Wellington’s stellar attraction is undoubtedly Te Papa (Our Place) – the national museum, which provides a treasured link between New Zealand’s people, land and culture. Its interactive displays are at the leading edge of virtual experience with realistic portrayals of a bungy jump, earthquake, land formation and our future city skyline. The ‘Museum of Wellington City and Sea’ on Queens Wharf gives a sentimental depiction of the capital’s maritime origins and cultural growth.
Between these two centres of nostalgia, reflection and learning is the city’s ever-popular seaside esplanade – a milling milieu, thronged with walkers, joggers, skaters and cyclists. The Civic Centre, Frank Kitts Park and the Esplanade have been integrated into a delightful place where the city meets the sea – providing a magnetic attraction for promenading locals and visitors. Walking is the best way to appreciate the pleasures of the capital – savouring the sparkling harbour, Oriental Bay’s golden sands, the compact CBD and the scores of cafes, bars, restaurants and shops crammed within this vibrant city centre.
Beyond the showcase museums and the waterfront there are a host of attractions and excursions to fill a pleasant day. Why not ride the Cable Car to view the stunning harbour and city? From here you can walk through the Botanical Gardens and down to Parliament Buildings where you can take a guided tour. Visit the Zoo and enjoy the Tropical River Trail, New Zealand’s largest habitat exhibit. Climb to the summit of Mt Victoria and wander extensive trails through the luxuriant Town Belt of native and exotic forest. Visit historic Thorndon to view Old St Paul’s Church and author Katherine Mansfield’s birthplace. Don’t miss the City Art Gallery.
Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy two specially protected oases of native bush, which have become national treasures. The Karori Wildlife Sanctuary has wonderful flora and fauna including the flightless kiwi and weka and the Otari-Wilton Bush has a superb 18 metre high walkway over the natural forest canopy.
Further afield there is a dramatic 4WD safari to the rugged Sinclair Head seal colony and remote wilderness hikes in the nearby Rimutaka and Tararua ranges. Be sure to take the scenic ferry ride to Soames Islands on the harbour – once a Maori fortress and wartime POW camp, but now a wildlife sanctuary.