Consistently ranking in the top ten of travel destination lists, Wellington, New Zealand , though small for a capital city, is a decidedly big destination. With mountains in the background and a craggy coastline on the forefront, Wellington is situated perfectly to provide a memorable vacation for everyone from movie buffs to foodies to those seeking an athletic vacation as well as those of us who like to travel without labels. Whether you are planning to visit Wellington as a one stop destination or as a three or four day side-trip, you are sure to come away appreciating the city’s label “ the coolest little capital in the world.”
With 2000 hours of sun each year and moderate temperatures year-round, pack to get the most from your visit to Wellington. Walking shoes are a must as the easiest way to see the city is on foot. It’s fun to be spontaneous but a little planning will help you see as much of the city as you can. If you wait until you arrive, there is a good chance you’ll get overwhelmed by the choices available. Below are some options to help you get your planning started.
- Do you live to eat? Wellington is bound to win a special place in your heart. Diners, casual cafes, outstanding coffee shops, excellent local wine and specialty bars are all a short walk away no matter where you choose to stay.
- Planning a picnic? Check out the Harbourside Farmer’s Market for fresh, local produce, deli, cheeses and more.
- If you are traveling in August, check out Beervana, a celebration of handcrafted beer or experience the Visa Wellington on a Plate gourmet celebration.
- Coffee is a serious subject in Wellington. Seriously. Here you can find reviews of 98 Wellington coffee shops. You’ll find quirky little shops on every block. Flight Coffee Hangar is a local legend.
- If you think the coffee aficionados are intense, wait until you meet the craft beer enthusiasts! It’s only natural that beer plays an important part on the Wellington food scene, New Zealand hops are known as some of the finest around the world. If you, too, are serious about beer, learn to brew your own and return home with a new hobby.
- If you are seeking a high end dining adventure, Logan Brown is a must. Located inside an old bank, you can dine beneath a dome surrounded by Corinthean columns. Try the Paua ravioli – one item that has never been taken off the menu – for a true taste of New Zealand.
- Having a hard time deciding where and what to eat? Try one of the guided food/wine tours in and around Wellington.
- Yearning to see the sights? Upon arrival, take a walk up Oriental Parade to the top of Mount Victoria. It’s a great place to get a sense of the city and appreciate its overall beauty and architecture. Another way to get your bearings is to head to Lambdon Quay and hop on the historic Wellington Cable Car for a ride through Kelburn’s terraced homes to a lookout point high above the city. Other iconic Wellington places to visit include:
- Cuba Street – You don’t have to be a hipster to visit the uber-cool shops and cafes on Cuba Street. Experience buskers, art exhibitions and don’t forget to get your picture taken at the bucket fountain.
- The Waterfront – No visit to Wellington is complete without a visit to the Waterfront. You can rent inline skates, bicycles and even a kayak. If you’re traveling with children, stop by Frank Kitts park and let them burn off some energy on the playground’s lighthouse slide. You’ll find food in every price range – from outside vendors as well as from cafes and restaurants. Learn more about New Zealand history at Te Papa, the national museum. Finally, stop by the Museum Art Hotel and check out their latest exhibit of contemporary art. Get the most up-to-date information on The Waterfront and other areas of Wellington by downloading the iPhone “Welly Walks” app.
- Get to know Wellywood. Wellington is home to several world class film and special-effects company. You know their work from movies like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Hobbit, Avatar, the Avengers and more. You can visit the Weta Cave Workshop explore behind-the-scenes. Consider a full or half-day tour that includes visits to important film sights, special effects and artifacts as well.
- Get familiar with Natural New Zealand.
- No visit to Wellington would be complete with a visit to Zealandia – The Kaori Wildlife Sanctuary. This is your chance to wander among New Zealand’s natural wildlife as it roams free in the protected canopy area. Depending on your needs, a visit can last from two hours to an entire day. You may also want to look into taking one of their guided night tours to see a different side of the valley.
- Along the southeast coast of Wellington, you’ll find the Red Rocks Reserve – a five mile trek along the beach, so named because it is studded with reddish rocks formed from lava. The hike is not difficult and the views of the ocean and the mountains are stunning. As you get closer to the end, you are likely to spot seals basking in the sun. You are free to watch the seals but, do not approach them. There are few spots in the world where you will encounter this many seals in their natural habitat.
- If you head to the nearby suburb of Khandallah, you’ll find the beginning of the trail leading to the highest peak in Wellington, Mt. Kaukau. You’ll have a choice as you head up the trail for one route that is steep and one that is less steep. With either choice there are ample spots for you to stop and take a rest before carrying on. Pack a picnic and enjoy lunch at the summit as you enjoy the breathtaking views.
Wellington is one of those cities with so much to offer that there is no such thing as a typical experience. Take a chance on making Wellington “your city.”