The capital of New Zealand, but only its third largest city, Wellington is the geographic and cultural center of the country. Located on the southern tip of the North Island and sitting on a sparkling harbor, it is a primary departure point for ferries crossing Cook Strait to the South Island. With a vibrant arts scene and a variety of galleries, theaters and museums, Wellington has an undeniable charm and energy.
How to Get to Wellington
If you are arriving on a large cruise ship, you will dock at Aotea Quay, located between the Interislander Ferry Terminal and the train station. From there, a walk into the city center is about twenty minutes. You might also take a free shuttle if offered by your ship or catch a shuttle operated by the city, which costs around five New Zealand dollars. Smaller cruise ships dock at Queens Wharf, which is right in the center of town.
One Day in Wellington
Start your day in Wellington by taking the cable car from Lambton Quay up to Kelburn. Enjoy spectacular views over the city and harbor and then spend some time exploring the hilltop Botanic Garden and the Lady Norwood Rose Garden. You can walk all the way down to the city or backtrack and take the cable car back to Lambton Quay.
Next, head to the Museum of New Zealand, also known as Te Papa. Covering five floors, the museum features exhibits and interactive displays telling the story of New Zealand’s past, present and future. If you’re lucky, your visit will coincide with one of many special cultural performances. Allow a few hours to take it all in and then head to the waterfront to enjoy lunch at one of the many cafes along the quay.
After lunch, hunt down some of Wellington’s famous public art, including various sculptures, a cenotaph, a wind mobile and two stainless steel monoliths. A guide is available from the Wellington City Council. Time permitting, visit the Museum of Wellington City & Sea or the City Gallery before you return to your ship.
Nature enthusiasts may prefer a visit to the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary to check out rare New Zealand wildlife, including many of its native birds, while movie buffs will enjoy a “Lord of the Rings” tour, visiting many of the sites used in filming the popular trilogy.
The local language is English, with a bit of Maori heard around town as well. The currency is the New Zealand dollar. ATMs are found at major banks and at the train station, which is a five minute walk from Aotea Quay terminal.