When most people list the world’s capital cities, they start with iconic super cities like Paris, Tokyo and Rome. However, some of the most interesting and enjoyable capital cities are much smaller in size. Wellington is New Zealand’s capital city and it boasts the perfect combination of local culture, traditional landmarks and historical museums. Whether you want to look forward to the future of fusion cuisine or back to the history of New Zealand and the Maori people, Wellington is the ideal destination. By flying into the Wellington International Airport and renting a car online ahead of time, visitors will be able to explore the North Island at their own pace and according to their itinerary. Here are just a handful of the top places to explore when touring Wellington and the surrounding areas.
Understand Maori Heritage at the Museum of New Zealand
Also called Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand is one of the most incredible and eye-opening destinations in the entire city. The museum’s Marae, or communal meeting place, is a way to understand the shared art and culture of the native citizens of New Zealand. At the Mountains to Sea exhibit, visitors can learn about the plants and wildlife that call Wellington home, and the Golden Days tours lets you climb aboard a traditional ship and experience the capital as it looked more than a century in the past.
Take in the Old Government Buildings
Visitors interested in architecture, history or politics should absolutely make time to see the Old Government Buildings, which are located on Lambton Quay in Wellington. Construction was completed on these buildings in 1876, and they served as the headquarters for the country’s civil service. Today, these impressive buildings are the oldest wooden structures still standing in the entire Southern Hemisphere. While the buildings currently serve as the home for the Law School at Victoria University, tours can be taken of the interior.
Tour the Katherine Mansfield House
While Katherine Mansfield might not be quite as universally recognised as authors like Virginia Woolf or D.H. Lawrence, her modernist works were just as influential in the early 20th century. Mansfield was born in 1888 in Wellington, just 20 years after the city had officially become the nation’s capital. Today, the Katherine Mansfield House, which is just 10 kilometres from the Wellington Airport, is a mecca for literary fanatics, and the attached museum offers a bountiful array of artefacts related to the author’s life in New Zealand. Her style of oblique narration and use of symbolism has lived on in the written word, but her early stories included in the exhibits show the formation of this unique writing style.
Enjoy a Meal at the Historic Thistle Inn
With so many incredible places to dine in and around Wellington, it can be hard to choose the right spot for a gourmet meal. Those who are seeking atmosphere and history will definitely want to make a stop at the historic Thistle Inn, which was built in 1840 and still stands as the oldest hotel in all of New Zealand. Whether you go for lunch or dinner, arrive early for either the 11:30 a.m. tour or the 7 p.m. tour, both of which last for 15 minutes and end in the dining room. The extensive and upscale menu features items like Paua fritters with a lemon aioli, local lamb with mashed potatoes, pan-friend fresh salmon and homemade tiramisu for a luscious and decadent dessert.
Sights Among Wellington’s Monuments and Landmarks
While the historic inns, buildings and museums listed above are certainly some of the best-known landmarks in and around Wellington, the capital city offers a lot more for travellers. Plimmer’s Ark, for example, is an incredible ship that an entire bank building was built upon more than 100 years ago, and the ruins are now exposed to view. You might even want to ride the cable car to the Carter Observatory, which gives you incredible views of the night sky as well as some wonderful planetarium exhibits.
With a rental car at your disposal, travellers can truly make the most of the coolest little capital city in the world and experience all the history, heritage and culture that Wellington has to offer.