16 wonderful things to do in Wellington

Located on the southern end of the North Island, Wellington is New Zealand’s capital city. Famous for its culture, food, and attractions this city is a must-visit if you’re travelling through the country.

There are tonnes of adventures waiting for you in the capital ranging from scenic flights to botanical gardens, incredible modern museums to wildlife sanctuaries.

With so much to choose from – how can you possibly decide where to start?

Don’t worry – we’re here to show you the best things to do in Wellington!

The Best Things to Do in Wellington

Whether you’re looking to eat tasty food, head to a museum, or go on a sightseeing tour – there’s something for everyone in Welly.

So, let’s dive into the city’s most popular attractions and activities.

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1. Ride The Wellington Cable Car

No trip to the city is complete without heading up to Kelburn Lookout on the Wellington Cable Car. This is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Wellington.

It’s been open since 1902 so has quite the history and is currently the only remaining funicular railway in New Zealand. The journey takes just five minutes, during which time you’ll be rewarded with the most spectacular views of the city.

Cars depart every 10 minutes from Lambton Quay, so it’s easy to fit a ride in amongst your other plans.

280 Lambton Quay, Wellington Central, Wellington 6011

Pro Tip: If you can head up the cable car for sunset, it’s even better!

Red tram moving upwards with the view of Wellington.
Photo credit: WellingtonNZ.

2. Visit the Museum of New Zealand – Te Papa Tongarewa

Wellington is home to the National Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa.

Te Papa Tongarewa translates to ‘Container of Treasures’ and with six floors full of fantastic exhibits, the name is entirely suitable. This is undoubtedly one of the best museums in the country.

More commonly known as Te Papa, it has a number of popular long-term exhibitions including Te Taiao Nature (the nature exhibition zone), Whāngai Whenua Ahi Kā/Blood Earth Fire (a glimpse at life in New Zealand before people arrived), and Toi Art.

However, you’ll also find plenty of temporary exhibits happening throughout the year so keep an eye on the website for updates.

Entry is free, and affordable guided tours are available as an optional add-on. Don’t miss it when you’re next in the capital!

55 Cable Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011

Contemporary exhibits in Te Papa Tongarewa National Museum.
Te Papa’s unique and beautiful contemporary marae, Rongomaraeroa, belongs to all New Zealanders.

3. Soak Up the Wildlife and Nature at Zealandia

Located in Central Wellington, Zealandia is an eco-sanctuary that’s home to over 40 native species.

You can explore Zealandia’s lush forest at your own pace, whilst looking out for rare species including the little spotted kiwi (nocturnal birds), takahē, tuatara, and the Wellington green gecko.

If you’d prefer a guided tour – there are two options available to you. You can either join a 45-minute tour of Zealandia during the day or book a night tour (2.5 hours long) which will give you a good chance of spotting kiwi and glow worms.

There’s even a free shuttle that runs to Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary from the top of the cable car so it’s easily accessible.

53 Waiapu Road, Karori, Wellington 6012

The native bird Kaka.
A beautiful native kākā at Zelandia. Photo credit: Jeff McEwan – Capture Studios.

4. Marvel at the Views from the Mount Victoria Lookout

If you’re looking for more awesome views of Wellington then there’s no question – head to the Mount Victoria Lookout.

Public buses run to the lookout but you can also walk to the top from Oriental Parade and Majoribanks Street. No matter which trail you choose you’re looking at a 25-minute walk to the top.

Once you reach Mount Victoria Lookout you’ll be rewarded with 360° views of the city, harbour and the ocean.

A wonderful free activity, this is one of the best things to do in Wellington – especially if you take a picnic with you to enjoy during sunset.

A couple with their mountain bikes resting on top of Mt. Victoria, overlooking the city and the harbor.

5. Walk Along Wellington’s Waterfront

Wandering along the waterfront is a great way to see the city, and you’ll find plenty of things to do here.

There are a couple of waterfront trails to choose from including the Maritime Heritage Trail and the Old Shoreline Heritage Trail. You can also wander along the waterfront from Post Office Square to Te Papa.

It doesn’t matter which route you take as each one offers scenic views, a variety of cafes and restaurants, and plenty of unique stores. Also, keep your eyes peeled for the ‘solace in the wind’ sculpture and the famous harbour fountain.

If you’re brave, we suggest taking your togs (swimming costume) and flinging yourself off the Taranaki Wharf jump platform. Or, if you prefer, watch as others do exactly that.

Pro Tip: Be prepared for the wind Wellington is so well known for, as even on a hot summer’s day it can be pretty breezy.

A naked statue standing in front of a marina in Wellington's Waterfront.
Solace in the wind sculpture.

6 . Hop on a Scenic Flight Over the City

Whilst in this stunning town, we recommend hopping on board a scenic helicopter flight… made all the more special thanks to its low price point.

On this flight, you’ll get insane views of the city including the harbour, Te Papa Museum, the Beehive, and the Cake Tin. Plus, the ocean also looks pretty incredible from up in the air too!

If you’re lucky enough to fly on a clear day then you might even get to see the Marlborough Sounds and the Upper South Island.

You’ll be given the choice between four different flight routes on the day to ensure you see exactly what interests you.

Riding on a helicopter while looking down the wind farms.

7. Grab a Bite to Eat at Hannahs Laneway

If you’re looking for unique food in Wellington then head to Hannahs Laneway. This is one of the city’s hidden gems and is the number one place to visit if you’re huge foodies like us.

This street is home to a tonne of cuisines, ranging from pizzas to tacos, so there’s plenty to choose from.

Some of the most popular dining spots include Pizza Pomodoro, Shepherd, and Donnie Taco. Then you can head to Wellington Chocolate Factory for dessert or Leeds Street Bakery which is famous for its cookies!

You’ll also find a couple of brew bars here too.

A vesper parked at Eva Street, Wellington.

8. Check Out the Icon that is Cuba Street

One of the best-known and most popular streets in the city, Cuba Street is a local icon. With something for everyone, there’s always something going on there!

Check out the famous Bucket Fountain, walk the rainbow crossing, enjoy street art or grab a tasty meal. In fact, you’ll find food ranging from $10 dumplings right through to acclaimed degustation menus, which goes to show how diverse this part of the city really is.

No visit to Wellington is complete without stopping by Cuba Street.

Te Aro, Wellington 6011

A man crosses the rainbow crosswalk at Cuba Street.

9. Visit Wellington’s Botanic Gardens

We love wandering around the Botanic Gardens in Wellington.

Located at the top of the cable car, the Wellington Botanic Gardens cover an impressive area of 25 hectares (64 acres). There, you’ll find some of the oldest trees in New Zealand, colourful flower beds, and large sculptures.

From the gardens, you’ll also enjoy stunning views of the city and its harbour – especially during golden hour, just before the sun goes down.

The top attractions here include Begonia House, Lady Norwood Rose Garden, Discovery Garden, and the Sculpture Trail, so ensure you leave enough time to see them all.

101 Glenmore Street, Kelburn, Wellington 6012

Yellow and red tulips blooming.
Photo credit: Celeste Fontein.

10. Explore the City Gallery

If you’re a fan of culture then you’ll want to visit Wellington’s City Gallery whilst you’re in the city.

You’ll find a tonne of fantastic contemporary art exhibits here, both permanent and frequently updated, so there’s always something new to see. Plus, they showcase exquisite works from both local and international artists.

If you’re looking for something to take home, be sure to head along to the Gallery Shop during your visit where you’ll find homemade jewellery, art and design books, and toys for children.

Te Ngākau Civic Square, Wellington 6011

Did you know? City Gallery regularly runs free events too, so take a look at its website before your trip.

Visitors hanging around outside City Gallery.
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND -City Gallery Open late March 05, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Elias Rodriguez/ http://marktantrum.com)

11. Head to One of the City’s Breweries

Wellington is famous for its breweries, and there are plenty to choose from!

We’d recommend heading along the iconic Craft Capital Beer Trail which includes 12 breweries/stores and a tonne of craft beers. Once you’ve visited each of them, they’ll even give you a free souvenir t-shirt!

Or you can choose the Brew Pub Pilgrimage Trail (PDF) which will take you to some of the most popular breweries including Heyday Beer Co and Garage Project.

If that doesn’t take your fancy then take a look at the Suburban Sanctuary Trail (PDF).

Every trail can be found on the Craft Beer Capital website so if you’ve got a couple of days in Wellington and can’t decide, why not do all three?

Four glasses of beer with different colors and flavours at Fortune favors Wellington.
One of Wellington’s many places to enjoy a beer tasting – Fortune Favours.

12. Tour the Beehive – New Zealand’s Parliament Building

The New Zealand Parliament building, known as the Beehive (due to its distinctive shape) is the home of democracy in New Zealand. It is also one of the most iconic sets of buildings in Wellington, and it’s free to tour.

There are a number of different ways that you can visit our Parliament.

We highly recommend you join one of their free guided tours, or if you prefer, you’re able to take a free map to self-guide around the grounds – this is a lovely activity on a sunny afternoon. Alternatively, head into the public galleries to see Parliament in full swing.

1 Museum Street, Pipitea, Wellington 6160

Pro Tip: These tours are popular so we suggest using the links above to reserve your spots for free.

The Beehive, a Category I heritage building of New Zealand.

13. Join a Sightseeing Tour of Wellington

If you’d prefer to go on a guided sightseeing tour of Wellington, there are a number of worthwhile options.

  • Sight-seeing city tour – If you’d like an introduction to the city, hop on a half-day tour that will take you to the city’s most popular sites including Old Saint Paul’s Cathedral, the Parliament Buildings, and Weta Cave. You’ll also head up to Mount Victoria Lookout and go on the city’s iconic cable car. This is a great way to see some of Wellington’s most popular attractions if you’ve only got a short amount of time in the city.
  • Seal coast safari – Head out of the city, for Regional Wellington’s wild beaches. There, you’ll enjoy up-close and personal encounters with New Zealand’s fur seals and deer on a private farm.
  • Lord of The Rings tour – Offering half-day and full-day tours, these are the ultimate for any fans of Lord of the Rings! Included in your tour is a visit to Wētā Workshops, a LOTR-themed lunch and stops at key filming locations.
Port of Wellington with its skyscrapers and boats cruising through the waters.

14. Take a Ferry out to Matiu/Somes Island

Somes Island (or Matiu as it’s known in te reo Māori) is located in the middle of Wellington Harbour. This makes it easily accessible.

There’s a scheduled ferry service that runs to Matiu every day of the week, taking only 25 minutes from Queens Wharf (in Central Wellington).

This place has a rich history as it’s been used as a defence fortress, a quarantine station and a detention centre over the years.

Today it’s a haven for native birds and wildlife. We recommend walking the loop track around the island to make the most of the native plants, birds and views. Though the track takes about 40-minutes to walk, we recommend you take your time and really soak in your surroundings.

The Matiu / Somes Island located in between two larger land masses.

15. Head to Wētā Workshop

Wētā Workshop is just a 15-minute drive from the city centre and is a must-visit for any movie buff!

There, you’ll get to learn about how movie effects are made, costumes, make-up and so much more.

During your tour of Wētā Workshop, you’ll get to see props and vehicles created for a tonne of popular films including King Kong, The Lord of the Rings, and The Chronicles of Narnia.

If hands-on is more your style, they have an option for you to really get involved too.

Young kid roaring at a troll sculpture while his mom is holding him at Weta Workshop.

16. Take a trip to the Paekākāriki Escarpment Track

We think the Paekākāriki Escarpment Track is one of the best walks in the Wellington region.

The 9.1 km track runs between Paekākāriki to Pukerua Bay, and you can start it from either side. Both locations are an hour’s journey from Wellington by car or train so it doesn’t matter which one you choose.

Running right along the coastline, it naturally offers stunning views of the Kāpiti Coastline and the iconic Kāpiti Island.

However, it’s not for the faint-hearted as you’ll be traversing steep steps, two swing bridges, and narrow pathways which are found along ridgeways. If you ask us, we think that’s all part of the fun though.

We highly recommend this walk, but be sure to allow 3-4 hours to really enjoy it, plus transport time.

State Highway 1, Paekākāriki 5034

A backpacker walking on a swing bridge.
Photo credit: Johnny Hendrikus.

As you can see there is a tonne of fantastic things to do in Wellington!

Have you ever been to this awesome city?

If you have, we’d love to know, what are your favourite things to do and why?

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