Wellington: 11 Reasons To Love New Zealand’s Capital

Of all the stops on our New Zealand road trip, Wellington wasn’t one of the ones I was most looking forward to. Since it’s the capital of New Zealand, I definitely wanted to check it out, but I think that’s why I was a little turned off by it, too. When I think New Zealand, I think endless scenic views complete with mountains, national parks, and sheep, not a capital city bustling with people and big buildings. However, upon driving into the “big city” I was immediately pulled in. For starters, the road in from Napier was terrifying as it curved in and around the side of a mountain with nothing but the occasional guardrail between me and a deadly drop-off – typical NZ – but those roads always seem to offer the best views. And much to my surprise, there was actually a four-lane highway as we got closer to Wellington. I hadn’t seen that many lanes in so long, I almost forgot how to merge, let alone while surrounded by cars. Luckily, driving in downtown Welly was nothing compared to downtown Chicago, so I lived to tell about it. After two days in Wellington, I couldn’t believe I ever doubted it. It really is the coolest little capital city, and here’s why I loved it.

  1. TE PAPA Museum       wellington

    • I’m usually not big on museums, but visiting Te Papa was a highlight of our trip. Not only is it free, but it’s an entire place dedicated to New Zealand, so it’s pretty easy to love.
    • Highlights include an earthquake simulation, a bush walk, colossal squid, and an entire floor about Maori culture and the history of NZ. There is so much to see, and each section is unique and interactive. Seriously, they have 3D movies, trivia games, a tree you can walk through-I could go on and on. Te Papa thought of everything. We spent about 2 hours exploring and easily could’ve spent 2 more.
  2. CABLE CAR                  wellington

    • If you know anything about Wellington, it’s probably the bright red cable car. Yes, it’s the most touristy thing to do, but you have to. I, myself, love a good lookout point, and taking a cable car to get there is just the cherry on top. (Plus, it’s only $4NZD)
  3. Botanical Gardens.

    • After you take the cable car up and snap some pictures of the view, you can enjoy the walk back down through the gardens, including a rose garden.
  4. Detour to Ascot Street.wellington

    • At the bottom of the gardens, you can take a little stroll to Ascot Street, which is a very steep winding road lined with vintage houses and adorableness.
  5. Shopping Lambton Quay

    • Conveniently you can loop right around from Ascot and shop Lambton Quay, one of the main streets in downtown Welly. There are a variety of shops, from souvenir stores to Kirkcaldie & Stains, their department store, complete with a doorman in a top hat. If you’re looking for gifts for people or a little something for yourself, Wellington is the perfect place.
  6. Cuba Street

    • No cars allowed. Great shops, great restaurants, great vibes. Need I say more?
  7. Brekkie

    • The best meal of the day, and Wellington is full of great options, yet another reason to check out Cuba Street. I liked Fidel’s. Any place that serves brunch till 4 is always a good idea. Try the Cuban Burrito or Baked Spanish Eggs. Also, Smith the Grocer is a must for coffee.
  8. Harbour                                           wellington

    • I’m partial to coastal cities because there’s just something about a boardwalk by the sea and sailboats anchored in the water. I just wish it would’ve been a bit warmer because I found plenty of places to jump in  – Wellington kind of caters to it with their planks and ladders.
  9. Going out on the town              wellington

    • Wellington has a great nightlife scene. Courtenay Place is the place to be after dark, and there are plenty of bars to choose from. I looked to Young Adventuress for some tips, and I second everything she recommended.
      • Motel: It looks like a motel. Crazy right? You have to push a button in order to enter. Following some stairs you open up to a cozy, island/tiki themed bar with some great cocktails and awesome decorations and seating areas.
      • The Library: You can probably figure this theme out on your own.
      • Alice: in Wonderland. Enjoy comfy leather chairs at the bar and sip on tea infused cocktails served in teapots and teacups. You can even watch the movie while you drink.wellington
  10. Very walk-able

    • Not sure if you noticed, but each site leads seamlessly from one to the next. You can walk and enjoy all the city has to offer no problemo. Our itinerary: We started off with breakfast on Cuba Street, made our way to the Cable Car to zip us to the top, strolled down the Botanical Gardens, explored Ascot Street, and wandered along Lambton Quay for some shopping before heading to Te Papa. Then, we enjoyed the harbor views and grabbed some dinner and drinks along Courtenay Place. All in a days work. And, while not exact, you can see that it’s a nice loop that takes just about an hour. Wellington is especially great if you only have a short amount of time!
  11. Still very New Zealand-y.wellington

    • It’s coastal, it’s hilly, houses sit up in the distance, it’s beautiful, not that you can expect anything less from this amazing country.

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