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A compact city yet bursting with culture, Wellington is a cosmopolitan destination jam-packed with treats. Sitting on the southernmost point of New Zealand’s North Island, the country’s capital city is famous for its glittering harbor, sandy beaches, and rolling hillsides, as well as a downtown district buzzing with theaters, museums, and boutiques. The city stays fueled with craft beer, great coffee, and a hard-to-beat food scene—in fact, Wellington boasts more bars, cafes, and restaurants per capita than even New York City. Whether you want to soak in the sights from the height of the botanic gardens, go winetasting in the picturesque countryside, or dive into the cultural heritage of the region at the Te Papa Museum, there’s no end to the fun to be had in this vibrant destination.
Central Business District — Sitting along the shore of Lambton Harbour, the city’s central business district is broken up into 2 neighborhoods—Wellington Central to the north and Te Aro to the south.
Kelburn — To the west of the central business district, the hillside neighborhood of Kelburn is famous for its spectacular views of the city and harbor. Here, in the 62-acre (25-ha) botanic garden, find walkways, lawns, and playgrounds, as well as the Space Place, a science museum featuring interactive museums and planetarium shows.
Mount Victoria — To the east of Te Aro, the district of Mount Victoria is within walking distance of entertainment options but is quieter than the central part of the city. Along with the charming Victorian houses that dot the hillside, the district’s main attraction is the Mount Victoria Lookout. Head here to take in sights of the sparkling harbor from the height of 643 feet (196 m) above sea level.
Newtown — The diverse district of Newtown lies to the south of Mount Victoria and is where you’ll find some of the best ethnic eateries in the city. The neighborhood is also home to the Wellington Zoo, which features more than 100 species of animals from around the globe.
Oriental Bay — Sitting between Mount Victoria and the Lambton Harbour, Oriental Bay is a popular beach destination for locals and visitors alike. In the warmer months, the neighborhood becomes a hotspot of activity, with tons of swimmers, sunbathers, skaters, and party-goers.
Soak in the city sights from various lookouts scattered throughout Wellington Botanic Garden. From Lambton Quay, board the old-timey cable car for a scenic ride from the city center to the top of the hill. Upon arrival, gaze out upon panoramic views of the region, including Mount Victoria and the Hutt Valley across the harbor. Once there, enjoy everything else that the park has to offer. Stroll the tree-lined streets to admire 62 acres (25 ha) of native forests, tropical plants, rose gardens, and seasonal displays.
Get acquainted with the unique species of New Zealand on a visit to Zealandia Ecosanctuary. Explore the biodiversity of the sprawling reserve and see of some of the world’s rarest creatures, from bellbirds and spotted kiwis to tuatara reptiles and giant wetas. For more animal introductions, leave the city and head to Palliser Bay, where the North Island’s largest colony of fur seals can be seen sunning themselves on the rocks.
Uncork the secrets of North Island winemaking in the pastoral expanse of the Wairarapa Valley. Sip your way through the region as you visit 4 esteemed wineries, sampling spicy pinot noir and stylish chardonnay. If beer is more your taste, uncover the booming brew scene in Wellington with stops at 4 of the city’s best watering holes. Kick back with a frosty pint of rich porter or hoppy IPA as you get an inside look at the brewing process.
Dive into the fantastical world created by Lord of the Rings on a journey into Middle-Earth. Visit the real-life locations used for sites such as the Gardens of Isengard and the Rivendell realm as you learn behind-the-scenes secrets from filming. Cap off your tour with a visit to the Weta Workshop, the production company famous for bringing Tolkien’s creations to life. Here, see props, costumes, and weapons used in the movies, as well as others such as Avatar and District 9.