington is known as the Windy City; avoid umbrellas and floaty skirts as you will come to regret the decision with an unpredictable gust of wind. This is also not the city to bring high heels too. Wellington is a casual City with doses of individuality mixed in and the hills won’t make for a comfortable experience for high heel wearers.