Wellington is New Zealand’s capital city. It is a complete contrast to the sprawling urban mass that constitutes Auckland.
Wellington is a visitor-friendly, upbeat, compact city, which can claim to be the world’s southernmost capital. It offers the visitor far more than a look at New Zealand’s parliamentary democracy in action.
Adopting slogans like ‘Absolutely, Positively Wellington’ the city proudly proclaims itself as confident and progressive. It is also known as the ‘Creative Arts and Cafe Capital of New Zealand’. Here you will find a palpable sense of energy and vibrancy. This is a truly cosmopolitan city firmly established as a go-ahead visitor playground, taking centre stage as the doyen of New Zealand’s heritage, culture and creative arts.
The city has good reason to promote its physical advantages - a sparkling harbour encompassed by rolling hills, superb native forest and beaches. Wellingtonians are motivated residents with a positive outlook on life. Sure, brisk southerly winds may upturn umbrellas at times, but living on the windswept cusp of Cook Strait instils character and enterprise in its residents and certainly ensures that they enjoy an unpolluted environment.
Wellington has developed four downtown districts each with a very distinctive character. The Lambton Quarter is an intensive shopping scene with elegant department stores, chain stores and boutiques. The Willis Quarter is focused on lifestyle shopping, and it is here that the city and seascapes merge. The Cuba Quarter embraces a funky community spirit with its alternative lifestyle shopping and pavement cafes. The Courtenay Quarter is renowned as Wellington’s entertainment centre, drawing crowds of late night revellers to its lively cafes, bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
All this diversity is neatly packed within a compact two kilometres of city streets, which stretch south from the railway station to Courtenay Place. The visitor is thus able to indulge in retail therapy, artistic appreciation, scenic vistas, nightclub pleasures and gastronomic delights all within a short walk of downtown hotels. This intimate ‘village’ atmosphere is one of the capital’s most enduring charms. Waterfront rambles and Town- Belt bush walks are also only minutes from the CBD. The airport is a mere 15 minutes drive away.
Wellington has a well-earned reputation as an entertainment and cultural centre. You can find some of the New Zealand’s best theatres, galleries, restaurants, bars and cafes here. The choice of authentic ethnic restaurants and cafes is mind-boggling. In fact with around 400 eating establishments, Wellington has a higher concentration than New York on a per capita basis.
The city is home to the Royal New Zealand Ballet, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, four professional theatres and national opera, drama, dance and musical groups. Museums include the national treasure, Te Papa, a world class interactive museum that epitomises the pioneering spirit and ‘can-do’ attitude of Kiwis. An exciting time to visit Wellington is during February and March when the city hosts three festivals - Fringe Festival, Festival of the Arts and Dragon Boat Festival.
Beyond the city limits, day-trippers can take in an astounding variety of bush and beach scenes. You can seek out remote mountain wilderness areas for hiking, hunting or fishing. Adventure safaris in 4WD vehicles can guide you to rugged coastal seal colonies. Ferries can whisk you away to an island wildlife sanctuary in the inner harbour.
North of the city, the Kapiti Coast is a popular recreational playground. Some of New Zealand’s leading vineyards are just over the Rimutaka hill in the Wairarapa district. Wellington is the northern terminal of the Cook Strait interisland ferries. It is also a vital transport hub for airline, rail and road operations between the North and South islands.