Maranui – one of Wellington’s favourite cafes for both locals and tourists right on the waterfront
So, based on how much time you have, we have put together a few suggestions for what the best Wellington highlights and top attractions are. Read on and you will discover that this amazing city of approximately 400,000 is far more than just a ferry port stop-off en route to or from the South Island. You may not be a fan of metropolises – capital cities even less – but Wellington somehow manages to retain a small town charm while dishing up a hugely diverse choice for entertainment, dining, socialising, sight-seeing and shopping.
Most of all it is the warmth of Wellington’s welcome which draws people back time and again – none of your impersonal big city aloofness here – smiles are handed out by the bucket-load and random conversation with strangers is commonplace.
You can easily lose more than an hour or two wandering around Wellington’s beautiful waterfront – watching the watercraft drift by at a waterside café while sipping second-to-none coffee; ambling through the parks, taking in the sculptures or exploring the markets; treating yourself to ice-creams even though you’ve just had lunch at one of the many cafés or restaurants. Or you might be cooling down with a swim from upmarket Oriental Bay’s sandy beach or even renting a kayak – well depending on the time of year and weather that is.
The harbour area is also home to the country’s National Museum known as Te Papa or ‘Our Place’ and although we’ve crossed the threshold of this wonderful and widely acclaimed place many times we always feel there is more to see. The free entry Te Papa is essentially a celebration of New Zealand’s culture and identity which translates for us into an Aladdin’s cave of art, history, the natural world and seemingly endless treasures. If you give yourself a whole day here while on a Wellington visit it wouldn’t be enough.
Something else we never tire of is taking the opportunity to get high up above Wellington and drink in the stunning views on offer. One way to do this is by taking a ride in the historic cable car which departs every ten minutes from Lambton Quay. The Botanic Gardens and fascinating Carter Observatory are situated at the end of the ride but it is the views across the harbour and onto the Hutt Valley which draw you back time and again.
Mount Victoria is also visible from here and that is where you should try and head either on foot or by car, loaded down with a picnic basket of goodies, when the sun is shining. The panorama from Mount Victoria, which rises 196 m above the capital, is stunning at any time of day but sunset hour here is magical. The flashes of the sun playing on the ocean gradually die off as the shadows lengthen and are replaced by the twinkling lights of down-town Wellington.
Cuba Street – one of the most memorable streets you’ll ever go to
And while we still have the words quirky, chic and hip in mind we can’t help but mention Cuba Street – Wellington’s entertaining, beautifully bizarre and colourful little enclave of ‘anything goes’. Peopled by theatre, music and art crowds as well as the suited businessman having their lunch, Cuba Street presents a host of cafés tumbling out onto the pedestrianised street and from here you can have a perfect view of the day’s offering of street entertainers. For free you can watch a man making cars from balloons, listen to a ragtime band or be wowed by the talents of a street artist working in spray paints.
When it comes to satisfying thirst, hunger or just a particular culinary whim Wellington is the place to be. A widely bandied about statistic claims that self-proclaimed culinary capital Wellington has a thriving café culture. What’s more, the adjectives which describe them include such delights as quirky, chic, hip, award-winning and connoisseur. And should you enjoy a spot of live music as you sip your cocktail, savour your ‘flat white’, quaff your craft ale, dine at the heights of refined sophistication or casually snack amid retro décor then everything from jazz to DJs spinning the tables can be found.
One of many Wellington icons – Solace to the Wind
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