You probably know Wellington is the capital of Kiwiland. But did you also know it’s a harbour city that is so good-looking you could even forget to make the obligatory sheep jokes, or sniggeringly try to lure locals into a conversation about ‘fush und chups’?
Well, OK, nothing is that good-looking… But as far as global capitals go, Wellington is small but perfectly formed. Much of Wellington can be discovered on foot, with galleries and museums and other attractions like the recently spruced up Carter Observatory (with its digital planetarium) all within easy walking distance.
Further afield in Lower Hutt, Vogel House is a fine example of colonial architecture. ‘The Hutt’ was also home to a huge castle while Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was being filmed in New Zealand. Jackson has even established multi-million-dollar film studios in the neighbouring suburb of Miramar, which Mexican director Guillermo del Toro has called ‘Hollywood the way God intended it.’
If Jackson’s Weta Studiosrepresent the new frontier in terms of arts and culture, ZEALANDIAis doing the same for conservation. While on the Waterfront, innovative chefs are pushing culinary boundaries.
So whether it’s browsing the Harbourside market on a Sunday or immersing yourself in culture and art, be sure to soak up the city, because Wellington won’t fail to impress. Just don’t let on to the locals – that would be very un-Australian!
Wellington’s Top 10
10. City Gallery Wellington exhibits contemporary visual arts – everything from paintings to sculptures and graphic design, they’ve got it!
5. Wellington Botanic Garden Colourful flower displays and beautifully landscaped conifers and plant collections can be admired at this 25-hectare garden.
9. Pataka A museum that exhibits artworks of Maori, Pacific Island and New Zealand art. A must-see if you’re interested in exploring the cultural side of New Zealand.
4. Zealandia: The Karori Sanctuary Experience At this urban sanctuary you can explore the wildlife native to New Zealand like the kiwi and saddlebacks. There’s a Sanctuary by Night tour as well.
8. Weta Cave in Miramar is Weta’s mini-museum. Discover how some of the most eye-popping special effects in cinema history have been achieved.
3. Wellington Zoo See the famous kiwi! The zoo is also known for its efforts with endangered species like Sumatran tigers and Malayan sun bears.
7. Parliament Buildings Free one hour tours of the parliament buildings (known as ‘the Beehive’) give you the chance to learn more about NZ’s progressive, trend-setting political history.
2.Mount Victoria also known as Mt. Vic, is where you’ll get a wonderful view of the city. The hill was used twice in the filming of Lord of the Rings trilogy.
6. Wellington Cable Car Commanding lovely views of various parts of the city, the cable car ride is only 4.5 minutes long. Check out the Cable Car Museum, too, for an account of the ride’s 100-year history.
1. Te Papa Museum This national museum is one of a kind. It’s interactive; it has motion simulators and 3D animation. And all the while educates about Maori culture and New Zealand history. It’s the most popular attraction in Wellington.
- Beehive – Architectural symbol of the country that forms part of the parliamentary complex.
- Katherine Mansfield’s Birthplace – The country’s most distinguished author is well known for her short stories.
- Mediaplex – This innovative building in Wellington combines a library, film archive, research centre and cinema.
- Old Saint Paul’s – Last painted in 1866, from the outside it still looks as good as new. Inside offers a sample of English Gothic woodwork, stained-glass windows and historical displays.
- Archives New Zealand – Guardian of the county’s heritage documents, including an original of New Zealand’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi.
Wellington Art & Culture
- Te Papa – A national icon and with a wonderful interactive collection of cultural and historical artefacts.
- Carter Observatory - Offers a full-dome planetarium, multimedia displays, Maori cosmology, astronomical artefacts and the best telescopes in the country.
- Museum of Wellington – Interactive and imaginative picture of Wellington’s social and maritime history in a building that dates back to 1892.
- National Library of New Zealand – Haven to a vast collection with regular events and changing exhibits.
- City Gallery – Features well-known international artists and helps unearth and support local artists.
- Kirkcakdie and Stains – Has been in business since 1863 and is the most high-class department store in Wellington, compared to Harrod’s or Bloomingdale’s.
- Hunters and Collectors – Features some of the best window displays in the country and offers an assortment of leather, shoes and accessories.
- Mainly Tramping – A great store for outdoor enthusiasts, where you’ll find a helpful, knowledgeable staff and can rent or buy gear.
- Moore Wilson Fresh – Offers an incredible array of local produce, mountains of cheese, baking goods and many more treats.
- Old Bank Shopping Arcade – This lovely old building is the place to go for wonderful boutique shopping, gifts, clothing and accessories.
Gay & Lesbian Wellington
- Club Ivy – Lounge bar and dance club in Wellington.
- Checkmate – Local sauna open seven days a week.
- S&M’s Cocktail Bar and Lounge – Cosy place with coffee in the afternoon and events in the evening such as pool, karaoke and more.
- Emperors Sauna – Exclusive bathhouse.
- Fringe Bar – Gay friendly with live entertainment nightly.
- Wellington Botanic Gardens – Enjoy the native forest, rose garden and collection of international plants, fountains, sculptures and more.
- Zealandia – This conservation area offers more than 30km of walking trails.
- Dominion Post Ferry – Take a 30-minutes trip across the Wellington harbour to Days Bay and enjoy the beaches and park, rent a rowboat or canoe or visit a local cafe.
- Matiu-Somes Island – A wildlife reserve with a rich history as a former quarantine isolation and prisoner of war camp.
- Otari-Wilton’s Bush – Specializes in native flora and offers 11km of lovely walking trails.
- Cheer on the Wellington Phoenix Football club at the Westpac Stadium.
- Catch a rugby game with the Hurricanes Super Rugby team.
- Watch an exciting game of netball at the TSB Bank Arena.
- Enjoy a game of cricket by the Wellington Firebirds or Wellington Blaze at the Basin Reserve.
- Don’t miss out on watching the Wellington Saints play basketball.
Wellington LocalCity Centre
Wellington’s city centre is located near the Waterfront, making for a picture-perfect urban landscape. The district contains quite a few important attractions like the State Opera House, Wellington Town Hall, and City Art Gallery. It also includes Civic Square, which is paved with yellow terra cotta bricks. Public events and markets are frequently held here.Cuba Street
Trendy and vibrant, Cuba Street is chock-a-block with hip cafes, chic boutiques and charismatic street entertainers. The area also hosts a few events throughout the year, namely Cuba Street Carnival and the Fringe Festival. There’s a real heart to Cuba street, and you’ll love immersing yourself in the hustle and bustle or simply stepping off to a cosy café to order a flat white (after all, New Zealand is where the flat white originated!) and watch the world go by.Waterfront
Walking through Wellington’s popular Waterfront area is a must. Extending from Oriental Parade to Queen’s Wharf, Waterfront is where you can find loads of upmarket restaurants and bars. The parks and gardens also make it a great place to find scenic picnic spots, and on a nice day all that is required to enjoy this spot in the city is a picnic and a good-looking lover to enjoy it with. (If finding a good-looking picnic companion proves somewhat difficult, you can always brush up on your local knowledge with a visit to the Museum of Wellington City & Sea, which invites you to explore New Zealand’s maritime history.)
Wellington Eat & Drink
In Wellington you can enjoy Modern New Zealand cuisine (what exactly this entails tends to be widely subjective), European fine dining and even Southeast flavours. Wellington has a diverse range of restaurants on offer – all you need is a healthy appetite, a willingness to translate your waiter’s accent and enjoy the sunshine.
The White House is an award-winning restaurant offering modern New Zealand cuisine with spectacular sea views at Oriental Parade.
Logan Brown New Zealand’s Restaurant of the Year can be found in a former bank building. Relish in international cuisine favouring fish and game. Cuba Street
Citron Celebrated chef Rex Morgan will entice you with this Modern European fine dining experience. Opt for the nine-course degustation! City Centre
Pravda Classy bistro dining at its finest, Pravda is also a café that prides itself on serving first-rate coffee. Customhouse Quay
Martin Bosley’s Yacht Club Restaurant is a sophisticated waterfront restaurant with award-winning Modern New Zealand fare. Seafood at its best! Oriental Parade
Floriditas With its European café-style menu and good coffee, it’s no wonder that Floriditas is a favourite with locals. City Centre
Francois For authentic French food you don’t need to go any further. Francois dishes up excellent French cuisine in an historic colonial building. Thorndon
Chow is a popular restaurant serving tapas-style Southeast Asian fare. Enjoy your meal with a glass of sake or a cup of tea. This place will have you leaving in high spirits. City Centre
Boulcott Street Bistro French-inspired food with contemporary touches in a Victorian house. It’s a small restaurant, but it sure is big in flavour and class. City Centre
Shed 5 Dining at the wharf sounds pretty appealing already, but the contemporary seafood cuisine will leave you begging for more. Queen’s Wharf
At the Cuba Street Carnival in February, you’ll be entertained by street buskers and a street parade. There’s also a street market for those shopping fanatics out there.
The all-encompassing New Zealand Fringe Festival in February will charm you with theatre, comedy, dance, music and art.
Film buffs, here’s your reason to visit Wellington in winter – the two-week New Zealand International Film Festival makes its mark in July.
In August and September, make sure you go to the Montana World of WearableArt Awards Show where art, dance and fashion obscure the lines to become one.
From September to October the Spring Festival enlivens Wellington with spring flowers, crafts and workshops at Wellington Botanic Gardens.
The Organic River Festival is a three day event that starts just before the New Year. You can chow down on food, sip on wine as you’re entertained by talented performers and musicians.
When To Go
Wellington experiences the same seasons as southern Australia, though the temperatures are slightly cooler.
Known as the ‘Windy City’ (and not because its residents eat too much fibre), Wellington only ever gets up to around 8°C during the sunlight hours of winter months, and can fall to below zero overnight with occasional frost and snow.
Summer sees pleasant temperatures of around 25°C, although the temperature can remain quite low in some of the low-lying valleys around the city.
Spring and autumn are the best times to visit from a tourist standpoint, but Wellington is accessible and enjoyable year-round.
Visit our partner page Wellington hotels by Hotel.com.au
- Once in Wellington, the best way to explore the city is to walk! Otherwise, you can take the bus (get a free network map) if you’re heading out to the suburbs. An all-day central bus pass costs $9 ($15 for a group pass of up to four people).
- Make sure you make time to take at least one trip on Wellington’s iconic cable car. It’s not really a means of transport, but it is a nice way to see the city.
- Other alternatives include the train, taxis, and renting a car (although parking can be problematic and expensive).
What To Miss
Although New Zealand is relatively safe, this shouldn’t mean you let your guard down. Tourists in any city are targets for thieves, so be sure to take the same precautions you would in other large cities.
It’s actually quite common for cars to suffer break-ins. Older models with simple locks are the more likely targets, so hire a newer model. Regardless, make sure you park in well-lit areas and remove valuables before you leave it.
Set amongst harbour and hills, New Zealand’s capital is loved for its culture, atmosphere, innovation and cuisine. Arts, culture, fine dining and breathtaking natural scenery combine to create an unforgettable city experience in Wellington. Discover tiny, tucked-away bars, quirky cafes and galleries, fashion boutiques, award-winning restaurants and internationally acclaimed nightlife in this vibrant city. And best of all, Wellington is a very compact city, with most of its major attractions right in the downtown area.
As the national capital, museums abound in Wellington and as a collective, tell the story of New Zealand, from historic artifacts and art, to contemporary installations and exhibits. The picturesque cityscape is no less remarkable, with an urban layout especially amenable to intrepid pedestrians on the make for prime photo opportunities. For music and culture, Wellington's eclectic calendar of events will keep you busy, with enough avant-garde restaurants and bars to tantalize any palate.
Attractions & Activities
- Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa on the waterfront.
- ZEALANDIA: The Karori Sanctuary Experience, located 10 minutes drive from downtown Wellington.
- City Gallery Wellington, located in Civic Square.
- Carter Observatory and the Botanic Garden, at the top of the iconic Cable Car.
- New Zealand Parliament buildings, with free tours offered daily.
- Experiencing the award-winning restaurants, cafés and bars.
- Visiting City Market and Harbourside market, held each Sunday on the waterfront.
- Attending the annual theatrical extravaganza of the Montana World of WearableArt.
- Enjoy cutting-edge, boutique shopping through downtown Wellington.
- Gallery and museum hopping, starting with the Museum of Wellington.
Restaurants & Nightlife
- Logan Brown, NZ’s current Restaurant of the Year on Cuba Street.
- Matterhorn, a stylish multi award-winning establishment.
- Floriditas, a Parisian style restaurant using the freshest of local ingredients.
- Ortega, a slick restaurant with an emphasis on seafood.
- Scopa, a family-owned pizzeria.
- The Library, a cocktail bar and dessert restaurant in one.
- Apartment, decked out like a New York loft apartment.
- Mighty Mighty, a party bar upstairs next to the Matterhorn.
- Duke Carvells Swan Lane Emporium, a Mediterranean style bar and tapas restaurant.
- Havana, a Cuban themed bar located on Wigan Street.
Typical summer daytime maximum air temperatures range from 19°C to 24°C, and seldom exceed 30°C. Annual sunshine hours average about 2000 hours, more than many of the other major centres in New Zealand.
- Winter (June to August) 6-12°C
- Spring (September to November) 8-17°C
- Summer (December to February) 12-21°C
- Fall (March to May) 8-19°C
Wellington - General information
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