Welcome to the Wellington Travel Guide. Wellington is New Zealand's political capital – home to NZ's Parliament building, the Beehive – and is considered by many to be the cultural capital of the country as well.
Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand, is located in Wellington, and Wellington's Victoria University is a hub for many creative arts – it's the home of the International Institute of Modern Letters, for example, a school attended by some of NZ's top writers including Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton.
There is also a lot of cool sculpture, graffiti and other public art all over the city.
A word of warning: Wellington is known as the 'Windy City' for a reason.
The persistent winds around Wellington and the Hutt Valley have made possible the giant wind turbines that can be seen along the coastline, built as a move towards renewable power (and Wellington is also a particular 'green' city).
But it also means the weather in Wellington can be pretty unpredictable and can be cold even when it's sunny – if sunbathing is top of your agenda, this is not the place to do it.
Wellington is a compact, dense city on the hillsides around the harbour, so it's convenient to walk around – a big contrast to the suburban sprawl of Auckland.
With a population around 350,000, many international visitors are surprised to hear it called a “city” - but its residents have some of the highest life satisfaction in NZ.
It has all the benefits of a big city, including great nightlife, without many of the drawbacks (for example, it's very safe).
Below is a quick overview of everything you need to know to visit Wellington on a budget: finding cheap flights, where to find cheap accommodation, the best things to do, hiring a car once you arrive, and even a few tips for dealing with Wellington airport.
If you're camping your way around NZ in a tent, or even in a campervan, I'm afraid Wellington will not be your best friend.
You may want to consider staying in a backpackers instead – this is the most feasible option for most budget travellers visiting the city.
If you're bringing the family or you're part of a group, motels and cheap hotels may also be an option. Check out the Cheap Wellington Accommodation Overview Guide, or try the guides below for a breakdown of some of the best places to stay in Wellington for the different accommodation types, plus some tips on how and where to find accommodation discounts.
While the weather may not always be the best, there are plenty of activities both indoor and out to keep you occupied when you visit.
As I mentioned, it's a fairly compact city and easy to walk around, so you can do a lot of the main attractions in one day on foot if you choose.
Here are some of the biggest attractions you should try to visit while you're in town – for more detail, including prices, check out the Top Things to Do in Wellington guide.
Here's a quick intro:
Whether you're heading north to explore the rest of the North Island, or you want to cross the Strait to check out the South Island, Wellington is a good spot to hire a car.
Prices for car hire can vary a great deal depending on which company you use, when you rent, and whether or not you take advantage of discounts.
There are also a lot of other things to consider beyond the rental price – like insurance, the fuel efficiency of the car (this can add up big time), and hidden extra costs.
Check out the guide to Car Hire in Wellington for a full breakdown on the best companies and how to get a good deal.
Wellington is right in the middle of the country, so it's a fairly convenient hub for domestic flights.
You can usually find very cheap flights to Wellington from Auckland (sometimes as low as $30), Christchurch, and elsewhere in NZ. There are also some international flight paths that fly into Wellington directly.
Check out the guide to finding Cheap Flights to Wellington for more info on bagging a deal.
Wellington airport can be a little confusing the first time you visit. This straightforward Wellington Airport Guide covers getting around, to and from the airport, hiring a car from the airport and the costs involved in airport parking.