Wellington is the capital city and second most populous urban area of New Zealand. It is at the southwestern tip of the North Island, between Cook Strait and the Rimutaka Range. The urban area is home to 397,900 residents. The city council area has 204,000 people.
Wellington’s earliest name is Te Upoko o te Ika a Maui or ‘the head of Maui’s fish’ which refers to the story of how Aotearoa New Zealand was created.
According to Māori legend, the Polynesian navigator Maui hooked a giant fish that, when pulled to the surface, turned into the land form now known as the North Island.
Kupe – a legendary Polynesian explorer – is credited with discovering Wellington harbour around the 10th century. Kupe named several places on the Wellington peninsula including Matiu (Somes) Island and Makaro (Ward) Island.
During the next thousand years, different iwi (tribes) settled in the area including Ngai Tara who gave their name to Wellington harbour – Te Whanganui a Tara means ‘great harbour of Tara’. Ngai Tara eventually merged with the Ngati Ira iwi, and other local tribal groups are Ngati Kahungunu, Ngai Tahu and Ngati Mamoe.
European settlers arrived in the early 1840s. Petone, on the northern end of the harbour, was originally chosen as the site for the new town but the swampy land was unsuitable for development so the settlement was relocated across the harbour.
In 1865 Wellington became the capital of New Zealand, and has been the centre of New Zealand government since then.
Wellington is renowned for its sophisticated food scene including more than 300 cafés, bars and restaurants, and claims more places to eat and drink per capita than New York.
Wellington’s top restaurants – and some of New Zealand’s finest dining establishments – include Matterhorn, Logan Brown and Martin Bosley’s Yacht Club Restaurant where there’s a strong focus on freshness, seasonality and local sourcing of produce. The city also boasts a vibrant nightlife with some acclaimed bars. For a sample of Wellington’s many flavours, guided food tours introduce visitors to gourmet food stores, coffee roasters, cafés and restaurants and hard-to-find destinations.
New Zealand’s arts and culture capital has many museums and art galleries, as well as a thriving theatre and film scene. Annual large scale international events include the International Arts Festival, Wellington Sevens Rugby tournament, and World of WearableArt awards.
New Zealand’s national museum – Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand – is a contemporary museum of innovative and interactive displays. Te Papa showcases New Zealand’s diverse art and visual culture in collections featuring wildlife, history, Māori culture, contemporary art and culture.
Museum of Wellington City and Sea, in a significant heritage building on the waterfront, offers an insight into the city’s social and cultural history.
Wellington is the centre of New Zealand’s film industry. Often referred to as ‘Wellywood’, Wellington is the home of film director Peter Jackson and his production facility, and was a location for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong.
Weta Cave offers a behind-the-scenes look at the special effects used in the Jackson movies, including filmed exclusive interviews with Weta co-founders Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor, Tania Rodger and Jamie Selkirk. The mini museum showcases characters, props and displays from more than 20 years of Weta history.