Wellington is the capital of New Zealand. The city is built around a magnificent harbour with suburbs extending up and over the surrounding hills and reaching toward the southern coastline. Northward expansion of the city extends into the Hutt Valley and along the south-western coastline of the North Island.
Wellington is the cultural and arts centre of New Zealand, and offers an abundance of quality restaurants and cafes. The city centre is lively and has great shopping, nightlife and entertainment. Wellington's waterfront also has a rich array of attractions, including parks, shops, and museums. Lonely Planet dubbed Wellington, the "coolest little capital in the world" and the city regularly ranks high in quality of life surveys as one of the world's most livable cities.
Wellington is called the windy city and it is a well deserved name. Winter and Spring are the windy seasons and the city is often blasted by winds well over 100 km/h, and can peak up to 170 km/h (105 mph). By the time summer arrives the winds usually die down, allowing Wellington experience calm sunny days.
Points of interest and places to visit are plenty. Te Papa, the national museum is a must see. It is not your traditional museum and is a great place to explore even for kids. Frank Kitts Park on the waterfront has a great walk with views of the harbour. Oriental Parade has Wellington's closest city beach and has some great cafes. Zealandia is an enclosed outdoor reserve that houses rare and endangered New Zelaand species including tuatara and kaka. Parliament Buildings houses the national government and has some historic buildings on the grounds and the iconic Beehive building. Close to Parliament buildings is The National Library of New Zealand. Wellington Central Library is a good place to relax and read a book and is located in Civic Square an open area in the heart of Wellington that connects with the harbour via the City-to-Sea pedestrian bridge.
Wellington offers unlimited views due to the hillside suburbs that surround the CBD. The Wellington Cable Car takes you from New Zealand's busiest shopping, Lambton Quay, to the beautiful Botanic Gardens in the hills above the city. At the top you are rewarded with a view of the city and harbour with the Rimutaka mountain range in the distance. Another popular lookout that offers arguably the best view of all, is Mount Victoria with its 360 degrees views of the city, harbour, and Hutt Valley to the north. You can take a bus or car to get here, or hike up the hillside from the city through the green belt. The highest of all lookouts, is Hawkins Hill, located behind the suburb of Brooklyn. It is one of the windiest places in the world and the location of a huge wind turbine. You need to take a bus or car to get here. But walking a good portion of the City to Sea Walkway will also get you here.
One of the great things about Wellington is that everything is accessible. From the city, you can drive to the closest beach in under 5 minutes by car, and even the more remote beaches on the south coast can be reached within 20 minutes. The south coast is very rocky and mountainous, but contains some nice beaches near Houghton Bay. Lyall Bay near the airport is popular with surfers and wave skis.Scorching Bay and Days Bay are beaches found inside the harbour itself, both beaches are scenic and provide some nice cafes nearby. The western coastline is a little more remote and provides beaches suitable for swimming and surfing.
Wellington also offers some great walks such as the Northern, Southern, and City to Sea walkways. For more remote walks or treks you can visit the Rimutaka Forest Park or the Tararua Mountains. Both areas offer mountain scenery as well as pristine temperate rain forest. Each area can be reached in under one hour by car.
An interesting drive to do in Wellington is to go around the bays from Oriental Bay and around Evans Bay. Then follow the coast around Miramar Peninsula and pass through Seatoun and around the coast toward the back of the airport. Continue following the coast pass Lyall Bay, Houghton Bay, Island Bay and Owhiro Bay. From here you can visit Red Rocks Reserve and then drive back to the city via the suburb of Brooklyn. This drive can be done in one hour, but take your time for photo stops, a swim, and refreshments at one of the many cafes onroute
Another recommended trip is the ferry to Days Bay. You can even stop on Somes Island onroute. Days Bay is a suburb of Eastbourne on the other side of Wellington Harbour from the CBD. There is a nice beach, good cafes, and superb views. Wellington is also the essential departure point for the South Island which is New Zealand's largest island. You can actually see the South Island quite clearly on a fine day from Wellington's south coast. Ferry's depart daily and the trip takes between 1.5 hours to 3 hours depending on what boat you take. The trip passes through the scenic Marlborough Sounds.