Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and the second largest city in the country. As such it has many interesting things to see and do. If you're passing through Wellington on your way to or from the South Island, make sure you spend some time exploring this vibrant city.
Museum of New Zealand: Te Papa Tongarewa
New Zealand's showcase museum was opened in 1998. Located in a commanding position on the Wellington waterfront, it's an impressive work of modern architecture as well as housing some of New Zealand's most important artifacts. This is very much an interactive museum, with working displays and models. As a result, it's a great place for children too.
The Beehive and Parliament Buildings
The buildings of New Zealand's parliament are where most of the official political business of the country is conducted. The modern, rotunda-like 'Beehive' building contrasts with the Victorian-Gothic style of the building adjacent. There is a Visitor Center open on the ground floor of the Beehive which provides information to the public. There are also free guided tours conducted on the hour which are well worthwhile. Otherwise, take a leisurely stroll through the Parliament gardens.
Cafes, Bars and Nightclubs
Wellington has the liveliest clubs and quirkiest bars in New Zealand and there's something for virtually every taste. Head to Courtenay Place or Cuba Street, both in the center of town. You'll find somewhere to dine and dance or share a quiet drink in a friendly and vibrant atmosphere.
Museum of Wellington City and Sea
For a complete history of the Wellington region, you can't go past this great little museum. Housed in what was once the city's bond store, and now the second-oldest building along Wellington's waterfront, this is three levels of social and maritime history, largely focussed on the development of the city since the arrival of the first Europeans in the 1820s.
Mount Victoria Lookout
This is one of the best and most accessible viewing points above Wellington and gives panoramic views of the city, harbor, and surrounding hills. It's a short distance from the Wellington CBD and can be reached by car or bus.
The lookout has been featured in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy twice, firstly in the scenes of "Escape from the Nazgul" and secondly as Rohirrim camp at Dunharrow.
Wellington Cable Car and Botanic Gardens
This another option for great views of Wellington. The cable car is located directly behind the main shopping strip of Lambton Quay. It's a quick 4 1/2 minute trip up to Wellington's superb Botanic Gardens. This twenty-five hectare open space features a rose garden, native trees and plants, a glasshouse and even sculptures and outdoor artworks.
Walk Along the Wellington Waterfront
The Wellington waterfront has been extensively developed in recent years and makes for a very pleasant place to walk on a sunny day. Start at the Post Office Square (opposite Queens Wharf) at the Parliament end of the Wellington CBD. Pass along Civic Square, home to the Wellington Town Hall, City Art Gallery, Library and i-Site Visitor Information Center. Carry on to the Museum of Wellington City and Sea, past more interesting modern and restored buildings and open spaces until you reach the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa. Still further is Oriental Bay, a beachside suburb with a fine promenade. Everywhere you go there are cafes, public art works, and sculptures and people enjoying themselves. This is a great way to experience the atmosphere of Wellington.
Theater, Dance and Music
If Wellington is the political capital of New Zealand, it is also often described as the country's cultural capital as well. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Royal New Zealand Ballet and Radio New Zealand National and Concert stations are all based here. Add to that the many theaters, music groups, bookshops and festivals and you have a city buzzing with cultural events like no other in the country. Of course, Auckland may beg to differ, but Wellington remains a wonderful place to experience the diversity of art and culture.
Wellington Harbourside Sunday Market
This lively market happens every Sunday at the bottom of town next to Te Papa museum. It is the place to get your weekly produce, high quality and at reasonable prices. There is a wide range of fruits and vegetables, and also local cheeses, bread, fish and preserves. A number of takeaway food stalls are also on site.
The Harbourside market is just one of several farmers' markets held in the Wellington region each week.
Zealandia: Karori Sanctuary Experience
Zealandia is one of the most significant wildlife sanctuaries in New Zealand. Located on the outskirts of suburban Wellington, it is a protected natural area with an abundance of native flora and fauna. The 225-hectare park is protected by a pest-exclusion fence. In addition to the many birds and plants that can be found here, it is also one of the best places in New Zealand to see the kiwi bird in its natural habitat.