Wellington is a multi-faceted jewel of a city with a lot going for it. There are restaurants, cafes, museums and galleries galore. For those in need of a little retail therapy there are some fabulous shops along Cuba and Manners Malls, and some high-end boutiques on Lambton Quay. For those with an affinity for the ocean blue you can fish, dive, surf and spear-fish all around the area. There’s a botanic garden to meander around, a waterfront to stroll pensively along, and winding hill roads to cruise.
Basically it has something for everyone, whether your a foodie, keen on a cycle around the bays or wanting to watch the sun rise over the hills after a night of sending your neurons off to slaughter in some of the city’s nightclubs. When you just need some serenity though, take a peak at our guide to discover some of Wellington’s most beautiful spots.
Mount Victoria Lookout
Mount Victoria Lookout makes it onto the list of everybody that comes to Wellington for any significant amount of time. The reason for this is simple: the walk up from the centre of the city is about half an hour, and fairly gentle going. How many countries in the world can you stroll from the very middle of the capital city, and 30 minutes later be in the centre of a grassy glade in which stands a giant oak tree with a brilliant rope swing hanging from one of its boughs? Probably hardly any. The view is lovely, as you’d expect, especially as the sun is shutting up shop for the day and the lights of the city start twinkling on.
49 Lookout Rd, Hataitai, +64 4-802 4860
This bay is beautiful in its own right, but it’s the community and everything that surrounds it that makes it particularly special. On a fine summer day the water is crystal clear, and lying out on the sand is absolute bliss. You’re only a 10-minute drive from Wellington city yet it feels like you’re miles away. It’s sheltered, which means there is protection from that pervasive Wellington wind that is always lurking and ready to spring up in the capital. It also means that it’s a great spot to take a dip and cool off on a roasting day. When things get too hot, there’s Scorch-O-Rama cafe, which is a standout eating establishment, not just in this part of town, but in the whole Wellington region. Add the native bush that cradles the bay like a cupped hand, and you have a place that you can happily spend the whole day at.
Wellington Botanic Garden
This is another one that makes its way onto everyone’s list of things they must do. There’s lot to love at the Botanic Gardens. The gardens themselves are exemplary, and you can lose a couple of hours if you just switch off the old noodle and follow your feet. Grab an ice-cream and think of nothing in particular as you gaze out over the city. Practically speaking, it’s a good place, up there on the hill, to get your bearings, and to form a mental map of the city which you can (hopefully) refer to when you’re back on the streets.
101 Glenmore St, Kelburn, Wellington, +64 4-499 1400
This is a brilliant and must-see eco-sanctuary located in the hills of Karori. Strangely, it is one that a lot of Wellingtonians take for granted, but they really shouldn’t. Set around a stupidly picturesque reserve, visitors can spend anywhere from a couple of hours to a whole day exploring the surrounding park. There are plenty of trails to explore, and everyone from all fitness levels will find things to entertain them here. The main reasons for visiting here for many are the animals and flora. You’ll be able to – with a bit of luck – spot many of the species that are unique to NZ.
53 Waiapu Road, Karori, +64 4-920 9213
It’s impossible not to see Mount Kaukau from Wellington. This is the highest point that you can make out from the city and, if you’re still in doubt, it’s the hill with the enormous television transmitter stuck on the top. Whilst this might not be aesthetically pleasing in any sense of the word, when you’re on the hill and taking in the ripper view, you won’t see it at all. Because you’ll be under it. The walk itself is easily navigable with several trails leading to the top from different starting points, and only takes an hour. The panorama actually encompasses the city and harbour, Hutt Valley, the Tararua Range, Porirua and – on a clear day – the South Island!
Simla Cres, Khandallah, +64 4-499 4444
This is another lesser known place where you can soak up some rays on the sandy beach and take advantage of the clear waters on a hot a day. There’s a rocky point up the beach, ideal for those with kids as there are plenty of rock-pools to explore and poke around. If you fancy lighting a fire or an open barbecue you’ll need a fire permit, but if you’re planning on making a day and night of it then this is definitely worth doing. There’s a bit of driftwood and the rocky outcrop provides good shelter and natural seating.
If you fancy taking a bit of a directionless stroll then head down to the waterfront. Once you hit the water just ankle along and take in the sights, grab an ice-cream or coffee and generally relax. This is people-watching paradise. There are always heaps of folk making the most of this beautiful area, walking dogs, jogging, drawing or just hanging about. There are plenty of great bars where you can grab a frosty one and gaze over the harbour, and a selection of top-notch restaurants where you can wrap yourself around some fresh seafood.