|Wellington's diverse and traditionally
transient 300,000+ population base is an eclectic mix of colourful
suburban and chic inner-city apartment communities. Many of the central
and city-fringe suburbs have been rejuvenated over the past five years
creating a vibrancy and positive spirit which is reflected in the region's
Courtenay Place is the centre of local theatrical activity and the favoured destination for those seeking entertainment well into the wee hours. Restaurants, cafes, wine bars and pubs line both sides of this long, wide strip with a good spread of ethnic tastes represented in their menus.
For the young urban dweller, Cuba and Manners Malls are the locations of choice in which to see and be seen. Street theatre and busking are common, especially during the Fringe Festival and the International Festival of the Arts and innovative sculptures and water features add colour to the area. The concentration of cafes on Cuba is phenomenal and there is something there to suit most moods and palates.
The Golden Mile
For the sophisticated shopper, Wellington's so-called 'Golden Mile' shopping district provides endless opportunities for spending. Stretching the length of Lambton Quay and Willis St, the area incorporates a number of popular shopping malls including Lambton Square, Capital on the Quay, the BNZ Centre and the newly refurbished Old Bank Arcade. You will find Wellington's answer to Harrod's, Kirkcaldie & Stains, on Lambton Quay.
There are plenty of eating options here too, including the ever-crowded Caffe Astoria, Paris and Forum. Watch out for the suit brigade as you pound the pavements, particularly between midday and 2pm when the surrounding office blocks, affectionately known as Wellington's filing cabinets, empty their drawers for lunch.
Civic Square was developed in the early 1990s and forms a natural boundary between the Cuba St and Lambton Quay shopping precincts. A marvellous open area incorporating clever landscaping, it is popular with the lunchtime crowds in summer and is a regular venue for outdoor festivals and markets.The square is ringed by cultural institutions of note; the Wellington Public Library, the City Gallery and the Wellington Festival and Convention Centre, incorporating the Town Hall and Michael Fowler Centre. The architecturally designed City to Sea Bridge provides a quick link with the nearby waterfront.
With cycleways and parks spanning the full length of the inner-city harbour-side from Queen's Wharf to Oriental Parade, Wellington's waterfront is one of the most accessible in the country. The area is a popular weekend destination for families and young people with activities and attractions to cater for all interests. Museum buffs are spoilt for choice with the Wellington Museum of City & Sea having recently reopened on Queen's Wharf and the majestic Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa gracing the shores nearby. In-line skates and kayaks can be hired from Ferg's Rock'n Kayak and if you're in need of a meal or drink both Dockside and Shed 5 have excellent reputations.
Mt Victoria & Oriental Bay
Mt Victoria's colourful Victorian villas present a picture of island elegance, perched precariously on the edge of this bush-clad hillside. The ignorance of Wellington's original surveyors to the city's hilly terrain has led to eccentricities in streetscapes so you will need to keep an eye out for footpaths that are in fact narrow, winding streets and for private cablecars which provide necessary access to some of the more remote of hilltop homes. The Southern Walkway wends its way through the bush to emerge at the top for spectacular 360 degree panoramic views of the city. At its foot, tree-lined streets frame the pleasant inner-city suburbs of Mt Victoria and Oriental Bay. Several excellent guesthouses can be found here including Dunrobin House and some of the finest restaurants are hidden in its nooks and crannies. Try the Roxburgh Bistro, Menton, or for something a little different, Theo's Greek Taverna. The award-winning Parade Café is a popular place for brunch, perhaps after a swim at the adjacent Freyberg Pool.
A quaint mix of old and new characterises this up-market inner-city suburb. One of the oldest areas of town, it was divided by the motorway extension in the 1970s which ripped through the middle of the Bolton St Cemetery, but much of its colonial charm survives in the narrow backstreets which can be explored on foot. Ascot St and Sydney St West are two of the finest examples of collections of colonial cottages but there are also many gems to be found along the main suburban axis, Tinakori Rd.
Historic Thorndon is rich in architectural and cultural attractions. Katherine Mansfield's Birthplace can be visited on Tinakori Rd and the magnificent Old St Paul's should not be missed. Don't confuse it with its newer and larger neighbour, St Paul's Cathedral.
Just across the harbour, a short crossing by WestpacTrust ferry from the central city, lies the pleasant waterside settlement of Eastbourne. Days Bay is a popular destination for families and sun seekers in summer and is also convenient for its close proximity to several excellent reserves and walking areas including Butterfly Creek and the Pencarrow Lighthouse. The unrestricted views of Wellington City and the entrance to the harbour are magnificent.