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Wellington, New Zealand

Great Destination:

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • Peter Jackson, director of “The Lord of the Rings,” hails from Wellington.
  • New Zealand was the first country to grant women the vote (1893).
  • Some Maori know Wellington by another name: Te Whanganui-a-Tara.
  • The Thistle Inn in suburban Thorndon is New Zealand’s oldest surviving tavern (1840).
  • An 1855 earthquake raised some parts of Wellington’s coastline by about five feet.

The southernmost capital

The Maori viewed New Zealand’s North Island as a great fish, a rich source of food and a livelihood. Wellington, the world’s southernmost capital, is located at the fish’s head, in a charming natural harbor at the south end of the island a few miles across Cook Strait from South Island.

The city, with around 200,000 inhabitants, is sometimes compared with San Francisco because of the harbor, plus the hills that stretch off into the horizon, hills that are dotted with a goodly number of colorful Victorian houses. Wellington is New Zealand’s performing arts capital, as well as political capital. It also is the country’s busiest port city.

No city looks as it did when first settled, but since its founding in 1840, Wellington’s terrain has changed quite a lot. First, there was New Zealand’s strongest recorded earthquake (8.2 magnitude) in 1855, which lifted the coastline and converted the island of Miramar into a peninsula. Over the years since, Wellington has reclaimed hundreds of acres of land to gain space between the hills and the sea. Lambton Quay, which was the settlers’ beachfront, is now several blocks from the harbor. Significant numbers of government and business buildings sit on reclaimed land.

Wellington’s city planners have shaken the place plenty, too, with a major urban restructuring beginning in the 1970s. A swatch of Victorian buildings fell to the wrecking ball, to be replaced by modern high-rises, said to be better fit to resist the ravages of an earthquake.

This has been followed by considerable work refurbishing surviving historic sites, such as the wharf, and creating pleasant public spaces that invite entrepreneurs to open the cafes and shops that enliven a city.

Essentially, Wellington is a pretty city in a pretty setting where visitors can take pleasure in water-based activities within or beyond the harbor. Other pleasures include outdoor activities in town or the area’s hills, observing wildlife in nature reserves, wining and dining in style and attending theater or other shows. Wellington’s mix of attractions appeals most to those in the middle of the personality scale.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Stay at New Zealand’s oldest hotel, the Shepherd’s Arms, and have a drink at its oldest tavern, the Thistle Inn, both in Thorndon, the country’s oldest suburb.
  • If a bird-watcher, head to Kapiti Island Nature Reserve (by boat from Paraparaumu Beach) to see some very rare winged critters. Then, take on one of the island’s challenging hiking trails.
  • Pedal through the native bush of Makara Peak, a mountain bike park.
  • Paddle, in a rented sea kayak, around the bays of Wellington’s Lambton Harbor.
  • Combine your love for wine and the outdoors: Explore the wine village of Martinborough by bicycle.
  • Go diving in and around Wellington. Make yourself useful, too, and participate in underwater trash removal in Wellington’s harbor.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Join a guided walking tour of the city for an informative look around the government buildings.
  • Visit market gardens and take a cooking class.
  • For drop-dead lovely scenery, allot several hours for a drive along Marine Drive.
  • Take a boat to Days Bay; enjoy the seaside cafes and crafts shops there before returning to city center.
  • See a colony of New Zealand fur seals on the south coast, accessible on a four-wheel-drive tour.
  • Visit wineries in the Wairarapa region, a bit more than an hour out of town, and sample the product.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Take the cable car up Kelburn Hill to visit the city’s renowned Botanic Gardens.
  • Work in a golf game at Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club.
  • Sample the city’s theatrical offerings: See a show.
  • Join a themed guided tour that lets you visit “Lord of the Rings” filming sites in and around the city.
  • Get a grounding in the New Zealand story by spending some quality time at Te Papa, the country’s national museum. For more local information, add the Museum of Wellington to your itinerary.
  • Get your best views of the city and its harbor from Mount Victoria or Tinakori Hill.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Positively Wellington Tourism at www.WellingtonNZ.com