I remember the moment I fell in love with Wellington — really, truly fell in love with it. I had just moved to the city for a semester abroad; I knew no one, had just been placed in a disgusting apartment with a bunch of rowdy boys (that did not last long), and was feeling as though I may have made a mistake moving halfway across the world.
So I decided to take a walk.
I strolled down Taranaki Street all the way to the waterfront. It was a sunny, windy day in Wellington, and though it was chilly (it WAS winter, after all), there were still tons of people out and about. Joggers running along the waterfront, mothers pushing kids in strollers, teens on skateboards, tourists snapping photos at the harbor. Wellington was ALIVE, and the feeling was catchy.
I walked all the way to Oriental Bay, where someone was playing fetch with a dog on the small beach and kids were squealing as they climbed around on a playground. By the time I sat down on a bench overlooking the water, I felt the stress I had been feeling further up Taranaki Street slipping away.
I was falling for Wellington — hard. And I knew that, somehow, everything would work out.
And it did, of course — those 5 months in Wellington were some of the happiest of my life. The city is now a part of me; there's no doubt that I left a bit of my heart there.
Every time I go back to New Zealand, I'm reminded how much I love its capital.
And now I want to share that love with you! If you're headed to Wellington anytime soon, here are some of my favorite spots that you won't want to miss:
As I mentioned above, it was at Oriental Bay that the first stirrings of feelings for Wellington were born. On a nice day, this is, hands-down, my favorite place to be in Wellington. And I'm not alone in feeling this way — locals and visitors alike gravitate toward Oriental Bay when the weather is nice.
My favorite all-weather spot in Wellington is Cuba Street. This is where you go when you want to eat, grab a drink, or just hang out. You're bound to find some buskers in the pedestrian-only section of Cuba Street, too, making the area great for people-watching.
Kelburn cable car station
The historic Wellington cable car has been running between Lambton Quay and Kelburn for more than 100 years, carrying both locals going about their day-to-day lives and tourists looking for some great views. I love this about Wellington — nothing is solely for locals or only for tourists. The topmost cable car station (which also has a free cable car museum worth checking out) is right next to the Wellington Botanic Garden and offers some great views out over the city.
Waterfront near Te Papa
I know Oriental Bay is already on this list, but it's worth mentioning another section of the Wellington waterfront, too — the area in between Te Papa (New Zealand's fabulous national museum) and Frank Kitts Park. This is always a lively area, with people walking, biking, skating, and even rowing when the weather is good, and bars and restaurants spilling over into outdoor terraces filled with bean bag chairs.
City to Sea Bridge and Civic Square
When you're walking along that section of waterfront, you'll eventually get to the City to Sea Bridge, a pedestrian bridge and public artwork that connects the Lagoon to Civic Square. The bridge is covered in wooden sculptures carved by Maori artist Paratene Matchitt, and is really an attraction in its own right.
At the other end lies Civic Square — I love the suspended sculpture here made of metal fern leaves.
Speaking of great views, you have to get yourself to the lookout at the top of Mount Victoria at least once during your time in Wellington. You can either hike up, take a bus, or drive — it's very accessible. Stick around for a sunset on a clear evening and watch the city light up below you.
Wellington is made up of a bunch of different neighborhoods and suburbs — and one of my favorites is Island Bay, situated on a bay of the same name. This coastal suburb seems like it would be a lovely, chilled-out place to live. There are also a few easy walks that start here, including two that lead back into the city, and one that connects to the Red Rocks Coastal walk, which can take you out to a seal colony during the winter months.
Lastly, I'm a huge “Lord of the Rings” fan. And yes, I mean HUGE. One of my new favorite places in Wellington is Weta in the suburb of Miramar. Start with a behind-the-scenes tour of Weta Workshop (amazing for any movie fan), and end in the Weta Cave, where you can buy all sorts of geeky memorabilia (and pose with some mischievous trolls!).
It doesn't matter how many trips I make to Wellington — my heart soars each and every time I set foot on its windy streets. I hope you fall in love with it as much as I have!
So what do you think? Do you think you'd fall in love with Wellington, too?