New Zealand’s capital is a real mixed bag of culture and activity. Whatever the time of year you can be sure that something is happening in Wellington. From the world-class seafood restaurants on the bay, to the sprawling parks of Brooklyn, energy flows through this city where film buffs and history lovers will be equally enthralled.
In the heart of the city Thorndon district is the administrative centre of New Zealand. The architecture is mix of high-rise business and modernist creations, like the iconic parliament Beehive building. It’s also an area alive with historical interest and the nearby area around Tinakori Road has been home to a number of Wellington’s most famous of inhabitants; from writers to musicians. A journey through Thorndon is a journey through both the past and present of this city, in a district where the old and the new meet in real style.
A little to the south, the cultural hub of the city can be found in the district of Te Aro. Here the streets are lined with classic buildings that house some of Wellington’s best museums and theatres. The area is also home to the national Museum of New Zealand, the Te Papa Tongarewa, which also hosts the national gallery. Filled with bright lights and great bars, there’s always plenty to see here both day and night.
Forming the backbone of Wellington to the west, the hilly residential area of Newtown has become a melting-pot of culture and character in recent years. Classic diners like the Montery Bar line streets selling goods from all corners of the world. It’s a mix that culminates in the district’s yearly street fair in March, when city residents come from all over to enjoy the festivities. The area also has its own small zoo; a proven family favourite amongst Wellington locals.
Literally meaning ‘sea view’ in Spanish, the district of Miramar sits on a peninsular jutting out towards Shelly Bay. The region has become synonymous with film making in New Zealand; the territory of Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, Lord of the Rings and King Kong. There’s a mix of cinema-related activities to do here, from visiting the art-house Roxy cinema, to getting some movie history at the Weta Cave. Away from the big screen there is also a great selection of quirky cafes to enjoy, and a real variety of eateries within easy reach.
With its vast stretches of city parks and metropolitan greenery, the suburb of Brooklyn is a far cry from its partner in the States. The residents have given it something of a New York flavour however: Post-colonial villas sit back-to-back with diner-style bars and in the district’s heart, the tellingly-named Central Park spreads its wings. Don’t miss the iconic Brooklyn wind-turbine site, now a veritable landmark of the city.
If you’re looking for a blast of sea air, there are plenty of activities to choose from in the Island Bay area. Here, seafood eateries are at hand to get you fed after a day’s scuba training, while the local Marine Education Centre is one of the best exhibits of local sea-life in the region. Other entertainments include promenade walks along the marina’s edge and a multi-screen cinema; it’s a great place to while away the days.
Most of the action in Petone District centres on the pedestrianized Jackson Street, where there’s a hodgepodge of cultural buildings and cool cafés. On the Esplanade, the first Settler’s Museum is a great place to unravel the history of New Zealand from its very earliest point, while the fabled waters found issuing from the spring on Buick Street are said to cure ailments and invigorate the body.
Eastbourne & Days Bay
In the summer heat-weary locals will be found lazing on the sands of Days Bay in the Eastbourne area. Accessible by ferry in under half an hour from the city centre, this region of beaches and pleasant natural surroundings enjoys a mild microclimate that makes it a perfect place to pursue those outdoors activities.
Green and full of nature, the district of Karori dwarfs many of the other metropolitan areas in Wellington. This sprawling and hilly suburb is home to the Zealandia Karori Sanctuary, where thanks to pest-exclusion fences, New Zealand’s natural ecosystems have been allowed to thrive without interference. Those looking for some of Wellington’s best biking and hiking should head to the Makara Peak Park, a huge and beautiful area with well-marked trails to boot.