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Wellington

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Wellington

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Wellington [28] is the capital city of New Zealand, and also the third largest city after Auckland and Christchurch. It is a harbour city nicknamed Windy Wellington and promotes itself as "Absolutely Positively Wellington". Its motto "Suprema a situ" claims site supremacy - with some justification.

Understand

Wellington, known as New Zealand’s arts and culture capital, offers an unmatched 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 - boutique shopping, art galleries, trendy cafes 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 is a city that brims with energy and vitality, it offers an almost overwhelming 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, which is recognised as a world leader of interactive and innovative museum experiences.

Wellington offers a unique mix of experiences few cities could lay claim to. With so many options at your fingertips, you’ll need at least three days to slip into the groove of this amazing place.

  • Wellington Visitor Information Centre (iSITE), Civic Square, Corner Victoria and Wakefield Streets, Wellington, +64 4 802 4860 or 0800 933 53 63, [1]. 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 [2]).

Politics

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. At midday hundreds of public servants can be observed eating lunch at several parks and open areas, notably Midland Park on Lambton Quay.

Geology

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 most of the older city buildings have been either demolished or strengthened in the last 20 years or so. Small and moderate earthquakes occasionally rock Wellington; so if the earth seems to move for you, it may not be just your imagination: stay indoors unless a "warden" or similar authority advises evacuation, and take shelter from potentially falling objects wherever you are.

There are some places in Wellington where damage from the 1855 earthquake is still visible. The most accessible is a large landslip on State Highway 2 between Ngauranga and Korokoro (just north of Rocky Point where the BP petrol station is located) where the dramatic change in terrain is visble. Bush has overgrown the slip but is visible. However, most locals are oblivious to the location of landslip as the drive by on the highway.

Climate

Wellington is known as the Windy City. Locals generally acknowledge that the climate is terrible. 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, even on a cold winter's night, while daytime winter temperatures are rarely lower than 8°C. During summer, the daytime maximum temperature rarely gets above 25°C. Away from the seaside, in inland valleys, frosts of up to -10°C have been recorded and snow has been known to fall and settle on the nearby mountain ranges for a few days after particularly nasty southerly storms.

Geography

Wellington sits at the southern tip of New Zealand's North Island. The city core lies along the western shore of highly-protected Wellington Harbor, 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-running ridgelines form Mt. Victoria and, further east yet, the Miramar Peninsula, which forms the western side of the mouth to Wellington Harbor. 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.

Get in

By plane

Wellington International Airport [29] is in Rongotai, about 5 km 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.

Wellington airport is a major transit point for domestic travellers. There are frequent flights to Auckland, Christchurch, Palmerston North, Rotorua, Hamilton, Nelson, Blenheim and many other destinations. International flights from Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane) arrive about twice daily - the evening flights arrive after midnight when most facilities are closed.

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 rollercoaster ride, so make sure your seatbelt is securely fastened.

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 let them know where you are going.

By boat

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 2km north east of the railway station, and a free shuttle bus runs between the ferry port and the railway station (bus terminal next to Platform 9).

By road

There are only two major roads into Wellington, but they are the top two: 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 20kms turn into single lane highway as they negotiate difficult terrain. While local authorities are working on improvements, serious and fatal crashes are common on these roads - remember to keep left, keep to a reasonable speed, and to use the passing bays 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. Also drive carefully when descending as crashes have occured where vehicles brakes have overheated and drivers have been unable to slow for sharp corners.

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 15km north-east of Wellington) or Paremata (about 20km north). If intending to hitchhike, you are best to catch a train to Paraparaumu or Upper Hutt then 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.

By train

There is a train service between Wellington and Auckland. There are daily commuter services from Palmerston North and Masterton and a generally half-hourly suburban commuter service to Johnsonville, the Hutt Valley, Porirua, and Paraparaumu on the Kapiti coast.

Get around

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—in the form of buses, commuter trains, and suburban ferries—is available to take you further afield, or if you just don't feel like hoofing it.

  • Metlink (Greater Wellington Regional Council - Transport), 0800 801 700, [3]. 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. .

By foot

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 currently-being-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 the newly-created Waitangi Park. From here the waterfront curves northeastward along lovely Oriental Bay with its beach and promenade.

By bus

Wellington city itself has an extensive network of buses, including a significant number of routes served by electric trolleybuses.

Network overview

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 [30]. 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:

Southbound
  • Out of the Railway Station bus terminal onto Lambton Quay.
  • Lambton Quay to Willis Street.
  • Willis Street to Mercer Street, where the route zig-zags by Civic Square and onto Cuba Street.
  • Cuba Street to Manners Street, continuing straight to Courtenay Place.
Northbound
  • From Courtenay Place straight onto Dixon Street
  • From Dixon Street zig-zags to Manners Street
  • Manners Street to Willis Street
  • Willis Street to Lambton Quay to the Railway Station.

Fares

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. Fares are as follows:

Number of Zones Fare
City Core (Railway Station to Courtenay Place) $1
1 Zone $1.50
2 Zones $3
3 Zones $4

If you plan to use the bus extensively, you can also buy an all-day central Wellington Daytripper bus pass for $5 ($12 for up to 4 people). This pass allows unlimited trips (After 9:00AM on weekdays) within zones 1 through 3.

In addition, electronic Snapper fare cards are available from convenience stores, etc., which provide approximately a 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 not only tag on when you board the bus but to tag off as you leave the bus, to avoid being charged for the whole route.

If you are planning on travelling further afield, a Starpass ($12) gives all day travel on all Go Wellington (city) and the Hutt Valley Flyer buses, including the Airport Flyer. A Metlink Explorer pass ($18) offers bus and train travel after 9AM on many Metlink bus and train services.

By cable car

Panorama of Wellington

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.

By boat

The Eastbourne ferry service, which provides regular services between Queens Wharf and Days Bay in Eastbourne, also stops at Somes Island most trips.

By train

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.

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 are generally every hour on Sundays.

A Day Rover pass can be brought for $10 per person, which allows you 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 ($15) is available for train travel from 4:30AM Friday to Midnight Sunday. If you have a group of people, a Group Rover pass ($25) allows up to 4 people to travel together on the same conditions as a Day Rover.

By taxi

Taxis cost approximately $3 for flagfall plus $1.70 per kilometre. Executive Taxis has professional service and a larger cab at $1.80 per kilometre. There are sometimes budget taxis for cheaper rates. The taxi companies in Wellington tend to arrive more or less when expected. Wellington Combined taxis are arguably the most popular with locals, and certainly the easiest to spot with their distinctive blue roof-mounted signs.

By car

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, often with a one or two hour time limit. Parking garages tend to be similarly priced, but you can generally stay for longer periods.

A bit out of the centre, coupon parking zones exist. In these 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 $5 each. Enforcement of these zones is from 8AM to 6PM.

On the weekend, metered car parking is free, with a two-hour time limit on Saturdays and no limits on Sundays.

See

  • Te Papa, [31]. 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, [32]. 10AM-5PM every day except 25 December. 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, [33]. Open 7 days 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. $2.50 one way, $4.50 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 harbor, 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 [34].
    • Wrights Hill. More views, and WWII underground tunnels which are open to the public on public holidays for a small fee.
    • Brooklyn Windmill. Another great place to go to get an excellent view of the city, the harbour, and Cook Strait, plus experience the wind!
    • 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".
  • Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, end of Waiapu Rd, (first left after the Karori Tunnel), [35]. 10AM-5PM (last entry 4PM) every day except 25 December. 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. Adult $12, child $5, 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), [36]. 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 April).
    • 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 [37] 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 [38].
  • Wellington Central Library, (in the city square, next to the information centre), [39]. 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 2:30 or 3:25. Cost is $18.50 adults

Do

  • 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 [40]. 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 soon-to-open visitors center. 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).
  • Circa Theatre [41].
  • Bats Theatre [42].
  • Downstage Theatre [43].
  • Capital E National Theatre for Children [44].
  • The Embassy Theatre [45].
  • Beck's Incredible Film Festival. Incredibly strange, exploitation cinema and extra low budget movies.
  • Festival of the Arts [46]. February/March every two years. Next festival is 2008.
  • Comedy Festival.
  • Fringe Festival [47].
  • Out in the Square [48]]. Annual gay and lesbian carnival held in 'Civic Square' on the first Saturday of March.
  • Proud [49]]. Annual gay pride festival, Proud '08 is due in September 2008.
  • Dance Music [50].
  • 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 [51]. Wellington's largest free street festival is held biennially in late February.
  • Take a ferry across the harbour. 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.


Eat

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 Lebanese kebabs anywhere in the city. Fish and chips is the best value food and you usually get better quality in the suburbs.


  • Beach Babylon, 232 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay (Across from Oriental Bay), 801 7717, [4]. 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 $10-$30.

More or less traditional

  • 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, [52]. 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.

Malaysian

  • 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.
  • Roti, 149 Willis St. Excellent Malaysian cuisine with a twist. The owner is fiercely proud of his cafe's individual approach to each dish.
  • Satay Village, 58 Ghuznee St. These guys do a good curry laksa.
  • 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 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!

Indian

  • Great India. Very well-known restaurant. Has won the Wine & Food challenge for several years running.
  • Tulsi, 135 Cuba St or takeaway in the BNZ food court. Their butter chicken was voted best in Wellington.
  • Little India, two Wellington locations, 18 Blair Street off Courtenay and 115 Cuba Mall. You can also order for delivery at [53].
  • Higher Taste, The only pure vegetarian Indian Restaurant.Lower Ground,Old Bank Arcade,Customhouse Quay.

Newtown Area

Some of the best ethnic restaurants are on Adelaide road in the southern suburb of Newtown, between Wellington Hospital and the Zoo

  • Curry Heaven. A fantastic small traditional restaurant, the people are friendly and do takeaways, the Malai Kofta is excellent.
  • Planet Spice. Two doors down from Curry Heaven on Adelaide road, they also do fantastic food, and have an upstairs area.
  • Indian Flavours. A truly Indian experience, all traditional curries, and Indian sweets, very authentic, best place for a home-sick Indian.

Cafes

Wellington is home to a range of good coffee roasteries.

Local roasters include Cafe Laffare (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.
  • Butlers Chocolate Café - Willis Street - chocolates, coffee and decadent hot chocolate.
  • 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 but tends to have a lot of drunk people in the late evenings.
  • 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
  • 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 [54]- 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.
  • 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 [55] (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
  • 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.

Turkish kebabs

  • AbraKebabra - a great place to eat quite cheaply ($7-8) and has good kebabs and lots of other things like lasagne or just vegetables. Located in Manners Mall.
  • Babylon Kebab - on Cuba street. Open until 3 or 4am during the weekend.

Multicultural variety

  • BNZ Centre Food Court - 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 (take-out). Some of the stalls offer discounted food after 2PM, and are all closed by 3PM.

Fish and chips

Every suburb in Wellington has a good fish and chip shop.

  • Aro Street Fish and Chips; On Aro Street.
  • Northland Fish & Chip Shop; 57 Northland Rd, Northland
  • Starfish, Molesworth Street - slightly more pricey than most but worth it.
  • Supremo Takeouts, 2a Moxham Ave., Hataitai
  • Dennis Fish Supply; 103 Randwick Rd, Moera, Lower Hutt
  • Calypso Fish & Chips; 5 Waiwhetu Rd, Waiwhetu, Lower Hutt
  • Plimmerton; Beach Road, Plimmerton, Porirua
  • Athena Fish and Chips, Onepu Road, Lyall Bay
  • Wadestown Takeaways, 102C Wadestown Rd, Wadestown.
  • So Fine Seafoods, 2 Tennyson Ave, Avalon, Lower Hutt. Voted NZs best fish and chips shop in 2008.

Japanese

  • Hede, 1st Floor, 43 Cuba Street, 04 472 5249 (fax: 04 472 5249), [5]. Lunch Monday-Saturday, 11.30AM-2.30PM. Dinner Sunday-Wednesday, 5PM-10PM, Thursday-Saturday, 5PM-11PM.. Crowded, loud, fun and delicious. BYO.
  • Kazu Yakitori & Sake Bar, Level 1, 43 Courtenay Place (Upstairs), [6]. 5PM til late. Japanese-style barbeque, fresh sushi, great selection of beer and sake.
  • Sakura, Cnr Whitmore and Featherston Streets, +64 4 499 6912 (, fax: +64 4 499 6913), [7]. Tuesday to Friday 11.30am - 2pm & Tuesday to Saturday 5.30pm to 10pm. Japanese cuisine, fresh sushi, great selection of beer and sake. $15 - $20.

Fine Dining

  • The White House, 232 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay, 04 385 8555 (), [8]. Lunch Fri (more frequent in Nov/Dec), Dinner 6PM onwards every night. Winner of numerous awards, specialising in seafood, NZ meats and organic veges.
  • Citron, 270 Willis St, 04 801 6263 (), [9]. Dinner Tue-Sat. 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.
  • Martin Bosley's Yacht Club Restaurant, 103 Oriental Parade, Oriental Bay, 04 920 8302 (), [10]. Lunch Mon-Fri, Dinner Tue-Sat (book at least 2 days in advance).
  • Logan Brown, 192 Cuba Street (corner of Cuba and Vivian streets), 04 801 5114, [11]. In the former banking chamber of an historic banking building.
  • Francois, 10A Murphy Street, Thorndon, 04 499 5252, [12]. Lunch Tue-Fri, Dinner Mon-Sat (can bring own wine on Mondays). exquisite French dining (and service).
  • Boulcott Street Bistro, 99 Boulcott Street, 04 499 4199 (, fax: 04 499 3879), [13]. Bistro Lunch: Monday to Friday from noon, Bistro Dinner: Monday to Saturday from 6PM, Wine bar: All day Monday to Friday, 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.

Vegetarian/Vegan

  • Midnight Espresso, 178 Cuba Street, Te Aro ("). Monday-Sunday, early til late. always open, and always blasting out tunes. Selection of mostly vegetarian counter food. $5-$20.
  • Aunt Menas Vegetarian Cafe, 165 Cuba Street, Te Aro, 04 382 8288. Lunch Mon-Sun, Dinner Mon-sun). Vegan Chinese/Malaysian food. Friendly staff and a homely atmosphere. $10-$20.

Food Tours

  • Zest Food Tours, 0800-937 886 or 04 801 9198 (), [14]. Zest operate a number of food, coffee and chocolate walking tours around Wellington.

Drink

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 along this strip 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 (~NZ$6), and cover charges are either nonexistent or minimal. In some of the better clubs reasonable dress standards apply, however in the day the mood is usually extremely causal, with flip-flop (Called Jandals in New Zealand) and even bare feet occasionally accepted (a common Kiwi choice on hotter days). 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 Street. Open Wednesday to Saturday 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 door charge on the weekends.
  • Shooters, 69 Courtenay Place, 801 7800 (, fax: 04 381 4801), [15]. Monday to Saturday, 11AM till late.
  • Coyotes, 63 Courtenay Place, 04 385 6665 (, fax: 04 385 6659).
  • Establishment, Cnr Blair Street and Courtenay Place, 04 382 8654 (, fax: 04385 0206), [16].
  • Kitty O'Shea's, Courtenay Place. A popular Irish haunt with regular live Irish music.
  • 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.
  • The Matterhorn, Cuba Mall. The Matterhorn has been a popular Wellington Bar for many years. Several years ago with the influx of cheap poorly soundproofed apartments, The Matterhorn was forced to close and refurbish as the garden bar had created noise issues with the new residents. Now in its new skin, The Matterhorn continues to be a popular haunt for Wellington's hipsters.
  • Blend Bar, 118 Wakefield Street, [17].
  • Havana Bar, 32a Wigan St, 04 384 7041, [18]. Havana Bar is attached to the popular Havana Coffee Works in Wellington. 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.
  • Chow & Motel Bar, 45 Tory St, 04 382 8585 (), [19]. A combination restaurant/bar and cocktail lounge in one connected unit. Chow is a restaurant/Bar serving Asian fusion food and good cocktails and Sake (Watch out for the 2for1 cocktail night on Wednesdays). Motel Bar is behind Chow with its main entrance in the rather film noir Forresters Lane or through a conncting door from the restaurant. Motel is a chic lounge bar with low lighting, a huge range of spirits, fine cocktails and a growing international reputation (5th best bar in the world, according to worldsbestbars.com). Perfect for that end of night drink with a date.
  • Hummingbird, 22 Courtenay Place, 04 801 6336 (, fax: 04 801 6339), [20]. 9AM through 3AM 7 Days. Live music, and "one of the many Courtenay Place hospitality houses to offer scrumptious suppers, delectable desserts and supreme coffees, cocktails and banger beverages." Try the duck liver parfait.
  • Imerst, 13 Dixon St, Courtenay Place, +64 4 384 8229, [21]. NZ's largest gay/lesbian venue, split over three floors - Closed until August 2008
  • S&M's Cocktail lounge, Cuba Street. 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.
  • Fringe Bar, 191 Cuba Street, +64 21 251 0589, [22]. open until 6AM weekdays, 8.30AM weekends. Gay friendly, live entertainment, karaoke, comedy, all night bar
  • Hole in the Wall, 154 Vivian Street. The home of New Zealand's underground and emerging artists. It is a good place to be if you are interested in New Zealand's underground music scene.

Sleep

Budget

  • Beethoven House Backpackers, 89 Brougham Street, Mt Victoria. OK if you like the smell of pot (dagga) and are tolerant to a lack of hygiene, broken showers and toilets. $23.
  • Downtown Backpackers, 1 Bunny St (cnr Bunny St & Waterloo Quay, opposite the Railway station), [56]. Dorm beds from $21. Single room with shared bathroom $58.
  • Lodge in the City, 152 Taranaki St (cnr Vivian St & Taranaki St), 64 4 3858560; 0800 257225 (, fax: 64 4 3858531), [23]. Dorm beds $23. Single room $50. Doubles from $85.
  • Nomads Capital Backpackers , 118-120 Wakefield Street, freephone 0508 666237 (Email: [email protected]), [57]. Dorm beds available from $23. Doubles from $85.
  • Worldwide Backpackers Wellington, 291 The Terrace, 0508 888555 (), [24]. Queen, double, twin, double + single, 3 share, 4 share and 6 share..
  • YHA, 292 Wakefield St (cnr Cambridge Tce & Wakefield St - opposite the Fire Station), 0800 600 100, [25]. checkin: 2PM; checkout: 7-10AM. Dorm beds available from $26, double/twin rooms $74 (members 18+ years).

Mid-range

  • Villa Melina Boutique B&B, 89 Ludlam Street, Seatoun, Wellington (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 9721205, [26]. checkin: 14.00; checkout: 11.00. This is a 5 star Bed and Breakfast located 7 minutes from Airport, Interislander, Te Papa and CBD. http://www.villamelina.co.nz/ . From $162. (41°19'29.22 S,174°50'14.45 E)

Splurge

  • CityLife Wellington, 300 Lambton Quay, phone +64 4 922 2800, [email protected], fax +64 9 4 922 2803 [58] Vehicle entrance: 14 Gilmer Terrace. Four star plus, suite style hotel.
  • Grand Mercure Wellington, Century City Apartments, 70 Tory Street, freephone: +64 04 801 0780, [59]. From $149.
  • Museum Hotel - Hotel de Wheels, 90 Cable Street, (opposite Te Papa - Museum of New Zealand), freephone: 0800 994 335, [60]. This hotel was moved to make way for the national museum. From $149.

Serviced Apartments

  • Quest Apartments Wellington, Cnr Hunter Street & Lambton Quay Wellington North Island 6001, +64 (0)4 916 0700, [27]. Quest Wellington is a only short walk to the waterfront, Te Papa Museum , The Cable Car ,TSB Arena ( formerly Queens Wharf Event's Centre) the WestpacTrust Stadium, St James Theatre and Opera House .

"UStay Dorm Rooms" [61] is a University student hall of residence which is mostly empty / transitory over the summer till about mid-February. (You don't want to stay in these places in university term time – they are NZ's closest thing to frat/sorority houses.)

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. There is one in a complex adjacent to and managed by Quality Inn[62] it is at the pricier end.

Shared House (longer stays)

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. Online you can also see;

  • TradeMe (NZ's answer to ebay)[63]
  • Victoria University Accommodation Services [64]. Run by the University student services, but totally open to the public. You'll find a LOT of listings there as people try to keep their flat occupied for a few months over the Christmas break, or looking to unload their tenancy contract at the end of the year. It's common that a landlord will sign folk in to commit for a full year, but this contract can be passed on to someone who wants to cover just the final few months. Normally they will want to do that by December, but by Jan they will be desperate to get it off their hands! There is a lot of good looking info - including explanations of what 'flatting' means to overseas visitors :-)

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.

Stay safe

Wellington is reasonably safe at night, however common sense should prevail, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, as in any 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 usually followed up by public outrage against the offenders), opportunistic petty crime can occur. Taking simple steps like locking valuables away and keeping to well-lit areas at night usually prevent problems.

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 glovebox open (to show 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 any stolen property to be recovered and returned to its owner.

The only other small worry is some areas of town during the very late hours of night/early hours of morning, particularly Cuba St - although a very interesting and great street for shopping during the day, it is also a local hangout for punks, homeless and general weirdos.

Get out

Greater Wellington region

The Greater Wellington region is far bigger than just Wellington City. The old Wellington Province used to cover much of the southern half of the North Island, including the Horowhenua, Manawatu, and Wanganui regions.

There are three other cities that are so close to Wellington that they effectively form a single large urban area; in population order they are:

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 [65] and Eastbourne [66]. The East By West ferry service [67] 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 [68]. 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[69] that leaves from Wellington Railway station each morning and visits four vineyards in the Wairarapa town of Martinborough, priced NZ$115.

The Kapiti Coast as referred to as 'The Nature Coast' 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.


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!



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