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Wellington is less famous than Auckland but has wonderful views from Mount Victoria and is full of green spaces and cultural venues.

It seems deliberately made to lose at Trivia or any other board game that tests your sapience, but the capital of New Zealand is not Auckland, the city of sails, as you might think, but Wellington.  It’s not as famous or as well known, but it’s worth seeing, especially if you want to rest, relax and have fun before crossing to the big island in the south of the country.

Wellington is on the same island as Auckland, but on the other side, on one of the shores of Cook Strait, which is why it has earned its reputation as a windy city. The Kiwi capital is a flirtatious, walkable and pleasant place, with that mix of bright light and nature in communion with the asphalt that is so typical of the country. If you’re en route between the north and south islands, Wellington is an obligatory stop to recharge your batteries, discover the colourful Cuba Street with restaurants from all over the world, have a ‘flat white’ (a typical coffee with milk), visit museums and discover a little more about New Zealand culture.

Like any administrative capital, Wellington is home to the National Museum, which tells the story of these islands that came under British rule in the 19th century and still have the British King, in this case Charles III, as head of state. These are the places and activities you shouldn’t miss if you decide to visit Wellington:

Weta Workshop

Between Auckland and Wellington there are hours and hours of fascinating scenic roads that have been the setting for great films such as ‘The Lord of the Rings’, ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’. And once you arrive in the Kiwi capital you can see the workshop where many of the costume effects and props were made and how they managed to shape the creatures that populate those films. It’s one of the magic factories, which opens its doors to visitors, on the Miramar Peninsula near the city centre.

  • More information: Visit their website and check their opening hours

Mount Victoria

It offers breathtaking 360-degree views of the city of Wellington, the harbour and the ocean to the south. From its 196-metre-high summit, nature offers unique shades of colour as the sun sets. It is an ideal place for walking or mountain biking and can be accessed either by car or by walking along the Oriental Parade and Majoribanks Street trails. This magical place of legend has also served as a refuge for the terrified hobbits in the first Lord of the Rings trilogy. There is no shortage of reasons to visit.

Photo: Johnny Huynen

Red Funicular

One of Wellington’s most iconic experiences is a ride on the red cable car, the gateway to some of the main attractions of New Zealand’s capital city. The quick five-minute historic ride departs from the heart of the city centre and climbs the Kelburn Hills. After the short ride on this century-old transport, don’t forget to visit places like the Botanic Gardens, the Cable Car Museum, Space Place (at the Carter Observatory) and more.

  • More info: Visit their website and check their opening hoursy

Ki Paekākā Botanical Garden

After arriving by funicular railway you can visit this unpredictable natural site. Like the city itself, it is capable of surprising and enchanting you. If you go you run the risk of wanting to come back. It’s a paradise of winding paths and breathtaking views, full of birds and insects and protected native forests. Whether it’s admiring a waterfall, stumbling across orchids, finding a duck pond or, one of its best kept secrets, gawping at the fireflies that can be seen after dark or after a spring shower, the 25 hectares will leave you speechless. In summer it is a meeting place for concerts and community events.

Eco-sanctuary Zealandia Te Mara

Another must-see is this piece of incredible wilderness. It deserves to be digested at leisure, or you’ll miss those wonderful sounds of native birds. A true sanctuary you can explore on your own during the day, as there are a dozen trails you can follow with a visitor map. Or you can immerse yourself in a nocturnal adventure through a guided torchlight tour that will allow you to see some unique animals such as ruruy or fireflies. And if you’re lucky, you might even spot a rare spotted kiwi.

  • More info: Visit their website and check their offers

Te Papa Tongarewa National Museum

It translates as “container of treasures”. And, far from classic museums, it stands out for its cutting-edge interactive exhibits housed on six floors of a building of unique architectural beauty. With its smart, contemporary and bicultural approach, it offers permanent and temporary exhibitions that offer a glimpse into the country’s treasures and history through objects, costumes, photographs, etc. Te Papa Tongarewa should already be on your list. Another reason? It’s completely free.

New Zealand Museum – Te Papa Tongarewa

Wellington Zoo

It is the world’s first Toitū carboNZero certified zoo, meaning they are officially carbon neutral. Located in the suburb of Newtown, it is home to more than 500 endangered native and exotic animals. Part of the experience is to sign up for one of the daily talks to learn more about feeding and other aspects of the animals and, no doubt, get up close and personal with red pandas, Malayan bears, meerkats, giraffes and capybaras.

  • More info: Visit their website and check their opening times and tickets,

Cuba Street

As colourful as it is essential. A stroll along this artery of leisure in New Zealand’s capital will lead you to discover its quirky cafes, vintage clothing shop, vinyl and record shops, art galleries or unique finds such as rare and unusual books stocked by Pegasus Books, a small bookshop that is also home to Wellington’s annual literary festival. And don’t forget to stop by the famous Bucket Fountain, which is made of buckets and can surprise you by splashing you with water – an essential Wellington experience!