Wellington: New Zealand’s Capital – the Top 10 Places of Interest
You may think that Auckland is New Zealand’s capital, but it’s actually Wellington. This beautiful city – whose inhabitants are affectionally called Kiwis – has a lot to offer and will blow your mind. By the way, New Zealand’s capital is called “Te Whanganui-a-Tara” in Māori. In this article, you’ll learn all there is to know about Wellington and what you can do there. Get ready for a Kiwi adventure!
Wellington in a Nutshell
As already mentioned, Wellington is the capital of New Zealand, covering an area of 290 square kilometers. More than three-quarters of the entire population lives on the North Island. Wellington itself is home to just 190,000 inhabitants. Next to Auckland, this city is the second-largest metropolitan area in the country.
The earliest name for the area around Wellington was “head of Maui’s fish” – because of the fish-like shape of the North Island. In general, the area is very special. According to Māori customs, a fish’s head is worth more than the rest. It is said that the hero Maui had the honor to catch a big fish, which now represents the North Island of New Zealand, while his canoe depicts the South Island.
Wellington is located at the southern tip of the North Island. Due to its location, the city has to withstand strong winds. This is where the nickname “Wind City” comes from. While the area is located in a hilly mountain range, the city center is rather flat – in stark contrast to the high surrounding neighborhoods.
Wellington is characterized by a temperate climate. The average temperature is 15.6 °C. However, it can get very warm in the summer. Here, the sun shines longer than in Melbourne and Auckland, and there is also less rainfall than in Sydney. Since New Zealand is located in the Southern Hemisphere, summer lasts from December to February. From March to May, temperatures are still pleasant.
The national dish Pavlova is one of the most popular dishes of the Kiwis. It is a cake filled with cream and fruit and mainly consists of a meringue. It is named after the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. Due to its proximity to the sea, seafood and crawfish are also very popular in New Zealand. If you have even more of a sweet tooth, you should definitely try the super delicious Cadbury chocolate!
No matter if from the North or the South Island, Wellington is easy to reach. Rent a camper van, or a car or take public transport. Of course, Wellington also has an airport.
Apart from that, there are some very cool festivals in Wellington. Beervana takes place every year in August. Here, you can sample the latest creations from both local and international breweries. Whether it’s from Whangarei in the north or Invercargill in the far south, a wide selection of beers awaits you. In fact, Kiwis also celebrate Oktoberfest, with lots of beer, of course. You’ll find Bavarian culture all around you, from authentic Bavarian food to dirndls and lederhosen. Additionally, there will be an amazing band competition. Doesn’t that sound like a blast?
Last but not least, we have a pretty interesting fact about the beautiful city of Wellington for you: It is the hometown of the film director Peter Jackson, who directed the famous Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies. If you’re a fan of those movies, you might want to take a guided tour. That way, you can discover the secrets of the elaborate film production.
The Top 10 Places of Interest in Wellington
Now we will show you the best sights the capital of New Zealand has to offer.
Mount Victoria Lookout
Mount Victoria Lookout is one of the best lookout points in Wellington. Here, you’ll have a perfect view of the city center. Go there at sunrise or sunset in order to experience a breathtaking atmosphere. Starting in the city center, it will take you quite a while to reach the top. But it’s worth it! Better take a snack or coffee with you – and don’t forget your camera!
Te Papa Tongarewa
Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand’s national museum, has a lot to offer. The name literally means “container of treasures”. It is located right by the harbor. The walls and façades of the museum symbolize nature, the mountains, the sea, and the sky. The building represents the heritage of New Zealand’s cultures as well as the knowledge about the country’s nature.
On the inside, you’ll find some amazing exhibitions. For example, about Māori culture, the New Zealand Wars, earthquake protection, and much more. You’ll spend at least half a day here, probably even longer, in order to explore everything.
Wellington Cable Car
Wellington Cable Car is a funicular railway. The 610 meters long line connects the Kelburn district with the main shopping street Lambton Quay. It is also one of the capital’s most famous landmarks. Originally, an engineer from Dunedin came up with the idea of the funicular railroad. Depending on the travel season, the funicular carries up to 1 million passengers – and soon, maybe you, too. Climb aboard and enjoy a wonderful view of Wellington’s city center!
Wellington is a small maze made of quaint alleyways, with the most beautiful being Hannah’s Laneway. After all, it isn’t known as “the world’s tastiest laneway” for nothing. Whether it’s chocolate, peanut butter, or other goodies, you’ll surely find something after your fancy while walking down this street.
This is not only the name of the beach but also of one of Wellington’s districts. You can’t miss Oriental Bay, as it is very close to both the harbor and the city center. It is also a very popular residential area, and the perfect spot to spend a nice day at the beach in summer.
Cape Palliser Lighthouse
Let’s move on to the next attraction in New Zealand’s capital: Cape Palliser Lighthouse. It’s definitely worth a visit. The lighthouse is located just outside of Wellington and is perfect for a day trip. The tower was built in 1897 and measures 18 meters in height.
The former path to the lighthouse entrance was extremely dangerous and unsecured. Fortunately, this changed in 1902. Now, you can reach your destination by climbing 250 steps. The view is simply spectacular!
You’ll need about two to three hours for this track. Watch out for your surroundings and loose rocks after heavy rainfall. Aside from that, some scenes of the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed at this location – it’s very cool to see the scenery in real life. The Pinnacles are interesting rock formations. The trail takes you past a river and green forests. Get ready for a marvelous excursion.
Red Rocks Reserve
Red Rocks Reserve is located about 30 minutes away from Wellington. You can reach this unique sight via an easy coastal hiking trail. Moreover, there is a fur seal colony. Keep your distance from the animals to avoid irritating them. You can observe the fur seals at Sinclair Head from May to October. Marvel at the rugged south coast of Wellington!
Craft Beer Tour
If you want to try some national beers, we recommend joining the Wellington Craft Beer Tour. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at several local breweries. Is there a better way to get to know people than over a delicious beer?
The Wellington Zoo is New Zealand’s first and oldest zoo. After all, it has been in operation since 1906. Here, a lot of attention is paid to the environment, with the most important factors being waste reduction, composting, and recycling. In addition, over 300,000 liters of rainwater are collected for cleaning and toilets. This is also the place where you can observe the kiwi. This flightless bird is the national symbol of New Zealand.
As you can see, Wellington is a very beautiful and diverse city. There are many small cafés, bars and excellent restaurants waiting for you. Whether you’re on Hannah’s Laneway or taking a Craft Beer Tour, Wellington has a lot to offer in terms of cuisine.
The Pinnacle Track, the Red Rocks Reserve or the Cape Palliser Lighthouse are perfect for day trips. For an unforgettable view over the capital, walk to Mount Victoria Lookout or take a ride on the Wellington Cable Car. If you want to learn more about Māori culture, pay a visit to the National Museum.
The capital of New Zealand is definitely worth a visit – whether for a long stay or just a short weekend. It’s best to put this capital city at the top of your to-do list. Your stay in Wellington will be an unforgettable experience. What are you waiting for?