City Guide – Wellington
Wellington’s Māori name is Te Whanganui a Tara, but it is more commonly known as ‘The Windy City’. This is because it is one of the top three windiest city’s in
the world (up there with Perth and Chicago), with an annual average wind speed of 18 miles per hour. Wellington is situated at the very south-western tip of the North Island, nestled in to a naturally sheltered harbour, and being New Zealand’s second biggest city, it offers many artistic and cultural events, as well as some pretty nice scenery.
Wellington itself is known for its cinema, craft beer, and family friendly activities. Nearby you will find Days Bay and Eastbourne, which is ideal for day trips, where you can enjoy the beach, and hire kayaks and bikes. In the middle of the harbour, you will find Matiu/Somes Island, where you can find fascinating wildlife, including Weta (New Zealand’s native Cricket), Tuatara (NZ’s native Lizard), Kakariki (one of three native NZ parakeet’s), and blue penguins. You can also view this wildlife and more at Zealandia which is the world’s first fully-fenced urban
eco-sanctuary, with an extraordinary 500-year vision to restore a Wellington valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state. The 225 hectare (500+ acre) eco-sanctuary is a ground breaking conservation project that has reintroduced 18 species of native wildlife back into the area, some of which were previously absent from mainland New Zealand for over 100 years. Set around a picturesque reservoir, ZEALANDIA is home to some of New Zealand’s most rare and extraordinary wildlife – all thriving wild in a world-first protected sanctuary.
Located in the city centre on Lambton Quay you will find Wellington’s renowned cable car, which takes a trip up to Kelburn, a popular high spot and a location from which you can get an excellent overview of the city, and a sneak peek at the beautiful Botanic Gardens. The city also acts as a good base for exploring further afield, such as the wildlife of The Karori Sanctuary Experience (known as Zealandia), fur seals amongst the south coast, or mountain bike through the native bush of Makara Peak.
Wellington is home to many of New Zealand’s key museums include the National Archive, which includes the original Treaty of Waitangi and the 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition. Then there is Te Papa (The National Museum of New Zealand), which covers Māori and colonial history. One local historic attraction that is a bit less touristy and that may be of interest is Wrights Hill Fortress, which was Fortress built in the final years of World War II and is not only considered a historical landmark, but also featured in Fellowship of the Ring (Lord of the Rings Movie). For more history Trueblue Kiwi Experiences run a tailored tour for you, or you could check out their Colonial Cottage and Homes Tour, where you will be treated to a traditional Kiwi barbeque!
Wellington has both traditional and international cuisine available, with a strong café culture, as well as an Asian influence, with many restaurants offering Indian,
Japanese, Malaysian, Thai, and Chinese food. Being near the coast, fish and chips are also a popular choice, in addition to many other cuisines, whether you’ll looking for fine dining, or a vegetarian wrap – you will generally find something that appeals to your tastes. Trueblue Kiwi Experiences also offer a tour focused exclusively on food and wine, with a short excursion to the Wairarapa, a nearby region (60 mins away) that is reknowned for its wineries and vineyards. Trueblue Kiwi provides special tours of this region, including some country style cookery, wine tasting, and a platter wine matched lunch, as well as a visit to one of the area’s olive groves. Additionally, the ‘Sensations Tour’ offers a tour of Wellington City’s best panoramic sights, with special interactive lunch, sweet treats, and beer tasting.
As expected in such a city, there’s plenty of cinema and theatre available to entertain. Wellington is home to the Royal New Zealand Ballet and New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Sometimes known as ‘Wellywood’, the city also offers tours about the country’s cinema history at Weta Cave – the famous Movie Director Peter Jacksons Film Studio. There are various arts festivals and sports events that may be worth checking out if your travel dates allow.
For those interested in shopping, you might be interested to know that there are many independent shops, as well as design stores and clothing boutiques. Old Bank Arcade features an array of high-end shops, and its tiled floors and Corinthian columns are worth a wander inside. For specialist New Zealand reading, head to Unity Books, and for those of the musical persuasion, there’s Slow Boat Records. For contemporary local art, including Māori art, take a look inside Kura gallery.
In Wellington, you could stay at heritage cottages, available at a mid-range price, and featuring garden space to make the most of sunny weather in summer, at City Cottages. There are many quality hotels and apartments, with four or five stars. It’s also possible to stay a little further out, near Mount Victoria, or get to know local Kiwis and share their culture through staying in shared houses.
Wellington is a city with so much to do and see within a compact area, providing a good balance of being a vibrant city, and still containing some of New Zealand’s much-loved sights with its rugged coastline, and picturesque harbour. It’s well worth booking a tour with Trueblue Kiwi to get the most out of your time here.