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A Wellington city guide – native culture, fine dining and famous films

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In recent years the New Zealand capital has really found its stride as a sophisticated hotspot of café culture and fine dining. The city certainly isn’t lacking a depth of history either, with traditional Maori art on display in its many galleries, and a scattering of world-class museums like the outstanding Te Papa Tongarewa. A sweeping coastline with native wildlife is on your doorstep, while nearby hills hide the film locations of some very famous productions.

Mike Watt

My Destination local expert on

Wellington (NZ)

Culinary capital


Wellington has a worldwide reputation for its excellent restaurant and café scene. Whether you’re after fine dining or a casual coffee, the city rivals many metropolises with its diverse bars and eateries – be sure to check out Oriental Bay and Cuba Street for some of the most exciting options. Local brews are also worth talking about, with Wellington the ‘Craft Beer Capital’ of New Zealand; sample tasty artisan beers every Sunday at the City Market. If wine’s your tipple of choice, be sure to plan a trip north to the Wairarapa wine region, a heaven for wine-lovers and known for its superb pinot noir.




Even if you’re not a Lord of the Rings fanatic, you’re probably aware that the epic trilogy was filmed entirely in New Zealand, with plenty of shots proclaiming the rural beauty of the Wellington area. With plenty of other big-name movies – such as Tintin, Avatar and The Hobbit – descending on the region, the city has gained the playful nickname of ‘Wellywood’. Guided tours from companies such as Wellington Rover Tours whisk film fans around the famous movie locations, while mini-museum Weta Cave is a treasure trove of props, collectables and film artwork.


Parks and wildlife


The fabric of Wellington City is attractively broken up by hilly parks and structured gardens. A ride on the Wellington Cable Car will take you through the green acres of Kelburn Park and conveniently to the edge of the wondrous Wellington Botanic Garden, where extensive rose gardens and thousands of tulips charm visitors in spring and summer. Just outside the city, the unique eco-sanctuary of Zealandia is a must-visit, with a chance to spot native species such as the Kiwi bird, forest parrot ‘kaka’, the long-tailed bat, and the prehistoric Maud Island frog.


History, culture and politics


Wellington isn’t just the capital of New Zealand – it’s the city that shows you what it means to be a Kiwi. Discover a depth of culture at New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa - this hugely interactive center includes Maori exhibits – or marvel at the maritime history of the city at Museum of Wellington City & Sea. Wellington is also home to the national government, with the distinctive beehive of the New Zealand Parliament Buildings open for tours – explore the key areas and learn how parliament works, all for free. Hankering after a little more history? Head to the gothic St. Paul’s Cathedral or the Colonial Cottage Museum in the Mount Cook neighborhood.