Wellington’s population may be less than a third of Auckland’s 1.5m, but the New Zealand capital punches above its weight.
The good life
Once named the “coolest little capital in the world” by Lonely Planet, windy Wellington has topped Deutsche Bank’s ranking for quality of life in 50 cities relevant to financial markets for two years running. Its relatively low levels of pollution contributed to its pole position, and it is easy to commute by car.
Slopes and sea shores
Nestled between the sea and hills on the south-western tip of New Zealand’s North Island, Wellington is an hour’s flight from Auckland and a three-hour ferry journey across the Cook Strait from South Island.
The historic Wellington Cable Car funicular railway navigates the city’s steep slopes from central Lambton Quay to the suburb of Kelburn. Some high-end homes even have their own private cable cars, although maintenance is often difficult.
Kiwi culture on show
Home to the Royal New Zealand Ballet and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the city also boasts the national Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, affectionately known as Te Papa (“our place”) for short.
Venues near the entertainment hub of Courtenay Place include BATS Theatre, which stages the best in new Kiwi talent, and the 1920s Embassy Theatre cinema, which hosted the world premiere of New Zealander Peter Jackson’s 2003 fantasy film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Spoilt for culinary choice
Wellington claims to have more cafés, bars and restaurants per head than New York, and the most coffee roasters per head worldwide, so residents are never far from a good flat white. Those who prefer something stronger can sample craft beer at the two-day Beervana festival in August, while the annual Wellington on a Plate festival, in the same month, serves up more than 100 food and drink events.
A window on wildlife
Nature is close at hand: Zealandia, a sanctuary in the suburbs of Wellington, features some of the country’s rarest native species, while the Kapiti Island reserve, 5km off the coast (a 45-minute drive north of the city plus a boat ride from Paraparumu Beach), is known for its birds.
South of the city centre, a 40-minute walk from Owhiro Bay takes in the geologically significant Red Rocks reserve and Sinclair Head, which is known for its New Zealand fur seal colony.
Photographs: Tom Uhlman/Alamy; Stephen A’Court; Robert Chang/Getty Images/iStockphoto; Getty Images/iStockphoto