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I’ll be honest: Wellington, New Zealand is one of the most amazing cities I’ve ever been to. I mean there are so many different things to do to suit a variety of preferences—whether that means getting your hands a little dirty outside in nature or sticking more to the creature comfort side of things.
Quite literally, there’s something for everybody! I’ve broken things up into five categories – otherwise known as the top five reasons to visit Wellington. I hope these resonate with you because all I could think of as I was writing was how badly I want to plan a return trip!
1. The Food Scene
Fun fact: according to the New York Times, Wellington has more dining establishments per capita than New York City—a pretty impressive feat, if you think about it! The first thing that makes this city top tier when it comes to the cuisine is the sheer variety; you can find pretty much anything and everything here, from ethnic dishes (often made in immigrant-family-owned restaurants, so you know they’re the real deal) to creative vegan fare, to some of the world’s freshest and most diverse seafood.
For the latter, check out the Chocolate Fish Café or the Ortega Fish Shack. This is also *the* place to try pāua, a rare type of shellfish native to the rocky New Zealand coastlines. It’s expensive, but an authentic Wellington experience.
The city is also known for its craft beer—a growing industry in New Zealand—with over two dozen craft breweries scattered throughout Wellington. Garage Project is a more innovative place to try homegrown brews (like the beer brewed using volcanic rocks!), while Beervana has more than 200 local, national, and international beers on tap.
The cliff notes: Wellington is a foodie’s paradise. As a starting point, if you find yourself on or around Cuba Street, you’re right in the thick of some of the city’s best eateries.
2. Killer Natural Scenery
Have you seen Lord of the Rings? In case you didn’t know, pretty much the entire movie was filmed against the jaw-dropping natural landscape of New Zealand—no CGI needed! New Zealand is also known for its vast range of landscapes – glaciers, fjords, jagged mountain ranges, volcanic peaks, sweeping green plains, and even some of the world’s most stunning sandy beaches. And the beauty of a country this size is that you’re never too far away from an outdoor adventure.
Wellington is centrally located for so many different kinds of terrain adventures. For instance, if you’re hoping for a laid back winery day, the Wairarapa region is less than an hour’s drive from the city centre. Alternatively, an hour’s drive in the opposite direction gets you to the departure point for the ferry to Kapiti Island, known for its colorful bird habitats, stunning forests, and (extremely on-brand with the times) a capped visitor number.
If hiking is your thing and you’re slightly more experienced, just north of the city is Tararua National Park. This is a stunning mountain range perfect for adventure hikers or those who want to camp.
And these are just within an hour of the city! If you’ve got a car and a little extra time, you can go beyond what I’ve mentioned above and see even more of the North Island.
3. An Awesome Café Culture
The city has more than 300 cafés—that’s a lot of coffee! True, Wellington cafés pride themselves on the quality of their roasts, so the café culture isn’t just for show—they really walk the walk. Some of the top cafés include Fidel’s, L’affare, Floriditas (actually better-known for its bakery, but the coffee deserves a mention too!), and Best Ugly Bagels, where you can get amazing house-made bagels with their specialty, Havana-style coffee.
If you’re a digital nomad or do any kind of remote work, you probably spend a lot of time in cafés—so make a mental note of these Laptop Friendly Cafes in Wellington when you’re looking for the next place to post up for a few hours while you work.
4. An Abundance Of Museums
Yet another reason to fall in love with Wellington – it’s got some pretty awesome museums, and a lot of them! Several are free of charge, but even the ones with entry fees are well worth a little spend to get inside. Arguably the biggest and most popular is the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum (which translates to Container of Treasures). This museum is the merger of the National Museum and the National Art Gallery. It focuses on key facets of New Zealand heritage, much of which is rooted in Maori ancestral culture. Entry is free!
Then there’s the Expressions Whirinaki Arts and Entertainment Centre, an entertaining, interactive museum with an ever-changing array of exhibits.
Don’t miss out on the Cable Car Museum, the Wellington City Museum (with a fascinating history of the city), and the Petone Settlers Museum, which examines the first settlers in this area of the city.
The final reason to visit Wellington that I’m going to list is simply accessibility. I covered this a little bit in the section on natural scenery, but to recap here, Wellington is located in an ideal geographical area.
Firstly, on a more fundamental level, the city is incredibly easy to navigate thanks to public transport. The neighborhoods of the city are linked by a comprehensive public transport system that includes buses, commuter trains, ferries, and a funicular (like a cable car, and a fun thing to do while you’re there!). If you’re planning to stay a few days, you don’t have to rely on taxis to get around town; the transit is easy and can get you within walking distance of all the spots you want to see.
Secondly, there’s the proximity to nature. You have the luxury of being in a large metropolitan area, with all the creature comforts that come along with that, but you’re less than an hour from quieter natural areas like mountain ranges, fjords, sandy beaches and breathtaking glaciers. So, if you decide you need a little escape for a few days, as long as you can snag a rental car, a short camping trip or even just a day hike is barely an hour away.
Third, Wellington is a gateway to the south island. New Zealand comprises two islands, a north and a south. Wellington is located at the southern tip of the North Island; it’s the place to catch the ferries that travel to the NZ South Island, opening up a whole new area to explore.
Wellington is a Wonderful Capital City to Visit
There’s so much more to Wellington than can be covered in this post. The cuisine, the attractions, and the natural scenery together are key factors of why this city is so wonderful, but there’s a sense of community that isn’t always present in a city of this size.
Wellington is so welcoming that even first-timers will never want to leave. From the second you arrive, you will be enchanted by all that Wellington has to offer. I actually know many people who came for a visit and stayed for over a year! Once you arrive, it’s truly difficult to leave, which is why Wellington is one of my favorite places in this corner of the world. I hope you love it as much as I did!