A City Guide to Wellington
New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, is situated at the southern tip of the North Island, nestled between the harbour and rolling green hills. Sometimes cited as the world’s most liveable city, it is bursting with culture and energy. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in this beautiful city, here’s a list of things you shouldn’t miss out on:
Climb to the Mount Victoria Lookout
At 196m above the city, the Mount Victoria Lookout is an absolute must-do during a trip to Wellington. It’s located right next to the central business district and is easily accessed by car or on foot, via the bush-covered 'town belt'. However you decide to reach the top you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the city, the harbour, and beyond – including views of Tinakori Hill, Matiu/Somes Island, the Miramar Peninsula and Mount Matthews, the tallest peak in the Rimutaka Range. The lookout is the perfect place for a picnic and, if you can manage the early start, it’s also the best place in the city to take in a sunrise. Simply sit back and relax, watching the ships come into the harbour.
Ride the cable car
The historic cable car is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Wellington. The short ride departs every 10 minutes from Lambton Quay in the city centre and finishes in the Kelburn, a Wellington suburb. After travelling beneath corporate towers and past Kelburn Park and Victoria University you emerge at the top, where you can visit the Cable Car Museum and take a walk through Wellington Botanic Gardens. You can get a return ticket to take you straight back down, stroll to the Carter Observatory or even amble back through to the city via Bolton Street Cemetery.
Learn the history
New Zealand has a rich and varied history – get immersed at Te Papa, New Zealand’s interactive national museum. Located on Wellington’s waterfront, entry here is free. Inside you can explore everything from the Maori culture to New Zealand's arrestingly beautiful natural environment.
Check out The Great War Exhibition too, created by Peter Jackson to commemorate New Zealand's role in the World War I. The exhibition takes you through the conflict year by year, offering a compelling insight into the horrors of the battlefield. There's also Wellington Museum, housed in the 1892 Bond Store and set over four floors. It tells the story and history of the city and the surrounding regions, as well as showcasing 'The Attic' exhibition, which features quirky items from the past including steam engines, a supposed time machine and UFO sighting flyers.
Walk around Oriental Bay
Oriental Bay is just a few minutes walk from the city and boasts a golden beach – perfect for walking, cycling or relaxing. It's also home to some of the best eateries the city has to offer. The water is safe for swimming and, if you visit during the summer, plays host to a number of sporting events. Beauty abounds in the winter too, so much so that you’ll want to bundle up for an evening stroll.
See the wildlife as nature intended
Zealandia is the world's first fully fenced urban ecosanctuary. Its vision is to restore 555 acres of Wellington’s forest and freshwater so that it is as close to its pre-human state as possible. This ground-breaking conservation project has reintroduced 18 species of native wildlife back into the area, six of which hadn’t been present in mainland New Zealand for 100 years. Zealandia isn’t a zoo, so you won’t be able to find New Zealand’s native wildlife conveniently behind glass, but you will be able to wander a collection of outdoor walks though beautiful native bush. If you're lucky, you may catch a glimpse of tuatara scuttling from their burrows, the rare takahē bird browsing for food, and numerous other species, all experiencing life the way they should. Plan enough in advance and you can book yourself a Zealandia By Night tour, on which you may even glimpse the rare (and nocturnal) little spotted kiwi.
Visit Old St Paul’s Cathedral
At the heart of Wellington’s heritage precinct, the breathtakingly beautiful (and wooden) Old St Paul’s Cathedral is constructed entirely of native timbers and is considered to be one of the city's most important heritage places. Threatened with demolition when the new St Paul’s was constructed, it has been allowed to remain as a place of spiritual significance and acts as a venue for a variety of cultural events. The building itself is full of astounding sights, from the exquisite embroidered furnishings to the glorious stained glass windows and colonial architecture. Old Paul’s is home to an all-year Christmas shop too, where you can buy hand-made decorations, gifts and keepsakes.
Experience movie magic
The Weta Studio is a haven for film fanatics and provides an immersive filmmaking experience in Wellington. You can get up close to miniatures, props, armour, creatures, weapons, vehicles and more from your favourite movies (including Lord of the Rings of course), made right here in Wellington. You can travel from Middle Earth to Tracy Island and visit the famous Weta Cave Workshop which offers up a plethora of collectibles, memorabilia, clothing, prop replicas, DVD, art prints and almost anything else you can think up. Home to a mini museum you can wander at your leisure before you sit and watch a short documentary about the history of filmmaking on the Miramar Peninsula. A number of guided tours are also available, including getting a look inside the actual Weta Workshop.
Stroll down Cuba Street
Cuba Street (named after an 1840 settler ship) is Wellington's famous inner-city slice of Bohemia, bursting with culinary and creative soul. A Historic Area since 1995, it’s a place where people meet to shop, dine and busk, or simply people-watch. A cultural melting pot, the street is full of art galleries and graffiti-filled alleyways, with quirky cafés sitting alongside nationally acclaimed restaurants. It is also the heart of the Cuba Quarter, which is lauded for having the best vintage shopping in New Zealand and maybe some of the best coffee too.