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Dubbed the ‘coolest little capital in the world’ by Lonely Planet and named on BBC’s Hottest Cities list for 2015, Wellington is not like many capitals you may meet. Here’s a few things you may not know about the world’s southernmost capital.
Wellington is tucked between two of New Zealand’s premier wine-growing regions – Wairarapa to the north and Marlborough to the south. Together, they account for almost 80% of New Zealand’s’s total wine production. Lucky us, eh! You can take a day trip to Wairarapa by car or train and sample the region’s plummy pinot noir, or cruise to Marlborough on the Interislander – one the world’s most scenic ferry rides - and discover the origins of our world-famous sauvignon blanc.
Recently named on Lonely Planet’s list of the Top 500 places on the planet, New Zealand’s national museum, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, attracts more than 1.5 million visitors each year, making it the most visited museum in Australasia. You can discover New Zealand’s stories and unique treasures in this innovative and interactive museum located on Wellington’s lovely waterfront.
Thanks to Wellington’s location at the foot of a series of bush-clad hills, you don’t have to venture far to find an exhilarating ride. In fact, our trails are so close to the city that locals can even pop out for a quick spin on their lunch break.
Mt Victoria and Makara Peak are popular with the mountain biking set, while craft beer enthusiasts will be interested to know that one of Polhill’s trails ends at the cellar door of brewery Garage Project. For a multi-day adventure, jump on the Rimutaka Cycle Trail, which was named in Lonely Planet’s list of hottest new travel experiences in 2015.
Movie-making meets innovative museum storytelling at two incredible exhibitions: Gallipoli: The scale of our war at Te Papa, and The Great War Exhibition at the old Dominion Museum building. With creative direction from Sir Peter Jackson and Sir Richard Taylor and artistry by Weta Workshop, these powerful exhibitions tell the stories of WWI like never before.
Every two years the entire city is transformed into a stage when the sensational NZ Festival comes to town. This multi-arts extravaganza showcases some of the finest international and homegrown talent, and is a must for any arts enthusiast.
Foodies will love the annual culinary festival, Visa Wellington On a Plate, held in August. From unique dining events to burger battles, cocktail contests, and pop-ups galore, this is a festival your tastebuds will thank you for. In spring, Wellington hosts the showstopping World of WearableArt ™ Awards Show, which sees fashion, art, theatre and dance collide in a mind-blowing spectacle.
Wander through downtown Wellington at any time of day and there’s a fair chance you’ll smell coffee wafting through the air. With hundreds of cafes and almost 20 roasteries in the region, we know our stuff when it comes to beans and brews. And it’s not just us saying it - CNN named us on their list of the eight great coffee cities in the world. Some of their fave spots for a brew included Memphis Belle, Flight Coffee's The Hangar, and Lamason Brew Bar.
Just ten minutes from downtown Wellington you’ll find Zealandia, a 225ha ecosanctuary that is home to some of New Zealand’s most precious wildlife. Wander through the lush valley and discover the native birds, reptiles, insects and plants that have made Zealandia their home. Take a Night Tour and you might be lucky enough to spot one of the 40 little spotted kiwis living in their natural habitat.
Wellingtonians absolutely positively love their city. In the Nielsen Quality of Life survey released in 2016, Wellington topped the charts in terms of overall quality of life, with 87% of Wellingtonians reporting a “good” or better quality of life. 89% of those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that Wellington is a great place to live, and our city also came out on top in perceptions of safety. What makes us a choice place to live, also happens to be great for visitors too.
You can hook up to free WiFi (cbdfree) throughout Wellington’s CBD and waterfront, which means you can easily find out about where to eat and drink, happening events and places to visit while you’re out and about. Make sure you download the free Welly Walks app, for your guide to the best walking trails in and around the city.
A few years ago Lonely Planet released their Best in Travel guide for 2011, and not only did Wellington make their list but they famously dubbed us the “coolest little capital in the world” (thanks guys!). Ever since then, more and more people have succumbed to Wellington’s charms. Australian Vogue called us the “coolest little city” and “a locavore’s dream”, while earlier this year both BBC and Rough Guides put Wellington on their Hottest Cities lists. Might be time to come see what all the fuss is about!
Check out more must dos, browse and book accommodation, search Wellington’s sights and activities, see what events are coming up, have a nosy at all the incredible bars and restaurants, and start planning your trip with our handy experience planner.
If you’re heading over from across the ditch, Wellington’s just a three hour flight away from the Eastern Seaboard (sometimes even less!). We’ve compiled a Wellington Essentials guide just for you with suggested itineraries, weather details, maps and more.