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Wellington Cruises

About Wellington, New Zealand

Hailed by many as the “coolest little capital in the world,” Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, enjoys a splendid setting. Nestled at the southwestern tip of the North Island, it enjoys views of Cook Strait and is ringed by the mountains of the Rimutaka Range. The Māori arrived on these shores around 1280, though local legend puts the mythological explorer Kupe here in the 10th century. It wasn’t until 1839 that the first Europeans landed here and developed their first settlement on the flat lands at the mouth of the Hutt River. Just 25 years later, the newly appointed Prime Minister of New Zealand moved the colony’s capital here from Auckland due to its more central location for the South Island.

Today, Wellington is the world’s southernmost capital city of an independent nation. Its history is embodied in its rich collection of architecture, from classic weatherboard wooden cottages and the clean lines of art deco to Edwardian and postmodern wonders. The city’s neoclassical Parliament House stands out and is listed as a Heritage New Zealand building for its history and cultural significance. The city hosts an array of arts and cultural institutions, including museums, symphonies, ballet and film.

Wellington Lifestyle and Culture

Welly, as the locals affectionately call their hometown, enjoys a singularly spectacular setting. Spread between soaring mountains and a stunning harbor, the capital city and its residents take full advantage of its natural beauty. Above, hilltop overlooks provide dramatic views while below, waterfront promenades lead evening strollers at the water’s edge. Rocky shorelines, numerous bays to the south and tranquil mountain walking and biking trails invite local Kiwis to spend their days exploring and being active in their great outdoors.

Downtown, a lively café and restaurant culture has taken hold. Many locals can think of no better way to end a day than at an outdoor café with a sea breeze and a glass of wine from a nearby vineyard. Wellington is also the keeper of many of New Zealand’s cultural treasures, from the National Library to the Archives, from the City Art Gallery to the Cable Car Museum. There’s no shortage of institutions that reveal the heritage and character of the capital and its beloved nation.

Several festivals further cement Wellington’s place as a Kiwi cultural center. Annual events celebrate jazz, arts for children, local cuisine, folklore, comedy, dance and more. In film circles, the city has earned the nickname “Wellywood” for its studios and production houses in the eastern suburb of Miramar, where Peter Jackson finalized his Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Wellington Sights and Landmarks

Wellington is home to some of New Zealand’s most inspiring architecture, from the 29-story postmodern Majestic Center to the charming 19th-century weatherboard houses of the Mount Victoria neighborhood. The city is dotted with elegant art deco treasures, Edwardian gems like the Public Trust Building and restored theaters such as the St. James, the Opera House and the Embassy. Among the city’s other notable structures, the Old Government Buildings comprise one of the largest wooden buildings in the world and locals refer to the nation’s parliament building as the “Beehive” for its stout conical shape.

Among Wellington’s churches, Old St. Paul’s could be the most interesting. Built in the 19th century, it is far less flamboyant than Europe’s grand houses of worship. Its Gothic Revival style was adjusted to the colonial conditions of a newly settled land, yet its modest exterior belies a lush vaulted interior. St. Mary of the Angels church is more extravagant, and more unique for it French-Gothic style rendered in a concrete exterior. The Sacred Heart Cathedral evokes a more classic look with its portico resembling a Roman temple. But one of New Zealand’s most significant churches is the Futuna Chapel; the first bicultural building in the nation, it was named for a Pacific Island and won the New Zealand Institute of Architects gold medal in 1968.

Wellington Entertainment and Activities

Wellington offers countless cultural attractions and engaging diversions. For splendid views of the city and its harbor, board the Wellington Cable Car to the Botanic Garden on the hillside. Back down in the city, explore the fascinating exhibits of the Museum of City & Sea, a richly engaging chronicle of the city’s past. Browse the galleries of Te Papa (Our Place), or the Museum of New Zealand, where culture and history merge into one unified collection. Or visit the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace, home of the nation’s most famous author.

Some of New Zealand’s finest wine country is in nearby Wairarapa through the Hutt Valley. Gently sloping hills and quiet lanes lead to inviting vineyards, where you can tour the vines and sample the latest vintage. Picturesque gardens and walking trails also dot this tranquil corner of the North Island. The coast holds its own beauty, with its rocky beaches lashed by waves and scenic overlooks.

Wellington Restaurants and Shopping

The cuisine of Wellington draws inspiration from Polynesia, Europe and Asia. But the city’s restaurants represent virtually every part of the world, from Malaysia to Turkey. Seafood is a staple, as are potatoes and kiwi. And the city’s café culture seems to never sleep. While you’re here, you’ll want to sample New Zealand’s national dessert, pavlova, a meringue topped with fruit.

The outdoor Beach Babylon is a bayside haven and a favorite among locals for its Kiwi cuisine and retro atmosphere. For a more refined experience and a choice of creative fare, head to Charley Noble, located in the beautifully renovated Huddart Parker building. Or splurge at what many say is Wellington’s finest, Logan Brown. The dining room is an old 1920s banking chamber and the menu will challenge everything you thought you knew about cuisine.

To shop alongside Wellingtonians, visit the Old Bank Shopping Arcade, where mosaic floors and Corinthian columns lead to high-end shops. For less flair and more tradition, try the Ora Gallery, home to vibrant contemporary art such as sculptures, textiles, glass and jewelry. Kura is another fine gallery with a focus on indigenous art.