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.
Australian citizens don't require a visa to travel to New Zealand, and can live and work in the country indefinitely. UK citizens can stay a maximum of six months without a visa. Another 56 countries have visa-waiver agreements with New Zealand for stays under three months, including the USA, Canada, France, Germany and Ireland. New Zealand also accepts foreign driver's licences.
Wellington enjoys a temperate climate, with temperatures rarely rising above 25 degrees or falling below four degrees. ‘Windy Welly' certainly lives up to its name, with southerly blasts in winter making the city feel much colder than it actually is. Microclimates also exist in the region, so research where you are going. Wellington averages 2000 sunshine hours a year.
New Zealand operates on the New Zealand Dollar (NZD$), with Wellington the wealthiest region in the country. A range of 24-hour ATMs are widespread and credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. The major banks include ANZ, Westpac, ASB and the Bank of New Zealand. Cash amounts equal to or over NZD$10,000 must be declared upon arrival or departure.
New Zealand is considered the adventure capital of the world. But if you plan to get in on the action, make sure you're covered for that particular extreme sport in your travel insurance. Some policies require you nominate the activity, which may attract an additional fee. Also take into account when budgeting that extreme thrills often come at a high price.
Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia run two daily flights to Wellington except for Tuesdays, when only one direct service is available. They offer a number of extra connections via other cities every day of the week. Qantas also runs a daily direct flight.
Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia fly to Wellington daily with connections via Auckland, Sydney or Brisbane depending on your airline. There are no direct flights from Perth to New Zealand.
Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia offer one daily direct service, as well as a range of other connecting flights. Qantas also offers a direct daily service, with additional services running via Sydney. Jetstar runs a separate Wellington service via Auckland.
In addition to flights from major New Zealand cities with Jetstar and Air New Zealand, Air New Zealand Link flies to 23 regional destinations with varying flight schedules, including daily jet services to Dunedin and Rotorua.
Wellington International Airport is open daily from 4.00am to 1.30am. The airport has luggage storage facilities, currency exchange services and ATMs, as well as free public WiFi. A wide range of eateries and shops are also located throughout the airport, including a duty-free shopping outlet. VIP Membership benefits and the Corporate Box lounge are available to members.
For a door-to-door airport shuttle service direct to your hotel, there are a few providers to choose from. Great discounts are offered to people travelling in groups to the same location. Shuttle ranks are located directly outside of the main terminal baggage claim. One person travelling to the CBD costs about $15. Bookings are strongly recommended.
The Airport Flyer offers a return express bus service from the airport to the CBD and Lower Hutt. Once an hour it continues on to Upper Hut. The daily service – featuring free WiFi – runs every 15 minutes to the CBD for $8. Last departure is 9.30pm. From the ferry terminal, a direct bus runs to the Wellington Railway Station for $2 per person.
Airport taxis wait on the lower level outside baggage claim. A one-way fare to the CBD should cost no more than $30. To operate from the airport, each driver must have an ‘area knowledge certificate' and a special licence, so you can rest assured they know their way around the entire Greater Wellington region. The ferry terminal also has a dedicated taxi lane.
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.
If you judge a restaurant by its popularity, you'll adore Sweet Mother's Kitchen. Eternally busy, the good value, great food and warm atmosphere is consistently gratifying. Serving up a concoction of New Orleans-inspired Cajun and Creole dishes, with a dash of Mexican snack food, it extends further to provide hearty coffee, all-day breakfasts and some delectable sweet temptations.
For fresh New Zealand meat and game, with a succulent selection of seafood, The White House brings an expert assortment of flavours to your plate. Using organic ingredients and sourcing from local suppliers (even their own rooftop garden), The White House oozes quality. A stocked cellar, professional service and the stunning harbour views top off this magnificent Wellington find.
A stylish yet relaxed establishment, Logan Brown is well known for its superior quality in Wellington. Housed in the surrounds of a former 1920s banking chamber, where white columns extend towards the domed ceiling, the atmosphere is intimate and warm. Embracing a range of delightful contemporary dishes, Logan Brown also offers over 230 New Zealand and International wines to match your taste.
The French-inspired Boulcott Street Bistro appears to be much more than just a bistro. Situated in a charming 19th century gothic cottage in the middle of the concrete jungle, the atmosphere is vibrant yet relaxed. Service is attentive, the wine list well considered and dishes are cooked to perfection from the open kitchen. Loyal diners love returning here.
Matterhorn leads the way as a combined music, dining and drinking venue. Consistently winning awards for its drink design and culture, Matterhorn has a large and dedicated following. Regular customers love the fresh, imaginative cocktails that taste as good as they sound. Picture moody lighting, glass walls and polished concrete floors.
If vino is your thing, sit amongst wine barrels in Vivo's warm and intimate surrounds. Lined with bricks and finished with earthy timbers, Vivo has been recognised as offering New Zealand's finest wine list. Choose from 60 wines by the glass and 600 by the bottle. Italian-influenced meals are also served.
For regular live acts and DJs, Mighty Mighty has got the goods – and plenty of tack to go with it. Think wacky colours, old lamps, crafts and plastic palm trees. With a relaxed dress code and beer by the jug, this is a popular local hangout with a dance floor.
A dark and sultry basement pub off Cuba Mall, Good Luck Bar draws you into the Orient. Lanterns suspend overhead, patrons lounge in the comfy sofas and live DJs pump a fresh mix of techno, house and jazz. A premier alternative nightspot, the fine fusion cocktails are a treat and the dance floor is always packed.
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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