Wellington, New Zealand, has been called the ‘Coolest Little Capital in the World’. I am not going to argue with that. Wellington is a small city nestled on a beautiful harbor, surrounded by a lovely accessible green belt. This is a travel guide to Wellington City, where we share some of our favorite places to visit, to eat, and things to do.
Wellington is the Capital City of New Zealand and has a rich Maori history pre-dating European colonization. An insight on some of that history can be found here and here. Our Maori heritage in New Zealand provides us with a unique place in the world. It is important to start this guide to Wellington by acknowledging the original inhabitants of this place.
So let’s begin our Beginner’s Guide to Wellington with a few things you should know:
Wellington’s weather can be tempestuous, changeable, stunning, warm, cold, wet and windy. The trick is to be prepared – this is captured in one magic word layering. You will need to be prepared for any types of weather and the best way to do that is to wear layers.
When our days are warm and sunny they are glorious. Our waterfront fills up with people soaking in some warmth or enjoying a coffee or glass of wine at one of our many cafes or restaurants. When our days are blustery and cold, then I think there is something quite special about Wellington. You can wrap up and see a whole different side of the city.
Also, it can get a touch windy in Wellington. So keep this in mind as it will quickly undo your newly coiffed hair, ruin you umbrella (don’t bother!), or blow away the precious parking coupon you had in your hand.
You can fly, drive, sail, train or bus into Wellington. The airport is a 15 minute bus or $20 – 30 cab ride from the city center.
Wellington is great for getting out and exploring. Getting around in Wellington is pretty straightforward. We are a compact city, so walking is a good way to get around the city center. Wellington is situated on a harbor, surrounded by hills, so if you are going further afield than the city center there are a couple of good options. A good place to start comparing these options is here.
Out and about
No guide to Wellington can be without ideas for getting out and exploring, having a wander and just being a bit nosy:
Walk along the waterfront, along any of our coastlines or take a walk in the City Green Belt – there is even an app to help you chose the best walk for you.
Head out to the South Coast to explore the Red Rocks, take a peek at the South Island, or see some seals. There is something quite magical about heading out to the South Coast when it is wild and wet – even for a drive.
Things to see
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa – Te Papa is New Zealand’s national museum. It is free to get in and there are some magnificent exhibitions and sites to see. You may have to pay to see some special exhibitions.
Local museums – we have some lovely museums and sites in Wellington, a good starter is here.
Apparently Wellington has more cafes per head of population than New York. I can tell you that if you are a coffee drinker – then Wellington is the place for you. Wellington really is a great place if you love travel and food, here is our guide to Wellington foodie places:
Astoria – excellent service, very speedy in the morning, and are very, very delicious Bacon Sandwich.
VicBooks – 2 locations – the best Lemon, Honey and Ginger in town, and they have Little Dough Co doughnuts Thurs- Sat.
Dragonfly – delicious food and cocktails. Great outdoor courtyard hidden away behind the restaurant.
WBC – tucked away up some stairs on Victoria St, delicious seasonal food.
Capitol – perfect spot to eat delicious food and people watch.
Havana – great food, service and cocktails. After dinner you can pop next door to the bar. Plus they have daily sunshine deals on drinks.
Floriditas – delicious food, very yummy baking, and they do a lovely Bellini with their breakfast menu.
Loretta – sister restaurant to Floriditas. Amazing menu, loads of salads, grain based dishes and overall deliciousness.
Fidels – good food, delicious baking, outside area to park up in.
Fisherman’s Plate – this looks like a fish and chip shop (not a bad thing) but they also do very, very good Vietnamese food. Fresh. Unassuming. Delicious.
Southern Cross – o.k I have to admit I used to drink a lot of beer here when I was a student. But this place is no longer that place. They have great food and a fabulous beer garden. They also have a Kids Club that does workshops, theater and the like – and they do birthday parties. We attended a 10th birthday party there and it was chocker with families having breakfast. If that isn’t your thing – head in later in the day, find a spot and while away some time.
Moore Wilsons – not a cafe or a restaurant. But the food – my goodness. The finest food from the region and further afield – bread, baking, cakes, cheese, coffee….and the list goes on.