The Best Things to See and Do in Miramar, Wellington

Make your way past the trolls and enter The Shire to discover a world of movie magic in the Weta Cave and Workshop
Make your way past the trolls and enter The Shire to discover a world of movie magic in the Weta Cave and Workshop | © Weta Workshop
Joe Varley

With a population of about 9,000, Miramar is a large 800ha (1,977-acre) peninsula southeast of the centre of Wellington. The small but lively community consists of suburban residential houses, recreational parks and retail outlets. Boasting great views, it is a highly desirable destination for those looking for an undisturbed time in the greater Wellington area.

Miramar is just to the north of Calabar Road (State Highway 1) and Wellington International Airport. It’s close enough to Wellington CBD to be classed as an inner-city suburb and comprises sandy beaches, hilltop scenery, celebrated cafés and restaurants. It’s also renowned for its links to the New Zealand film industry. Miramar is not to be missed and is rightly revered by its lucky residents.

1. Get historical at the first state house

Building, Historical Landmark

History buffs will enjoy taking a trip to Fife Lane to see the first state house, just to the east of Crawford Green. The house was completed in 1937 and officially opened by Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage. Marking the first of the Labour government’s state housing programme, Savage famously lifted a heavy table towards the house’s threshold, symbolising a unified government that was “for the people”. In the 1980s, it was registered with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust as a Category I heritage site, cementing its significance in the country’s history.

2. Watch a film at the Roxy

Cinema, Movie Theater

New Zealand North Island Wellington the Art Deco style cinema Roxy
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
Miramar is known as the movie capital of New Zealand, so what better place for one of the most famous buildings in the country? The Roxy Cinema was born in 1928 as the Capitol Theatre – a one-screen picture house showing silent films. In the 1960s, it closed its doors and became a shopping centre, before having a resurgence when it finally became the Roxy in 2011. Stylishly chic in its Art Deco design, the Roxy is owned by several of Wellington’s prominent residents, all of whom are film lovers. The cinema offers “Babies on Board” sessions every Tuesday morning to allow younger audiences to enjoy the unique atmosphere with parents and carers in comfortable surroundings. The Roxy is a true icon of New Zealand culture and well worth a visit.

3. Take a trip to the bays

Natural Feature

Picturesque view over Karaka Bay and Scorching Bay in Miramar, Wellington, North Island, New Zealand
© Joppi / Alamy Stock Photo
Not to be confused with Karaka Bay in Auckland, Karaka Bays is a stunning suburb on the northeast coast of the Miramar Peninsula. There are two prominent bays to visit: Karaka Bay and Scorching Bay, which has rocks to explore, green areas and a sandy beach for sunbathing. There are beautiful views of Wellington Harbour, with ferries regularly chugging along the clear waters. Lucky visitors may see orcas, and seals and other whales can be spotted in this quiet outer-city paradise.

4. Be inspired at Weta Cave and Workshop

Shop

Weta Cave Workshop Miramar 1
© Weta Workshop
Another must-see for film fans, the Weta Cave and Workshop ranks highly among lovers of the silver screen, including James Cameron, no less. It takes its name from the endemic insect species and is now considered to be one of the best facilities for film effects and designs. Whether you go on a tour, see the workshops, mingle with film professionals or peruse the merchandise, the Weta Cave is essential for all creative types and provides a genuine insight into the film industry. And, yes, there are numerous attractions to indulge the biggest Lord of the Rings and Peter Jackson fans.

5. Explore Centennial Reserve

Park

Cycle Forest
© Eerik Sandstrom / Unsplash

The great outdoors is what New Zealand has in abundance, and Centennial Reserve is a favourite destination for Wellingtonians who want to take a walk, cycle and relax with nature. Offering fabulous views and secluded tracks, walkers love this part of Miramar for its gentle gradients combined with more challenging verdant slopes. It’s ideal for mountain biking, with the Miramar Track Project being founded in 2009 by local riders in partnership with the Wellington City Council Parks and Gardens team. The reserve is also ideal for dog walkers – although the four-legged friends must be kept on a leash.

6. Ponder history at Fort Ballance

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

In the northeast section of the peninsula on Massey Road is Fort Ballance, a coastal fortification of historical and architectural importance. A prime example of a Kiwi coastal defence, it was constructed in 1885 and remained Wellington’s principal defence up to 1911. After its crucial use during World War I, it was brought into action again during World War II. Its significance is not lost on residents – and indeed the whole of New Zealand – capturing people’s admiration and remaining a focus of the community’s identity and history.

7. Release the hounds at Maupuia Park

Dog Park, Park

Evans Bay from Shelly beach Road Wellington
© Brian Scantlebury / Alamy Stock Photo

Walkers flock to Maupuia for its 360-degree views and wonderful scenery, and to burn off a bit of energy via the bike tracks (there’s even a children’s bike circuit) and a popular accessible walkway around the park. Follow the trail between Shelly Bay Road and Kaikoura Street. At about 1.5km (1mi) in length, it isn’t too demanding, and dogs are free to roam the paths and through the lush vegetation. It’s a real treat, even for an hour, and the sunsets are dreamy.

8. Relax over a coffee and a snack

Cafe, Australian, Contemporary

Keeping in line with the rest of the city, Miramar has a plethora of excellent cafés and restaurants. Littered with nostalgia, Scorch O Rama on Massey Road is a must-visit for supreme drinks. Another quirky essential stop-off is the Chocolate Fish Café on Shelly Bay Road, offering bagels, beer and burgers. Also, try Cafe Polo on Rotherham Terrace, and Taste of India on Devonshire Road for a late-evening butter chicken. Some of the best results transpire from no planning, so just explore the fabulous Miramar Peninsula because it won’t fail to please.

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