Wellington City Profile
New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington is a location of contradictions.
On one hand it is a thriving metropolis, known not just as the country’s political capital but as its arts and culture center. Museums, galleries, fine restaurants, and live entertainment all point to a city of urban sophistication. But there’s another side to Wellington. The stunning harbor and lush green hills represent a much simpler way of life, but a way of life that most tourists are just as keen to experience for it’s simple pleasures.
423, 800 [Source: Lonely Planet - 2009]
Due to its central location, Wellington is sometimes regarded as the heart of New Zealand. You’ll find its urban center on the south-western tip of the country’s North Island.
Wellington enjoys a moderate climate, with temperatures rarely rising above 25ºC or falling below 4ºC. However, winter in Wellington often feels much colder due to strong southerly winds. Rain is common, so it’s worth taking a waterproof jacket on your travels. Frost may occur on calm winter days, but snow is rare. While Wellington’s weather can be unsettled, it’s not all gray and gloomy. Wellington enjoys around 2000 hours of sunshine each year, which is more than many of the country’s locations.
Places of interest
Wellington is known as New Zealand’s cultural capital, so it’s worth catching a live performance while you’re in town.
The city is home to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and several theater groups including the Maori group Taki Rua, the Capital E National Theater for Children, and the Wellington Improvisation Troupe known as WIT. Local newspapers and the groups’ websites report on their shows so you can easily find out what’s playing while you’re in town. If you only see one museum during your New Zealand getaway, make sure it’s the country’s national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa or “Our Place.” Entry is free for most exhibitions, which help tourists learn more about New Zealand’s history and the contemporary Kiwi way of life. Interactive displays celebrate the culture and stories of the Maori people and the country’s geology and natural environment. The Marae, a traditional indigenous meeting place, is one of the museum’s more unique features.
Wellington is home to New Zealand’s oldest suburb, Thorndon. Here visitors can stay at the Shepherds Arms Hotel, the oldest operating hotel in the country, and enjoy a pint at its Speight’s Ale House, the second oldest pub in New Zealand. The town is also home to the New Zealand prime minister’s official residence and the former house of New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield. Wellington has many recreational activities designed to help you make the most of its beautiful harbor. Sea kayaks are available for hire, or you could enjoy the sights from the water’s edge. The Wellington Writer’s Walk along the waterfront has poetry and excerpts from some of New Zealand’s most beloved tales. If you’d rather explore further afield, take a harbor cruise to Days Bay to browse the crafts shops and enjoy a meal at the seaside cafes. Ferries also run from Wellington to Matiu-Somes Island, a former prisoner-of-war camp and quarantine station. It’s now a nature reserve with walking trails, beaches, and picnic areas. If you want to see more of Wellington’s great greenery, consider a trip to Otari-Wilton’s Bush. It’s the only botanic garden in the country solely focused on native fauna. It’s free to visit the 100 hectares of native forest and five hectares of plant collections. Some of the city’s oldest trees live here, including an impressive 800-year-old rimu tree.
Where to eat
Wellington has a strong café culture, which places the emphasis on quality fresh produce and a relaxed, friendly dining atmosphere. These eateries offer a variety of cuisines from Europe, Asia, and nearby Polynesia. If you’re traveling on a budget, make sure you head to Cuba Street where the noodle houses offer spice-laden Asian dishes for only a few dollars. If you’re not a meat eater, you can enjoy Chinese and Malay cuisine at the street’s Aunt Mena’s Vegetarian Café.
College Street is ideal for families. L’Affare has a toy box to keep the little ones happy, and toasted sandwiches to please fussy eaters. Brooklyn Bread and Bagel also has a welcoming child-friendly atmosphere. Parents can indulge in some delicious pastries and coffee while tots play in the toy-filled kids’ area.
Where to stay
Hotels and motels are the most common accommodation option in New Zealand. Those wanting to stay in the heart of the city are well catered for with the ritzy Bolton Hotel and affordable Ibis Wellington giving options to travelers on any budget. But Wellington does offer a few alternatives for those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle. Wellington’s waterfront district is just close enough to be convenient, but quiet enough to feel truly luxurious. Those water views come at a price, but if you’ve got the cash to spare you’ll enjoy a stay at the Copthorne Oriental Bay or Amora Hotel Wellington.
On the city’s outskirts you’ll find a selection of bed and breakfast style accommodation. Five-star choices like the Villa Melina Boutique, Vista del Sol, and Lambton Heights Boutique Bed and Breakfast offer all the comforts of a luxury hotel including spas, pools, and saunas. There are still some alluring budget-friendly options though, including the beachfront Killara Homestay and the historic Cherswud B&B.