Wellington is New Zealand’s Capital City where Parliament, the Governor General and foreign Embassies are all located here.
The city has a population of around 400,000 with the City spread out on a relatively narrow strip of land that stretches around Wellington Harbour with mountains and hills creating a backdrop to the City.
The main Railway Station is located in the heart of the city, and the airport is about 6 kilometres away. Most of the Hotels and places of interest are in the centre of the city next to the harbour, and it is an easy city to walk around to get to know the city.
They call Wellington “Windy Wellington” – and in certain parts of the city next to the footpath there are ropes to grip to stop you being blown away, and if you see people wrapping their arms around a street pole, chances are they are hoping not to be blown off their feet. The winds do however make for great people watching to see their reactions to the wind gusts, and if it is wet too, the umbrella dancing takes on a Charlie Chaplin moment. It is easy to get out of the wind however and pop into one of the many bars or cafés that are in and around the city centre.
The markets, the food, the beer, coffee and street atmosphere all make for a great city, with the harbour creating its own magic too.
Some of the main attractions in Wellington are –
- Simply the Harbour – On a clear day the colour of the water with the city around it is quite a spectacle, with Cruise ships and ferries adding to the enjoyment, while at night the lights of the city create a new ambience.
- The National Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa Tongarewa )– on Cable Street next to the Harbour. This is a large museum with a lot to see. Almost next door to the Museum is Te Wharewaka o Poneke – a big exhibition and conference centre and it is worth checking out to see what is happening there. Civic Square is also close by too – and this is where you will see Town Hall, Galleries and the main Wellington Information Centre (i-SITE), where you can catch a ‘Hop on-Hop off’ bus that travels past many of the main tourist attractions in the City – from the Embassy Theatre on one end to the Railway Station on the other passing by the Opera House, Cable Car Lane, Old Parliament Buildings and other places of interest.
- Wellington Cable Car – takes you from Lambton Quay to the Cable Car Museum at the top of the hill – for the best view over Wellington and the Harbour.
- Wellington Botanic Gardens – and Carter Observatory – the entrance is next to the Cablecar Museum. These gardens cover a large area and are a showpiece for Roses and New Zealand’s great soil and climate, with the Carter Observatory here too – to see and learn about stars and planets.
- New Zealand Museum of Wellington City & Sea - 3 Jervois Quay next to Queens Wharf. This museum is located in an old Bond Store and has been voted as one the top 50 Museums in the world, covering 3 floors of exhibition space. It is also next door to Shed 6 and Capital E – where you may find drama and theatre shows on. Also next door is the Heliport for flights over Wellington and nearby the New Zealand Portrait Gallery and commuter Ferry Terminal too.
- Weka Cave Workshop – 1 Weka Street, Mirimar – is 10 to 15 minutes from the City centre and is definitely worth taking a tour to see. This is where model making and movie set designs are created – such as for The Lord of The Rings and Hobbit movies, and the tour provides a great insight into the ‘magic of moviemaking’.
- Mt Victoria Lookout – has one of the best views over the city – Pallister Road leads you to the top of the Mountain.
- Wellington Zoo – is at 200 Daniell Street in Newtown and is over 100 years old. This is where you can get close to see some of New Zealand’s unique birds and wildlife.
- Zealandia – the Karori Sanctuary Experience – is located at the end of Waiapu Rd in Karori. Here you will also be able to see Kiwis and other birds and animals too.
- # 1 has to be taking a Ferry (See eastbywest.co.nz) to other parts of the Harbour from Queens Wharf – to Petone (Hutt Valley) and Jackson Street shopping; Days Bay and Eastbourne for cafes, antiques and art places; Seatoun on the Mirimar Peninsula near the dangerous Barrett Reef where many ships have been wrecked trying to enter the Harbour – including the Wahine which perished here in 1968 with 53 people losing their lives; Matiu/Somes Island – once a Maori settlement, then a Prisoner of War Camp, a Quarantine Station and now a Reserve – where you might picnic and see a Tuatua Bird or even a Giant Weta Insect.
- New Zealand Cricket Museum – Museum Stand in Basin Reserve (not far from the Zoo)
- Westpac Stadium – on Aotea Quay – where big sporting events are held.
- Olympic Museum Gallery – in the TSB Arena Building at Queens Wharf
- National War Memorial – Buckle Street
- New Zealand Dominion Museum – next to National War Memorial
- St Marys of the Angels Cathedral – 17 Boulcott Street
- Sacred Heart Cathedral – 30 Hill St Pipitea
- National Library – Molesworth St Pipitea
- Beehive and Parliament Buildings – Molesworth St, Pipitea
LEAVING THE NORTH ISLAND and Wellington –
While Wellington is certainly a great city with lots to see, the best part of your trip to New Zealand may well be leaving Wellington behind and either taking a Cruise Ship to the South Island from Wellington or the Inter Island Ferry that leaves Wellington Harbour heading to Picton at the top of the South Island.
The Inter–Island Ferries (See www.interislander.co.nz) have three ships in their fleet and they leave from the terminal close to Westpac Stadium off Aotea Quay and head to Picton on the South Island. There are around 11 crossings per day on one of the three Ferries (Arahura, Aratere, Kaitaki) carrying both cars and passengers and on board you have lounges to relax in, the decks to wander and cabins too if you choose, with meals available, a café bar and even a theatre to watch a movie on the 3 hour voyage.
The other Ferry Company is Bluebridge Ferries – See www.bluebridge.co.nz that also leaves from Wellington to Picton and carries both passengers and cars, as well as bikes, motorbikes, and Motorhomes too. Check their timetable for fares and times. They are also located just past the Westpac Stadium and close to the Wellington Waterfront Motorhome Park.
From the terminal you head out of Wellington Harbour past Barrett Reef (sometimes visible) and across Cook Straight to enter the Marlborough Sounds – a beautiful long Sound, then into Queen Charlotte Sound and Picton where the Ferry will berth.
In Maori legend, Kupe, the Great Maori Warrior fought with an octopus here, and the fingers of water were formed as the tentacles of the octopus were dragged away, creating the four Sounds that form this remarkable part of the New Zealand coastline.
Standing on the ship’s deck it is easy to imagine the battle that took place between Kupe and the Octopus, but the tranquillity of the water, the ridges of green that rise from the water’s edge, with the ferry itself being the only sign of civilisation combine to create a most memorable journey.
Soon you will be in Picton, on the South Island and a new adventure begins…. See South Island section of this website.