The Windy City is on the foreshore of Wellington Harbour and ringed by hills, providing the scenic home of many of New Zealand's national arts and cultural attractions.
|NOTE: In the early hours of 14 November 2016, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck northern Canterbury. This caused some damage in Wellington, resulting in a few buildings being closed. However most of the city is open as normal, check the current situation on the city council webpage.|
Greater Wellington region
region at the southern end of New Zealand's North Island
city in New Zealand's North Island
city in New Zealand
city in the Wellington Region of New Zealand
region in New Zealand
town in New Zealand
larger of the two major islands of New Zealand
network of sea-drowned valleys
Wellington (pop. 203,800) is New Zealand's third largest city, a long way behind Auckland and even Christchurch. It's actually just one of the four cities making up the Wellington metropolitan area which is New Zealand's second largest urban area (pop. 398,300) - the other three cities are Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt and Porirua. There are proposals to merge the four cities into one as was done in Auckland, but there is considerable opposition, especially from the two Hutts. Wellington became New Zealand's capital city in 1865, replacing Auckland; the government wanted a more centrally-located city as capital to quell the South Island nationalist movement.
Wellington offers a blend of culture, heritage, fine food and coffee, together with lively arts and entertainment.
Surrounded by hills and a rugged coastline, the city has a stunning harbour. Wellington’s charm is that it serves up a vibrant inner city experience with a slice of New Zealand scenery. And because of its compact nature, you can sample it all: boutiques, art galleries, trendy cafés and restaurants. Right on its doorstep is a network of walking and biking trails with beautiful wineries and vineyards just a few hours away.
Wellington offers an array of theatre, music, dance, fine arts and galleries and museums. It is also home to one of the nation’s key attractions, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
The city promotes itself as "Absolutely Positively Wellington". Its motto Suprema a situ claims site supremacy, with some justification. Wellington was named as the fourth best city in the world to visit in 2011 by "Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2011".
- Wellington Visitor Information Centre (iSITE), Civic Square, Corner Victoria and Wakefield St, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 933 5363. A good place to begin your Wellington visit - they're able to book accommodation, activities and provide useful information about Wellington and surrounding areas. Their website contains the same information and is worth checking out prior to your visit. They are a member of the national i-SITE visitor information centre network.
As the capital city, Wellington is the centre of New Zealand's government. The city is home to the offices of the New Zealand Government (executive), the New Zealand Parliament (legislative), the New Zealand Supreme Court and Court of Appeal (the country's highest and second-highest courts respectively) and the head offices of many Government departments. Most are located within walking distance of Parliament, around the northern end of The Terrace and Lambton Quay areas and the Thorndon commercial area.
Much of the central city is built on land that was raised up after a major earthquake in 1855. More land has been reclaimed since then. The shoreline as it was in 1840 is marked by plaques in the footpaths on Lambton Quay (hence the street name). There are several "quays" which are now nowhere near the harbour. The harbour's former name was 'Port Nicholson' and the smaller bay surrounded by the city is called 'Wellington' or 'Lambton Harbour'.
Earthquakes have played a major part in forming the whole Wellington region. Several earthquake fault lines run through the Wellington region, including the Wellington Fault, which runs west of the city centre along Glenmore Street and Tinakori Road to the Aotea Quay motorway interchange. Building regulations have meant that many older city buildings have been either demolished or strengthened, or require such work to be undertaken. Small and moderate earthquakes occasionally rock Wellington; so if the earth seems to move for you, it may not be just your imagination. Stay indoors until a "warden" or similar authority advises evacuation (unless you are in imminent danger, e.g. from a fire), and take shelter from potentially falling objects wherever you are.
There are some places in Wellington where damage from the 1855 earthquake is still visible. The most accessible is a large landslip on State Highway 2 between Ngauranga and Korokoro (just north of Rocky Point where the BP petrol station is located) where the dramatic change in terrain is visible. Bush has overgrown the slip but it is visible. However, most people are oblivious to the location of landslip as they drive by on the highway.
The city is known as "Windy Wellington" - often said to be the world's windiest city, with an average wind speed of 27km/h. The prevailing wind is from the northwest but the strongest winds are southerly. The wind speed and direction can be seen by the flag being flown from the Beehive; a large flag is flown only on calm days, a small flag is flown when windy days are expected. The highest wind speed ever recorded in Wellington was 275 km/h (170 mph) during the Wahine storm of 10 April 1968 (so called because it blew the interisland steamer ferry Wahine into the reef at the entrance of Wellington Harbour, causing her to founder and claim 53 lives.)
The temperature in Wellington rarely drops to 0°C (32°F), even on cold winter nights, while daytime winter temperatures are rarely lower than 8°C (46°F). During summer, the daytime maximum temperature rarely gets above 25°C (77°F). Away from the seaside, in inland valleys, frosts of up to -10°C (14°F) have been recorded. Snow falls on the nearby ranges during winter, but is rare in the urban area.
Wellington sits at the southern tip of New Zealand's North Island. The city core lies along the western shore of highly protected Wellington Harbour, with the city's suburbs spreading out in all directions. The city's primary urban core consists of the CBD and the adjoining 'city suburb' of Te Aro, to the south and east. A fairly dense zone continues south from Te Aro into the adjoining suburbs of Mt Cook and Newtown, as well as Kilbirnie on the other side of the parklands of Mt Victoria.
East from Te Aro, north-south-running ridgelines form Mt. Victoria and, further east yet, the Miramar Peninsula, which forms the western side of the mouth to Wellington Harbour. These hills—and the isthmus between—are home to a number of suburban areas as well as parkland and beaches.
Several kilometres south of central Wellington is the rugged and stunning South Coast of the North Island, consisting of a string of small (and some large) bays, many with rocky beaches and interesting tide pools.
To the west, the suburbs between Karori and Johnsonville spread into the hillsides, with various parks and hiking trails, and then give way to open rural areas such as Makara.
Aside from the national public holidays, Wellington has its own public holiday, Wellington Anniversary Day. Commemorating the arrival of Wellington's first European settlers aboard the Aurora on 22 January 1840, it is observed across most of the Greater Wellington and Manawatu-Wanganui region on the Monday closest to 22 January.
Greater Wellington region
The Greater Wellington region is far bigger than just Wellington City. The old Wellington Province used to cover much of the southern half of the North Island, including the Manawatu, and Wanganui regions.
There are three other cities that are close enough to Wellington City that together they form a single metro – the Wellington metropolitan area. The cities are Porirua, Lower Hutt (sometimes erroneously called "Hutt City", after its local council's self-chosen name) and Upper Hutt. THe latter two cities may be referred together as the Hutt Valley.
There are a number of interesting sights and beaches in the Hutt Valley and Porirua. Plimmerton, for example, has seen future world windsurfing champions training, and Edmund Hillary practised rock-climbing at Titahi Bay before conquering Everest.
The suburbs of Eastbourne and Days Bay are on the eastern side of Wellington Harbour. They can be reached by car, bus or ferry. There are a number of enjoyable hill walks in both Days Bay and Eastbourne. The East By West ferry service departs from Queens Wharf (Wellington) and travels to Days Bay Wharf, some services will stop on request at Somes Island (in the middle of the harbour). On weekends and public holidays the ferry also operates a harbour tour service which stops at Petone Wharf and Seatoun.
The Kapiti Coast as referred to as 'The Nature Coast' is a beautiful mix of beaches and lush native scenery. Spend the day at the beaches, near a river, or taking a walk through one of the many beautiful trails surrounding the hills and valleys bordering the coastline.
Further afield, the south Wairarapa has become one of New Zealand's wine growing regions. Tranzit run a wine tasting tour that leaves from Wellington Railway station each morning and visits four vineyards in the Wairarapa town of Martinborough, $199.
Bluebridge and the Interislander ferry companies sail across Cook Strait to Picton in the South Island through the Marlborough Sounds. The ferries take bikes, cars, buses and trains and the scenery on a good day is spectacular. The ferries are substantial ships designed for the sometimes rough conditions and the journey takes 3-3.5h.
Sounds Air provides flights to Blenheim, Picton and Nelson.