Wellington is often overlooked as a stopover compared to its rival cities Auckland and Christchurch. Many visitors are pleasantly surprised at what they find when they arrive and are often disappointed they did not plan to stay longer to see and do more here in Wellington. Be it calm, relaxation with as little physical activity possible, or adrenalin thrills, you will find it here in New Zealand’s unique capital city, Wellington. Whether you’re an independent traveller, couple, or group of mates, there is something for everyone.
Wellington is a busy, friendly and compact city with classic tourist attractions and some wonderful best kept secrets. Things we’ll let you in on like Weta Workshop, the home of Peter Jackson’s award winning team. Nestled at the foot of the Eastern hills in Miramar, just minutes from the airport, the Window into Workshop tour is informative, entertaining and simply amazing. Be warned, the shop will tempt you into taking some great souvenirs home.
Physically, Wellington is nestled between a picturesque harbour and forest clad hills; a scenic city with incredible vistas from a number of vantage points such as Mount Victoria, Brooklyn’s Wind Turbine and Wainuiomate Hill (accessible to the top by car), or Mount Kaukau, Wrights Hill Karori, and Makara. The latter of these require various degrees of walking or cycling to get to the peak. Makara Peak also offers four wheel driving and quad biking trips.
If you prefer the water, you can kayak on the harbour or take a sailing trip. If nature is your fancy, visit Somes Island in Wellington Harbour or Kapiti Island – a world renowned bird sanctuary just 45 minutes north of the CBD. Here you can see the famous spotted Kiwi and other wonderful endangered native birds.
Classic and worthy stops are Te Papa museum, Zealandia – Wildlife Reserve, Botanic Gardens, the Cable Car and museum, and the Carter Observatory.
A charming and sedate activity for the enquiring mind is a Wellington guided walk. These walks showcase fabulous 19th-21st century architecture, and significant historic and cultural locations. The knowledgeable guides will show and tell things you won’t find in the guide books. Even if you don’t think it’s your cup-of-tea, there are some impressive buildings truly worth visiting like St Mary of the Angels on Boulcott Street, believed to be the first Neo Gothic church built of reinforced concrete and Katherine Mansfield’s House on Tinakori Road.
The Old Government Buildings opposite parliament were completed in 1876, and until 1998 was the second-largest wooden building in the world, Old St Paul’s Cathedral, Government House and so many more.
For the more active or thrill seeking visitor, there are many walkways, cycle tracks (on and off road) and golf courses abound in and around Wellington.
Climb trees at Adrenalin Forrest in Porirua caters to all levels of ability and thrill seeker. It is highly suitable for the family. Another great adventure are the coastal safari tours across some precarious terrain in a Unimog where you might even spy some seals.
Diving is available but keep in mind you will probably need a full length 7mm wetsuit all year round! Scenic flights are spectacular with helicopter departures in the CBD near the wharf.
Coffee shops abound, with Wellington offering more cafes per capita than New York! For an eclectic selection, head to Cuba Street where you will also find some great second hand stores, boutiques and some of the best buskers.
Nearby is the fabulous Dixon Street Deli full of sumptuous culinary treats to eat there or take away.
There are oodles of galleries across town. A few of my favourites are The Doctor Seuss Gallery, The City Gallery, The NZ Academy of Fine Arts, and the Shona Moller Gallery. The Wellington City & Sea museum is great too. Ohh and take a peek at the interior design of the Museum Hotel – quite an eye-opener.
If it is nightlife you are after, take in a live show at one of the many theatres and bars. The St James theatre, Circa, Downstage, the State Opera House, The Michael Fowler Centre and The Old Town Hall, are all in the centre of town and offer a range of entertainment from cultural events, Phantom of the Opera, the NZ Ballet company, to the NZSO and other national and international stars.
Wellington is home to the World of Wearable Arts show (September/October) – get in early to get tickets; it is a feast for the eyes and imagination.
For a more raucous cultural event take in a rugby or league game at the Westpac Stadium – colloquially known as the cake tin. Access is easy by ramp or stairs directly from the Wellington train Station. There’s no need for a car no matter where you are staying.
If you are still feeling awake and energetic you can then join the night life. There are numerous bars, restaurants and clubs in town that will delight your culinary taste buds and then have you dancing it all off. Try Matterhorn, Aancestral, Ombra, Chow (especially 2 for 1 cocktails on Wednesday and Saturday), Motel, Mighty Mighty, Alice bar, Hawthorne Lounge, Havana Bar. Apartment and St. John’s just to name a few of the popular bars.
If, after all this, you are feeling like something a little more delicate, only an hour away you can venture to Martinborough, and Greytown (the region known as the Wairarapa) for some local wine producers. Bus tours, self-drive or cycle them at your leisure.
A must try is Schoc Chocolates in Greytown for some truly original and unbelievably brilliant chocolate. Schoc is also available in the Kirkcaldie and Stains Pantry on Brandon Street, if you don’t want to travel over the hill to Greytown.
Incredibly accessible via land, sea or air Wellington is a feast for the senses. Compact and yet incredibly diverse the landscape offers the sea, rivers, easy strolls on the picturesque harbor. From relaxing bush walks to cycling, hills and mountains for you heart thumping fitness junkies.
Wellington will pamper you with its international standard culinary delights, world renowned entertainment and thrill you no matter what your style of holiday. So come and see us, you will be delighted you did.
Damage and details: Visit Te Papa Museum, open everyday with free entry tepapa.govt.nz; Take a ride on Wellington Cable Car, $7 return, wellingtoncablecar.co.nz; Visit the Weta Cave, free entry everyday. wetanz.com