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Wellington and the Wairarapa Travel Guide

  • Photo: Peter Guttman/

Plan Your Wellington and the Wairarapa Vacation

People are finding their way to Wellington, and not merely because it's the sailing point for ferries heading south. From the windswept green heights overlooking New Zealand's capital, a crystal-clear winter morning reveals stunning views over the deceptively quiet waters of Cook Strait stretching to the snowcapped mountains of the South Island; and it's sheer heaven on a mild summer night when

a silver medallion of moon tops mysterious misty hillsides.

Wellington has developed a lively, friendly, and infectious spirit of a city coming into its own. Pleasant and compact enough to be a good walking city, you might find yourself content to laze around the harbor, perhaps sipping a chilled glass of Chardonnay from a nearby vineyard. The burgeoning film industry—thanks to the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) and The Hobbit extravaganzas—has injected life into the local arts scene. Ardent film fans can still visit the many LOTR sites around the region, but everyone benefits from the lively cafés and the rapidly expanding restaurant culture. On the waterfront the first-class Te Papa Tongarewa–Museum of New Zealand has many hands-on exhibits equally fascinating for children and adults, and the Museum of City and Sea is dedicated to the history of Wellington.

Wellington and the adjacent Hutt Valley are the southern gateway to the Wairarapa, a region whose name has become synonymous with wine. Journey over the hills and meander along quiet byways from vineyard to vineyard for a day—or two, or three—of wine tasting. If wine isn't your thing, the Wairarapa is still worth an excursion for its gardens, fishing, walks, and even hot-air ballooning. Head for the coast, too, where waves crash against craggy, windswept beaches, and the dramatic sunsets intoxicate you with their beauty.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Arts and Culture The national symphony, ballet, and opera are headquartered here. And the biennial New Zealand International Arts Festival celebrates an extensive program of drama, music, dance, and other arts events.
  2. A Wealth of Wineries Spend a day or two (or three) wine tasting your way through the Wairarapa, home to more than 30 vineyards.
  3. Eclectic Cuisine The great variety of Wellington's restaurants allows you to sample foods from dozens of cuisines, while also serving plenty of down-to-earth Kiwi fare.
  4. The Waterfront Wandering along the Wellington waterfront is one of the most pleasurable ways to spend a day. You can visit (for free!) Te Papa Tongarewa, one of the country's best museums, and the Museum of City and Sea. Or you can walk to Oriental Bay, where you can join the local residents jogging, swimming, riding a bike, or people-watching.

When To Go

When to Go

November to mid-April is the best time weather-wise in the Wellington area. Most establishments are open (apart from Christmas Day, New Year...

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