Lonely Planet called it “the coolest little capital in the world”. But Wellington, New Zealand, has more to be proud of than a single accolade. The city’s population might be just shy of 400,000, but its 171 square miles packs in the culture, the food, the drinks and the fun.
Located at the south end of the North Island, Wellington is perfectly located for anyone traveling through New Zealand. Here are just a few of the attractions to check out while you’re in town.
Explore the Museum of New Zealand
There are museums, and then there are museums. The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa falls in the second category: storey upon storey of interactive exhibits, ranging from fossils to textiles to photography to geology to historical artifacts.
Te Papa’s exhibits are designed to be incredibly hands-on. Entry is free (except for some short-term exhibits and activities), meaning that even on-budget backpackers can soak up the New Zealand culture.
Experience Rugby Like Never Before
Rugby is all but a religion in New Zealand, and no visit to Wellington would be complete without a stop at the Westpac stadium to witness the game in person. For the ultimate experience, time your visit to catch an All Blacks game—seeing the haka live will send shivers down your spine.
Sip a Craft Beer
If you’re a fan of craft beer, you’ll feel right at home in Wellington. The city is bursting at the seams with bars, like The Malthouse and Little Beer Quarter, featuring fine local craft beers.
Wellington is also home two breweries, ParrotDog (try the Bloodhound Red IPA or DeadCanary Pale Ale) and Garage Project (with an ever evolving selection, including treats like the Salt & Pepper Porter and Hazel Maple Mild).
Celebrate the New Zealand Festival
Every other year, Wellington comes alive with the New Zealand Festival. With over 300 events celebrating the arts, the city explodes with creativity over 24 days throughout February and March.
Dance, theater, visual arts, film, music and photography are all celebrated in indoor and outdoor venues throughout the city. With both free and ticketed events, there’s a way for everyone to get in on the action.
Drown Yourself in Coffee
Coffee in Wellington is more than just coffee—in fact, this year, they are launching a brand new festival to celebrate all things java, called Caffeination. Case in point: CNN just named Wellington as one of the top 8 coffee cities in the world.
The best coffees in Wellington are small, boutique joints, which can range from a tiny hole in the wall to an upscale state-of-the-art lounge. You’ll need to sample from a wide range to find the perfect spot for you—try Memphis Belle or Flight Coffee Hangar to start.
What to order? Go for a “flat white”—a double shot of espresso topped with velvety microfoam.
All Aboard the Wellington Cable Car
The Wellington Cable Car is one is the city’s greatest symbols: a 2,060 foot long railway that takes you through tunnels and over bridges around the city. It’s a popular commuting method, but just as much fun to ride as a visitor to town.
The cable car was built at the turn of the 20th century, and its wooden cars operate to this very day. Hop on to experience a little history firsthand.