Wellington is the capital of picturesque New Zealand, which has been named the world’s “coolest little capital”. The cosmopolitan is famous for it’s internationally recognised coffee culture and world-class culinary scene.
The vibrant and creative city never sleeps, it entertains citizens and tourists with numerous activities, like national museums, theatres and galleries. It offers a magnificent outdoor lifestyle and incredible harbourside setting. Just take a walk along the waterfront and enjoy a coffee in one of the cafés.
The best things in life are free!
The best way to get to know the charming capital of New Zealand is to visit Wellington’s free museums. One of them is the informative and interesting Wellington Museum, which was designed by architect Frederick de Jersey Clere and built in 1892. There are four floors in this fascinating museum, located on Wellington’s beautiful waterfront, sharing the social and cultural history of this cosmopolitan. For example I didn’t know that Wellington was the first city in the whole world where women were allowed to vote. It’s also a pioneer of implementing the 8 hour work day as well as establishing a set minimum wage.
The imaginative exhibition includes various highlights like The Time Machine, which shows you the the very beginning of the universe, The Big Bang and continues with the most influential events of New Zealand’s development, i.e. the Maori landing in 925 and the establishment of a British colony in 1841. Furthermore the museum presents the maritime history of the harbour city Wellington including the dramatic story of The Wahine Maritime Disaster in 1968. The enormous ship sank close to the shore because of atrocious weather conditions and dragged 51 lives into the deep blue sea. But enough of this sad story, in Wellington museum you can also watch a spectacular holographic show about Maori myths and legends.
Enjoy the outdoors in the Botanic Garden and discover it’s hidden treasures
Wellington central city is the proud owner of a tremendous impressive garden which is open every day from dawn to dusk. Everyone can visit the park area filled with exotic plants and flowers from different corners of the world for free. There are extensive and well-maintained walking paths with signs leading you to the various attractions. Spend the whole day in this scenic greenery and you will discover an entertaining children’s playground, free guided tours, glow worms in the Main Garden and the Botanic Garden Café with it’s amazing view. The Botanic Garden also offers numerous free performances during the summer season for all it’s visitors.
If you want to experience something spectacular and memorable then you definitely need to reach the top of the park’s hills. There you will encounter the Space Place planetarium at Carter Observatory. Without hesitating visit the educational and entertaining exhibits about the universe, planets and humanity’s efforts to reach the stars. You can touch authentic space rocks and even a little piece of the moon. Check the planetarium’s show schedule and book a ticket for one of the magnificent shows. I’ve seen two movies, “Dynamic Earth” and “We are all stars”. Both of them are breathtaking, letting the viewers realise how simple and complex at the same time our planet and the universe are. That everything is connected and we should appreciate that Earth is not a burning and volcanic planet such as Venus, but it’s providing us with all possible goods to keep us happy and alive. By the end of every show you will be introduced to the mysterious constellations, stars and planets, visible to everyone’s eyes. If you are still craving for more knowledge then you can also watch the moon through a telescope crafted by Englishmen Thomas Cooke and Sons in 1867.
The walk through the gigantic Botanic Garden can be exhausting but creative Kiwis know how to make the life of a curious traveler easier: There is a quick possibility to reach the centre of the city in five minutes by using the funicular railway of the Wellington Cable Car. It will cost you $4 one way but if you use a Snappercard, which you can get in every kiosk or night shop, you can save 50 cents.
Breathtaking panoramic views of Wellington from Mount Victoria Lookout
Mount Victoria Lookout is a Wellington must do for every traveler no matter their age. It rises 196m above the city and rewards you with stunning views of New Zealand’s capital and it’s harbour. If you are not in the best shape and you prefer a more comfortable way of exploring, you can reach the summit by car. The adventurous ones can take the path from different sides. The long but scenic way is from Wellington’s waterfront at Oriental Bay. the shortest and most direct route up is from Majoribanks Street at the Eastern end of Courtney Place.
Be a part of Parliament’s meetings
If you have a secret admiration for politics and want to know everything about New Zealand’s government, then you should find an hour of spare time to visit Parliament and participate in their gratis tour. Don’t judge the book by it’s cover, the building may not seem esthetically sensational but people who are making decisions there give their best to improve citizens’ rights.
Important to mention for people who would like to stay longer or maybe even permanently in Wellington, to become a member of Wellington’s City Library won’t cost you a penny (and not only because they don’t have pennies here). Just bring your passport and proof of address and you can become one of the lovely book worms.
Insiders of the city
I know it can be a struggle to find a good hairdresser when you are traveling or even live in your own home town. Your problem will doubtlessly be solved if you are in Wellington and visit So You Hair on Tinakori Road in Thorndon. The friendly and beautiful staff will take care of your hair in a professional way and let you experience their great service. You will be treated like a queen or king from the very beginning, served with one of their extraordinary teas in a cute cup. I tried one of their treatments and I was extremely happy with the result (picture above says more than thousand words): My hair looked shiny and healthy for weeks. The other secret that I can’t keep for myself is that for $100 a month you can come and style your hair whenever and as much as you want! Unbelievable, right?
The best way to start your day is to have a great cup of a coffee or two. Wellington is the number one destination for coffee lovers. Nevertheless there is a special place named The Hangar on Dixon Street, which will serve you a delightful cup. With the chance of good weather I would suggest you to enjoy the great food and even greater view from Coene’s Bar & Eatery terrace. It’s the best spot in the whole city to admire the turquoise water of the harbour. To rapidly quiet your hunger for fried maritimes, you should be a guest in the best fish and chips shop of the town with the unexpected name The Chippery.
If you are a big fan of beer and you are always keen to explore new sorts of this legendary drink: Wellington is again an ideal city for that, because it’s the craft beer capital home. Visit the small brewery Garage Project and try their best creations on tap for free. You can also purchase your favorite one. If you feel like to sit down with the golden liquid in a cold glass and immerse into a cozy atmosphere then head to hip Crafters & Co.
Lord of the Rings with captours
Some of the destinations are easier to reach by car and with a driver who knows the surroundings. With John’s Captours there is an amazing opportunity to explore the city in the most comfortable way in a 4 wheeler. Furthermore he will tell you numerous interesting facts about the metropolis.
John will show you some secret spots around the movie-making capital Wellington, where the legendary The Lord of The Rings was filmed. It’s a splendid experience to walk through the paths where all great actors were a part of Peter Jackson’s trilogy.
Another memorable highlight, where all Lord of the Rings fans will cry for happiness, is Weta Cave (all included in the price of the tour). During the summer period the museum can be fully booked but if you plan to go with John, he will make sure that you can immerse into the magical world of movies. The studio is in the heart of Miramar, a 30 minutes drive from Wellington and it’s hiding creative movie treasures like props, replicas and life-sized sculptures. Weta Studio tours provides visitors with information how the crucial parts and props of the movies have been designed, they even let you hold an impressive weapon from “District 9”. After being a part of the imaginary world you will be shown the documentary about Weta Cave, from the very beginning to becoming a leading design and effects facility. Nowadays they participate in all well known film creations like Warcraft, Mad Max and Spider Man. After watching the immersive documentary you will look at the movies with different eyes. There is so much more behind the 1-2 hours of entertainment on the screen.
All in one Wellington is a terrific city to get lost in and immerse into the great area filled with incredible bars, restaurants, scenic views and majestic nature. One day is doubtlessly not enough to explore all facets of the hip little metropolis, that’s why plan to stay a bit longer but ensure that your piggy bank is filled up for the trip.