Region in Profile: Wellington

Posted by:
26 May 2014

As the capital of New Zealand, Wellington claims the capital title in many other aspects – namely culture, movies and cuisine.

Boasting museums, galleries, gardens, coastal views and walking tracks, you’ll never run out of things to do and see. 


Kupe is believed to be the first Polynesian (the Maori people descended from the early Polynesians) to discover the Wellington area in 950 AD. It was named “Te Upoko o Te Ika a Maui” or “the Head of Maui’s Fish”, as Maori legends state the North Island was fished up from the water by Maori demigod Maui.

Englishman Captain Cook anchored in Wellington harbour in 1773 and the harbour was charted in 1826 by Captain Herd. European colonisation of the area began in the 1840s and The New Zealand Company named the settlement Wellington.

The seat of government was changed to Wellington from Auckland in 1865 because of the geographically central position of this thriving city.

Lambton Quay, Wellington

Student city

There are 16 main tertiary education institutes in Wellington, including the two universities Victoria and Massey.

Students can study a range of courses such as English language, travel and tourism, sport, film, drama and many more.. This means there are over 27,000 students living and learning in Wellington.

As well as studying, you'll find them socialising at local coffee shops, window shopping on Cuba Street and enjoying Wellington’s vibrant nightlife.

Wellington hosts an English New Zealand school located right in the heart of the city. NZLC (New Zealand Language Centres) is a short walk to world-famous Te Papa Museum and close to the unique Cuba Street shopping experience.

Wellington is renowned for its public transport system, with buses, taxis and trains running constantly at an affordable price. The Interislander ferry offers reduced prices for students, and showing your student ID or ISIC (International Student Identity Card) will get you plenty of discounts in shops, at the movies and even at the dentist.

Areas of interest

Lambton Quay and the Waterfront are certainly among the most popular places to be in Wellington and are both rich in history and beauty. Walk or jog around the Waterfront or relax on the beach and meet new and interesting people.

Mt Victoria is located to the east of Wellington City, and is a great place to visit for stunning views of the whole city.

Visiting the famous Wellington Botanic Gardens is a colourful and wonderfully scented way to spend a day. Learn about native and exotic plants and flowers, wander round the rose garden or take a look at the artworks and gift shop. If you’re really interested in gardening, you can volunteer as a host or join a “Friends of the Garden” project.

Best of all, these beautiful visual spectacles won’t cost you a thing.

Awesome affordable activities

The Sunday markets on the Waterfront are a great place to pick up cheap, locally grown fruit and vegetables. Other markets sell custom clothing, jewellery and mouth-watering food.

Wellington Market

“Wellywood” has become the Hollywood of New Zealand. Movie director Sir Peter Jackson has produced and worked on many movies from his home city, including  Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, King Kong and The Lovely Bones.

Weta Workshop is the heart of Wellywood. A special effects and prop company, it has quickly soared in popularity working on movies such as The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Avatar, the Chronicles of Narnia, Elysium and District 9. Taking a tour of the workshop is an experience to remember, and at only $20 per tour, it’s cheap too!

Visiting Te Papa is a must. The free-entry museum is full of wonders and knowledge, open 10am-6pm (with a late night of 9pm on Thursdays) every day of the year. Exhibitions are always changing and there are plenty of events held there. Don’t miss the Matariki Celebrations – the museum is hosting a range of activities to celebrate the Maori New Year in late May/early June. Find out more on their website.

The government of New Zealand is housed in Parliament Buildings and the iconic Beehive. There are tours through both buildings and the public are welcome to sit in on a parliament meeting or debate.

The Beehive, Wellington

Wellington is a great place for students, and an even better place to study English. You’ll always find new things to do and see, and kind, friendly  people to talk to.

Are you studying in Wellington? What are your favourite places to visit? Tell us about it in a comment below.

Picture credits:

Infographic based on Aotea Quay by Phillip Capper, CC-BY-2.0

Lambton Quay by Phillip Capper, CC-BY-2.0

Wellington Market by Phillip Capper, CC-BY-2.0

Form follows function by Phillip Capper, CC-BY-2.0