Wellington's diverse and traditionally transient population, of more than 300,000, consists of an eclectic mix of colourful suburbanites and chic inner-city apartment dwellers. Many of the central and city-fringe suburbs were rejuvenated in the 1990s. This period of rejuvenation created a vibrancy and positive spirit that is reflected in the region.
Courtenay Place is the center of local theatrical activity and the favored destination for those seeking entertainment into the small hours. Restaurants, cafes, wine bars and pubs line both sides of this long, wide strip. A good spread of ethnic tastes is evident in their many and varied menus.
For the young urban dweller, Cuba Street and Manners Mall are the locations of choice in which to see and be seen. Street theatre and busking are common, especially during the Fringe Festival and the Wellington Festival of the Arts. This area also boasts innovative sculptures and water features that impart a colorful sense of creativity. Contributing further to this vibrant atmosphere is the phenomenal concentration of cafés on Cuba Street. There is something to suit every mood and palate!
The Golden Mile
For the sophisticated shopper, Wellington's so-called “Golden Mile” shopping district provides endless opportunities for spending. The entire length of Lambton Quay and the Willis Street area is home to a number of shopping malls. Some of the more popular ones include Lambton Square, Capital on the Quay, the BNZ Centre and the tasteful Old Bank Arcade. You will find Wellington's answer to Harrod's, Kirkcaldie & Stains, on Lambton Quay as well.
There are plenty of eating options here too, including the always crowded Caffe Astoria and Paris Watch out for the suit brigade as you pound the pavements, particularly between noon and 2pm when the surrounding office blocks, affectionately known as Wellington's filing cabinets, empty their drawers for lunch.
Civic Square was developed in the early 1990s and forms a natural boundary between the Cuba Street and Lambton Quay shopping precincts. A marvelous open area that incorporates clever landscaping, it is popular with the lunch time crowds in summer and is a regular venue for outdoor festivals and markets. Also, the square is surrounded by cultural institutions. These include the Wellington City Library, the City Gallery and the Wellington Festival and Convention Centre that incorporates the Town Hall and Michael Fowler Centre. The nearby waterfront is easily accessible from the square via the architecturally designed City to Sea Bridge.
Wellington's waterfront is one of the most accessible in the country—cycle paths and numerous parks span the full length of the inner-city harbor from Queen's Wharf to Oriental Parade. The area is a popular weekend destination for families and young people with activities and attractions to cater for all interests. Museum buffs are spoilt for choice—the Wellington Museum of City & Sea reopened in the late 1990s on Queen's Wharf. There is also the jewel in the museum crown, the majestic Te Papa Tongarewa that gracefully stands on the water's edge. A fantastic way to enjoy this area is on skates or by kayak, both forms of transport can be hired from Ferg's Rock ‘n' Kayak. If you are fancy a meal or drink while enjoying a waterside jaunt both Dockside and Shed 5 have excellent reputations.
Mt Victoria & Oriental Bay
Mt Victoria's colorful Victorian villas present a picture of island elegance perched precariously on the edge of this bush-clad hillside. The city's hilly terrain, unfamiliar to the original surveyors, has resulted in some eccentric yet delightful streetscapes. Keep an eye out for footpaths that are, in fact, narrow-winding streets, and for private cable cars that provide access to some of the more remote hilltop homes. The Southern Walkway rambles through the bush to emerge at the top of Mt Victoria for spectacular 360-degree views of the city. At its foot, tree-lined streets frame the pleasant inner-city suburbs of Mt Victoria and Oriental Bay. Several excellent guest houses can be found here including Dunrobin House, as can some of the finest restaurants that are subtly located in nooks and crannies throughout the area. Try the Roxburgh Bistro, or for something a little different Theo's Greek Taverna. The award-winning Parade Café is a popular place for brunch, particularly with bathers that swim at the adjacent Freyberg Pool.
A quaint mix of old and new characterises this up-market inner-city suburb. One of the oldest areas of the city, it was divided by a motorway extension in the 1970s that ripped through the middle of the Bolton Street Cemetery. Although the motorway has changed the landscape, the colonial charm of Thordon survives in the narrow backstreets that can be explored on foot. Ascot Street and Sydney Street West are two streets that provide the finest examples of colonial cottages but there are numerous other architectural gems to be found along the main suburban axis, Tinakori Road.
Historic Thorndon is rich in architectural and cultural attractions. Katherine Mansfield's Birthplace can be visited on Tinakori Road and the magnificent Old St Paul's should not be missed. Do not confuse it with its newer and larger neighbor, St Paul's Cathedral.
Just across the water from the city center lies the pleasant waterside settlement of Eastbourne—it is only a short crossing by ferry. Days Bay is a popular destination for families and sun seekers in summer. This area is also conveniently located near several excellent reserves and walking areas including Butterfly Creek and the Pencarrow Lighthouse. The unrestricted views from the lighthouse across Wellington City and the harbor entrance are truly magnificent.
As home to the New Zealand government, Wellington offers a delightful mix of tradition and modernity. Visitors will enjoy discovering its treasures.