Sights in Wellington
Since Wellington is pretty compact (good luck trying to find parking), we think
the best way to explore the city center is on foot. The hilly terrain
can make this a challenge, but the bus system and cable car help. We
suggest the best place to start exploring the city from is the Civic
Square. It's at the heart of the city, and contains the Visitor
Information Center where you can get all sorts of information on
what's happening and where things are. Its also a great point of
reference for managing trips around the city.
The new Civic Square is situated squarely in the heart of the city.
It is made up of an architecturally adventurous
complex of buildings with a large public space in the
center, and a bridge linking it to the waterfront and to Frank Kitts
The buildings surrounding the square are: the Michael Fowler centre, a
circular building where concerts and performing arts are
held (you can check out the booking office there to see whats on, or
call (04) 801 4263 for information). There is also the central
library, the City Gallery, Capital Discovery Place (a science and
technology musuem for kids), the Council buildings and the Visitor
Information Center. The Information Centre's phone number is (04) 801
4000. The Council also has a Web
site that publishes a list of current events taking place in the city.
The big public space in the middle of these buildings is a great place
to hang out. You can see outside exhibits, street theatre,
concerts, buskers, and there are cafes from which to view everything.
The Square also contains some wild carvings and artwork (check out the
giant metal palm trees). In mid-November the
New Zealand Wine & Food Festival is held in the Square, where you can
sample some of the best food and drink in the country.
The Civic Square is linked to Lambton Harbour by the Sea Bridge link.
The bridge itself is worth visiting as its wonderfully crafted with
Maori carving and artwork. The park provides a nice view of the
harbour and hills,and is a good place to go to eat lunch and watch the sea.
The building housing the ministerial offices is called the Beehive.
The reason for the name is pretty obvious, although many
Wellingtonians think that the building looks as much like an alien
spaceship as it does a beehive.
Its located near the railway station where Bowen Street meets Lambton
Quay (its about 10 minutes walk from the Civic Square). In the
debating chambers you can watch politicians discuss important matters
of state, address crucial parliamentary issues, and occasionally
witness some entertaining tizzyfits, petty tirades and childish
outbursts. A great spectator sport used to be to spot the ones
absently picking their noses or throwing darts around the building,
but since the debates have begun being televised such behaviour has
sadly become more closely guarded. Organized tours of the building
are given each day.
If you are interested in watching some kiwi politicians in their
native habitat, you might try strolling over to Backbenchers Pub,
located near the corner of Molesworth St. and Sydney St. A common
watering hole for politicians, this salubrious establishment has some
interesting political cartoons, pictures, puppets and memorabilia on
its walls. The fish and chip shop on Molesworth St. is also frequented
by Beehive people, and does a pretty mean potato fritter. It is also
located in a historic building, built in 1870.
The Cable Car & Botanical Gardens
There are cable cars that service private residences all over
Wellington, since these make a handy way of getting up some of the
steep terrain. The cable car on Lambton Quay has been hauling
Wellingtonians up the steep, 610 meter incline to Kelburn since 1902,
and is one of the few such vehicles left in the world. Lots of people
use it to get to and from work. (The cable car runs every 10 minutes,
7.00am to 10.00pm Monday to Friday, from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm on
Saturday, and from 10:30 am - 10:00 pm on Sunday.)
The cable car provides some of the best views of the city, and you can
ride it up past Victoria University to the Botanical Gardens. From
both stops you can get a great view of the landscape below.
At the last stop you will reach the Botanical Gardens. The gardens
are very pretty, with 26 hectares of native and exotic trees, forest
and plants. There are some really beautiful rose gardens that smell
wonderful in the summer and springtime,
and which showcase over 300 different varieties of roses.
The Botanical Gardens also contain a Begonia
House, the Education and Environmental Centre, lots of tracks and
walkways, and the Bolton Memorial Park where many of the city's first
European settlers are buried.
The InterIslander Ferries
If you look out at Wellington harbour chances are you'll see one
of the ferries heading out to sea or returning from Picton.
These ships depart from the wharf near Aotea Quay headed to Picton, on
the east coast of the South Island.
Lambton Quay is one of the main shopping areas in Wellington. It has some good
places to shop, some fine drinking establishments and some cafes. It
runs from Thorndon Quay, near the Railway Station, alongside the
waterfront, up to Willis St., which just a few minutes from the Civic
Lambton Quay is full of some wonderful old buildings, and if you are
into architecture its worth checking them out as you walk along. For
example, there's the Public Trust Building (131-135 Lambton Quay), a
gorgeous Edwardian Baroque building, and nearby on Customhouse Quay
and Hunter St. there is the AMP building. The Visitors Information
Centre in the Square will give you a free copy of the "Walking
Wellington" brochure which describes a series of routes you can take,Cuba St
along with descriptions of the buildings.
Cuba Mall is one of the main shopping and dining
areas in Wellington. It is closed to traffic
and is a pleasant part of town to wander around.
If you walk out of the Civic Square, head
south down Willis St., and then turn left into
Dixon St. you'll get there (its about 5 miutes walk).
There are lots of nice pubs, restaurants,
coffee houses and arts and crafts shops.
Buskers and street performers can often be seen
in the mall in the summer.
Oriental Parade is a really pretty part of town
that draws lots of Wellingtonians (especially in the
summer). Its a favourite place for joggers, swimmers,
sunbathers and cyclists. There is a large fountain
anchored about 100 metres off-shore that people
often swim out to, and a public swimming pool
(the Freyburg) with a climbing wall outside.
You can get there from the Civic Square
by simply walking along the shoreline
for about 10 minutes, or by going down Wakefield St.
( past the Wakefield St Markets) until you hit Oriental Parade.
Oriental Parade has some nice restaurants with
ocean views, some pleasant (but upmarket) pubs,
and affords a great view of the city. Its a very nice
stretch of bay to walk along.