Wellington is like a huge theme park. Walking its streets feels like being in Disneyland. There’s something magical and inspiring around every corner. After all this is the capital of the country where they filmed the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies. And they won’t let you forget about it from the moment you set foot in Wellington. The airport is packed with giant statues of characters from the saga. There’s an enormous, creepy Gollum in the main hall. You will stumble upon an animated Smaug’s head and even Gandalf mounting one of those huge eagles. The level of detail of these sculptures is mind-blowing. All these characters became a reality thanks to the famous Weta Studios. They are the go-to-guys when it comes to modern practical effects and CGI. They do everything from sets to armour, weapons, and even large structures like Minas Tirith. They designed King Kong! It’s safe to say they dipped their fingers in the majority of modern blockbusters. You can book a tour of the studio, or spend your life savings in their shop.
Upon arrival in the city you can do like every tourist and take the Wellington Cable Car: the funicular railway. The iconic red vehicle runs between Lambton Quay, the main shopping street, and Kelburn, a suburb in the hills at a height of 120 meters and overlooking the central city. One-way trip will take only five minutes and will offer you spectacular panoramic views. The best way to catch Wellington’s unique and relaxing atmosphere is by feet. Walk the streets of Wellington and stroll around the waterfront area where local life revolves. The bay is beautiful and the weather is usually amazing. People jog, chat, and hang around cafes and restaurants. On Saturdays they host a farmer’s market for all the foodies out there. The food scene is a big part of the “worlds’ coolest capital”. Everything is organic and “neighborly”. You order a toast and they will tell you a lady next door baked the bread just an hour ago. They have also these holes-in-the-walls, which are the food trucks of Wellington. They sell all kinds of stuff depending on the particular hole. Some serve fried chicken to go, while others offer 100 kinds of peanut butter. You can take a ferry to Matiu Island from the Queen's Wharf. It’s one of three islands just a few miles off the coast. The Maori inhabited it during pre-European times, now it functions as a nature reserve. You can hike the trails or spend the night at one of the camping grounds. You can’t get any closer to nature. Or can you? Locals love to spend their weekends around Princess Bay. It’s a rocky cove of a beach where people enjoy swimming around and picnicking.
Protecting the local ecology and nature has become a big thing in New Zealand. Over the last years many projects were initiated to save energy such as West Wind. It’s a huge wind farm located at Terawhiti Station and Mākara, west of Wellington. Right now it can already generate electricity for more than 70,000 households and thanks to the beautiful views it offers it has become a major tourist attraction on its own. The people of New Zealand realize more and more that their country is a very special place on earth. The islands were once a part of Gondwana, one of the mega continents. That was about 80 million years ago. New Zealand broke off from that massive piece of land. Those eons of isolation from the mainland allowed it to develop unique fauna and flora. The human influence didn’t even reach it until a couple of thousand years ago. And conserving that primal nature has become a top priority of great importance to the people of Wellington. Zealandia, formerly known as the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, is a protected natural area in Wellington. It’s a very unique project. It’s not just a nature reserve. They have a plan for the next 500 years. The point is to reverse as many changes caused by humans as possible. It’s 225 hectares large and you can explore the entire valley. Kids can take part in various educational programs and get involved with this wonderful sanctuary.
Zealandia can get overwhelming with that whole Jurassic Park thing. The Wellington Botanic Garden could be a better fit. You can take the 100-year-old cable cart to Kelburn Lookout. The gardens are right next to it. Take the trip at night if you can, the track and the tunnels are illuminated. The view of the city is pretty darn stunning too. You can learn more about the cart in its dedicated museum. It’s located in the terminal at the top. The Garden itself has been there since 1868 and is beloved by the community. Lady Norwood’s Rose Garden is a standout in the big shot World Federation of Rose Societies. Yes, it’s a thing. Lady Norwood was the wife of Charles Norwood; he was indispensable to the city’s development. Visit the Te Papa Tongarewa if that sounds interesting. Also known as the Museum of New Zealand, it’s a treasure trove of knowledge about Wellington and indigenous people. They host exhibitions and lectures on many captivating topics.