Wellington (Te Whanganui a Tara in Māori) is the capital of New Zealand. The Windy City is built on the foreshore of Wellington Harbour and ringed by mountains, providing the scenic home of many of New Zealand's national arts and cultural attractions.
Wellington offers a blend of culture, heritage, fine food, and lively arts and entertainment.
Surrounded by hills and a rugged coastline, the city boasts a stunning harbour. Wellington’s charm is that it serves up a vibrant inner city experience with a slice of New Zealand scenery. And because of its compact nature, you can sample it all: boutiques, art galleries, trendy cafés and restaurants. Right on its doorstep is a network of walking and biking trails with beautiful wineries and vineyards just a few hours away.
Wellington offers an array of theatre, music, dance, fine arts and galleries and museums. It is also home to one of the nation’s key attractions, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
The city promotes itself as "Absolutely Positively Wellington". Its motto "Suprema a situ" claims site supremacy, with some justification. Wellington was named as the fourth best city in the world to visit in 2011 by "Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2011" referring to the New Zealand capital as the "coolest little capital in the world".
Wellington Visitor Information Centre (iSITE), Civic Square, Corner Victoria and Wakefield Streets, ☎ +64 4 802 4860 or 0800 933 53 63, . A good place to begin your Wellington visit - they're able to book accommodation, activities and provide useful information about Wellington and surrounding areas. Their website contains the same information and is worth checking out prior to your visit. They are a member of the national i-SITE visitor information centre network (i-SITE).edit
Because it is the capital city, the New Zealand Parliament and the head offices of many Government departments and large businesses occupy central Wellington. This is especially true in the areas closest to Parliament Buildings - the northern end of The Terrace and Lambton Quay areas and the Thorndon commercial area.
Much of the central city is built on reclaimed land that was raised up after a major earthquake in 1855. More land has been reclaimed since then. The shoreline as it was in 1840 is marked by plaques in the footpaths on Lambton Quay (hence the street name). There are several Quays which are now nowhere near the harbour. The harbour's former name was 'Port Nicholson' and the smaller bay surrounded by the city is called 'Wellington' or 'Lambton Harbour'.
Earthquakes have played a major part in forming the whole Wellington region, the exposed face of the Wellington fault being prominent as the line of hills adjacent to the harbour between Thorndon and Petone. There are several major earthquake faults in the region, some of which slip a metre or more in one jump every few centuries. Building regulations have meant that many older city buildings have been either demolished or strengthened, or require such work to be undertaken. Small and moderate earthquakes occasionally rock Wellington; so if the earth seems to move for you, it may not be just your imagination. Take shelter from potentially falling objects wherever you are - beneath door frames or heavy tables.
There are some places in Wellington where damage from the 1855 earthquake is still visible. The most accessible is a large landslip on SH2 between Ngauranga and Korokoro (just north of Rocky Point where the BP petrol station is located) where the dramatic change in terrain is visible. Bush has overgrown the slip but it is still visible. However, most people are oblivious to the location of this landslip as they drive by on the highway.
Wellington is known as the Windy City. The prevailing wind is from the northwest but the strongest winds are southerly. The wind speed and direction can be seen by the flag being flown from the Beehive. A large flag is flown only on calm days, a small flag is flown when windy days are expected.
The temperature in Wellington rarely drops below 0°C (32°F), even on a cold winter's night, while daytime winter temperatures are rarely lower than 8°C (46°F). During summer, the daytime maximum temperature rarely gets above 25°C (77°F). Away from the seaside, in inland valleys, frosts of up to -10°C (14°F) have been recorded and snow settles on the nearby ranges in winter.
Wellington sits at the southern tip of New Zealand's North Island. The city core lies along the western shore of highly-protected Wellington Harbour, with the city's suburbs spreading out in all directions. The city's primary urban core consists of the CBD and the adjoining 'city suburb' of Te Aro, to the south and east. A fairly dense zone continues south from Te Aro into the adjoining suburbs of Mt. Cook and Newtown, as well as Kilbirnie on the other side of the parklands of Mt. Victoria.
East from Te Aro, north-south ridges form Mt Victoria and, further east yet, the Miramar Peninsula, which forms the western side of the mouth to Wellington Harbour. These hills—and the isthmus between—are home to a number of suburban areas as well as parkland and beaches.
Several kilometres south of central Wellington is the rugged and stunning South Coast of the North Island, consisting of a string of small (and some large) bays, many with rocky beaches and interesting tide pools.
To the west, the suburbs between Karori and Johnsonville spread into the hillsides, with various parks and hiking trails, and then give way to open rural areas such as Makara.
To the north are the cities of Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt and Porirua, predominantly dormitory suburbs of Wellington, but geographically separate.
The harbour is the jewel of the city, on a bright calm day it is stunning from any vantage point. The harbour is almost a perfect circle with the city on the south western edge, Petone on the northern side and Eastbourne, a small seaside village, on the south eastern side and accessible by ferry from the city centre.
Wellington International Airport is in Rongotai, about 5 km (3 mi) from the central city. It sits on an isthmus between the Miramar peninsula and Mount Victoria. The southerly approach is over Cook Strait, while the northerly approach is over the harbor.
Landing at Wellington Airport in a strong cross-wind can be an adventure, and most pilots adopt a powered approach for approach, followed by a full reverse thrust and hard braked landing due to the shortness of the runway. This tends to create a roller-coaster ride, so make sure your seatbelt is securely fastened, as is required anyway.
There is a regular airport bus known as the Flyer that departs from the south end of the domestic terminal until 9PM. Shuttle van services, taxis and covered carparking are directly outside the terminal.
When you get to the airport, call the Metlink hotline at 0800 801700. They answer very quickly and a friendly person will tell you what bus to take and even what special pass to buy (for example, if after the "Flyer" you are taking a train) if you say where you are going.
There are regular ferries between Wellington and Picton, connecting with buses and the train to Christchurch. Cruise ships from overseas often stop in Wellington. The ferry port is located about 2 km (1 mi) northeast of the railway station, and a $2 shuttle bus runs between the ferry port and the railway station (bus terminal next to Platform 9).
There are only two major roads into Wellington: State Highways 1 & 2. State Highway One follows the western coast to the north, and State Highway two heads north-east through the Hutt Valley, over the Rimutaka Ranges to the Wairarapa. Both roads are initially a motorway, but after approx 20 km (12 mi) turn into single lane highway as they negotiate difficult terrain. While local authorities are working on improvements, serious and fatal crashes are not uncommon on these roads: remember to keep left, maintain a reasonable speed, and use the passing lanes to overtake slower traffic.
Drivers using the Rimutaka Hill road must be alert to extreme wind and weather, especially in winter. The road can close several times a year due to snowfall near the summit. The descent down the Wairarapa side needs special care as there are many sharp corners and the road is quite narrow in places.
Hitchhiking from central Wellington is difficult as most traffic stays within the metropolitan area, and it is illegal to hitchhike on the motorway until the Hutt Valley (about 15 km/9 mi northeast of Wellington) or Paremata (about 20 km/12 mi north). If intending to hitchhike, you are best to catch a train to Waikanae or Upper Hutt and walk to the main highways to catch a lift from there. Using a sign will help in matching a willing driver and destination.
Be aware that a few hitchhikers, including tourists, have been attacked or murdered in New Zealand. While usually no problems occur, always be aware, and try to travel in pairs to reduce your risk.
National bus carrier InterCity Coachlines  operates bus services to Wellington from across the North Island. Daily services operate between Auckland, New Plymouth, Napier, Hastings and Palmerston North. All InterCity Wellington services depart and arrive at Platform 9 at the Wellington Railway Station.
Nakedbus offers a more limited national network and offers daily (and some overnight) services to most major destinations on the North Island. These depart from a bus stop opposite the Amora Hotel on Wakefield Street or outside the McDonalds on Bunny Street, right opposite the Railway Station.
It is easy to get around the central city on foot, as is very compact and pedestrian-friendly. In addition, New Zealand's best public transit network with buses, commuter trains, and suburban ferries is available to take you farther afield.
Metlink (Greater Wellington Regional Council - Transport), ☎ 0800 801 700, . Provides full information about routes and fares about Wellington's public transport. Metlink also provides a text bus service - Text the bus-stop number to bus (287) from any NZ mobile phone to receive the times the next bus is timetabled to arrive. edit.
The core of Wellington is notably compact and vibrant, and is well-suited to exploration by walking. As dictated by geography, the core of the city is quite linear, with the classic commercial backbone known as the Golden Mile making for a diverting and pleasant walking route. This route runs from the Railway Station down Lambton Quay to its southern end at Willis Street. It then runs down lower Willis Street to Manners Street and the pedestrianized Manners Mall, and continues straight onto Courtenay Place. On the Manners Mall section, the route crosses Wellington's bohemian heartland of Cuba Street, which heads south into the core of Te Aro. While these streets mark the traditional core of the commercial city, the surrounding blocks also have plenty to be seen.
Another enjoyable and popular place to amble in the city core is the Waterfront, from the revitalized Kumutoto area in the north, past Queen's Wharf to Frank Kitts Park, and then through the Lagoon and City-to-Sea Bridge areas and on to the Te Papa museum and Waitangi Park. From here the waterfront curves northeastward along lovely Oriental Bay with its beach and promenade.
Excellent and free network maps and route timetables and maps are available from locations throughout town, including the main visitor centre in Civic Square, the Central Library, and many convenience stores. You can also access the timetables and maps online . While these maps can be quite useful if you desire to travel into the suburbs, they aren't generally necessary if you simply want to travel across the central city. Being a rather linear city, the heart of Wellington is heavily served by the central bus corridor between the Railway Station and Courtenay Place. Nearly all lines run along this section, so you rarely have to wait more than a few minutes to catch a ride. The route is approximately as follows:
You can always call the friendly hotline at 0800 801700 and they will tell you what buses to take and how much it will cost.
Bus fares use a zone structure. While the metropolitan area includes many zones, nearly the entire city of Wellington (extending to the water's edge in the south, east, and west, and as far north as Johnsonville) exists within three zones. In addition, the core of the network between the Railway Station and Courtenay Place serves as a special fare zone.
If you plan to use the bus extensively, you can also buy an all-day central bus pass which allows unlimited trips after 9AM on weekdays within zones 1 through 3. Check Metlink's website for current pricing.
In addition, electronic Snapper fare cards are available from most supermarkets and convenience stores, which provide approximately 25% discount off adult fares on Go Wellington buses. These cards can be topped up electronically at various agencies for a small fee. However, you need to remember to tag not only when you board the bus but also as you leave the bus, or you will be charged for the whole route.
The Kelburn cable car is a Wellington icon. It provides a regular service between Lambton Quay and Kelburn. The Wellington city terminal is at the end of Cable Car Lane, just off Lambton Quay, near the intersection with Grey Street. The Kelburn terminal is at the end of Upland Road by an entrance to the Botanic Gardens.
The train is the best form of public transport between the central city and Johnsonville, as well as the Hutt Valley, Porirua or the Kapiti Coast - although you do have to walk from Melling or Western Hutt, or catch a bus from Petone or Waterloo (Hutt Central) stations to central Lower Hutt's CBD.
At Wellington station the destination and departure time of the next train departing from each platform is displayed on the message board at the entry to each platform. Two announcements are made a few minutes before each train is due to depart. Tickets can be bought at the Wellington station ticket office or suburban ticket agents. Since most smaller stations do not have ticket offices, you can also buy single journey tickets, and day passes, with cash, from the conductor on the train, after you board and often once the train is moving. Monthly passes do need to be purchased from a station ticket office or suburban ticket agents in advance.
The easiest way to travel between the Hutt Valley and Porirua is by train via Wellington (it is no cheaper to change at Kaiwharawhara, not all services will stop there and the timetables mean there is generally no time-saving). Trains run every half hour on the Hutt Valley and Porirua lines, and more frequently during peak hour. Services generally run every half hour on saturdays and sundays.
A Day Rover pass allows unlimited trips on any of the four commuter lines on the same day (from first off-peak service departing after 9AM weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday). This can often work out cheaper than buying separate tickets if you need to make two or more journeys. A 3 Day Weekend Rover pass is available for train travel from 4:30AM Friday to midnight Sunday. If you have a group of people, a Group Rover pass allows up to 4 people to travel together on the same conditions as a Day Rover.
As in all New Zealand cities, taxi rates vary according to the company. There is a "flagfall" charge, then a per kilometer charge once the cab starts moving. Extra fees apply for things like airport pickup, phone booking, electronic payment etc. Major taxi companies in Wellington include (alphabetically) Combined, Corporate, Green and Kiwi. There are many alternate taxi companies and taxis are usually in plentiful supply.
Check the door of the taxi before you get in for the current approved fare rates.
As noted above, driving in the core of Wellington is generally not necessary or as convenient as walking. However, it is not particularly difficult once you learn the one-way system, nor is traffic a big worry outside of normal rush-hour periods.
Street and garage/surface lot parking is not particularly difficult for a city of Wellington's density, but as with any city you may have to search a bit for a street spot. Street parking is generally metered in the centre at a rate of $4/hour (between 8am and 6pm Mon - Thu and 8am - 8pm Fri), often with a one or two hour time limit. Multi Storey car parks tend to be similarly priced, but you can generally stay for longer periods.
In the suburbs immediately surrounding the city, coupon parking zones exist in conjunction with Resident Only parking. In the Coupon Zones, two hours of parking are free. Beyond that you must display a coupon to allow you to park for the entire day. These are available at convenience stores for $7.50 each. Enforcement of the Coupon Zones is from 8AM to 6PM. Resident Zones are generally reserved for Residents (displaying a current permit) at all times, and you may be served with a ticket for parking there without a permit.
On the weekend, metered car parking is free, with a two-hour time limit on both days.
Te Papa, . The national museum. Particularly good if you have children to entertain on a rainy day. Free (except for the occasional special presentation).
Museum of Wellington City & Sea, Queens Wharf, . Daily, 10AM-5PM, closed 25 Dec. A well-presented museum of the history of Wellington, including its maritime history. Free.
City Gallery, Civic Square. Lacks a permanent collection but runs a consistently avant-garde set of exhibits. It also has the excellent cafe Nikau attached to it.
The Wellington Cable Car, from Lambton Quay (next to the McDonald's), 04 472 2199, . Daily until 10PM. The easiest way to get a nice view of the city and harbor, the Cable Car runs on rails from Lambton Quay to the Botanic Garden in Kelburn every ten minutes. $3.50 one way, $6.00 return (Concession prices are available for children, students and senior citizens over 65)
Frank Kitts Park. A great place to wander around, with walls to climb, inline skates, and jet ski rental.
Lookout points - Wellington City is surrounded by hills, so there are a number of good vantage points:
Mount Victoria. (196 metres) The best lookout in Wellington. The full 360-degree view is a great place to see the the airport, the harbour, the CBD and the Town Belt with just a turn of the head. It takes about an hour to walk up from Courtenay Place. Many tourist buses go there but also a lot of the locals, especially at night to 'watch the view'.
Mount Kaukau. (445 metres) Another great lookout point, not as close to the city as Mt Victoria .
Wrights Hill. More views, and WWII underground tunnels which are open to the public on public holidays for a small fee.
Brooklyn Wind Turbine. Another great place to go to get an excellent view of the city, the harbour, and Cook Strait, plus experience the wind! Access is signposted from Brooklyn shops: head up Todman Street.
Massey Memorial An interesting place to go if you want to see a large memorial in the middle of nowhere, with a good view of the surrounding harbour.
Karori Cemetery is an interesting picnic spot.
Elmscourt an historic art deco apartment block on the corner of The Terrace and Abel Smith Street.
Oriental Parade. A new beach. However if you are not from somewhere really cold it is unlikely that it will be hot enough for you to be in desperate need for a swim. There is a spa pool (jacuzzi) in Freyberg Swimming pool (on Oriental Parade) which is inexpensive if you enjoy "people soup".
Zealandia (Karori Wildlife Sanctuary), end of Waiapu Rd, (first left after the Karori Tunnel), . Daily 10AM-5PM (last entry 4PM), closed 25 Dec. A predator-proof fence encloses an old water catchment area, forming a mainland island that provides a natural haven for endangered native birds, tuatara, wētā, and other indigenous flora and fauna, safe from introduced predators. By far the most convenient place in the country to see rare New Zealand wildlife. $17.50, child $9, more for guided tours.
Plimmer's Ark. Under and in the Old Bank Arcade on the corner of Lambton Quay and Customhouse Quay - near Plimmer's Steps. A hundred years ago a Bank was built on top of a wrecked ship that had been used as a market. When they renovated the building they discovered the ship's timbers and preserved the remains in the building! Just take the escalator down through the bank vault doors.
Parliament Buildings, the Beehive (or Executive Wing), and the Parliamentary Library. The grounds of Parliament are open to the public. Known as the hill, Parliament grounds are at the foot of Molesworth and Bowen Streets, where they meet Lambton Quay.
National Library of New Zealand, corner of Aitken and Molesworth Streets (across the road from the Cathedral and Parliament), . The library regularly holds exhibitions.
Turnbull House, Bowen Street (just across the road from Parliament Buildings). This imposing brick mansion now seems small and out of place amongst the surrounding high-rises.
The Old Government Buildings, with the cenotaph in the foreground and NZ Post headquarters behind.
Old Government Buildings opposite Parliament at 15 Lambton Quay. This is the largest wooden building in the southern hemisphere and the second-largest in the world. It is now the home of Victoria University Law School.
Old St Paul's, (one block east of Parliament). This was the Anglican center for decades. Superseded by the new cathedral north of Parliament, this one is popular for weddings and funerals.
Statues and sculptures appear in some intriguing places around town. Famous prime ministers, memorials, and works of art have all been erected in the streets of Wellington, including:
Memorial statues to two prime ministers in the grounds of Parliament as well as a bicentennial memorial to Captain Cook's 1769 discovery of New Zealand.
The Cenotaph on the corner of Lambton Quay and Bowen Street, just outside the Parliament Grounds, is where a Dawn Memorial Service is held every ANZAC Day (25 Apr).
Behind Parliament, on the corner of Museum and Bowen Streets, is a small park with 3 sculptures in block.
On the corner of Lambton Quay and Stout Street, the fallen column has not come off the nearby building but is a work of art.
On Lambton Quay, opposite Cable Car Lane, the two stainless steel monoliths with pimples are actually a poem in braille!
Where Lambton Quay meets Featherston Street there is a wind mobile.
The Bucket Fountain in Cuba Mall - a real splash, for many years.
The Wellington City Council website provides a guide to its public art: Wellington City Council Public Art Guide .
Wellington Central Library, (in the city square, next to the information centre), . It's huge with great places to sit and read or if you bring your laptop to connect home via one of the city's paid-for wi-fi networks. Entry is free.
Matiu/Somes Island Out in the middle of the harbour, this island has its share of history. It was once a quarantine station for immigrants, and later (and more extensively) for animals. It was also an internment camp for "dangerous" individuals during both World Wars. The ferry leaves from Queen's Wharf and Day's Bay (on opposite sides of the harbour). Only at certain times will the ferry stop at the island and only upon request. The best choice is to leave Queen's Wharf at noon and return at 2:30PM or 3:25PM. $18.50.
Carter Observatory, 40 Salamanca Road, Kelbrun (2 minute walk from the top of the Cable Car), ☎ +64 4 910 3140, . 10am-5pm. Carter Observatory, located 2 minutes walk from the top of the Cable Car. Carter offers a state of the art planetarium show, along with multi media exhibits show how early Māori, Polynesian and European settlers navigated their way to New Zealand.$18 adults. (Coordinates 41°17′04″S 174°46′01″E / 41.28437°S 174.76697°E / -41.28437; 174.76697Coordinates: 41°17′04″S 174°46′01″E / 41.28437°S 174.76697°E / -41.28437; 174.76697,)edit
The Botanic Garden is a nice place to go for a picnic, or just an afternoon walk. You can take the Cable Car from Lambton Quay for a quick 5-minute trip to the top; but it is not designed to be exciting, despite being photogenic. If you're keen on walking up, take the lifts in the The James Cook Arcade (or one of several others along Lambton Quay) up to The Terrace, head south uphill until you reach Salamanca Rd. Head uphill up Salamanca Rd until you reach Victoria University. A set of stairs on the opposite side of the road to the Hunter Lawn goes uphill right to the top of the Gardens. If you already shelled out for a Daytripper ticket, just catch the Mairangi bus, get off at the stop after the University, and walk back along Upland Rd until you reach the Cable Car Museum. At the top of the Gardens, there are several attractions:
The Cable Car Museum has two of the old cars in semi-restored and fully-restored condition and some of the original Cable Car machinery from the system that was replaced in 1978.
The Lookout has a great view day or night, and the large map next to the round tree usually has a few pamphlets with maps of the Gardens.
The Carter Observatory is a stones throw from here. This is the perfect place to explore the Garden from, or wander back to the city.
Bolton Street Memorial Park. Watch out for the friendly black cat who haunts this hillside cemetery. If you're returning from the Botanic Gardens by foot, this is great place to meander through and check out the epitaphs of early pioneers and historical figures.
Red Rocks/ Seal Colony. This is an interesting walk named for its distinctive red rocks (probably Jasper). Take the number 1 bus to the end (Island Bay). Walk across the park towards the ocean and hang a right. There is another bus, number 4, that goes to the end of the road but only at certain times. Travel west (right side, if facing the water) until you run out of road. Here you will find a disused quarry and a visitors center (open daily from 10am - 6pm, later in summer). The walk along this beach is pleasant but rocky and often very windy, so dress accordingly. If one walks for about 1 hour you will come across a distinctive pass though the rock face. Just on the other side of this is a seal colony that is worth the walk. Please bear in mind that these are wild animals and so require a certain level of respect, so keep your distance and do not get between them and the sea, especially if you value your health! Continuing on from here, you will eventually arrive at Makara (but this is a long distance, and the seal colony is a recommended turn-around point).
Out in the Square]. Annual gay and lesbian carnival held in 'Civic Square' on the first Saturday of March.
Polo. Wellington is well-know for Polo and Equestrian events including horse shows, jumping and dressage.
Sevens. The Wellington Sevens or the New Zealand International Sevens is an annual rugby sevens tournament held in Wellington. The tournament, the fourth on the IRB Sevens World Series circuit, is played at Wellington's Westpac Stadium in early February and includes teams from 16 countries. The hosting contract between the International Rugby Board and the New Zealand Rugby Union had expired in 2011, but has been renewed. The event attracts over thirty thousand spectators annually. The tournament has become Wellington's largest sporting evnt and one of New Zealand's leading sporting events. It also has a reputation for a party atmosphere, with a large proportion of attendees choosing to wear fancy dress. Recent years have seen large groups of costumes that vary from Fred Flintstone and Wilma to Care Bears, dance troops, wrestlers and many other interesting costumes. More recently items of recent media interest or advertisements form a key theme. Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, George Bush have made appearances. Movie figures such as Men in Black (MIB) and Austin Powers are crowd favourites and an impersonator of Austin has been a regular feature each year performing to the crowd.
Dive the frigate Wellington (F69). Probably the world's most accessible dive wreck. Just a few kilometres around the coast from Wellington International Airport. Sunk on 13 November 2005 in 23 to 26 metres of water off Island Bay on Wellington's south coast. The wreck lies about 600 metres southeast of Taputeranga Island (the island of Island Bay) at 41° 21'.270 S., 174° 46'.770 E.
Cuba Street Carnival. Wellington's largest free street festival is held biennially in late February.
Take a ferry across the harbour to Eastbourne and Days Bay beach. Go down to Queen's Wharf and check out the destinations and times.
Oriental Bay, Oriental Parade (Past Te Papa). Oriental Parade is Wellington's most beautiful street. Wellingtonians and visitors run, walk, cycle, rollerblade and eat at the great cafes & restaurants on this strip or sunbathe at the beach. edit
Wellington has a lot of restaurants and cafes, in fact more cafes, bars and restaurants per head than New York City. Malaysian food is surprisingly popular and available in most areas. You can also get good Turkish kebabs anywhere in the city, or Lebanese at the Phoenician Falafel on Kent Terrace. Fish and chips is the best value food and you usually get better quality in the suburbs.
Wellington is home to a range of good coffee roasteries. Local roasters include Cafe L'affaire (recently sold for $25 million to an overseas company), Coffee Supreme, Havana, Mojo, and People's Coffee. Below is a small range from the extensive list of the Wellington cafe scene:
Aro Cafe - On Aro Street, offering a range of vegan and gluten-free food.
Beach Babylon, 232 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay (Across from Oriental Bay), ☎ 801 7717, . early till late. A retro, beach paradise inspired cafe and restaurant with Wellington's best outdoor dining area. Beach Babylon serves good, retro New Zealand cuisine and great prices.$10-30. edit
Butlers Chocolate Café - Willis Street - chocolates, coffee and decadent hot chocolate. If you're a chocolate lover, you can't miss this!
Cafe Neo - 132 Willis St - a trendy cafe offering a delicious variety of cuisine and very good tea.
Caffe L’affare - with its own roastery that supplies New Zealand coffee to cafes and supermarkets across the country. Popular cafe.
Clarks Cafe - located in the Wellington Central Library, Clarks is one of the few places where you still put your own food on the tray - and then wait for your coffee at the counter.
Deluxe - nestled beside the Embassy Theatre, Deluxe is the ideal pre-movie meeting place, portions are well-sized and the food is tasty.
Ernesto - This is a Cuban-themed cafe in mid-Cuba Street allied with Fidels. Good place to watch the world go by.
Espressoholic - centrally located on Cuba Street.
Fidel's cafe - an popular destination, it is claimed to be one of Wellington's best-known cafes. Has a selection of vegetarian and vegan food.
Floriditas – in Cuba St on Marion Square, good cooking using fresh, locally grown and organic food that’s popular among foodies
Front page cafe - 40 Boulcott St off of Willis St. Caters for both the public and Wellington's local newspaper staff (The Dominion Post).
Gasoline- between Woodward Street and The Terrace in Wellington's business district, Gasoline caters to a largely corporate clientele.
Kelburn Cafe - Located on Upland road amongst the Kelburn shops.
Maranui- in the surf life-saving club buildings at Lyall Bay (near the airport). Relax in front of a panorama of the beach and the Cook Strait.
Memphis Belle - Great single origin filter coffees from Flight Coffee around the corner.
Midnight Espresso - Selection of mostly vegetarian counter food.
Ministry of Food - just up the road from parliament, what else can you call the place where the civil servants go to eat.
Nikau at the Art Gallery  (Civic Square) - good food, but at relatively high prices.
Olive Cafe - a long-established cafe on Cuba Street. Has a selection of vegetarian and vegan food
People's Coffee - excellent single origin espresso in Newtown. Also, their "Brewtown" next door is a great place to try some filter coffee.
Plum - located on Cuba Street and recently given a refit. Great coffee and food selection.
Simply Paris – new to Wellington has a range of tasty sweets and pastries.
Boulcott Street Bistro, 99 Boulcott St, ☎ +64 4 499 4199 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +64 4 499 3879), . Bistro Lunch M-F from noon, Bistro Dinner M-Sa from 6PM, Wine bar All day M-F, reservations accepted for lunch only. Private room available for groups of 10-16. Modern bistro. Classic combinations, fresh ingredients, attentive service.Starters $14-21, Mains $29-35. edit
Citron, 270 Willis St, ☎ +64 4 801 6263 (email@example.com), . Dinner Tu-Sa. Chef Rex Morgan has been rated as one of NZ's top chefs. Try the 9-course degustation menu to taste the true wonders of this place.edit
Francois, 10A Murphy St, Thorndon, ☎ +64 4 499 5252, . Lunch Tu-F, Dinner M-Sa (can bring own wine on M). Exquisite French dining (and service).edit
Logan Brown, 192 Cuba St (corner of Cuba and Vivian Sts), ☎ +64 4 801 5114, . In the former banking chamber of an historic banking building.edit
Martin Bosley's Yacht Club Restaurant, 103 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay, ☎ +64 4 920 8302 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Lunch M-F, Dinner Tu-Sa (book at least 2 days in advance). edit
Pravda - elegant bistro dining, 107 Customhouse Quay Wellington (Part of the Lambton shopping precinct), ☎ +64 4 801 8858, . early to late. Pravda means “The Truth” in Russian, but here it is a cafe, bistro, bar and restaurant. The coffee is strong, the food is diverse and of a high standard.$8 to $40. edit
The White House, 232 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay, ☎ +64 4 385 8555 (email@example.com), . Lunch F (more frequent in Nov/Dec), Dinner 6PM onwards nightly. Winner of numerous awards, specialising in seafood, NZ meats and organic veges.edit
Yoshi Sushi & Bento, 126 Featherston Street, ☎ +64 4 473 4732 (fax: +64 4 473 4734), . Monday - Friday, 10:00am-5.30pm. Japanese cuisine. Enjoy the stylish and modern atmosphere at Yoshi Sushi & Bento in the heart of Wellington CBD. Choose from the vast array of Japanese sushi and sides starting from as little as $1 or enjoy a delicious Japanese bento (lunchbox), salad, miso soup, or a combination of them all. Catering also available.edit
California Sushi, on Left Bank off Cuba St. Yummy food and friendly shop owners. The place might not look like much, but they provide excellent service.
Hede, 1F, 43 Cuba St, ☎ 04 472 5249 (fax: 04 472 5249), . M-Sa 11:30AM-2:30PM, Su-We 5PM-10PM, Th-Sa 5PM-11PM. Crowded, loud, fun and delicious. BYO.edit
Kazu Yakitori & Sake Bar, Level 1, 43 Courtenay Pl (Upstairs), . 5PM til late. Japanese-style barbeque, fresh sushi, great selection of beer and sake.edit
Sakura, Cnr Whitmore and Featherston Sts, ☎ +64 4 499 6912 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +64 4 499 6913), . Tu-F 11:30AM-2PM, Tu-Sa 5:30PM-10PM. Japanese cuisine, fresh sushi, great selection of beer and sake.$15-20. edit
Aunty Mena Vegetarian Restaurant and Cafe, 167 Cuba St, Te Aro, ☎ 04 382 8288. Lunch & Dinner Mon-Sun. Vegan Malaysian/Chinese food. Friendly staff & a homely atmosphere. One of the best bargains.$9-12. edit
Cinta Malaysian Restaurant, on Manners St, facing the Manners park. Affordable Malaysian food with nice cultural decorations and cosy lighting.
Little Penang, Dixon St. Lovely staff, excellent mee goreng.
Satay Palace, Cuba St (between Floridita's and Aunt Mena's). Don't let the run-down decor fool you, ultra-cheap, excellent food and service.
Satay Village, 58 Ghuznee St. These guys do a good curry laksa. Locals love this place because the owner seems to be able to recall what people have ordered before with near perfect accuracy.
Roti Chenai Cafe, Shop 5, 120 Victoria St. Very good Indian and Malaysian cuisine.
Satay Kingdom; Left-Bank (off Cuba Mall). This is the student Malaysian restaurant. On most evenings you will find it overflowing with people coming in for its cheap ($8 - 12) and hearty food. But don't be put off by the large numbers, the service is incredibly fast with food often arriving at your table before you if you're not quick!
La Boca Loca, 19 Park Rd, Miramar. A bit classier/more expensive but very authentic; excellent variety of tequilas.edit
Mexican QBT, 33 Customhouse Quay (on the waterfront by Wagamama). Open on weekdays for lunch, choice of Quesadillas, Burrito or Tacos for $10.
Pan de Muerto, Tex-Mex restaurant. Apparently relocating to 82 Tory St in November 2012.
Viva Mexico, 210C Left Bank (off Cuba St). Reasonably cheap ($10-20). Viva Mexico is known for its strong adherence to authentic Mexican cuisine (as opposed to the growing mexican-american trend). The place is vibrant and has colourful decor, friendly staff, and a feel that is bound to submerge you into a bubble of real Mexican culture.
The Backbencher - opposite Parliament on Molesworth Street. Dine with the political figures of the day, who have a menu to match their misfortunes.
A lighthearted political/current affairs show is broadcast from the Backbencher on Wednesday nights (except in Summer) and the bar will often be packed with various Members of Parliament, Parliamentary staff, political activists, and journalists. Crowd participation is encouraged with heckling common, but the audience are good natured as a camadarie has developed amongst most activists, regardless of affiliation.
The Green Parrot, 16 Taranaki St, (04) 384 6080, . Opened in the 1920s and offers a very interesting atmosphere. Great food, large portions, open late, and serves free bread with every meal. The filet mignon is great! $10-30.
Wellington Night Market, Left Bank (off Cuba St), Fridays 5pm-late - Lovely chilled-out bohemian vibe, live music towards the start, great variety of stalls selling Sichuan, Malaysian, Japanese, South Indian, African, Maori, Hungarian and Mexican food, among others.
BNZ Centre Food Court (Food on Willis) - there is a food court in the basement of the big black square tower on the corners of Willis, Willeston and Victoria Streets. It has been neglected for many years and might not be the most pleasant place to dine, even if the stalls food is good. It is mostly frequented by the many office workers in the area looking for a place where all co-workers can dine together happily. There is Sushi, Indian, Greek, Turkish stalls, amongst others. There are few seats not taken at lunchtime, so you may want to just get take-away. Some of the stalls offer discounted food after 2PM, and are all closed by 3PM.
Reading Cinemas Food Court - offers a variety of different places to dine including both restaurants and fast-food outlets ranging from McDonalds to Steak Restaurants to Asian Cuisine. Open till late. Walk along Courtenay Place and you can't miss it.
Wellington has a bustling nightlife, concentrated along Courtenay Place, one of the major streets running from the CBD. It runs through Te Aro and ends in Mt Victoria. The nightlife causes this street to have the highest population density in all of New Zealand on Friday and Saturday nights. In most establishments, drinks are remarkably affordable (~$6), and entrance charges are either nonexistent or minimal. In some of the better clubs reasonable dress standards apply, however in many places tidy casual is acceptable. Cuba Mall also features some cool and more alternative bars.
Away from Courtenay Place in the CBD district (Lambton Quay) there are many after work bars frequented by office workers, however this area becomes deserted in the later hours, and thus these establishments usually do not provide all night partying.
Mighty Mighty, Level 1, 104 Cuba St. W-Sa from 4PM. This is probably one of the most hip and popular places in town at the moment. It often has local and international artists performing. It generally has a $5-10 door charge on the weekends, though this is generally admission for a live gig. Some nights there isn't a door charge after about midnight- once the live acts have finished and a DJ takes over. Tends to be almost overflowing with hipsters on busy nights and the tiny, sardine can smoking area is an experience in itself.edit
Establishment, Cnr Blair St and Courtenay Pl, ☎ 04 382 8654 (info@.theestablishment.co.nz, fax: 04385 0206), . A cheap bar popular with first year students from Victoria University. Mixed drinks are generally overpriced and low quality, though there are always specials available. Is popular with binge drinking young people, particularly students. Has dress code, though this is often not enforced. edit
Kitty O'Shea's, Courtenay Pl. Popular, with regular live Irish music.edit
Good Luck, Cuba Mall. Hidden away down underneath Cuba Mall in the basement of a building. Good Luck can be difficult to spot. With a low roof and dim lighting, it is a cozy place for a winter drink. Also good in summer, it can be a little dark and hot in the warmer summer months.edit
The Matterhorn, Cuba Mall. The Matterhorn has been a popular Wellington Bar for many years.edit
Blend Bar, 118 Wakefield St, . The only bar in Wellington where dancing on the tables is allowed. This is a backpackers bar connected to a hostel thus locals don't frequent this bar. Its out of the main bar scene and closes early. $5 - $10. edit
Havana Bar, 32a Wigan St, ☎ 04 384 7041, . Havana Bar is attached to the popular Havana Coffee Works. Near the top of Cuba St in an old Wellington character house, it is a nice place to listen to some jazz or just relax out in the outside courtyard bar.edit
Chow & Motel Bar, 45 Tory St, ☎ 04 382 8585 (email@example.com), . A combination restaurant/bar and cocktail lounge in one connected unit. Chow is a restaurant & bar serving Asian fusion food, cocktails and Sake. Motel Bar is behind Chow with its main entrance in Forresters Lane. According to worldsbestbars.com it is 5th best bar in the world.edit
Imerst, 13 Dixon St, Courtenay Pl, ☎ +64 4 384 8229, . NZ's largest gay/lesbian venue, split over three floors - Closed until August 2008edit
S&M's Cocktail lounge, Cuba St. Wellington's only gay bar currently operating is small but packed on weekends especially. Two floors with the lower floor being a sweaty dance floor.edit
Fringe Bar, 191 Cuba St, ☎ +64 21 251 0589, . Until 6AM weekdays, until 8:30AM weekends. Gay friendly, live entertainment, karaoke, comedy, all night bar- has a bit of a reputation as a dive bar and is often populated by seedy characters by the early hours of the morning. Don't be put off though- most of them will be more interested in karaoke than trouble.edit
Medusa, 154 Vivian St. The home of New Zealand's underground and emerging metal and hardcore artists.Formerly known as Valve and Hole In The Wall. edit
Hashigo Zake, 25-29 Taranaki St (between Molly Malone's and Te Papa), ☎ (04) 384-7300, . Noon-late. Totally uncompromising beer bar. Local and imported craft beer, wine, whisky and sake.edit
Boston on Blair, 20 Blair Street (Blair Street), ☎ 04 384 9070, . Wed - Sat 9pm - 6am. Late night bar and nightclub playing electro house music from both local and international Djs Attracts the younger crowd with drink specials on student night (wednesday) and $5 beers and spirits on Fridays. edit
Minibar, Courtney Place (Corner of Blair Street). 9pm - 6am Tues - Sat. Small and compact with room for up to 80 people inside and 20 outside. Cocktails and drink specials all night, rather pricey (espec on weekends) but you will find a more mature cliental, great music and bar staff that are friendly and down to earth. edit
Red Square, Blair Street, . Next to Boston on Blair, this is a lavish night club named after Russia's red square. Club sounds rock the club from 9 til 6 on Wednesdays and Weekends with cocktails and spirits on offer. No door charge but usually a popular club with Indian men. Tends to enforce a strict dress-code on busy nights.edit
Vespa, Allen Street. Located down a side street off Courtney place this is the locals fav to end the night. Is normally quiet until 3am and is packed until 8 or 9am the following morning. Has funky house music, great atmosphere and a mature local scene. You won't find young people or backpackers here, drinks are at least $8. edit
The Residence, Courtney Place. Brand new pool/snooker bar opened in May 2013. Has a bar with live DJ playing quality music all night while revelers can play Pool or Snooker on one of the 20 tables. Popular with young folk and prices start at $10 for an hour of pool or $2 per game. edit
Four Kings, Cnr Courtney Place & Taranaki Street. Best sports bar in town playing live sports from lunch till dinner. Open late nights on Fridays & Saturdays. Has a TAB (betting office) and over 50 big screen TV's. Drinks are reasonable ($8) and food is available from $10. Popular place to watch premier league games on at 3 or 6am after a night in town. edit
Calendar Girls, Dixon Street, . Wellington's largest adult strip club spread out over 3 levels. Recently opened in Wellington after moving from earthquake damaged Christchurch. There is a $20 door charge after 10pm and drinks are pricey ($9 min) but the girls are highly professional. An expensive, boutique decor makes this the classiest strip club in town.edit
Edison's Superette, 21 Blair Street, ☎ 029803332, . Opposite Boston on Blair, plays club sounds from 9pm till 4 or 5am. Separate dance floor and bar, plays live sport and has experienced bar tenders for cocktails and shots. Regularly holds private parties until 11 or 12. edit
Basement Bar, 39 Dixon Street. Another backpackers bar located 20mtrs from corner of Courtney Place. Missed by many visitors, located downstairs under hostel. Live DJ from 10pm playing club sounds. Cheap drinks, backpackers and famous strobe light. You will find many tourists here and few locals. edit
Famous. New bar on Courtney Place, home to the loudest sound system in Wellington. Has more led lights than you could ever imagine and some of the hottest international and local DJ's. Club gets so busy on weekends that a guest list is enforced until 2 or 3am. Drinks are expensive, anything from $9 or $10. Club regularly advertises cheap drinks on the door but once inside these prices do not exist - be weary before paying. edit
El Horno. Next to Minibar with a similar layout, long but narrow. Popular among mature young professionals and plays old skool club music. Drinks are reasonable and has outside seating, perfect for sitting on a winters night under the heaters or cooling down in Summer. edit
Rain Bar, Courtney Place. This use to be the oldest club in Wellington but as of June 29th this will be closed. Regularly advertised online this was the only RnB and HipHop club in town. edit
Dream Girls, Dixon Street. Next to Calendar Girls, this is a low quality strip club. $10 door charge but comes with free drink. Open every night until 5 or 6am. Inside is small and compact with 3 or 4 girls live at once. Look for the blue neon outside if you can't find this place. Despite it's more down-market feel, Dream Girls is a friendly, casual & relaxed venue with a less stringent dress code etc. Regularly hosts international 'Show Girl' acts. Has attached brothel (prostitution is legal in NZ).edit
Mermaids. Owned by two chinese brothers this is a popular strip club. $20 door charge is quite pricey but this place has a dive tank with 'mermaids' in. Live music and great atmosphere, drinks are pricey as usual but an experience none the less. Has attached Brothel (prostitution is legal in NZ)edit
Boogie Wonderland, Courtney Place. The only club with a light up dance floor. Jam to the old skool classics from early evening until 3am. Entrance via Courtney Place or via Tory Street behind Burger King through Alice - another hip bar. Most people here are over 30 but the young crowd frequent this bar, so do the married couples and old generation. edit
Alice. This is a hip bar connected to Boogie Wonderland, entrance to the club can be made through Boogie or via the side street off Tory Street on the Cnr of Courtney Place. Reasonable priced drinks and cocktails, with the famous tea pot cocktails - only place in Wellington to get these. Attracts an older crowd, but don't let that put you off- it has a loose dress code (particularly on quieter nights) and the staff are friendly and professional. A nice, classy place to start an evening.edit
City B&B, 11 Lawson Place, Mt Victoria (Just off Courtenay Place, 10 minutes walk to Te Papa), ☎ +64 21 073 9232, . checkin: 14.00; checkout: 10.00. From $150. edit
City Cottages, 5 Tonks Grove (just off Cuba Street), ☎ +64 21 073 9232, . Two heritage cottages fully renovated with garden, parking and Wi-Fi included.$170-200. edit
Rongotai Apartments, 105 Rongotai Road, Kilbirnie (opposite Pak'n Save, short walk from ASB Sports Centre, 5 minutes from Wellington Airport), ☎ +64 21 677 615, . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 10:00. Fully furnished serviced apartments offering quality accommodation for short and long stays.from $199. edit
Villa Melina Boutique B&B, 89 Ludlam St, Seatoun (From the Airport (SH1), turn right at the Caltex roundabout onto Broadway, Take the first on the right after the Seatoun tunnel), ☎ 0800 MELINA, +64 4 972-1205, . checkin: 14.00; checkout: 11:00. 5 star Bed and Breakfast located 7 minutes from Airport, Interislander, Te Papa and CBD.From $162. (41°19'29.22 S,174°50'14.45 E)edit
There are several of these in Wellington, most are up the hill a little, closer to Mt Victoria (still very close to the city). Some are simpler – like just a room with shared bathroom facilities and a "mess" hall (might be closed in summer). Others are self-contained units, and some are 3-4 bedroom apartment buildings.
"Aparthotels" are pricier, but you get more, and are usually more central and have better service and facilities.
City Townhouse, 17 Lawson Place, Mt Victoria (Just off Courtenay Place, 10 minutes walk to Te Papa), ☎ +64 21 073 9232, . checkin: 16.00; checkout: 10.00. This is self-contained townhouse which sleeps up to 8 located 10 minutes walk from Te Papa and CBD.From $150. edit
A better way to get to know more locals and experience some NZ culture (if that's what you are looking for) is a shared house (a "Flat" in NZ English). These are an option for stays of a month in the Summer while students are away – usually Flats are for the year or at least several months). Look for "Flatmates wanted" in the local Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday newspaper ("Dominion Post") classifieds.
Flats are much cheaper and usually well furnished already by the other tenants in the communal rooms. You may need to provide your own bed (you could buy a cheap one second hand for the summer), or they might be able lend you one. All flatmates share the rent, bills and chores, and occasionally food, meals and even washing too. Some flats come fully furnished, but this is not the norm.
Wellington is reasonably safe at night, but common sense should prevail, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, as in any other city.
Occasionally, tourists relax security in New Zealand thinking that it is a crime-free paradise. While violent crime against tourists is very rare (and is usually followed up by public outrage against the offenders), opportunistic petty crime can still occur. Taking simple steps like locking valuables away and keeping to well-lit areas at night usually prevent problems. Muggings are uncommon, however it is best to walk in groups- particularly in the early hours of the morning- particularly in the darker suburban streets surrounding the CBD- for instance for instance The Terrace, Willis Street, Cambridge Tce and the Waterfront.
Vehicle break-ins are common, especially in shopping malls and 'park and ride' type car parks. Thieves generally target older vehicles with less complicated locks. Removing all valuables and leaving the glove box open (to show that no valuables are hidden) will usually act as a deterrent. Police will normally give you a copy of their report for insurance purposes, but it is very unusual for the theives to be apprehended or any stolen property to be recovered and returned to its owner.
The only other small worry is some areas of the city centre during the very late hours of night/early hours of morning, particularly Cuba Street, although a very interesting and great street for shopping during the day, it is also a local hangout for buskers, punks, homeless and other weirdos. Although you're more likely to be approached for change, offers of tinnies (small amounts of cannabis- it is unwise to attempt to buy drugs at night on Cuba St) and drunken conversation violence is fairly uncommon on Cuba Mall and there are numerous bouncers. There are regularly fights on Courtney Place on busy nights, typically as the bars stop serving between 3-5am.
The biggest risk while drinking in town is from groups of people who either can't afford to go to bars, are underage or are too drunk to get in anwhere who drink in parks, alleys and on the street itself. Despite the liquor ban, there are many liquor stores open until late in the CBD. Show common sense and try not to engage with drunks who are looking for a fight.
Despite this the bouncers are numerous and highly professional as well as typically cooperating with one another and the police to control not just the bar space but also the street. There are also numerous police foot patrols through Courtney Place and Cuba Street.
Recently there has been a more proactive stance taken against alcohol related crime- arrests for drunken disorderly behaviour are common. As long as you show a little common sense and don't drink more than you can handle Wellington has a vibrant nightlife that can be enjoyed as late as 5-6am. If you meet the right locals you may even get taken to one of the unregistered venues that regularly party until 10am the next day!
The nearby Hutt Valley and Porirua have a number of interesting sights and beaches. Plimmerton, for example, has seen future world windsurfing champions training, and Edmund Hillary practised rock-climbing at Titahi Bay before conquering Everest.
The suburbs of Eastbourne and Days Bay are on the eastern side of Wellington Harbour. They can be reached by car, bus or ferry. There are a number of enjoyable hill walks in both Days Bay  and Eastbourne . The East By West ferry service  departs from Queens Wharf (Wellington) and travels to Days Bay Wharf, some services will stop on request at Somes Island (in the middle of the harbour), see route map . On weekends and public holidays the ferry also operates a harbour tour service which stops at Petone Wharf and Seatoun.
Further afield, the south Wairarapa has become one of New Zealand's wine growing regions. Tranzit run a train/bus wine tasting tour that leaves from Wellington Railway station each morning and visits four vineyards in the Wairarapa town of Martinborough, $115.
The Kapiti Coast is often called "The Nature Coast" and is a beautiful mix of beaches and lush native scenery. Spend the day at the beaches, near a river, or taking a walk through one of the many beautiful trails surrounding the hills and valleys bordering the coastline.
Take a 200 minute trip on one of the Interislander or Bluebridge ferries to Picton and then warm up and chill out (trust me, you can do both!) in Nelson, the place where Kiwis would most like to live.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!