No New Zealand trip is complete without visiting the country’s capital of Wellington. Known as “Windy Wellington”, this capital city sits right on the banks of the Cook Straight, making it susceptible to high winds, but don’t let that scare you away from visiting this incredible city.
Wellington is a city known for its top-notch restaurants, award-winning craft beers, and world-class, delicious coffee. This little city is also famous for its music, art, and theatre scene making it a cultural hub on the North Island. There are so many cool things to do in Wellington that you definitely want it on your must-see list. Not only is Wellington hip and modern, but it is also breathtakingly beautiful everywhere you look and overflowing with bubbly, friendly people. Whether you’re spending 1 day in Wellington or more, this guide has got you covered.
Top Things to do in Wellington
There are so many things to do around Wellington, from outdoor adventures to underground speakeasies, this city is ideal for every kind of traveller.
Swing by the Wellington Waterfront
When in Wellington do make sure to spend some time by the beautiful waterfront. Here you’ll be able to chill out and take a break from all of your Wellington sightseeing. The National Museum of New Zealand is close-by and Frank Kitts Park is a great place to catch some rays on a sunny day and provides awesome views of Wellington Harbour. The area has an abundance of restaurants and cafes and acts as a great pit stop between exploring the top Wellington attractions and activities.
See Wellington’s best views from the cable car
The Wellington Cable Car is one of the top Wellington tourist attractions as it’s one of the only running cable cars in the country and gives you the most epic view of Wellington and its surrounding areas. The car goes through several tunnels and over a few bridges showcasing the history and beauty of Wellington. Once you’ve gotten to the top you can choose to ride the car back or you can hike down which will take you through the Botanic Garden and you by the Cable Car Museum.
Explore Wellington’s unique nature
One of the best things to do in Wellington is to explore the natural beauty that this city has an abundance of. One such way to do so is to join a tour takes you over land and water to see Wellington from a unique perspective. Before you get into the water on a kayak, a speed boat takes you through the Kapiti Marine Reserve, one of the most important and oldest nature reserves in New Zealand, where a guide will teach you about the animals and history of the area that. Once you get set up with your kayak gear, you have approximately 2-hours to explore the area by sea. After kayaking, you have plenty of time to explore Kapiti Island.
Become a beach bum
There are loads of free things to do in Wellington and relaxing on the beach is easily a top choice. Some of the most popular beaches are Oriental Bay, Scorching Bay, Lyall Bay, and Makara Beach for those who wish to beach hop. Wellington has all sorts of beaches, from soft sand to cliffs and rocks, there are endless beaches to explore. You can go for beach hikes and walks or grab a book, relax and soak up the sun. Lyall Bay is ideal for surfers, while Oriental Bay and Scorching Bay are perfect for swimmers and snorkellers. If you’re looking for a little excitement, take a jump off the diving board near Odlins Plaza. The beach isn’t only great during the day, if you happen to be in Wellington on a clear night, take a blanket to the beach and look at the stars for a truly epic sight.
Taste test the local brews
Wellington is known for its beer so a trip here must include at least one stop to try some of the local brews. An option is to join a tour that is led by brewery staff where you will learn about the process used to create the delicious brews as well as samplings of the product. Four different breweries are included on this tour, Kereru which is family owned and operated, Panhead Brewery, Baylands Brewery, and Tuatara Temple of Taste. By the end of your tour, you’ll have tasted some of Wellington’s best beers and have a new-found appreciation for all that goes into making this loved alcoholic beverage.
Spend time on Cuba Street
Locals and visitors alike love this pedestrian-only street. During the day it’s a great stop for shopping, quirky cafes and restaurants. At night this street really comes alive as people bar hop and live music begins.
Take in the scenery from Mount Victoria Lookout
The Mount Victoria Lookout is a Wellington must-see for picturesque views. Many people hike to the summit for its epic views, with the whole loop being about 4.6 kilometers. There is also a short loop that runs about 2.6km. These trails are a popular spot for running, hiking, and mountain biking. Follow the purple markers to get to the summit and take care as there are several steep areas.
Combine stunning scenery and wine tasting
Don’t fret wine lovers, there are options for you in Wellington too. Hop on over to the Martinborough Winery, where you’ll pass through the gorgeous Remutaka Ranges. Before getting to the winery, you get to stop at the summit and take in the breathtaking view. Once at the winery, you’ll have a wine tasting with delicious tapas. After spending time at the vineyard, you’ll take another scenic drive around Palliser Bay and have a look at a giant seal colony that permanently resides here. You’ll see the Cape Palliser Lighthouse which is an iconic landmark here and sits on the southernmost point of the North Island. This tour also includes dinner at the lovely Lake Ferry Hotel before heading home after a full day of rich wine and beautiful scenery.
Take a trip to Weta Cave
One of the top attractions in Wellington and perfect if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan is a trip to Weta Cave. You’ll get the chance to explore the areas where the movie was filmed including the summit of Mount Victoria. You’ll get to sit and watch some clips from the films before taking a hike through Hobbiton Woods, just in case you need a refreshed and be will be able to easily spot the exact filming locations. After your Lord of the Rings adventure, the tour continues on to the secluded production studios where you’ll learn more about the production business surrounding this epic fantasy tale. The tour also includes a trip to the Weta Workshop and Weta Cave where you can buy souvenirs and memorabilia from the films.
Hike to the summit of Mount Kaukau
Considered an easier hike, the summit of Mount Kaukau lies 430 meters above the city and is one of the best places to go in Wellington that offers impressive panoramic views. There are various entrances and trails you can take up or down, with most of the trails including built-in steps for an easier walk. The hike is part of the Northern and Skyline Walkways, where you will have excellent and unhindered views of the harbour and all the way over to the South Island.
Join a guided tour of Zealandia Ecosanctuary
Zealandia EcoSantuary protects some of New Zealand’s most endangered flora and fauna. While you can walk around on your own, getting a tour guide is highly recommended for a better understanding of the extensive range of plants. A knowledgeable guide will teach you about the importance of New Zealand’s ecosystem and animals while you get to see native, rare birds like the takahē, tui, kākā, and the tutuara. You can also book tours for after dark where you will have a great opportunity to see the legendary kiwi.
See Wellington from new heights
Some of the best sights in Wellington can be seen from high above. A quick yet incredible 15-minute helicopter flight shows off the stunning cliffs and beaches, as well as a birds-eye view of Wellington City. From above you can see everything for miles and your pilot will point out interesting things and give you fun facts about the history of Wellington and how it was formed.
Meander around the National Museum of New Zealand
The National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is a great option for places to visit in Wellington on a rainy day or an extra windy Wellington day. This museum is a great place to learn about the history and culture of New Zealand with the building itself is a gorgeous work of art. The museum includes both long and short-term exhibits so make sure you check the museum’s website before your visit. The museum is free to everyone but it is customary to give a small donation at the entrance.
Chill out in the Wellington Botanic Garden
The Botanic Garden is one of the most beautiful places to see in Wellington and to kick back on a nice day. It sits on 26 hectares and is made up of exotic, native forests, various floral displays, and gardens. You can take a magical walk through a heated glass greenhouse called the Begonia House featuring the Lady Norwood Rose Garden with over 3,000 roses. The Botanic Garden is open all year and is free to enter.
With so many fun things to do in Wellington, you’re bound to have a fantastic trip to this incredible city that is a must on any New Zealand itinerary. Enjoy your visit to Wellington!
Continue planning your trip to New Zealand!
- Best Places to Stay in Wellington
- Top Things to do in Auckland
- Top Things to do in Rotorua
- Top Things to do in Nelson
- Top Things to do in Queenstown
- New Zealand Trip Planning Resources
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