New Zealand: Wandering in Wellington

Wellington is my city in New Zealand. I wasn’t born there, I didn’t grow up there, I didn’t study there, I only lived there for five years. But it would be the only city I would choose to live in were I to go back to New Zealand to reside. Let me share with you some of the things I love about Wellington:

“There’s so much more to do”

It is New Zealand’s cultural capital and you will have no problem finding things to do – day and night – in Wellington. The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is of course right on the waterfront and is a must visit for anyone wanting to explore the cultural and physical history of New Zealand. This is no boring, dry collection of exhibits but an innovative communication of the stories of this country. Don’t miss the ‘earthquake house’. Or the national art collection upstairs.

The Museum of Wellington City & Sea focuses on the city and local history and the City Gallery in Civic Square is a hotbed of contemporary art and design.

New Zealand meeting house and kowhai  “You can walk everywhere ‘cause nowhere’s very far”

This is a very compact city and having all the many attractions at your fingertips makes it a great place to live as well as visit. One of my favourite walks in Wellington is the Writers Walk – that takes you along the beautiful waterfront area and features quotes, etched in concrete, from 19 New Zealand writers. I never fail to find it inspiring.

Not only is the city very easy to get about but it is very quick and easy to get out of the city to enjoy New Zealand’s great outdoors. Head around the bays to clean harbour beaches; upwards to wild hillsides above Brooklyn; and out to the coast at Makara.

Wellington harbour view in New Zealand

“The Harbour City Capital, the lights beside the sea”

In Wellington the little box-like wooden houses tumble down the steep hills to the glittering harbour. Often it is a windswept harbour but the views from any vantage point in the city are grand. A number of scenes for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies were filmed here in ‘Wellywood’, particularly on Mount Victoria, which offers the best views of the city and harbour.

I love what Wellington has done with its waterfront area. From the imported sand of Oriental Parade where you will see people on quirky Croc Bikes, to the City to Sea park that connects Civic Square to the harbour where it’s more likely to be trendy people on Penny Skateboards, wandering along Wellington’s waterfront is always a pleasure.

Oriental Parade in Wellington, New Zealand

“The cafes and the bars”

Did you know that there are more bars, cafes and restaurant per capita in Wellington than in New York City? Wellingtonians take food, and coffee, seriously and the quirky cafes, award-winning bars and quality restaurants make it the culinary capital of New Zealand. Along the entertainment strip of Courtenay Place or up the famously grungy Cuba Street you will find places to eat and drink that are packed with personality and great food.

I love Fidel’s Café at the top of Cuba Street, Ti Kouka on Willis Street and Lido on Victoria Street. There’s also the Chocolate Fish Café, a few miles around the harbour beside Scorching Bay – a pretty curve of white sand – with its bohemian seaside atmosphere.

Government House in Wellington New Zealand

“The music and the theatre”

There’s a show or gig on every night somewhere in Wellington and you will often be spoilt for choice. The theatre district is around Courtenay Place and the indie music scene hangs out on Cubat Street. Wellington is home to New Zealand’s national opera and ballet companies, as well as the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. You might even catch the boys from Flight of the Conchords in action.

Ferry entering Wellington Harbour, New Zealand

“And the old Cable Car”

The Wellington Cable Car is proof of the aesthetic theory that a splash of red (paint, lipstick, clothing) creates a pop of colour that gives an extra lift even to an already beautiful scene. Well into its second century of service now, and actually a hybrid cable car and funicular, this Wellington icon carries residents and tourists from the heart of the business district on Lambton Quay up to the university campus, the Botanic Gardens and the Carter Observatory and Planetarium. Ride up the hill and then wander down through the gardens, Kelburn village or Thorndon to experience Wellington’s charm.

Wellington Harbour view

Lonely Planet once described Wellington as the best little capital city in the world, and I have to agree!

By Natasha von Geldern

(With a nod to Don McGlashan and the Mutton Birds)

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