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Looking for tips on what to do in Wellington?
As part of our city guides series, we interviewed Amanda Williams who spent 5-months living in Wellington on a study abroad program.
Amanda shares with us her insider Wellington travel tips and knowledge on what to do in Wellington for those looking for the best places to see, eat, stay, drink, and explore.
Despite most people skipping Wellington on their visits to New Zealand (Queenstown and Auckland seem to always hold more sway for some reason), there really is a TON to do here.
My highlights would include:
As I mentioned above, Bohemian Cuba Street would be my top area to hang out in within central Wellington. Other great neighborhoods include:
Really, though, Wellington is so small and compact that you don’t have to go very far to experience different neighborhoods.
Wellington is known as New Zealand’s “cultural capital” for good reason – there is no shortage of great cafes and restaurants of all sorts here.
Whether it’s Turkish kebabs, Japanese noodles, Italian pizza, French bistros, American burgers, or even Mexican fare, you’ll find it in Wellington.
For the best assortment of international restaurants, head to Cuba Street and the surrounding area.
Some I’d recommend include:
The true foodie may also want to check out the offerings at Zest Food Tours for a true Wellington food experience.
Being close to the Wairarapa wine region, Wellington has some great wine bars along with its pubs and cocktail bars.
Courtenay Place and Cuba Street are probably the two main spots to go for those looking for a night out, with dozens of places to choose from.
If you want something with even more atmosphere, the Hawthorn Lounge on Tory will take you back to the 1920s with is gentlemen’s club-style and big-band music.
And, if you want a truly unique location, check out Mighty Mighty on Cuba Street, where hipsters and indie artists converge in a kitsch-filled bar where anything can happen.
Seriously, you may find everything from burlesque dancers to tarot card readers here.
Definitely Courtenay Place or Cuba Street (see the bars/pubs answer above).
Courtney Place is where you’ll find many of Wellington’s nightclubs and cocktail bars all within walking distance from one another, and places like Bodega (on Ghuznee), The Fringe Bar (on Cuba) and the San Francisco Bath House (also on Cuba) are known for live music and occasional live comedy.
Wellington has plenty of great hotels, and also quite a few hostels for the budget-minded traveler.
For those searching for true luxury, check out the InterContinental Wellington (the only 5-star hotel in the city), the Bolten Hotel (a luxury boutique hotel near Parliament), or the Museum Hotel (a luxury boutique hotel perfect for the art lover near Te Papa).
Lambton Quay is Wellington’s most popular shopping area, with a variety of shops and boutiques at all price levels.
As for markets, check out the City Market (indoors) every Sunday morning near the waterfront, and the Harborside Market (outdoors) on the same day.
At both, you can see the work of local artisans, and buy fresh produce and hot food. Both are a great way to get acquainted with Wellington’s food scene.
New Zealand in general is not incredibly wi-fi friendly, but Wellington is perhaps the friendliest city in the country thus far.
As well as free wi-fi being offered at all McDonalds locations and a handful of cafes, the city also offers free wireless Internet along the Waterfront.
Probably the most popular event in Wellington each summer (February) is the Wellington Sevens rugby tournament.
Rugby is New Zealand’s national sport, but the Wellington Sevens are more about the socializing/partying than the rugby. For this event, people dress up in ridiculous costumes and party all night in the streets.
You can also catch film festivals, arts festivals, and even fashion events in Wellington – it really does have it all.
Wellington is SUPER walkable, thanks to it being quite compact. You could easily get by with just your feet as transportation if you really enjoy walking.
If not, though, Wellington also has a great bus system that’s pretty affordable. If you’re going further (into the remote suburbs or to other cities), there are also trains.
The most popular day trip out of Wellington would be going to the nearby Wairarapa wine region to tour wineries and enjoy some of the region’s great pinot noirs.
I would also suggest heading up to the beautiful Kapiti Coast (an hour by train from Wellington to Paraparaumu). Here, consider planning a visit to the bird sanctuary on Kapiti Island if you’re a nature lover.
Unlike some New Zealand cities that have specific “seasons,” Wellington doesn’t really have a “best” time to visit, since there are things going on year-round.
If you want to catch the best weather, though, you probably want to visit in the summer (though it should be noted that the weather in “Windy Welly” can be unpredictable any time of year!).
You can “do” Wellington in 2-3 days, but I’d suggest 4-5 to really get to know it, and so you can make at least one day trip outside of the city.
If you’re coming from another country, you’ll most likely want to look to Air New Zealand for flights.
For traveling to/from Wellington from inside NZ, check out Air NZ’s Grabaseat site, where you can often nab incredible deals.
Other modes of transports include buses, trains, and the Interislander Ferry, which travels from the South Island town of Picton to Wellington (and vice versa) multiple times each day.
In Wellington, the “touristy spots” really aren’t that touristy at all, so this question is slightly difficult to answer.
I guess my “insiders tip” would be to make sure you visit!! Wellington is much better than a lot of guidebooks make it out to be.
Although it’s a world capital, I also feel like Wellington is one of the South Pacific’s best-kept secrets!
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BIO – Amanda is a small-town Ohio girl with some big travel dreams and aspirations. Whether it’s roadtripping across America or hiking on glaciers in New Zealand, she’s ready for any adventure, be it on the other side of the globe or just around the corner. Follow her journey on her blog, A Dangerous Business, on Twitter @DangerousBiz, or on Facebook.
Do you have tips on what to do in Wellington?
Share in the comments.
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