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Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Wellington

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Wellington, New Zealand's capital city, lies at the southwestern tip of the North Island in a supremely beautiful situation, surrounded by water and steep hills, with its picturesque natural harbor, Port Nicholson. Another characteristic of the city is the strong and sometimes stormy westerly wind that blows in almost constantly from the Cook Strait, giving Wellington its name of the 'windy city'.

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Ferry to South Island

Ferry from Wellington to Picton.
A trip by ferry to the South Island is an unforgettable experience. The crossing takes 3 1/2 hours. From the harbor the ferry cuts across the Cook Strait and then sails for an hour or more through the magnificent scenery of the Marlborough Sounds to the little port of Picton.

Thorndon

Old Government Building

The most imposing building in the parliamentary and government quarter is the Old Government Building (1876) at the north end of Lambton Quay. Like the other buildings in this area, it stands on the old seabed that was thrust upwards in the 1855 earthquake and proved a welcome addition to the narrow strip of level ground fronting the harbor. Although this massive four-story building in Italian Renaissance style looks as if it were built in stone, it is in fact wholly of wood - the second-largest wooden building in the world. The architect, WH Clayton, son-in-law of the then prime minister Sir Julius Vogel, used kauri, rimu and matai wood, which turned out to be so expensive that the government dispensed with an official opening ceremony. The building originally had 22 chimneys but these were removed as an earthquake risk. In front of the building is a statue of the Labor leader and prime minister (1940-9) Peter Fraser.

Parliament Buildings (Beehive)

Parliament Beehive and assembly in New Zealand's capital of Wellington.
Parliament buildings North of the Old Government Building is an even more remarkable building, the modern circular structure popularly known as the Beehive, which houses ministerial and government offices and the Cabinet Room. Built in 1964-81 to the design of the British architect Sir Basil Spence, it is still the subject of controversy. Next to it is Parliament House (1922), built of granite and Takaka marble from the South Island. The chamber in which Parliament sits is modeled on the House of Commons chamber at Westminster. There are conducted tours of the building on weekdays. The chamber of the upper house, which was abolished in 1952, is now used only for the state opening of Parliament.
Here too is the General Assembly Library Building, a two-story neo-Gothic building (1897). In the gardens are statues of Richard John Seddon, prime minister of New Zealand 1893-1906, and John Ballance, leader of the Liberal Party and Seddon's predecessor as prime minister.

National Library

Parliament library in Wellington.
North, past other government buildings, is the National Library (opened 1987.) The nucleus of the national collection was formed by the Alexander Turnbull Library, previously kept in Turnbull's old house in Bowen Street, near the Beehive. The library now has over 250,000 volumes, including a very valuable and almost complete collection of accounts of travel and discovery in the south Pacific. In the fine Reading Room is a mural by the Maori artist Cliff Whiting depicting the separation of Mother Earth and Father Sky.
Official site: www.natlib.govt.nz
Address: Box 1467, New Zealand

National Archives

The National Archives display important documents bearing on the history of New Zealand. They include letters written by Captain Cook, the petition that led to women getting the vote and the Treaty of Waitangi itself. The National Portrait Gallery is housed in the same building.
Official site: www.archives.govt.nz
Address: 10 Mulgrave Street, Thorndon, New Zealand

Old St Paul's Church

Beyond this is Old St Paul's Church (1866; Anglican), perhaps the finest of the churches built for Bishop Selwyn by Frederick Thatcher. Externally a plain white wooden building in neo-Gothic (Early English) style, it has a charming interior in which the beauty of the wood is enhanced by the use of light. Originally Thorndon's parish church, it became Wellington's cathedral until it was superseded in 1972 by the present cathedral opposite the National Library.

Katherine Mansfield's Birthplace

From the north end of Mulgrave Street, Murphy Street continues northwest passing the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Park (presented to the city by her father). It crosses the urban expressway and runs into Tinakori Road, at the far end of which (No. 25) is the plain wooden house, very much in the style of old Thorndon, in which Katherine Mansfield was born in 1888. The house, which was built by her father in the year that she was born, has been restored to its original condition and is now a museum.
Address: 25 Tinakori Road, Thorndon, Wellington, Wellington 6001, New Zealand

Thistle Inn

The Thistle Inn is Wellington's oldest hotel. Originally built in the 1840s, it was rebuilt after a fire in 1866.

Waterfront

The waterfront of Wellington is very attractive. Queen's Wharf and Frank Kitts Park are surrounded by fine buildings, including the Civic Centre, the modern City of Sea Bridge and the recent National Museum (1998). From Frank Kitts Park there is a good view of the nearby harbor. Features include a mast from the ferry Wahine that went down with 51 passengers in a storm in the harbor in 1968, and a bronze representation of the two ships in which Abel Tasman discovered New Zealand in 1642.

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

The city's latest attraction is the new Te Papa (Maori expression for 'our country') National Museum opened on the south side of the harbor in 1998 and showing multimedia and interactive displays of the country's history. Mountains to Sea explains how New Zealand was created; Awesome Forces features a multimedia presentation on earthquakes; On the Sheep's Back highlights the economic significance of sheep farming; The Time Warp gives a thrilling high-tech trip through time and space. The heart of the museum is formed by Te Marae, a modern Maori shrine, the Maori meeting place Te Wharenui and a giant canoe used as a Maori warship. The new museum complex also includes collections from the National Art Gallery and 19th C and 20th C works by artists from New Zealand, Australia and Europe. It also has some works by Rembrandt.
Official site: www.tepapa.govt.nz
Address: Box 467, New Zealand

Museum of Wellington City & Sea (formerly Harbour Board Maritime Museum

The Wellington Harbour Board Maritime Museum closed on 13 September 1999 and reopened in an 1892 building under the name Museum of Wellington City & Sea. The museum explores the social and maritime history of Wellington.
Address: The Bond Store, Queens Wharf, Box 893, New Zealand

Queen's Wharf Retail and Event Centre

The Queen's Wharf Retail and Event Centre offers various boutiques, bars and restaurants.

Botanic Gardens and Vicinity

The Botanic Gardens (26ha) lie in the center of the city on the Kelburn Hills. The cable car that runs up to the gardens is an experience in itself. This 610m long funicular railroad, opened in 1902, climbs from Lambton Quay, opposite Gray Street, to a height of 122m. The old wooden cars were replaced in 1979 by modern ones made in Switzerland. From the hilltop there is a magnificent view of Wellington.
The Botanic Gardens were opened in 1869. At the entrance are the Carter Observatory belonging to the Meteorological Institute and a number of other university scientific institutes. The high points of the gardens are the Lady Norwood Rose Garden, with over 500 varieties of roses, the begonia house, the herb garden, the Maori herb beds and a garden designed to raise concern for the environment. The walk through the gardens ends at the north exit in Glenmore Street, which has retained its Victorian wrought-iron gates and porter's lodge.

Bolton Street Memorial Park

The Bolton Street Early Settlers Memorial Park includes the Sexton's Cottage and the graves of noted citizens and politicians, including Edward Gibbon Wakefield and Richard Seddon.

Victoria University

To the south of the upper station of the cable car in the Bolton Street Memorial Park is the campus of the Victoria University. In the Hunter Building is a geological museum. More interesting perhaps for most visitors is the Roman Catholic cemetery in Mount Street, with the oldest graves in Wellington (1840).
Official site: www.victoria.ac.nz
Address: Box 600, Wellington, Wellington 6001, New Zealand

Mount Victoria

Hauraki Gulf and Rangitoto Island seen from Mt Victoria.
Mount Victoria (196m), immediately east of the city center, is the best-known and also the windiest of Wellington's viewpoints. A narrow winding road, signposted 'Lookout', runs up from Oriental Bay to the Byrd Memorial below the viewing platform. From the terrace on the summit there is a magnificent panorama of the broad city, the harbor, Cook Strait, Hutt Valley and Kelburn Park with the university buildings. The Byrd Memorial commemorates the American aviator Richard Byrd, who in 1929 made the first flight over the South Pole from his base in New Zealand.

Wellington Chamber Orchestra

The Wellington Chamber Orchestra is an amateur based group which seeks to offer affordable family concerts. A variety of programs, styles, and musical experiences are offered annually.

Wellington International Airport

Wellington International Airport offers direct international service to Australia and various islands in the South Pacific. It is also a major hub for domestic air travel.
Address: Corporate Office, Level 0, Main Terminal Building, New Zealand
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