8 reasons you need to visit Wellington now

If you love movies, drinking beer – or wine for that matter – and animal-spotting, you’ll find there’s heaps to do in Wellington without blowing the budget.

  • Helen Martin
  • December 2018

We uncover a quirky (and surprisingly affordable) side to the New Zealand capital, waiting to be explored. Considered to be one of the best capital cities in the world to live and work – in part thanks to the good-value cost of living – this little city punches way above its weight as a destination, too. Here’s what you need to know about Wellington.

It’s just been named the world’s best city

This waterfront city was named the world’s most liveable city by Deutsche Bank, pipping other contenders like Copenhagen and Vienna to the post. Factors that contributed to the win include cost of living, climate, safety and pollution levels. Wellington also offers great restaurants, cafés, breweries, shopping and a cool arts and culture scene, all within a compact area and with nature at its doorstep. Many of the attractions, such as the beaches, museum and botanic gardens have free entry to boot. All this makes it a pretty awesome holiday destination, too.

The city is a thriving scene for street-art
The city has a thriving public arts scene.

It is a cinema hub

The design and special effects company behind Lord of the Rings and Thor: Ragnarok, Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital, has been credited with heralding Wellington’s surge as a creative and tech hub. In 2016 there were some 800 start-ups. Battle a troll from Lord of the Rings on a tour of the Weta Cave Workshop (wetaworkshop.com), where you can also make your own movie blood. There is a range of tours at different price points on offer.

Discover how the magic happens at Weta Cave Workshop
Discover how the magic happens at Weta Cave Workshop.

It’s a start-up haven

The World Bank ranked New Zealand the easiest country in the world to do business, knocking Singapore off the top spot. With a young, entrepreneurial vibe nurturing a thriving start-up culture, Wellington is home to some of the country’s most successful businesses, including software company Xero and car-sharing app Mevo (which, with its flexible pricing, is a great way to get around the city for less).

But they still deliver mail by boat

A three-hour ferry ride south of Wellington will bring you to the cute little town of Picton, where they still deliver the mail by boat up Queen Charlotte Sound. You can play postman and tag along on this 150-year-old mail run, as you sit back and spot orcas, dolphins, penguins and fur seals – common sights in these waters. In summer the Mail Boat Cruise also takes in Ship Cove, where Captain Cook anchored his ship in the 1770s to replenish supplies.

 Snail-mail provides ample time to soak in the landscape
Snail-mail provides ample time to soak in the landscape.

Wine country is only a day trip away

From Picton you can do a self-drive tour to explore the Marlborough region, which lays claim to most of the country’s wine plantings. The area has so many cellar doors you’ll need a few days to get around them (what a goal though) and there are great wines available at various prices. Marlbourough’s deservedly acclaimed sauvignon blanc has been happily joined by pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling in recent years. Cheers!

The inviting cellar doors into Wither Hills Winery
The inviting cellar doors into Wither Hills Winery.

Girl power is a real thing here

An 1893 petition for women to be given the right to vote contained some 24,000 signatures. The sheets of paper were glued together to form a 270-metre roll and submitted to parliament in Wellington. Result: New Zealand was the first self-governing country to grant women access to the ballot box. Since then the country has had three female prime ministers, including current PM Jacinda Ardern – the youngest female head of government in the world. In this age of diversity and inclusivity, that’s a big win in our books.

Amber attraction

They’re very serious about their beer in Wellington. With more than 20 craft beer bars and breweries, Wellingtonians host Beervana every August to celebrate their true love. During the rest of the year, there’s an official beer trail map you can download for free and follow to further your scientific research.

Sample local brews with Beervana in August
Sample local brews with Beervana in August.

Wellington is a nuke-free zone

Wellington declared itself a nuclear-free zone in a benchmark 1982 vote and the whole country declared the same five years later. Nuclear-powered or -armed ships were (and still are) barred from entering NZ ports, which caused a rift with powerful ally the United States. New Zealand was officially downgraded from ally to friend. The two countries aren’t quite ready to swipe right but the US is in the process of approving easier trade and investment there for New Zealanders.