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11 unmissable experiences in New Zealand's capital of cool

Named on BBC’s Hottest Cities and Rough Guide’s Top 10 Cities for 2015, Wellington has been labelled the ‘coolest little capital in the world’ by Lonely Planet and a ‘locavore’s dream’ by Vogue for good reason...

1. Get your bearings with a stroll to Mount Victoria Lookout

Mount Victoria

Whether your motivations are for the scenery or the selfie op, there’s nothing quite like getting a bird’s eye view of a city. Hugged between harbour and hill, this is easy to do in compact Wellington. From the top of the Courtenay Place entertainment district or Oriental Bay Beach, a variety of walkways up Mount Victoria take you to stunning panoramic views of city and sea.

2. Get your coffee fix

The Hangar Dixon St 04

Named as one of the top 8 coffee cities in the world by CNN, Wellington knows its brews and beans. You’re spoilt for choice in New Zealand’s coffee capital and it’s pretty tough to go wrong, but for a typically Wellington brew and vibe, Flight Coffee’s The Hangar is a good place to start for your first dose.

3. Get up close to giants at Te Papa

Weta Workshop Founder and Exhibition Creative Director Richard Taylor with machine gun trio Photograph Michael Hall Te Papa

No trip to New Zealand is complete without a visit to the incredible Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. As well as discovering stories rich in Maori history, the shared Anzac history is commemorated in monumental scale in the new Gallipoli: The scale of our war exhibition, featuring the figures of seven soldiers and a nurse frozen in a moment in time, crafted by Oscar-winning Weta Workshop at 2.4 times human scale.

4. The world’s tastiest laneway?

PWT Leeds Street Bakery 07

To sample local flavours and pick up some gifts for anyone you've left back home, take a stroll down Hannah’s Laneway. Right in the heart of the city, this laneway is salted caramel, chocolate, craft beer, coffee, handcrafted soda, pizza and peanut butter heaven thanks to residents Leeds St Bakery, Wellington Chocolate Factory, Six Barrel Soda, Pizza Pomodoro, Fix & Fogg and Golding’s Free Dive.

5. Tour dozens of boutique vineyards

explore wairarapa promo image

Just over an hour’s drive or train ride from Wellington city will take you to the stunning Wairarapa, one of New Zealand’s premier wine regions. If you’re self-drive, park up at your accommodation or near town and hire a bike from March Hare just up from the picturesque square in Martinborough to cycle your way around some 24 boutique vineyards. For easy access from Wellington, book in a Martinborough Gourmet Wine Tour day trip with Tranzit Tours to sample the plummy pinots and delectable olive oils the region is so well-known for.

6. Meet a few local birds

Zealandia 74

Get up close and personal with a three-eyed prehistoric reptile and New Zealand’s native birds at nature reserve Zealandia: The Karori Sanctuary Experience. You can catch a free shuttle from the Wellington i-SITE Visitor Information Centre to this groundbreaking sanctuary, where visitors can even have the chance to meet one of the 40 resident Kiwi on a Night Tour.

7. Hit the Wellington markets

City Market

A visit to a city isn’t complete without checking out its markets, and Wellington has plenty. The city’s funky Cuba Quarter has an incredible Night Market on Friday and Saturday nights, while Saturday morning visitors should swing by the Underground Market to pick up some local crafts. On Sunday mornings, immerse yourself in the sights and smells of the neighbouring Harbourside Market, handily located on the waterfront and next to Te Papa. 

8. Discover movie-making magic

PWT Weta Cave GollumPort 04

Oscar-winning Weta Workshop have worked on some of the biggest and most ambitious movie projects of our generation. A behind-the-scenes tour at the workshop headquarters reveals the incredible artistry and remarkable Kiwi innovation, as well as a few industry secrets. And of course a visit to The Lord of the Rings locations with Wellington Rover Tours is a must for Middle-earth fans.

9. Be WOWed in Wellington

Credit Poly Nation Kate Mackenzie New Zealand. 2014 WOWR Awards Show. C World of WearableArt Ltd. resized

Described by former Time Warner Creative Officer Mark D’arcy as making ‘Lady Gaga look like a librarian’, the World of WearableArt™ Awards Show is a phenomenal fusion of art, design, fashion, dance and performance. Think Cirque du Soleil meets Vivienne Westwood, along with New Zealand’s top cultural performers and the world’s most incredible designers across a range of disciplines.

10. Culinary capital

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Wellington is home to some 750 cafes and restaurants – more per capita than New York City. Dine at new eateries Whitebait, The Bresolin, Loretta and Jano, or classics like Duke Carvell’s Swan Lane Emporium, Capitol and Floriditas. Then cosy up over cocktails at Hawthorn Lounge, The Library, hit the dance floor at your pick of the clubs and music venues, or sample craft brews at The Third Eye or Malthouse. Hungry for more? Check out these eight delicious foodie experiences in Wellington. 

11. Ride the Wellington Cable Car

Cable Car Lower left 1600x1067

The bright red Wellington Cable Car is a bit of a classic. For just a few bucks, you can take the short ride up from the terminal in the heart of the Lambton Quay shopping district up to the lookout, where you’ll also find the Cable Car Museum, Space Place at Carter Observatory and Botanic Garden.

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