There aren't many capital cities that can claim as dramatic a setting as Wellington's. Strung along one side of the circular grandstand of Wellington Harbour, it is flanked by the magnificence of the Makra hills to the west. To the south – out of the wind-lashed Cook Strait – the snow-capped mountains of South Island often rear their heads. It's no wonder that a certain Peter Jackson chose this city as a base for his ground-breaking film adaptations of the Tolkien classics.
But Wellington has a lot more going for it than just views. This much-loved capital can boast a host of cultural attractions, from performing arts and classical orchestras, to modern art galleries and a world-class museum. And because its geography didn't give it room to spread, Wellington is nicely packaged into a compact little city. That puts everything within striking range of its many hotels, whether harbour-fronted or clinging to the hill-side. Let's check out the top hotel districts.
The Central Business District (CBD) here has a wonderfully restrained feel about it, with few sky-scraping towers, leaving the skyline to the hills. It is split into several small districts, each having something different to offer those seeking accommodation. Lambton sits closest to the business end of Wellington – the government buildings of Thorndon – and has a good choice of business and high-end hotels.
Willis, just east of Lambton, is ground zero for the top-end of the hotel market. Elegance and luxury are the watchwords here, even if high-rise isn't. But even the more middling of hotels are well-presented, with excellent service. You don't have to go far, either, to find lodgings more suitable for a constrained budget. Most parts of town, away from the main thoroughfares, have 'cottages' and 'lodges' that offer decent accommodation at reasonable prices.
The Cuba district is different again. It was once known as something of a seedy red-light district, but no more. Now it is home to Wellington's alternative scene, a place where street art, boutique fashion and cute coffee-houses are the order of the day. The hotels here are similarly small-scale, friendly and often with an imaginative twist to the conventions of CBD hotels.
Despite all the charms and facilities of the inner city, many visitors to Wellington cast an envious eye on the surrounding hills. And you can indeed find a number of accommodation options on the fringes of town. These are a diverse bunch: small converted cottages, lodge-style hotels, or even rural apartments. One thing they generally share is a spectacular view back down onto Wellington proper.
Finally, if you're looking for a more adventurous holiday experience, while still staying within touching distance of Wellington, try Lower Hutt. This suburb sits a few kilometres away, on the other side of the Harbour, nestled into the valley next to the Belmont Regional Park. Most hotels here are rather simple affairs, short of the big city luxuries. But from here you can fish, stroll, cycle and climb to your heart's content – drinking in the fresh air – knowing that Wellington is there for you, as and when you fancy a trip into the world's 'coolest capital'.