Home to Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, actor Russell Crowe and two-time world mountain running champion Melissa Moon, Wellington offers a place to experience movie magic and unique scenic landscape. Wellington currently holds the title for being the “world’s coolest little capital” and “world’s windiest city”. Often compared to as the San Fransisco of the Southern Hemisphere, Wellington should be at the top of the list for places to visit in New Zealand.
For many travelers, Wellington is a stop-over city to get between the North and the South Island. But even if you only have less than twenty-four hours in New Zealand’s capital city, there are ten things you must experience before continuing the journey through the land of the long white cloud.
10. View Wellington Harbour from the pier
Wellington is notorious for having some of the most drastic weather on the planet. But as many locals will agree, nothing beats Wellington on a good day. If you are luck enough to catch the city in this rare form, you will be treated to sparkly blue waters with the City Centre reflecting in the harbour. The best viewpoint comes from the pier, which is right next to Oriental Bay.
9. Ride the Cable Car
While this is one of the most “touristy” things you could do in Wellington, it is still a must-do simply for the views you will be treated to. Often referred to as the symbol of Wellington, the cable car takes riders 120m up from Lambton Quay to the suburb of Kelburn—where Victoria University is situated. And for those who aren’t keen to dish out $4 for the ride up the hill, the same view can be reached by walking up from the botanical gardens.
8. Check out the Boat Houses
Located next to Oriental Bay, the harbour boat houses provide a colourful backdrop to the glistening blue waters. These sea views can also be enjoyed from the balcony of Coene’s Provisions Café or the Boat Café.
7. Quick trip to Rimutaka Hill
Only a 45 minute drive out of Wellington City, the Rimutaka Hill offers a bush view and is full of tramping opportunities. Once a rigorous trek for New Zealand soldiers to cross by foot on their way to Wellington, the windy and steep path can easily be enjoyed via car.
6. Honk in “Toot Tunnel”
The most famous tunnel in New Zealand is situated under Mount Vic. Its fame came from local Wellingtonians who often honk their horn while through underneath it. Some claim this tradition originated out of tribute to a local who was buried in the tunnel during it’s construction. Whether you walk or drive through the tunnel, don’t be surprised if you get honked at!
5. Walk down Cuba Street
Known as “New Zealand’s Coolest Street”, Cuba Street is home to bohemian culture, food, and shops. The pride and joy of the street is the Bucket Fountain. The Bucket Fountain is known for spraying water several meters down Cuba Street on a particularly windy day and was given recent fame for Elijah Woods using it as a toilet while filming Lord of the Rings. The best café experience can also be found on Cuba street, where Fidel’s café is located, which offers a mix of cuban coffee and Kiwi culture.
4. Swim in Oriental Bay
On a good day, Oriental Bay seems like a slice of tropical paradise. The clear blue water, golden sand (that was imported there), and scenic outlook make this one of the coolest swimming spots in New Zealand. Whether you choose to enjoy the Bay by swimming, paddle-boarding or kayaking, this is one swimming spot you don’t want to miss.
3. Experience Wellington’s coffee culture
The coffee culture is an integral part of Wellington’s identity. Coffee became synonymous with Wellington in the 1930’s, when what started as Milk Bars that served milkshakes to American Soldiers posted in the city developed into an emergence of chic European-type coffee houses. With more café’s per capita than New York City, a trip to Wellington is not complete without stopping at one of their famous cafes.
2. Climb to the top of Mount Vic
Panoramic views of Wellington can be found at the top of Mount Vic—a prominent hill that lies east of the city centre. Whether during the day or at nights, the city can be seen glistening in the water and the Cook Strait can be seen in the horizon. And whether you choose to walk or drive to the top, these are views that you do not want to miss.
1. Take a drive around the bays
Driving around the bays of Wellington offers a unique way to see the suburban way of life. Around every corner are small private beaches that are perfect for enjoying the summer days, stunning sunsets and a more peaceful side of Wellington.