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Wellington

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Wellington

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Wellington [1] is the capital city of New Zealand. It is a harbour city nicknamed the Windy City. It advertises itself as "Absolutely Positively Wellington". Motto "Suprema a situ", which claims site supremacy with some justification.

Panorama of Wellington

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. Now the region commonly (and officially, in Local Government Act terms) called Wellington includes:

Adjoining cities

There are 3 other cities that are so close to Wellington that they effectively form a single large urban area; in population order they are:

Understand

Wellington is called the city of the wind; and you will figure out why whatever time of the year you go there. In summer the winds may be hard, but not unpleasant at all. Wellington has one of only two airports in the world where the pilot needs an extra licence to land due to the common shear winds.

Wellington is not the largest city in New Zealand but is, for its inhabitants, undisputedly the best. While there is some friendly rivalry between the major cities, it is arguably recognised that Wellington has a more interesting CBD and is not as spread out as Auckland.

Wellington has very bizarre street names, many roads in the downtown area are called 'quays' as much as they may be quarter of a mile inland, and many other roads are named after people's last names which means you end up with names such as 'Bunny Street' and 'Stout Street', like the locals, you get used to them.

Wellington is overshadowed and belittled by Auckland and Christchurch, Auckland is twice its size and is looked upon by other New Zealanders to be another place altogether so Wellington doesn't get the same tourism. Christchurch takes much of Wellington's glory as it is rapidly developing and serves as a industrial, residential and commerical hub for the whole south island, so although Wellington is significantly larger (Christchurch residents believe they are of equal size), Christchurch and Auckland create more attention than Wellington.

Despite this however, Wellington is well known for being a beautiful city which mixes a vibrant city centre with nature in such a small area. It is also renowned for being the base for Peter Jackson's recent movies, such as the Lord of the Rings series and King Kong. A lot of filming and special effects were done in the Wellington area.

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.

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. Also note that unusually, the large bay in Wellington is called '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 against potentially falling objects wherever you are. Afterwards, you can check the epicentre of latest quake with [Geonet].

Climate

Wellington is known as the Windy City. Since records began, the longest period without significant wind is less than three days. The prevailing wind is from the northwest but the strongest winds are southerly, which are generally accompanied by driving rain. The wind speed and direction can be told 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, while a tiny flag is flown when storms are forecast.

The temperature in Wellington rarely drops below 0 degrees Celsius, even on a cold winter's night, while daytime winter temperatures are rarely lower than 8 degrees Celsius. During summer, the daytime maximum temperature rarely gets above 23 degrees Celsius. Away from the seaside, in inland valleys, frosts of up to -10 degrees Celsius 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.

Get in

By air

Wellington International Airport is located at 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 harbour.

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 arrive about twice daily, though the evening flight arrives 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 landing. 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. Taxis and covered carparking are directly outside the domestic terminal.

By boat

There are regular ferries between Wellington and Picton, see www.interislander.com or www.bluebridge.com, connecting with buses and the train to Christchurch. Cruise ships from overseas often stop in Wellington.

By road

There are only two major roads into Wellington, but they are the top two: State Highways 1 & 2.

By train

There is a daily 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

Getting around the central city is easy on foot. The city is very compact and fairly pedestrian-friendly.

There are also plenty of buses some of which are electric trolley buses. You can buy an all day central Wellington Daytripper bus pass for $5 ($10 for up to 4 people). If you take a bus trip into the city suburbs, it will cost you about two or three dollars. Timetables and route maps at http://www.metlink.org.nz .

The train is the best form of public transport to use between the city and the Hutt Valley or Porirua. The easiest way to travel between the Hutt Valley and Porirua is usually to go by train via Wellington (and you don't save money by getting off at Kaiwharawhara).

If you are driving into Wellington on the weekend, metered car parking is free for two hours on Saturday, thre is no time limit on Sunday. The Lombard Parking and the James Smith parking buildings are no longer free on the weekends.

Taxis cost $2 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 are not as useless as they are in other countries and they do tend to arrive more or less when expected.

See

  • Mount Victoria. The best lookout in Wellington. The full 360degree 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.
  • 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.
  • Massey Memorial An interesting place to go if you want to see a large memorial in the middle of nowhere.
  • Frank Kitts Park. A great place to wander around, with walls to climb, inline skates, and jet ski rental.
  • The Wellington Cable Car, from Lambton Quay (next to the McDonalds), 04 472 2199, [2]. Open 7 days until 10pm. The easiest way to get a nice view of the city and harbour, the Cable Car runs on rails from Lambton Quay to the Botanic Gardens in Kelburn every ten minutes. $1.80 one way, $3.60 return (Concession prices are available for Children, Students and Senior Citizens over 65) Daytripper tickets are not valid for the Cable Car, despite what some bus drivers will tell you.

Currently, renovations are being performed on the Lambton terminal, and the hours have been cut back. Until about September, the last run will be at 7pm.

  • Karori cemetery is also an interesting picnic spot.
  • 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".
  • Te Papa. The national museum. It's worth a look if you're a museum kind of person. Free (except for the occasional special presentation). Particularly good if you have children to entertain on a rainy day. http://www.tepapa.govt.nz/
  • Karori Wildlife Sanctuary . 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 & fauna, safe from introduced predators. It can be seen from Wrights Hill above. http://www.sanctuary.org.nz/
  • Plimmer's Ark. Under and in the Old Bank Arcade on the corner of Lambton Quay and Willis Street - 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 the start of Lambton Quay.
  • National Library of New Zealand is on the corner of Aitken and Molesworth Streets. Across the road from the Cathedral and Parliament. The library regularly holds exhibitions. http://www.natlib.govt.nz/
  • Turnbull House on 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 Government Buildings, with the cenotaph in the foreground and NZ Post headquarters behind.
    Government Buildings opposite Parliament at 15 Lambton Quay. This is the largest wooden building in the southern hemisphere and the second-largest wooden building in the world. This restored wooden building is now the home to Victoria University Law School.
  • Old Saint Paul's, one block east of Parliament, was the Anglican centre for decades. Superseded by the new cathedral north of Parliament, the old 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 in Cuba Mall - a real splash, for many years. http://www.bucketfountain.co.nz/
  • If you are at all interested in books, you should not miss the city library. Its free entry and its huge with great places to just sit and read or if you bring your laptop to connect home via one of the city's paid-for wifi networks. The library can be found in the city square, next to the information centre.

Do

  • The Botanic Gardens are 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 the cable car 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 Gardens from, or wander back to the city.

  • Circa Theatre. http://www.circa.co.nz/
  • Bats Theatre. http://www.bats.co.nz/
  • Downstage Theatre. http://www.downstage.co.nz/
  • Beck's Incredible Film Festival. Incredibly strange, exploitation cinema and extra low budget movies.
  • Festival of the Arts. February/March every two years. Next festival is 2006
  • Comedy Festival.
  • Fringe Festival.
  • Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
  • Dance Music. http://obscure.co.nz/
  • 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 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. http://www.divewreck.co.nz/F69/Home.php

Eat

Wellington has a lot of restaurants and cafes, in fact Wellington has 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 but you usually get better quality in the suburbs.

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.

Malaysian:

  • 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.
  • Kopi Malaysian Espresso Cafe; 103 Willis Street - superb Malaysian cuisine.

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 is was voted best in Wellington.

Cafes:

  • Nikau at the Art Gallery (Civic Square). Startlingly good food and amazing service at reasonable prices.
  • Midnight Espresso - always open, and always has good coffee.
  • Fidel's cafe - a popular 'alternative' destination for a dessert and a coffee.
  • Expressoholic - centrally located but tends to have a lot of drunk people in the late evenings.
  • Ministry of Food - just up the road from parliament, what else can you call the place where the civil servants go to eat.

Lebanese kebabs:

  • Kebabaholic - Manners Mall
  • AbaKababra - a great place to eat quite cheap but very good kababs and lots of other things like lasanga or just veggy. You can find it in the Cuba-Street region.

Multicultural variety:

  • BNZ Centre Foodcourt - For a good lunch, there is a food court in the basement of the big black square tower on the corners of Willis, Willeston and Victoria Streets. There is Sushi, Indian, Greek, Turkish stalls, amongst others. There are few seats not taken at lunchtime, so you may want to just takeaway. Most of the stalls are closed by 2:30pm.

Fish and chips: Every suburb in Wellington has a good fish and chip shop. You just have to know which ones are the best.

  • Northland Fish & Chip Shop; 57 Northland Rd, Northland
  • 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

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 (Interestingly, 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 nonexistant or minimal. In some of the better clubs reasonable dress standards apply, however in the day the mood is usually extremely causal, with even barefeet occasionally accepted (a common kiwi choice on hotter days)

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.

Some of the popular bars on Courtenay Place include Shooters, Coyotes, Establishment, Kitty O'Sheas, and many more. Cuba Mall also features some cool and more alternative bars, including Good Luck Bar and The Matterhorn.

  • Blend bar and cafe, [3]. Blend bar provides the perfect atmosphere for relaxed dining, a social drink or a late night out in Wellington.

Sleep

  • Downtown Backpackers - Hotel Waterloo Opposite the Railway station. 1 Bunny St. (Cnr Bunny St. & Waterloo Quay.)
  • Museum Hotel - Hotel de Wheels Opposite Te Papa - Museum of New Zealand at 90 Cable Street. Freephone: 0800 994 335 [4] This hotel was moved to make way for the national museum, rather than being demolished.
  • Novatel Capital
  • Portland Hotel of Thorndon
  • YHA Backpackers 292 Wakefield St. (Cnr Cambridge Tce & Wakefield St. - Opposite the Fire Station.) Bookings: 0800 600 100 [5]

Stay safe

Typical in most New Zealand cities, Wellington is reasonably safe at night, however common sense should prevail. This is especially relevant on Friday and Saterday nights, as in any city.

Get out

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. Further afield, the South Wairarapa has become one of New Zealand's wine growing regions.

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!