Introduction

On a sunny, windless day, Wellington is up there with the best of them. For starters it’s lovely to look at, sitting on a hook-shaped harbour ringed with ranges that wear a cloak of snow in winter. Victorian timber architecture laces the bushy hillsides above the harbour, which resonate with native birdsong.

As cities go, it's really rather small but the compact nature of the downtown area gives it a bigger-city buzz and, being the capital, it's endowed with museums, theatres, galleries and arts organisations completely disproportionate to its size. Wellingtonians are rightly proud of their kickin' caffeine and craft-beer scene, and there's no shortage of beard-wearing, skateboard-lugging, artsy types doing interesting things in old warehouses across town.

Sadly, windless days are not the norm for Wellington. In New Zealand the city is infamous for two things: its frequent tremors and its umbrella-shredding, hairstyle-destroying gales that barrel through regularly.

Daily Costs

Budget: Less than $150

  • Dorm bed: $23-40
  • Bowl of noodles or a kebab: $10–15
  • Entry to Te Papa or Mt Victoria Lookout: free!
  • Local bus or train ticket: $2–5

Midrange: $150–300

  • Double motel room: from $130
  • Main course in a midrange restaurant: $15–32
  • Local live band: $10
  • Short taxi trip: $10–20

Top end: More than $300

  • Double room in a top-end hotel: from $200
  • Three-course meal in a classy restaurant: $80
  • Long night drinking in the bars and clubs: $100
  • Harbour sailing trip: $40

Highlights

  • Mt Victoria Lookout Getting an eyeful of downtown Wellington and the harbour below, and a lungful of hilltop air.
  • Zealandia Becoming better acquainted with native bush and birds in this groundbreaking ecosanctuary just west of town.
  • Downtown drinking Chasing nocturnal fun along Cuba St and Courtenay Pl.
  • Wellington Botanic Gardens Riding the ratchety cable car up from Lambton Quay to explore this hilly but tranquil expanse.
  • Wellington Museum Time tripping through the city's history, with a pause to meet its resident vampires.
  • Shopping on Cuba St Shopping for vintage threads and classic albums.
  • New Zealand Parliament Touring the hallowed halls of governance.
  • Embassy Theatre Catching a flick at this restored cinematic beauty.