If you have watched a recent movie and marveled at the natural beauty onscreen, chances are that you were looking at a shot of New Zealand. From “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” films to “Avatar,” “Chronicles of Narnia” and “Pete’s Dragon,” filmmakers around the world come to New Zealand when CGI landscapes just won’t cut it. This island nation’s capital city is Wellington, and it’s the perfect place to start your journey through this beautiful country.
What to do
If you are a “The Lord of the Rings” enthusiast, you have quite a journey to the official Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, about six hours away from Wellington by car. That’s a long way to drive for casual viewers, but if you are a die-hard fan, the trip is well worth it to see the hobbit holes in the hillsides and get a drink at the Green Dragon Inn. To learn more about how the movies were actually made, the city of Wellington is home to the Weta Workshop. This facility conducts tours to show off the props and effects that make a whole gamut of epic fantasy films possible.
You don’t have to be a Tolkien fan to visit New Zealand, though, as this land was built for real life adventures as well. To get a taste of what lies beyond the city, Zealandia Wellington is ready to welcome you. This urban ecosanctuary that covers more than 225 hectares near the capital city’s metropolitan heart. Its long-term goal is to restore the forest and ecosystem to its pre-human state in the next 500 years, but for now you can see about 18 species of wildlife the group has reintroduced to their original habitats.
While the world talks a lot about the New Zealand of today, don’t forget about the culture of its indigenous citizens when you visit. The Māori people were the first to live in this nation and Wellington does its part to honor this Polynesian culture. The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa shares New Zealand’s history with a special focus on the Māori people and the colonial force that changed the nation. The Times UK named The Wellington Museum as one of the top 50 museums in the world and it is another good way to learn more about this country and its vibrant people.
Where to eat
You might think that because New Zealand is a country of islands, all of its local cuisine is based on fish. While many menus offer a fair amount of fish, New Zealand also farms a significant population of sheep, cattle and deer. If you want the best dining that Wellington has to offer and a true taste of New Zealand at the same time, visit Logan Brown on Cuba Street. Reviewers on TripAdvisor have high praise for the chef’s tasting menu as well as the available venison and oysters.
For a slightly more casual New Zealand dining experience, head over to The Larder on the corner of Darlington and Camperdown. The proprietors here mix ingredients from the islands with techniques from around the world for a unique menu. If you’re really adventurous, this is reportedly a good place to try a taste of lamb brains.
Where to stay
If you’re internet savvy, you might consider booking an Airbnb rental for your stay. However, if you want the amenities of home without the uncertainty of an app, check out At Home Wellington City. This hotel has several room sizes to accommodate your party, and all units have a kitchenette if you prefer to make your own meals.
On the other hand, if you’re all about sitting in the lap of luxury while on vacation, book a room at the InterContinental Wellington. This hotel has amenities and connections with local tour companies to make exploring the city an absolute breeze.
Whether you visit New Zealand for its movie or island history, Wellington is a great place to start your journey.
This article is presented by BMW of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio.