Summary: Our only full day in Wellington involved a walking tour with i-Site New Zealand and an afternoon at Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand. Much like our home City of San Francisco, California, Wellington features wind, art, cable-cars, 19th century architecture and even earthquakes. The two cities seem remarkably similar except for overall size, with SF being nearly four times as large, and much larger if you take into consideration the neighboring cities that make up the Bay Area. Tip: Central Wellington is very walkable. Skip the rental car and explore this pretty City by foot.
Walking Tour. The day started with a 2.5 hour walking tour with i-site New Zealand walking tours. Tours are $15 per person and cover the waterfront, historic district, and government buildings. The tour was an excellent way to learn about Wellington history and New Zealand government. It also showcased Wellington's unique interest in art and architecture.
Waterfront stop on the tour.
Parliamentary and Other Government Buildings. Known as the "Beehive," New Zealand's Parliamentary building first opened in 1977. This building sits among a small cluster of buildings that house a significant portion of New Zealand's central government. It makes sense given that New Zealand's total population is only ~5,000,000, but would stood out to us was how compact of an area the government buildings covered.
Old Bank Arcade and Clock. The walking tour also stopped at the Old Bank Arcade to view it's clock in action. The Old Bank Arcade is a shopping mall built within adjoining historical buildings from the late 19th to early 20th century. The original bank building sits atop the wreckage of a ship known as the Inconstant which was originally built in 1848. After its sailing days were over, the hull was purchased by John Plimmer, who is known as the "Father of Wellington." The hull housed a customs office and the first office of Wellington's harbormaster. Later, as the waterfront grew around it, the hull disappeared under the Bank of New Zealand, only to be unearthed in the 1990s. Today, you can view the bow of the ship as you walk across the vault area of the old Bank Building. On the top floor of the mall, you can visit the Old Bank Clock. This ornate clock rings every hour on the hour and opens to show scenes of rural life in the area before and after the Bank building was built.
Museum of New Zealand- Te Papa Tongarewa. Wellington is also the home of the Museum of New Zealand. After our walking tour and picnic lunch, we spent the afternoon here at this multi-level, expansive museum. Located on Wellington's waterfront, this museum features both traditional art collections, as well as archeological finds. We found one temporary exhibition on regarding New Zealand's involvement in WWI particularly interesting. Not only was this interactive exhibit informative, the exhibition itself had impressively life-like works of art depicting New Zealand solders. With so much to see, you can easily spend a full day in this beautiful museum.
After our afternoon at Te Papa, we took another stroll along the waterfront and grabbed some dinner, before heading back to our AirBnb. Tip- we stayed just outside the City Center and traveled to and from downtown via a quick $9 Uber ride. Most everything in central Wellington is walkable so there was no real need to rent a car.