Wellington's public transport system incorporates a regular network of Metlink buses, trains and ferries. Buses and trains connect downtown Wellington to the outer regions including Lower Hut, Upper Hut, Wairarapa, Porirua, the Kapiti Coast and airports. Wellington Station is the biggest interchange for many bus routes and serves as the downtown train station. Catch ferries from Queens Wharf.
Wellington is best experienced on foot. With the CBD just a few kilometers wide, numerous eateries, shops, hotels and sites lie just around the corner. Drop by the visitor centre in Civic Square to get a map and start exploring. The free Welly Walks iPhone app will guide you around historic sites, public art, nature reserves, the South coast and much more.
While it's easy to move around Wellington without a car, if you do hire a vehicle beware that the roads are steep, narrow and can be difficult to navigate. Arm yourself with a detailed map or GPS. If you don't organise your car hire beforehand, it can be easily booked at the airport or ferry terminal upon arrival, or at a city rental office.
There are plenty of taxis in Wellington to save you time and make travelling easy. Reasonably priced, there are dedicated taxi ranks throughout the CBD. Taxi fares aren't standardised, so shop around for the best price – the rates are usually competitive. Taxis can be booked in advance and hired by the hour.
For an iconic and popular Wellington experience, take the cable car from Lambton Quay up the hillside to the top entrance of Wellington Botanic Gardens. Admire the city and scenic harbour from the lookout and explore other sites like the Cable Car Museum. The best way to return is on foot through the gardens and the historic Bolton Street Cemetery.
For million-dollar views that won't cost a cent, trek up Mount Victoria for a bird's-eye view of Wellington. Looking back across the harbour towards the CBD and Hutt Valley, witness vessels gliding in and out of the harbour, planes taking off and the entire region bustling below. It's a fantastic way to get your bearings.
New Zealand's national museum Te Papa is dynamic, interactive and considered a leader in its approach. Art, History, Pacific, Maori and Natural Environment are themes explored throughout the collections. Entry is free to the permanent collection, while tours and some short-term exhibits can attract a fee. The event program includes free lectures, floortalks, events and entertainment.
The Carter Observatory is a world-class attraction. Incorporating a multimedia exhibition, a nine-metre digital fulldome planetarium, heritage telescopes and a space-themed gift shop, discovering the universe suddenly falls all under the one roof. The Pelorus Trust Planetarium, where reclining seats offer an enchanting view of the ‘night sky' above, should not be missed.
Kick-start your day with a stroll around Cuba Mall to get a caffeinated taste of Wellington's vibrant cafe culture. Next head to the top of Mount Victoria for panoramic views of the city to get your bearings before further exploring the city. Return to the CBD and visit Te Papa, the ‘Museum of New Zealand', for an interactive and engaging look at the country's history and culture. After a leisurely harbour-side stroll along Oriental Parade, retire to sample one of the many fine downtown restaurants in the Courtenay quarter.
If designer boutiques and specialty stores tickle your fancy, head to Lambton Quay – also known as the ‘Golden Mile'. Nearby is the Edwardian Old Bank Shopping Arcade with its upmarket cafes, gift shops and even more boutiques. Stroll the city and see what you can find before catching the Dominion Street Ferry from Queens Wharf to Days Bay. Relax on the beaches and in the park, or hire a canoe. Once you've returned, grab a bite and ease your way into the night with a flick at the Embassy Theatre. For fantasy buffs, this is the theatre where The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King premiered.
Make your way to Lambton Quarter to catch the Wellington Cable Car and experience more beautiful views of the city as you ascend. Take your time exploring the Cable Car Museum, the Carter Observatory and Planetarium, and the Botanical Gardens. Instead of returning on the Cable Car, walk down through the gardens and historic Bolton Street Cemetery. You'll emerge across the road from Parliament House where there are free tours running hourly, starting mid-morning and finishing mid-afternoon. Join the tour if you're interested before preparing for a night out on the town, starting with one of the trendy bars in the Cuba Quarter.
Get out of central Wellington and explore either the Kapiti Coast or Wairarapa. The Kapiti Coast offers the chance to lap up its deserted beaches and explore Kapiti Island. Just 5km offshore from Paraparaumu, the island is home to several nature and marine reserves. Trains and buses run to Paraparaumu from Wellington. To explore Wairarapa and sample the food and wine delights emerging from the region, it's easiest to join a daily tour.
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