Welcome to Wellington – the little capital city with the big heart in the middle of New Zealand.
For those visiting the city it can provide a wide range of activities, including those connected with the performing arts, history, sports, politics and family fun.
If you are visiting by yourself or with the family this guide provides a planned day which can be completed almost entirely for FREE, with one or two additions at a minimal cost!
Start with a tour of parliament and the government buildings, located just up the road from the main railway station. The government buildings include the unique Beehive, and the tour incorporates a visit to both the library and the debating chamber. Tours leave on the hour, every hour and are completely free. If politics are an interest then you can also visit in the afternoons on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday and watch firsthand as the politicians debate the current issues. Your tour guide will be able to advise if the house is ‘sitting’ on the day you are visiting.
Once you have learned about our country’s politics, leave the grounds and head for the Bolton Street Cemetery, about 5 minutes walk away. This is one of the city’s original cemeteries and includes a footbridge that takes you across the motorway. Call into the little chapel to learn more of the cemetery’s fascinating history, including the re-interment of several early settlers after the cemetery grounds got in the way of progress and new roads.
Carry on to the top of the cemetery and you will find yourself at the Seddon Memorial, for early prime minister Richard Seddon, and this is also the start of the Wellington Botanical Gardens. First off are the Rose Gardens and you work your way up the hill through the different plants – native and from around the world, the duck pond, playground and the World Wildlife Fund treehouse. Stop for picnic along the way, or dine at the café in the rose area.
At the top of the Botanical Gardens you’ll find the iconic red Cable Car, a throw-back to the transport used when Wellington was a brand new city. The Cable Car takes people from the top of the gardens down to the main shopping street, Lambton Quay, for a small ticket price. Ride down or walk the loop track back to the Rose Gardens, and retrace your steps until you are back in Downtown Wellington.
Head to the waterfront and walk towards Mt Victoria. On the way you will find Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum. This modern museum has something for everyone, from fun rides and activities for the children, through to art galleries, national history and Maori/Pacific Island artifacts. A ‘must-do’ is the Golden Shears ride which is free and will be enjoyed by the entire family.
Complete your day with a meander round Oriental Bay, which provides wonderful views back towards the central city. Have dinner at one of the cafes, or head back to Courtenay Place where you will find restaurants representing every cuisine, as well as theatres, movie cinemas and the main part of Wellington nightlife!
Other activities in and around Wellington:
Located in the suburb of Newtown the zoo has transformed over the years from a traditional ‘iron bars and concrete floors’ type of place to a sanctuary with each section devoted to the needs and natural environment of each group of animals.
Part of the zoo visit includes the Kiwi House, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with our native bird, and The Nest Te Kohanga where zoo guests can watch the animal inhabitants receive medical care – both general check-ups and operations.
Kirkcaldie & Stains
New Zealand’s answer to London’s Harrods! Here you will find several floors of household items, giftware, children’s toys and a café where you can enjoy lunch. If you are visiting in December make a point of enjoying the Christmas grotto – and you may just see Santa Claus doing some Christmas shopping too!
Wellington is a city surrounded by hills and bush areas – which makes it a great place for walking and mountain biking tracks. Maps can be picked up from the Wellington information centre, located next to the Wellington Library, or online, and there are tracks and paths to suit the requirements of all family members, from those who like an easy stroll through to hard-core exercise enthusiasts!
About the author: Writer Amy Pratt is a born-and-bred Wellington girl, who is proud to call the Capital City home! Her favorite spot is the zoo, and she is always quick to dispute the notion that Wellington is the “windy city”!How to enjoy a free day out in Wellington,