- For other places with the same name, see Wellington (disambiguation).
The Windy City is on the foreshore of Wellington Harbour and ringed by hills, providing the scenic home of many of New Zealand's national arts and cultural attractions.
Wellington is New Zealand's third largest city, a long way behind Auckland and even Christchurch. It's actually just one of the four cities making up the Wellington metropolitan area which is New Zealand's second largest urban area - the other three cities are Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt and Porirua.
Wellington offers a blend of culture, heritage, fine food and coffee, together with lively arts and entertainment.
Surrounded by hills and a rugged coastline, the city has a stunning harbour. Wellington’s charm is that it serves up a vibrant inner city experience with a slice of New Zealand scenery. And because of its compact nature, you can sample it all: boutiques, art galleries, trendy cafés and restaurants. Right on its doorstep is a network of walking and biking trails with beautiful wineries and vineyards just a few hours away.
Wellington offers an array of theatre, music, dance, fine arts and galleries and museums. It is also home to one of the nation’s key attractions, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
The city promotes itself as "Absolutely Positively Wellington". Its motto Suprema a situ claims site supremacy, with some justification. Wellington was named as the fourth best city in the world to visit in 2011 by "Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2011".
- Wellington Visitor Information Centre (iSITE), Civic Square, Corner Victoria and Wakefield St, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 933 5363. A good place to begin your Wellington visit - they're able to book accommodation, activities and provide useful information about Wellington and surrounding areas. Their website contains the same information and is worth checking out prior to your visit. They are a member of the national i-SITE visitor information centre network.
Because it is the capital city, the New Zealand Parliament and the head offices of many Government departments and large businesses occupy central Wellington. This is especially true in the areas closest to Parliament Buildings - the northern end of The Terrace and Lambton Quay areas and the Thorndon commercial area.
Much of the central city is built on land that was raised up after a major earthquake in 1855. More land has been reclaimed since then. The shoreline as it was in 1840 is marked by plaques in the footpaths on Lambton Quay (hence the street name). There are several "quays" which are now nowhere near the harbour. The harbour's former name was 'Port Nicholson' and the smaller bay surrounded by the city is called 'Wellington' or 'Lambton Harbour'.
Earthquakes have played a major part in forming the whole Wellington region, the exposed face of the Wellington fault being prominent as the line of hills adjacent to the harbour between Thorndon and Petone. There are several major earthquake faults in the region, some of which slip one metre or more in one jump every few centuries. Building regulations have meant that many older city buildings have been either demolished or strengthened, or require such work to be undertaken. Small and moderate earthquakes occasionally rock Wellington; so if the earth seems to move for you, it may not be just your imagination: stay indoors unless a "warden" or similar authority advises evacuation, and take shelter from potentially falling objects wherever you are.
There are some places in Wellington where damage from the 1855 earthquake is still visible. The most accessible is a large landslip on State Highway 2 between Ngauranga and Korokoro (just north of Rocky Point where the BP petrol station is located) where the dramatic change in terrain is visible. Bush has overgrown the slip but is visible. However, most people are oblivious to the location of landslip as they drive by on the highway.
The city is known as "Windy Wellington". The prevailing wind is from the northwest but the strongest winds are southerly. The wind speed and direction can be seen by the flag being flown from the Beehive. A large flag is flown only on calm days, a small flag is flown when windy days are expected.
The temperature in Wellington rarely drops to 0°C (32°F), even on cold winter nights, while daytime winter temperatures are rarely lower than 8°C (46°F). During summer, the daytime maximum temperature rarely gets above 25°C (77°F). Away from the seaside, in inland valleys, frosts of up to -10°C (14°F) have been recorded and snow settles on the nearby ranges in winter.
Wellington sits at the southern tip of New Zealand's North Island. The city core lies along the western shore of highly protected Wellington Harbour, with the city's suburbs spreading out in all directions. The city's primary urban core consists of the CBD and the adjoining 'city suburb' of Te Aro, to the south and east. A fairly dense zone continues south from Te Aro into the adjoining suburbs of Mt Cook and Newtown, as well as Kilbirnie on the other side of the parklands of Mt Victoria.
East from Te Aro, north-south-running ridgelines form Mt. Victoria and, further east yet, the Miramar Peninsula, which forms the western side of the mouth to Wellington Harbour. These hills—and the isthmus between—are home to a number of suburban areas as well as parkland and beaches.
Several kilometres south of central Wellington is the rugged and stunning South Coast of the North Island, consisting of a string of small (and some large) bays, many with rocky beaches and interesting tide pools.
To the west, the suburbs between Karori and Johnsonville spread into the hillsides, with various parks and hiking trails, and then give way to open rural areas such as Makara.
Aside from the national public holidays, Wellington has its own public holiday, Wellington Anniversary Day. Commemorating the arrival of Wellington's first European settlers aboard the Aurora on 22 January 1840, it is observed across most of the Greater Wellington and Manawatu-Wanganui region on the Monday closest to 22 January.
Wellington International Airport is in Rongotai, about 5 km (3 mi) from the central city. It sits on an isthmus between the Miramar peninsula and Mount Victoria. The southerly approach is over Cook Strait, while the northerly approach is over the harbour.
Wellington airport is a major transit point for domestic travellers. There are frequent flights to Auckland, Christchurch, Palmerston North, Rotorua, Hamilton, Nelson, Blenheim and many other destinations. International flights from Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane) arrive about twice daily: the evening flights arrive after midnight when most facilities are closed. There are also seasonal flights between Wellington and Fiji.
Landing at Wellington Airport in a strong wind can be an adventure, and most pilots adopt a powered approach, followed by a full reverse thrust and hard braked landing due to the shortness of the runway (2,081 m). This tends to create a roller-coaster ride, so make sure your seatbelt is securely fastened. Many locals swap stories of approaches with large dips, shudders, bumps, sudden sideways movement, followed by the plane going around for a second (and even sometimes a third) attempt to land. Only pilots with a special license may fly commercial flights to Wellington, and while there have been a few near misses, no large passenger plane has ever had a serious crash in Wellington.
There is a regular airport bus known as the Flyer that departs from the south end of the domestic terminal until 21:00. Shuttle van services, taxis and covered car parking are directly outside the terminal.
When you get to the airport, call the Metlink hotline at 0800 801700. They answer very quickly and a friendly person will tell you what bus to take and even what special pass to buy (for example, if after the "Flyer" you are taking a train) if you say where you are going.
There are regular ferries between Wellington and Picton operated by Interislander and Bluebridge, connecting with buses and the train to Christchurch. Cruise ships from overseas often stop in Wellington. The Interislander ferry terminal is located about 2 km (1 mi) northeast of the railway station, and a $2 shuttle bus runs between it and the railway station (bus terminal next to Platform 9). The Bluebridge ferry terminal, meanwhile, is located next to the railway station.
There are only two major roads into Wellington: State Highways 1 & 2. State Highway One follows the western coast to the north, and State Highway two heads north-east through the Hutt Valley, over the Rimutaka Ranges to the Wairarapa. Both roads are initially motorway-standard, but quickly reduce to four-lane highways with traffic light-controlled intersection and then to two-lane undivided roads as they negotiate difficult terrain. While local authorities are working on improvements, serious and fatal crashes are common on these roads: remember to keep left, maintain a reasonable speed, and use the passing bays to overtake slower traffic.
Drivers using the Rimutaka Hill road must be alert to extreme wind and weather, especially in winter. The road can close several times a year due to snowfall near the summit. Also drive carefully when descending as crashes have occurred where vehicles brakes have overheated and drivers have been unable to slow for sharp corners.
Hitchhiking from central Wellington is difficult as most traffic stays within the metropolitan area, and it is illegal to hitchhike on the motorway until the Hutt Valley (about 15 km or 9 mi northeast of Wellington) or Paremata (about 20 km or 12 mi north). If intending to hitchhike, you are best to catch a train to Waikanae or Upper Hutt and walk to the main highways to catch a lift from there (The best spot for Upper Hutt hitchhikers is at the Caltex petrol station about a 3 km walk north from the railway station along Fergusson Drive). Using a sign will help in finding a willing driver going your way.
Be aware that a few hitchhikers, including tourists, have been attacked or murdered in New Zealand. While usually no problems occur, always be aware, and try to travel in pairs to reduce your risk.
There is a train service between Wellington and Auckland. There are daily commuter services from Palmerston North and Masterton and a generally half-hourly suburban commuter service to Johnsonville, the Hutt Valley, Porirua, and Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast.
National bus carrier InterCity Coachlines operates bus services to Wellington from across the North Island. Daily services operate between Auckland, New Plymouth, Napier, Hastings and Palmerston North. All InterCity Wellington services depart and arrive at Platform 9 at the Wellington Railway Station.
Nakedbus offers a more limited national network and offers daily (and some overnight) services to most major destinations on the North Island. These depart from a bus stop opposite the Amora Hotel on Wakefield Street or outside the McDonalds on Bunny Street, right opposite the Railway Station.
It's easy to get around the central city on foot, as it's very compact and pedestrian-friendly. In addition, New Zealand's best public transit network with buses, commuter trains, and suburban ferries is available to take you further afield.
- Metlink (Greater Wellington Regional Council - Transport), ☎ 0800 801 700. Provides full information about routes and fares about Wellington's public transport system. They also have a m.metlink.org.nz mobile website for smartphones.
The core of Wellington is notably compact and vibrant, and is well-suited to exploration by walking. As dictated by geography, the core of the city is quite linear, with the classic commercial backbone known as the Golden Mile making for a diverting and pleasant walking route. This route runs from the Railway Station down Lambton Quay to its southern end at Willis Street. It then runs down lower Willis Street to Manners Street, and continues straight onto Courtenay Place. On the Manners Street section, the route crosses Wellington's bohemian heartland of Cuba Street, which heads south into the core of Te Aro. While these streets mark the traditional core of the commercial city, the surrounding blocks also have plenty to be seen.
Another enjoyable and popular place to amble in the city core is the Waterfront, from the revitalized Kumutoto area in the north, past Queen's Wharf to Frank Kitts Park, and then through the Lagoon and City-to-Sea Bridge areas and on to the Te Papa museum and Waitangi Park. From here the waterfront curves northeastward along lovely Oriental Bay with its beach and promenade.
Wellington city itself has an extensive network of buses, including a significant number of routes served by electric trolleybuses. Excellent and free network maps and route timetables and maps are available from locations throughout town, including the main visitor centre in Civic Square, the Central Library, and many convenience stores. You can also access the timetables and maps online. While these maps can be quite useful if you desire to travel into the suburbs, they aren't generally necessary if you simply want to travel across the central city. Being a rather linear city, the heart of Wellington is heavily served by the central bus corridor between the Railway Station and Courtenay Place. Nearly all lines run along this section, so you rarely have to wait more than a few minutes to catch a ride. The route is approximately as follows:
- Out of the Railway Station bus terminal onto Lambton Quay.
- Lambton Quay to Willis Street.
- Willis Street to Manners Street, continuing straight to Courtenay Place.
- From Courtenay Place straight onto Manners Street
- Manners Street to Willis Street
- Willis Street to Lambton Quay to the Railway Station.
You can always call the friendly hotline at 0800 801700 and they will tell you what buses to take and how much it will cost.
Bus fares use a zone structure. While the entire Metlink network has 14 zones, nearly the entire city of Wellington (extending to the water's edge in the south, east, and west, and as far north as Churton Park) exists within three zones.
If you plan to use the bus extensively, you can also buy an all-day central bus pass which allows unlimited trips after 09:00 on weekdays within zones 1 through 3. Check Metlink's website for current pricing.
In addition, electronic Snapper fare cards are available from most supermarkets and convenience stores, which provide approximately 25% discount off adult fares on Go Wellington buses. These cards can be topped up electronically at various agencies for a small fee. However, you need to remember to tag not only when you board the bus but also as you leave the bus, or you will be charged for the whole route.
By cable car
The Kelburn cable car is a Wellington icon. It provides a regular service between Lambton Quay and Kelburn. The Wellington city terminal is at the end of Cable Car Lane, just off Lambton Quay, near the intersection with Grey Street. The Kelburn terminal is at the end of Upland Road by an entrance to the Botanic Gardens.
The Eastbourne ferry service, which provides regular services between Queens Wharf and Days Bay in Eastbourne, also stops at Somes Island most trips.
The train is the best form of public transport between the central city and Johnsonville, as well as the Hutt Valley, Porirua or the Kapiti Coast - although you do have to walk from Melling or Western Hutt, or catch a bus from Petone or Waterloo (Hutt Central) stations to central Lower Hutt's CBD.
At Wellington station the destination and departure time of the next train departing from each platform is displayed on the message board at the entry to each platform. Two announcements are made a few minutes before each train is due to depart. Tickets can be bought at the Wellington station ticket office or suburban ticket agents. Since most smaller stations do not have ticket offices, you can also buy single journey tickets, and day passes, with cash, from the conductor on the train, after you board and often once the train is moving. Monthly passes do need to be purchased from a station ticket office or suburban ticket agents in advance.
The easiest way to travel between the Hutt Valley and Porirua is by train via Wellington. Trains run every half hour on the Hutt Valley and Porirua lines, and more frequently during peak hour. Services generally run every half hour on Saturdays and Sundays.
A Day Rover pass allows unlimited trips on any of the four commuter lines on the same day. This can often work out cheaper than buying separate tickets if you need to make two or more journeys. A 3 Day Weekend Rover pass is available for train travel from 04:30 Friday to midnight Sunday. If you have a group of people, a Group Rover pass allows up to 4 people to travel together on the same conditions as a Day Rover.
As in all New Zealand cities, taxi rates vary according to the company. There is a "flagfall" charge, then a per kilometre charge once the cab starts moving. Extra fees apply for things like airport pickup, phone booking, electronic payment etc. Major taxi companies in Wellington include (alphabetically) Combined, Corporate, Green and Kiwi. There are many alternate taxi companies and taxis are usually in plentiful supply.
Check the door of the taxi before you get in for the current approved fare rates.
As noted above, driving in the core of Wellington is generally not necessary or as convenient as walking. However, it's not particularly difficult once you learn the one-way system, nor is traffic a big worry outside of normal rush-hour periods.
Street and garage/surface lot parking is not particularly difficult for a city of Wellington's density, but as with any city you may have to search a bit for a street spot. Street parking is generally metered in the centre at a rate of $4/h (M-Th 08:00-18:00, F 08:00-20:00), often with a one or two hour time limit. Multi Storey car parks tend to be similarly priced, but you can generally stay for longer periods.
In the suburbs immediately surrounding the city, coupon parking zones exist in conjunction with Resident Only parking. In the Coupon Zones, two hours of parking are free. Beyond that you must display a coupon to allow you to park for the entire day. These are available at convenience stores for $5 each. Enforcement of the Coupon Zones is 08:00-18:00. Resident Zones are generally reserved for residents (displaying a current permit) at all times, and you may be served with a ticket for parking there without a permit.
On the weekend, metered car parking is free, with a two-hour time limit on both days.
Museums and galleries
- Te Papa, 55 Cable St, ☎ . F-W 10:00-18:00, Th 10:00-21:00. New Zealand's national museum contains interesting exhibitions on the country's history and culture and includes several shops. It has the only complete colossal squid on display. Free (except for the occasional special presentation).
- Museum of Wellington City & Sea, Queens Wharf, 3 Jervois Quay, ☎ . Daily 10:00-17:00, closed 25 Dec. Queens Wharf. A well-presented museum of the history of Wellington, including its maritime history. Free.
- City Gallery, Civic Square. Lacks a permanent collection but runs a consistently avant-garde set of exhibits. It also has the excellent café, Nikau, attached to it.
- Carter Observatory, 40 Salamanca Rd, Kelburn (2min walk from the top of the Cable Car), ☎ . 10:00-17:00. Recently re-opened, Carter offers a state of the art planetarium show, along with multi media exhibits show how early Māori, Polynesian and European settlers navigated their way to New Zealand. $18.
- Plimmer's Ark. Under and in the Old Bank Arcade on the corner of Lambton Quay and Customhouse Quay - near Plimmer's Steps. A hundred years ago a Bank was built on top of a wrecked ship that had been used as a market. When they renovated the building they discovered the ship's timbers and preserved the remains in the building! Just take the escalator down through the bank vault doors.
- Parliament Buildings, Molesworth Street, Thorndon, ☎ . Home of New Zealand's lawmakers and leaders, the complex consists of the Beehive (or Executive Wing), Parliament House and the Parliamentary Library. The grounds of Parliament are open to the public, and free tours of the buildings are available from the visitor centre located between the Beehive and Parliament House. For security reasons, you need to leave all your belongings at the visitor centre and clear a security checkpoint.
- National Library of New Zealand, corner of Aitken and Molesworth Streets (across the road from the Cathedral and Parliament). The library regularly holds exhibitions.
- Turnbull House, Bowen Street (just across the road from Parliament Buildings). This imposing brick mansion now seems small and out of place amongst the surrounding high-rises.
- Old Government Buildings opposite Parliament at 15 Lambton Quay. This is the largest wooden building in the southern hemisphere and the second-largest in the world. It is now the home of Victoria University Law School.
- Old St Paul's, (one block east of Parliament). This was the Anglican centre for decades. Superseded by the new cathedral north of Parliament, this one is popular for weddings and funerals.
- Elmscourt an historic art deco apartment block on the corner of The Terrace and Abel Smith Street.
Statues and sculptures appear in some intriguing places around town. Famous prime ministers, memorials, and works of art have all been erected in the streets of Wellington, including:
- Memorial statues to two prime ministers in the grounds of Parliament as well as a bicentennial memorial to Captain Cook's 1769 discovery of New Zealand.
- The Cenotaph on the corner of Lambton Quay and Bowen Street, just outside the Parliament Grounds, is where a Dawn Memorial Service is held every ANZAC Day (25 Apr).
- Behind Parliament, on the corner of Museum and Bowen Streets, is a small park with 3 sculptures in block.
- On the corner of Lambton Quay and Stout Street, the fallen column was created from a column and letters from the State Fire Insurance Building demolished in the 1980s.
- On Lambton Quay, opposite Cable Car Lane, the two stainless steel monoliths with pimples are actually a poem in Braille.
- Where Lambton Quay meets Featherston Street there is a wind mobile.
- The Bucket Fountain in Cuba Mall - a real splash, for many years.
- The Wellington City Council website provides a guide to its public art: Wellington City Council Public Art Guide. More information and a walking tour guide is available at Wellington Sculptures.
Wellington City is surrounded by hills, so there are a number of good vantage points.
- The Wellington Cable Car, ☎ . Daily until 22:00. From Lambton Quay (next to the McDonald's). The easiest way to get a nice view of the city and harbour, the Cable Car runs on rails from Lambton Quay to the Botanic Garden in Kelburn every ten minutes. $2.50 one way, $4.50 return. Concession prices are available for children, students and senior citizens over 65.
- Mount Victoria, off Lookout Rd (take #20 bus from Courtenay Place). 196m high, this is the best lookout in Wellington. The full 360-degree view is a great place to see the airport, the harbour, the CBD and the Town Belt with just a turn of the head. It takes about an hour to walk up from Courtenay Place. Many tourist buses go there but also a lot of the locals, especially at night to 'watch the view'.
- Mount Kaukau, off Woodmancote Road, Khandallah (take Johnsonville train from Wellington Station to Khandallah). 455m high, and easily recognisable by the 122-metre television transmitter atop it. A great lookout point, but not as close to the city as Mt Victoria.
- Wrights Hill. More views, and WWII underground tunnels which are open to the public on public holidays for a small fee.
- Brooklyn Wind Turbine, off Ashton Fitchett Dr, Brooklyn. Another great place to go to get an excellent view of the city, the harbour, and Cook Strait, plus experience the wind! The turbine was built in 1993 to test the potential of turning Wellington's infamous wind into useful electricity.
- Massey Memorial, Massey Road, Miramar. An interesting place to go if you want to see a large memorial in the middle of nowhere, with a good view of the surrounding harbour. The memorial's namesake is William Massey, Prime Minister of New Zealand between 1912 and 1925.
- Karori Wildlife Sanctuary (Zealandia), Waiapu Rd, Karori (1st left after Karori Tunnel, take #3 or #23 bus from Lambton Quay). Daily 10:00-17:00 (last entry 16:00), closed 25 Dec. A predator-proof fence encloses an old water catchment area, forming a mainland island that provides a natural haven for endangered native birds, tuatara, wētā, and other indigenous flora and fauna, safe from introduced predators. By far the most convenient place in the country to see rare New Zealand wildlife. $18.50, child $9, more for guided tours.
- Matiu/Somes Island. Out in the middle of the harbour, this island has its share of history. It was once a quarantine station for immigrants, and later (and more extensively) for animals. It was also an internment camp for "dangerous" individuals during both World Wars. The ferry leaves from Queen's Wharf and Day's Bay (on opposite sides of the harbour). Only at certain times will the ferry stop at the island and only upon request. The best choice is to leave Queen's Wharf at noon and return at 14:30 or 15:25. $18.50.
Parks and gardens
- The Botanic Garden is a nice place to go for a picnic, or just an afternoon walk (or run for a challenging fitness experience). You can take the Cable Car from Lambton Quay for a quick 5-minute trip to the top; but it is not designed to be exciting, despite being photogenic. If you're keen on walking up, take the lifts in the The James Cook Arcade (or one of several others along Lambton Quay) up to The Terrace, head south uphill until you reach Salamanca Rd. Head uphill up Salamanca Rd until you reach Victoria University. A set of stairs on the opposite side of the road to the Hunter Lawn goes uphill right to the top of the Gardens. If you already shelled out for a Busabout Daypass ticket, just catch the Mairangi bus, get off at the stop after the University, and walk back along Upland Rd until you reach the Cable Car Museum. At the top of the Gardens, there are several attractions:
- The Cable Car Museum has two of the old cars in semi-restored and fully-restored condition and some of the original Cable Car machinery from the system that was replaced in 1978.
- The Lookout has a great view day or night, and the large map next to the round tree usually has a few pamphlets with maps of the Gardens.
- The Carter Observatory is a stones throw from here. This is the perfect place to explore the Garden from, or wander back to the city.
- Bolton Street Memorial Park. Watch out for the friendly black cat who haunts this hillside cemetery. If you're returning from the Botanic Gardens by foot, this is great place to meander through and check out the epitaphs of early pioneers and historical figures.
- Red Rocks/ Seal Colony. This is an interesting walk named for its distinctive red rocks (probably Jasper). Take the number 1 bus to the end (Island Bay). Walk across the park towards the ocean and hang a right. There is another bus, number 4, that goes to the end of the road but only at certain times. Travel west (right side, if facing the water) until you run out of road. Here you will find a disused quarry and a soon-to-open visitors centre. The walk along this beach is pleasant but rocky and often very windy, so dress accordingly. If you walk for about an hour you'll come across a distinctive pass though the rock face. Just on the other side of this is a seal colony that is worth the walk. Please bear in mind that these are wild animals and so require a certain level of respect, so keep your distance and don't get between them and the sea, especially if you value your health! Continuing on from here, you will eventually arrive at Makara (but this is a long distance, and the seal colony is a recommended turn-around point).
- Dive the frigate Wellington (F69). Probably the world's most accessible dive wreck. Just a few kilometres around the coast from Wellington International Airport. Sunk on 13 November 2005 in 23-26m of water off Island Bay on Wellington's south coast. The wreck lies about 600m southeast of Taputeranga Island (the island of Island Bay).
- Take a ferry across the harbour. Go down to Queen's Wharf and check out the destinations and times.
- Oriental Bay, Oriental Parade (Past Te Papa). Oriental Parade is Wellington's most beautiful street. Wellingtonians and visitors run, walk, cycle, rollerblade and eat at the great cafes & restaurants on this strip or sunbathe at the beach. However if you are not from somewhere really cold it is unlikely that it will be hot enough for you to be in desperate need for a swim. There is a spa pool (jacuzzi) in Freyberg Swimming Pool (on Oriental Parade) which is inexpensive if you enjoy "people soup".
- Skyline Walkway.
- Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park.
- Karori Cemetery is an interesting picnic spot.
- Frank Kitts Park. A great place to wander around, with walls to climb, inline skates, and jet ski rental.
- Circa Theatre.
- Bats Theatre.
- Downstage Theatre.
- Capital E National Theatre for Children.
- The Embassy Theatre, 10 Kent Terrace (opposite Courtenay Place), ☎ . 09:30 until late. This 1920s heritage-listed theatre is Wellington's premier film venue, and hosted the world premières of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Events and festivals
- Beck's Incredible Film Festival. Incredibly strange, exploitation cinema and extra low budget movies.
- Comedy Festival.
- Cuba Street Carnival. Wellington's largest free street festival is held biennially in late February. Being revamped.
- Dance Music.
- Fringe Festival.
- New Zealand International Arts Festival. February/March every year.
- Out in the Square. Annual gay and lesbian carnival held in 'Civic Square' on the first Saturday of March.
- Sevens. The Wellington Sevens or the New Zealand International Sevens is an annual rugby sevens tournament held in Wellington. The tournament, the fourth on the IRB Sevens World Series circuit, is played at Wellington's Westpac Stadium in early February and includes teams from 16 countries. The event attracts over thirty thousand spectators annually. The tournament has become Wellington's largest sporting event and one of New Zealand's leading sporting events. It also has a reputation for a party atmosphere, with a large proportion of attendees choosing to wear fancy dress. Recent years have seen large groups of costumes that vary from Fred Flintstone and Wilma to Care Bears, dance troops, wrestlers and many other interesting costumes. More recently items of recent media interest or advertisements form a key theme. Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, George Bush have made appearances. Movie figures such as Men in Black (MIB) and Austin Powers are crowd favourites and an impersonator of Austin has been a regular feature each year performing to the crowd.
Wellington has a lot of restaurants and cafés, in fact more cafés, bars and restaurants per head than New York City. Malaysian food is surprisingly popular and available in most areas. You can also get good Turkish kebabs anywhere in the city, or Lebanese at the Phoenician Falafel on Kent Terrace (their kebabs are better than all the Turkish places too). Fish and chips is the best value food and you usually get better quality in the suburbs.
More or less traditional
- Aro Street Fish and Chips, Aro St.
- The Backbencher, 34 Molesworth St, Thorndon (opposite Parliament), ☎ . Dine with the political figures of the day, who have a menu to match their misfortunes. A light hearted political/current affairs show is broadcast from the Backbencher on Wednesday nights (except in summer) and the bar will often be packed with Members of Parliament, Parliamentary staff, political activists, and journalists. Crowd participation is encouraged, with heckling common, but the audience are good-natured, as a camaraderie has developed amongst most activists, regardless of affiliation.
- The Green Parrot, 16 Taranaki St, ☎ . Opened in the 1920s and offers a very interesting atmosphere. Great food, large portions, open late, and serves free bread with every meal. The filet mignon is great. $10-30.
- Aunty Mena's Vegetarian Restaurant and Cafe, 167 Cuba St, Te Aro, ☎ . Lunch & dinner M-Su. Vegan Malaysian/Chinese food. Friendly staff & a homely atmosphere. $10-20.
- Cinta Malaysian Restaurant, Manners St (facing the Manners park). Affordable Malaysian food with nice cultural decorations and cosy lighting.
- Little Penang, Dixon St (opposite Dixon Street Deli). Cheap, very authentic Penang-style street food, run by a friendly family from Malaysia. Probably best as a casual lunch spot, but open for dinner as well. Some menu items are only available on certain days, so do ask. $2-15.
- Satay Palace, Cuba St (between Floridita's and Aunt Mena's). Don't let the run-down décor fool you, ultra-cheap, excellent food and service.
- Satay Village, 58 Ghuznee St. These guys do a good curry laksa. Locals love this place because the owner seems to be able to recall what people have ordered before with near perfect accuracy.
- Satay Kingdom, Left-Bank (off Cuba Mall). This is the student Malaysian restaurant. On most evenings you will find it overflowing with people coming in for its cheap and hearty food. But don't be put off by the large numbers, the service is incredibly fast with food often arriving at your table before you if you're not quick!
- Great India. Very well-known restaurant. Has won the Wine & Food challenge for several years running.
- Tulsi, 135 Cuba St. Or takeaway in the BNZ food court. Their butter chicken was voted best in Wellington.
- Higher Taste, Lower Ground, Old Bank Arcade, Customhouse Quay. The only pure vegetarian Indian Restaurant.
- Indus, Tinakori Rd, Thorndon (Near the Thorndon shops and Premier House). They do delicious North Indian food, and their tandoori chicken is fabulous.
In Newtown: Some of the best ethnic restaurants are on Adelaide Road in the southern suburb of Newtown, between Wellington Hospital and the Zoo.
- Curry Heaven. A fantastic small traditional restaurant, the people are friendly and do takeaways, the Malai Kofta is excellent.
- Planet Spice. Two doors down from Curry Heaven on Adelaide Rd, they have an upstairs area.
- Indian Flavours. A truly Indian experience, all traditional curries, and Indian sweets, very authentic, best place for a home-sick Indian.
- Yoshi Sushi & Bento, 126 Featherston Street & 110 Lambton Quay, Wellington CBD, ☎ , , fax: +64 4 473-4734, e-mail: email@example.com. M-F 9.30-17.00. Japanese cuisine. Enjoy the stylish and modern atmosphere. Choose from the vast array of Japanese sushi and sides starting from as little as $1 or enjoy a delicious Japanese bento (lunchbox), Japanese udon soup, salad, miso soup, or a combination of them all. Catering also available.
- California Sushi, Left Bank off Cuba St. Yummy food and friendly shop owners. The place might not look like much, but they provide excellent service. Has been closed for health and safety reasons but is open again.
- Kazu Yakitori & Sake Bar, Level 1, 43 Courtenay Pl (Upstairs). 17:00-late. Japanese-style barbeque, fresh sushi, great selection of beer and sake.
- Sakura, Cnr Whitmore and Featherston St, ☎ , fax: +64 4 499-6913. Tu-F 11:3014:00, Tu-Sa 17:3022:00. Japanese cuisine, fresh sushi, great selection of beer and sake. $15-20.
- Domo Sushi, 22 Brandon St. Excellent, freshly made sushi served by a very enthusiastic and welcoming Japanese man. Mainly caters to the lunchtime office-worker crowd, being just off Lambton Quay.
- Viva Mexico, 210 Left Bank, off Cuba Mall (apparently they have a second restaurant at 180 Riddiford St, Newtown these days: +64 4 389-0975), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The most authentic, home-style Mexican food you'll find in Wellington. Seem to be open all day, but definitely book for dinner at the Newtown one. $10-20.
- La Boca Loca, 19 Park Rd, Miramar, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. A bit out-of-the-way in Miramar, but still authentic, interesting Mexican cuisine. Good selection of proper Mexican tequilas. Open every day (except Tuesday) for brunch, lunch and dinner. Adjoining shop sells imported foodstuffs from Mexico, including masa, dried chillies and condiments. $10-20.
- Pan de Muerto, 82 Tory St, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 17:00-late. A more contemporary, experimental style of Mexican cuisine, in cosy, dark surroundings. The psychedelic, Day-of-the-Dead-themed decor is really something to behold! Becomes a cocktail/tequila bar after 23:00 on Friday and Saturday nights. $15-30..
- Fisherman's Plate, 12 Bond St. Looks like your average family-run fish-and-chips shop, but they also do excellent Vietnamese food, with an emphasis on noodle soups. Sit right up the back in the dinky plastic chairs for an even more authentic Vietnamese experience. $5-15.
- NAM, Willis Street Village, 142-148 Willis St. Good Vietnamese food. They also run a takeaway shop next door which is the place to get some lovely banh mi ($7.50) for lunch and a sweet dessert (a mung-bean sesame ball is recommended). If you go too late they may have sold out of banh mi for the day, though. $10-20.
- Phong Vu, 210A Left Bank Arcade (off Cuba St). Open for lunch and dinner, closed Sundays. They have all the Vietnamese basics covered, $10-20; also allows BYO.
- Wellington Night Market, Left Bank of Cuba Mall. F 17:00-23:00. Nice selection of food stalls offering cheap food ($10-15 at most) from around the world, including Chinese, South Indian, African, Filipino, and Malaysian. Has a quirky, bohemian vibe; live music sometimes, and a few little crafty-type stalls as well.
- Harbourside Market. Lively market along the waterfront near Te Papa, every Sunday morning. All sorts of fruit/veges and other food supplies, but in terms of finding breakfast/lunch, there are a good variety of options in the $10-or-less range, including casual-yet-sophisticated, Kiwi-style barbecue stalls (look out for the pulled-pork-sandwiches place; fish is good too), plus Vietnamese, South Indian dhosa, Chilean hot dogs, South American churros etc. Everything finishes up by about 13:00-14:00.
- Food on Willis, 1 Willis St, Wellington Central (cnr Willeston St). There is a food court in the basement of the State Insurance Building (the big black square tower that looks like, in one architect's opinion, Darth Vader's pencil box). It has been neglected for many years and might not be the most pleasant place to dine, even if the stalls' food is good. It is mostly frequented by the many office workers in the area looking for a place where all co-workers can dine together happily. There is Sushi, Indian, Greek, Turkish stalls, amongst others. There are few seats not taken at lunchtime, so you may want to just get take-away. Some of the stalls offer discounted food after 14:00, and are all closed by 15:00.
- The White House, 232 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Lunch F (more frequent in Nov-Dec), Dinner daily 18:00 onwards. Winner of numerous awards, specialising in seafood, NZ meats and organic vegetables.
- Logan Brown, 192 Cuba St (corner of Cuba and Vivian Sts), ☎ . In the former banking chamber of an historic banking building.
- Le Canard, 10A Murphy St, Thorndon, ☎ . Lunch Tu-F, Dinner M-Sa (can bring own wine on M). Exquisite French dining (and service).
- Boulcott Street Bistro, 99 Boulcott St, ☎ , fax: 04 499 3879, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Bistro Lunch M-F from 12:00, Bistro Dinner M-Sa from 18:00, Wine bar all day M-F, reservations accepted for lunch only. Private room available for groups of 10-16. Modern bistro. Classic combinations, fresh ingredients, attentive service. Starters $14-21, mains $29-35.
- Pravda - elegant bistro dining, 107 Customhouse Quay (Part of the Lambton shopping precinct), ☎ . early to late. Pravda means “The Truth” in Russian, but here it is a cafe, bistro, bar and restaurant. The coffee is strong, the food is diverse and of a high standard. $8-40.
Wellington has a bustling nightlife, concentrated along Courtenay Place, one of the major streets running from the CBD. It runs through Te Aro and ends in Mt Victoria. The nightlife causes this street to have the highest population density in all of New Zealand on Friday and Saturday nights. In most establishments, drinks are remarkably affordable at about $6, and entrance charges are either nonexistent or minimal. In some of the better clubs reasonable dress standards apply, however in the day the mood is usually extremely casual, with flip-flops (Called Jandals in New Zealand) and even bare feet occasionally accepted (a common Kiwi choice on hotter days). Cuba Mall also features some cool and more alternative bars.
Away from Courtenay Place in the CBD district (Lambton Quay) there are many after work bars frequented by office workers, however this area becomes deserted in the later hours, and thus these establishments usually do not provide all night partying.
- Blend Bar, 118 Wakefield St.
- Chow & Motel Bar, 45 Tory St, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. A combination restaurant/bar and cocktail lounge in one connected unit. Chow is a restaurant & bar serving Asian fusion food, cocktails and Sake. Motel Bar is behind Chow with its main entrance in Forresters Lane. According to worldsbestbars.com it is 5th best bar in the world.
- Good Luck, Cuba Mall. Hidden away down underneath Cuba Mall in the basement of a building. Good Luck can be difficult to spot. With a low roof and dim lighting, it is a cozy place for a winter drink. Also good in summer, it can be a little dark and hot in the warmer summer months.
- Hashigo Zake, 25-29 Taranaki St (between Molly Malone's and Te Papa), ☎ . Noon-late. Totally uncompromising beer bar. Local and imported craft beer, wine, whisky and sake.
- Havana Bar, 32a Wigan St, ☎ . Havana Bar is attached to the popular Havana Coffee Works. Near the top of Cuba St in an old Wellington character house, it is a nice place to listen to some jazz or just relax out in the outside courtyard bar.
- Hummingbird, 22 Courtenay Pl, ☎ , fax: +64 4 801-6339, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 09:00-03:00. Live music.
- The Matterhorn, Cuba Mall. The Matterhorn has been a popular Wellington Bar for many years.
- Bar Medusa, 154 Vivian St. The home of New Zealand's underground and emerging metal and hardcore artists.Formerly known as Valve and Hole In The Wall.
- Mighty Mighty, Level 1, 104 Cuba St. W-Sa from 16:00. This is probably one of the most hip and popular places in town at the moment. It often has local and international artists performing. It generally has a $5 door charge on the weekends.
- S&M's Cocktail lounge, Cuba St. Wellington's only gay bar currently operating is small but packed on weekends especially. Two floors with the lower floor being a sweaty dance floor.
- The Southern Cross, 39 Abel Smith St, Te Aro (On the corner of Cuba St), ☎ . c. 08:00-late. Rated by Metro as one of the best 5 garden bars in the world.
Wellington is home to a range of good coffee roasteries. Local roasters include Caffe L’affare, Coffee Supreme, Havana, Mojo, and People's Coffee. Below is a small range from the extensive Wellington café scene.
- Aro Café. On Aro Street, offering a range of vegan and gluten-free food.
- Beach Babylon, 232 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay, ☎ . 08:00-late. A retro, beach-paradise inspired cafe and restaurant with Wellington's best outdoor dining area. Serves good, retro New Zealand cuisine. $10-30.
- Caffe L’affare, 27 College St, ☎ . M–F 07:00-16:00, Sa 08:00-16:00, Su 09:00-16:00. Founded by an Italian and with its own roastery that supplies New Zealand coffee to cafés and supermarkets across the country.
- Deluxe. Nestled beside the Embassy Theatre, Deluxe is the ideal pre-movie meeting place, portions are well-sized and the food is tasty.
- Fidel's Café, 234 Cuba St. A popular destination, it is claimed to be one of Wellington's best-known cafés. Has a selection of vegetarian and vegan food.
- Floriditas, Cuba St on Marion Sq. Good cooking using fresh, locally grown and organic food that’s popular among foodies.
- Gasoline, between Woodward St and The Terrace. Caters to a largely corporate clientele.
- Maranui. In the surf life-saving club buildings at Lyall Bay (near the airport). Relax in front of a panorama of the beach and the Cook Strait.
- Memphis Belle. Great single origin filter coffees from Flight Coffee around the corner.
- Midnight Espresso. Selection of mostly vegetarian counter food.
- Neo Cafe & Eatery, 132 Willis St. A trendy café offering a delicious variety of cuisine and very good tea.
- Nikau. At the Art Gallery (Civic Square) - good food, but at relatively high prices.
- People's Coffee. Excellent single origin espresso in Newtown. Also, their "Brewtown" next door is a great place to try some filter coffee.
- Downtown Backpackers, 1 Bunny St (cnr Waterloo Quay, opposite the Railway station), ☎ , toll-free: 0800 225 725, e-mail: email@example.com. Dorm beds from $25. Single room with shared bathroom $68. The travel desk on the ground floor can help with booking transport and activities.
- Lodge in the City, 152 Taranaki St (cnr Vivian & Taranaki Sts), ☎ , toll-free: 0800 257 225, fax: +64 4 385-8531, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Dorm $23, single room $50, doubles from $85.
- Nomads Capital, 118-120 Wakefield St, toll-free: 0508 666 237, e-mail: email@example.com. Dorm from $23, doubles from $85.
- Worldwide Backpackers Wellington, 291 The Terrace, toll-free: 0508 888 555, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Queen, double, twin, double + single, 3 share, 4 share and 6 share.
- YHA, 292 Wakefield St (cnr Cambridge Tce & Wakefield St - opposite the Fire Station), toll-free: 0800 600 100. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 07:00-10:00. Dorms from $26, double/twin rooms $74 (members 18+ years).
- Rowena's Lodge, 115 Brougham St, ☎ . Camp sites from $15, dorms $23.
- Boutique on 58, Victory Ave, Karori West. Airport transfer from $25. A warm New Zealand family environment. Dorms $50.
- Villa Melina Boutique B&B, 89 Ludlam St, Seatoun (from the Airport (SH1), turn right at the Caltex roundabout onto Broadway, take the first on the right after the Seatoun tunnel), ☎ , toll-free: 0800 MELINA. Check-in: 14.00, check-out: 11:00. A 5 star bed and breakfast located 7 min from airport, Interislander, Te Papa and CBD. From $162.
- CityLife Wellington, 300 Lambton Quay (vehicle entrance: 14 Gilmer Terrace), ☎ , toll-free: 0800 368 888, fax: +64 4 922-2803, e-mail: email@example.com. Four star plus, suite style hotel. Rooms on the Gilmer Terrace side face directly onto the steep hill the hotel sits on and have no view.
- Distinction Wellington Century City Hotel, 70 Tory St, ☎ . Studio rooms, 1 & 2 bedroom apartments and penthouse suites. From $149.
- Museum Hotel - Hotel de Wheels, 90 Cable St (opposite Te Papa - Museum of New Zealand), toll-free: 0800 994 335. In one of the largest ever building relocations, this hotel was moved across the street in 1993 to make way for Te Papa museum. From $149.
- InterContinental Hotel Wellington, 2 Grey St, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Adjacent to the waterfront, InterContinental Wellington is the only internationally-branded 5 star hotel in Wellington.
There are several of these in Wellington, most are up the hill a little, closer to Mt Victoria (still very close to the city). Some are simpler – like just a room with shared bathroom facilities and a "mess" hall (might be closed in summer). Others are self-contained units, and some are 3-4 bedroom apartment buildings.
"Aparthotels" are pricier, but you get more, and are usually more central and have better service and facilities.
A better way to get to know more locals and experience some NZ culture (if that's what you are looking for) is a shared house (a "flat" in NZ English). These are an option for stays of a month in summer while students are away – usually flats are taken for the year or at least several months). Look for "Flatmates wanted" in the local Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday newspaper (Dominion Post) classifieds.
Flats are much cheaper and usually well furnished already by the other tenants in the communal rooms. You may need to provide your own bed (you could buy a cheap one second hand for the summer), or they might be able lend you one. All flatmates share the rent, bills and chores, and occasionally food, meals and even washing too. Some flats come fully furnished, but this is not the norm.
To find flats, the locals use www.trademe.co.nz
- Wellington Central Library (in the city square, next to the information centre). It's huge with great places to sit and read or if you bring your laptop to connect home via one of the city's paid-for Wi-Fi networks. Entry is free.
Wellington is reasonably safe at night, but common sense should prevail, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, as in any other city.
Occasionally, tourists relax security in New Zealand thinking that it is a crime-free paradise. While violent crime against tourists is very rare (and is usually followed up by public outrage against the offenders), opportunistic petty crime can still occur. Taking simple steps like locking valuables away and keeping to well-lit areas at night usually prevent problems.
Vehicle break-ins are common, especially in shopping malls and 'park and ride' type car parks. Thieves generally target older vehicles with less complicated locks. Removing all valuables and leaving the glove box open (to show that no valuables are hidden) will usually act as a deterrent. Police will normally give you a copy of their report for insurance purposes, but it is very unusual for any stolen property to be recovered and returned to its owner.
- Wellington Central Police Station, 41 Victoria St (between Maning Ln and Harris St), ☎ . In any emergency, dial 111
Embassies, High Commissions and consulates
Although there are 41 foreign missions in Wellington, some countries may have representatives in other cities such as Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Nelson and Queenstown. In some cases the consular officials accredited to New Zealand from your country may actually be based in another country such as Australia or China! The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) maintains a useful list.
Details listed on Wikivoyage, such as telephone numbers and opening hours, are typically those of the consulate or consular section rather than for the embassy or High Commission itself.
Greater Wellington region
The Greater Wellington region is far bigger than just Wellington City. The old Wellington Province used to cover much of the southern half of the North Island, including the Horowhenua, Manawatu, and Wanganui regions.
There are three other cities that are so close to Wellington that they effectively form a single large urban area; in population order they are:
- The Kapiti Coast
- Lower Hutt (sometimes erroneously called "Hutt City", after its local council's self-chosen name)
- Upper Hutt
The nearby Hutt Valley and Porirua have a number of interesting sights and beaches. Plimmerton, for example, has seen future world windsurfing champions training, and Edmund Hillary practised rock-climbing at Titahi Bay before conquering Everest.
The suburbs of Eastbourne and Days Bay are on the eastern side of Wellington Harbour. They can be reached by car, bus or ferry. There are a number of enjoyable hill walks in both Days Bay and Eastbourne. The East By West ferry service departs from Queens Wharf (Wellington) and travels to Days Bay Wharf, some services will stop on request at Somes Island (in the middle of the harbour), see route map. On weekends and public holidays the ferry also operates a harbour tour service which stops at Petone Wharf and Seatoun.
Further afield, the south Wairarapa has become one of New Zealand's wine growing regions. Tranzit run a train/bus wine tasting tour that leaves from Wellington Railway station each morning and visits four vineyards in the Wairarapa town of Martinborough, $115.
The Kapiti Coast as referred to as 'The Nature Coast' is a beautiful mix of beaches and lush native scenery. Spend the day at the beaches, near a river, or taking a walk through one of the many beautiful trails surrounding the hills and valleys bordering the coastline.
Bluebridge and the Interislander ferry companies sail across Cook Strait to Picton in the South Island through the Marlborough Sounds. The ferries take bikes, cars, buses and trains and the scenery on a good day is spectacular. The ferries are substantial ships designed for the sometimes rough conditions and the journey takes 3-3.5h. In Nov 2013, Interislander announced that it had damage to one of its ships. Unfortunately the replacement ship will not accept foot passengers because of problems with gangway alignment.