Multi-cultural, multi-faceted Wellington is a refreshing change from other major cities. Like many others, it ticks all the boxes with its stunning scenic beauty, its historic past and its international cuisine. But Wellington still finds room to be charmingly different (even boasting a celebrity one-legged kiwi).
So how can visitors get a true picture of this quirky city? Easy. By taking a Hop-on, Hop-off tour, visitors can sit back and experience the whole city and its environs in just a day or two. Here's a taste of what you can expect on a trip around Wellington.
Historical highlights : The Colonial Cottage is a must-see stop on your tour. Built in 1858, it has been beautifully restored and gives a charming insight into nineteenth-century life in Wellington. You'll learn even more about life in bygone times by visiting the small Cable Car Museum at the next hop-off point.
Another heritage building is Old St. Paul's , a wooden church built in 1866. Built in 19th century Gothic Revival style, it has fantastic wooden carvings and some exquisite stained glass windows.
Being the capital city of New Zealand, Wellington has a range of Parliament Buildings, which are another impressive place to stop off. A free tour of the complex is available, or you can just relax in the grounds for a while.
City of culture : New Zealand's most famous author, Katherine Mansfield , lived in Wellington. Her birthplace is part of the city's Heritage Trail and is a charming place to explore.
Art aficionados will not want to miss the City Gallery , which has worked by local and international artists. In this gallery, art is presented in unique and inspiring ways, for an enthralling experience that gives visitors something new to think about.
The fascinating Museum of Wellington City & Sea is impressively modern. Do not miss the holographic displays that recreate historical events from the city's history! In fact, museum lovers are spoiled for choice, because the nearby Te Papa Museum is full of multimedia adventures. It has six floors of treasures, 3D animations and interactive stories about New Zealand's rich history.
Entertainment for all : For film buffs, hopping off the bus at Weta Cave will be a given. With films like the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit being made in New Zealand, a chance to learn about the making of blockbuster movies is not to be turned down.
The Embassy Theater stop is also good location for some rest and relaxation, with its theaters, art galleries, shops and nightlife. You want more shops? Head for Cuba Mall , a lively, pedestrianized area with plenty more shops, cafés and restaurants.
Another hop-off point is the Sheepskin Warehouse , which has sheepskin items such as rugs, car seats and slippers to remind visitors of their New Zealand trip.
Quiet time : Take a break in the 24-hectare Botanic Gardens along the bus route, when you need some peace and quiet. Especially beautiful in spring when the 26,000 tulips are in bloom, these gardens also feature a massive rose display, a collection of orchids and a charming water lily pond. Sanctuary Valley might also fit the bill; it's the only urban eco-sanctuary in the world and allows you to see endangered species close up.
Oriental Bay is also recommended for a bit of down time. It offers a safe swimming beach, a pretty harbor and a promenade just made for strolling.