10 Things to Do in Wellington: The Capital of New Zealand

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The City of Wellington serves as the capital of both New Zealand and the whole Wellington region that encompasses Wairarapa and the Kapiti Coast. The city is one of the most populous in New Zealand coming second only to Auckland. It's also widely regarded as the windiest city worldwide with average wind speeds of over 25 kilometers per hour. The city features a waterfront, pristine sandy beaches, along with a harbor surrounded by stunning hills. It's a fairly compact city making it easy for visitors to explore its streets in detail. Despite its relatively small size, the city has a wealth of attractions including museums, art galleries and theaters.

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10 Things to Do in Wellington: The Capital of New Zealand:table of contents

1. Wellington Zoo

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The Wellington Zoo is New Zealand's main animal sanctuary and has been in existence for over a century. Located in the green belt of the capital, it's home to a variety of different species from around the world. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it offers the chance to get up close and personal with animals in different immersive experiences for visitors that offer a variety of fun activities and demonstrations. Some of the most popular include close encounters with red pandas, lemurs, giraffes, cheetahs and lions.

The zoo also engages in conservation programs for endangered species such as the Sumatran tiger and sun bear. There is also an animal clinic where visitors can observe and interact with veterinarians as they care for the different animals.

2. Space Place at Carter Observatory

The Space Place housed in the world-renowned Carter Observatory offers visitors a chance to explore the wonders of the universe. You'll find a wide array of activities that are both entertaining and informative. These include a fully digitized dome planetarium that has customized shows for all age groups along with various interactive galleries where you can learn about past space exploration missions.

The Tuhura Space Module is also highly popular, enabling visitors to experience the feeling of being in a spaceship. At the Matariki Theatre, visitors learn the importance of Matariki, an astronomical event that marks the New Year for the indigenous Maori people. Through stories, visitors learn how the Maori used stars for navigation across the Pacific Ocean.

3. The Wellington Cable Car Museum

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The Cable Car in Wellington has a length of 612 meters running from the main shopping area in the city, Lambton Quay to the hilly suburb of Kelburn. The trip takes about five minutes and has been a mainstay of the city for over a century. Rising about 120 m, the ride offers visitors a wonderful view of the city and the surrounding hillside. It's also an easy way to access other famous attractions in the city such as the Cable Car Museum housed in the original winding house of the cable cars. The museum is set on two floors, and offers visitors a glimpse into the history of the city’s most iconic transportation system. Its exhibits include the 'Relentless Red Rantler’ cable car used from the 1950s to the late 1970s.

4. Mount Victoria Lookout

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Mount Victoria is a lovely spot to take in the breathtaking panoramic view of the city and its harbor. It's also a popular spot for plane spotting as you can view them take off and land at the airport below. For the perfect afternoon, take a picnic and relax while enjoying the beautiful scenery of the city with friends and family. To get there, you can either drive or hike up to the top.

5. Old St. Paul’s

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A wooden cathedral located in the midst of the city, Old St. Paul’s was built in the 1860s in a Gothic Revival architectural style. Although it no longer serves as a parish church, the spot is a popular tourist attraction and is often used for various special occasions. Situated within walking distance from the waterfront and Lambton Quay shopping district, guided tours are available although you can also just explore the cathedral at your own leisure. Its beauty both on the outside and the the impressive wooden interior is a rare sight and one that ought not to be missed while in Wellington.

6. Zealandia

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Zealandia is a 225-hectare wildlife sanctuary with a vision to restore the Wellington ecosystem to its original state. As the only urban eco-sanctuary in the world that is fully-fenced, it's home to over a thousand different species of birds, reptiles and plants. Many of these are endangered species while others are now extinct everywhere else apart from this park. The fact that almost 80% of the native trees and plants here are only found in New Zealand makes it an extraordinary place well worth visiting.

7. Museum of New Zealand

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The country’s national museum, it's also known by its Maori name of 'Te Papa Tongerewa' which translates to ‘our container of treasures.’ It has been a popular attraction since it opened in 1998 averaging over a million visitors every year. The museum incorporates the latest technology with classic storytelling to showcase its educational and exciting exhibits. Its collection explores the history of the country’s extraordinary life and people, along with housing some important pieces of art across its six floors.

8. City Gallery Wellington

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The City Gallery in Wellington opened in 1980 and is an art gallery in Civic Square focusing on visual arts, design and architecture. It's also known as ‘Te Whare Toi’ in the Maori language and is a non-collecting public gallery that presents an ever-changing programme of exhibitions that's helped it become the home of art in Wellington. An exhibition devoted to Maori and pacific art was added in 2009 after a year of renovations that also saw a new auditorium added to its collection.

9. The Great War Exhibition

The Great War Exhibition opened in 2015, as a national legacy project created by Sir Peter Jackson, New Zealand's most celebrated film-maker. It tells the story of the First World War by exploring the hardships faced by those who served and those that were left behind. The colorized photographs of the war are especially moving as they help visitors to identify with the difficulties faced during the war. The exhibition is housed within the Pukeahu War Memorial Park in the Dominion Building. It has a wide range of rare artifacts from a full-size 10-tonne tank to tiny figurines. The exhibition is always evolving with new additions that aim to paint a detailed picture of the war.

10. Wellington Botanic Garden

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The Wellington Botanic Garden is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. Located on the hillside between Thorndon and Kelburn, the 25-hectare garden is of great national significance and has been maintained for over two centuries. It also features protected forests, a duck pond and offers seasonal displays throughout the year. During the spring, the area offers tours where visitors can view glowworms at night along the paths in the main garden.

Conclusion

It might be small but Wellington is one of the liveliest cities you'll find around New Zealand, offering a range of different attractions perfect for all the family. The city is famed for its breweries and you'll find local varieties of ales and craft beer found at bars all over the city, You'll also find some of the country's best restaurants along with delicious food trucks that make for a great dining experience.

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