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Quirky facts & stories

Every great city has its interesting tales, quirky facts and urban legends. Here’s a few things you might hear about the place or fancy throwing into your stories.

Fielding history

The national museum, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, has 36,000 square metres of public floor space, taking up five floors and the size of three rugby fields. The museum sits on 150 shock absorbers to protect it from earthquake movement and has enough reinforcing steel to stretch from Wellington to Sydney.

Sketchy background

Legend has it that Wellington's well-known Parliament building, the Beehive, was actually sketched as a joke. While some say the architect’s paper of choice was a napkin, others claim it was drawn on a cigarette packet.

Culinary capital

Said to have more cafes, bars and restaurants per capita than New York, Wellington is also fuelled by some of the strongest coffee you’ll ever find. The city’s famed café culture has slightly less caffeinated roots - the country’s first milk bar opened in Manners Street in 1935.

Fit locals

Wellington’s compact geography isn’t just handy for visitors; over 18,000 of the city’s residents walk or jog to work and the waterfront is popular with runners. While Wellingtonians may be keen on foot traffic these days, it was a local man – William McLean – who imported the first car into New Zealand in 1898.

City side up

At the start of the 21st century, Wellington’s inner city residential population increased by 41% in just five years due to the thriving downtown and apartment development.

Shore thing

Much of Wellington’s downtown is built on reclaimed land, with earthquakes raising the land in the 19th century - one major quake in 1855 lifting the lower North Island by up to 3 m. The original 1840 shoreline is now one of Wellington's main shopping streets, Lambton Quay.

Cable cars

Wellington’s cable car has been transporting residents and visitors for over a century. That may not seem long to European folks, but it’s kind of ages in New Zealand terms. Many visitors are entertained to find some residents around the city’s scenic bays have personal cable cars to reach their hilltop homes.

Old timers

Thorndon is New Zealand’s oldest suburb and is the birthplace of one of New Zealand’s greatest authors, Katherine Mansfield. The suburb is also home to New Zealand’s oldest hotel (now named The Shepherd’s Arms) and the oldest public bar, The Thistle Inn, where it’s said that Maori chief Te Rauparaha used to pull up his canoe and stop for a drink.