Flights to Wellington: New Zealand's cool little capital

Experience Wellington

Flights into Wellington reveal rugged, forested hills that enfold this hip harbour town like a shawl. Join friendly Wellingtonians as they hike or bike these hills on weekends, then come into town to party – especially after a home win by local rugby union heroes The Hurricanes. Ride Wellington's famous red cable car for a knockout panorama across the harbour to sheltered Days Bay, where a young Katherine Mansfield used to sit and daydream.

Eat and drink

The fish you savour during your Wellington holiday will be so fresh it might have leapt out of nearby Cook Strait that very morning. Try lip-smacking Cloudy Bay clams followed by melt-in-the-mouth snapper. Famous New Zealand lamb couples deliciously with a Martinborough pinot noir, a full-bodied riposte to Burgundy from vineyards just over Rimutaka Hill. Call into foodie institution Moore Wilson's for nutty breads, olive oils, in fact any kind of local artisan food.

Get cultured

OK, the meaning of Wellington's public sculptures is often obscure, but there’s no doubt the naked bronze man on the waterfront is freezing his bits off. Behind this stoic depiction stands more serious culture in the shape of Te Papa Tongarewa. The national museum is packed with treasures, though locals may be too busy bemoaning its architectural style to notice what's inside. Artistic debate continues at the Supreme Court. Take a guided tour of its main courtroom, housed inside a giant copper kauri tree cone. Honest!

Back to nature

If the city's famous wind doesn't fill your lungs with fresh air, then the magnificent Botanical Gardens will. After smelling the roses catch the bus to nearby Zealandia, a forested, fenced sanctuary housing many of New Zealand's most endangered critters, from the cuter-than-cute little spotted kiwi to the somewhat less cuddly giant weta.

Fast facts

Where? Wellington's central location at the southern tip of New Zealand's North Island saw it named the nation’s capital in 1865, to the chagrin of 19th-century Aucklanders.

Population: Around 200,000 of the Wellington region's 490,000 residents live in the city, giving it a buzzy, cosmopolitan feel.

Key dates: Petone, at the head of Wellington Harbour, was the first official settlement chosen to by eager British immigrants, who began sailing in from England in 1840.

Did you know? In recognition of Wellywood’s thriving film industry, homegrown visual effects company Weta Workshop donated a giant 'Robot of Doom' sculpture to the city in 2005.

Wellington Hotels

Rooms with a view are on tap in Wellington's dress circle of waterfront hotels. But smaller hostelries like Booklovers Bed and Breakfast on Mt Victoria offer stiff competition and impressive hill and harbour vistas.

Wellington Restaurants

New Zealand goes to Europe in our pick of Wellington restaurants. Regulars of Boulcott Street Bistro swear by the French-style eatery's braised lamb shanks. Rush to Russian-themed Pravda. Or try 'coastal cuisine' at Martin Bosley's, where the list of awards is longer than the menu.

Shopping in Wellington

Gourmet picnic supplies are the new currency inside the former Bank of New Zealand and you can exchange dollars for Kiwi art at Peter McLeavey's Gallery near Cuba Street. Don't leave Wellington without picking up a possum poncho or Maori pounamu greenstone.

Wellington Nightlife

Home-grown Kiwi drama takes centre stage at the Downstage Theatre. Take in a show before donning your finest cravat for cocktails at olde worlde Hawthorn Lounge gentleman's club. Or slip into a vintage frock and get tipsy on frothing jugs of beer at kitsch Mighty Mighty.

Wellington Attractions

From Tahi the one-legged kiwi at Wellington Zoo to movie-world fantasy at 'Wellywood's' Weta Cave, bank on easy-to-reach diversity in New Zealand’s compact capital. For cultural immersion head to Te Papa and the engaging Pataka gallery.

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