Kia Ora! Planning a trip to New Zealand, and searching for the best things to do in Wellington!? Well, look no further, because I’ve put together a super fun list of the best attractions, activities, and things to do in this amazing destination!
Wellington is often known as the windy city and they aren’t wrong on that one but if the wind won’t blow you away, Wellington’s charm, seaside vibes, and passion for rugby union are bound to take you off your feet.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and for good reasons. It is the heart of both islands, directly in the center meaning you can easily explore its wonders then cruise across to the Marlborough Sounds and onto the wintery vistas of the South Islands or venture further north to rolling farmlands and pristine coastlines.
There’s so much to do in Wellington and its one of my favorite cities to explore. Compared to the likes of Auckland and Christchurch, Wellington is super welcoming making me want to come back time after time.
I have put together this epic article of things to do in Wellington and I’m going to give you a good excuse to book that flight to Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud!
1) Watch a game of Rugby Union
New Zealander’s are always copping a bit of slack when it comes to sport but there is one thing they are particularly are good at and that is Rugby Union, a high-intensity game involving 30 players (15 on each side) and an oval football played on a 110 metre long grass field.
Wellington is home to Westpac Stadium, with the capacity to hold 34,500 people at any given time. It also hosts Super Rugby games of Rugby Union, a contest held between Australia, New Zealand, South American, Japan and South African teams and on occasions, the mighty New Zealand All Blacks will make an appearance. Many players who now play for the All Blacks live in Wellington.
If you are in Wellington while a game is on, be sure to grab a ticket and watch this beautiful game unfold before your eyes, you won’t be disappointed! I may be a bit biased but “Go the Hurricanes”, (Wellington’s local team)!
2) Explore the Botanical Gardens
It’s hard to imagine how the gardeners keep Wellington’s Botanical Gardens in pristine conditions despite the freezing winds that descend from the skies but they do a mighty fine job! With 61 acres of exotic and native species of flowers, trees, shrubs and orchids, these gardens are some of the finest in New Zealand and if you were to find yourself walking through a myriad of flowers, one wouldn’t even know they’d be in a city!
One of the highlights of Wellington’s Botanical Gardens is a waterfall, yep there’s a cascading waterfall flowing right through the middle which can be found in the Peace Gardens, a memorial to honor the fallen in Japan’s nuclear attacks.
Begonia House is another highlight with a Victorian Style layout complete with thousands of flowering orchids and plants, a true wonder to the senses!
3) Catch Wellington’s Cable Car
Catching Wellington’s Cable Car might be one of the shortest things you can do in Wellington and if you’re not a fan of walking up steep hills, the cable car is a choice option. Wellington’s sole cable car begins in an alley way off Lambton Quay road and makes its way to a series of stations situated trackside.
Once the cable car clears the city, it’s actually quite a beautiful scene as green spaces begin to open up all the way to the entrance of the Wellington Botanical Gardens. The length of the track is just over 600 metres and costs $9 for a return trip.
Don’t be in a rush to head back down to the city, be sure to check out the Botanical Gardens, Cable Car Museum and the Space Place which has a planetarium!
4) Visit Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Te Papa for short might be one of the best museums I have visited anywhere in the world and the locals of New Zealand are super proud that they have this place of education in their city. Te Papa Tongarewa translates in Maori to treasure box and you’ll soon find out why that is!
Each level in the museum is dedicated to things like the history and culture of the Maori people in Aotearoa (New Zealand) to the geology of the Southern Alps and how New Zealand formed many millions of years ago to the animals that once roamed these lands. Today New Zealand, unfortunately, doesn’t have a lot of native animals but one that used to stand tall was the Moa, a flightless bird that stood 3.6 metres tall and weighed over 230 kilograms, now that’s a bloody big bird!
New Zealand has been very unfortunate with earthquakes in the past 10 years and the future doesn’t hold much hope with an Alpine Fault line running the length of the country. To educate people on earthquakes in New Zealand, a Quake House has been installed to simulate what it would be like inside of a house during an earthquake!
5) Zealandia Ecosanctuary
New Zealander’s are passionate people when it comes to protecting and conserving nature and a prime example of this is the Zealandia Ecosanctuary, a 500 acre sanctuary for rare and endangered flora and fauna.
Zealandia is the first of its kind in New Zealand and has been established in order to continue to protect these rare species. Throughout Zealandia are 30 kilometres of walking track through pristine forests where you can choose to take a guided tour or if you are feeling like a walk on the wild side by yourself, feel free!
- Zealandia: The Ecosanctuary Tickets: “Visit the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary, just 10 minutes from downtown Wellington. Explore the protected native forest along the walking trails, visit the interactive exhibition, and enjoy a meal with a view at Rata Cafe.”
6) Walk down Cuba Street
Cuba Street takes the cake in terms of places to wine and dine in Wellington and one of the best things to do on your visit to the windy capital but maybe we should be calling Wellington the ‘food capital’ of New Zealand?
Cuba Street is an artsy, boutique and a fresh vibe of a place that’s guaranteed to fill your belly with delicious local produce and beers that you’ve never heard. The amount of bars, vinyl stores and restaurants in Cuba Street is amazing it’s just a matter of choosing what level of quirkiness you operate at.
Here’s a few of my favorites in Cuba Street;
- Aunty Mena’s dishes up a mean meal of Malaysian and Chinese with noodles that you won’t be able to resist.
- Laundry is like my dream place to hang, eat tacos and devour pints of boutique beers. Laundry is so strange that you would probably would walk past the shop front and think that it’s a place to go and wash and dry clean your clothes but oh how wrong you are. Laundry serves a mean array of burgers and a delish apple pie.
- Scopa is all about Italian food and I don’t think there is any better food in the world. Scopa on Cuba Street whips up a mean margarita pizza to sensational pastas, Bellissimo!
7) Marvel at the Beehive
Wellington is known for having some pretty architecturally stunning buildings including Te Papa, Michael Fowler Centre and then there’s the Beehive…I’m not totally sure what I can say about this ‘building’.
The Beehive is a parliamentary building for the government of New Zealand which was completed in 1981. As I am aware, the Beehive was once voted the 3rd ugliest building in the world and that’s no feat to want to claim.
However I am a big fan of New Zealand’s Prime Minister Ardern and she works in the beehive so I guess that makes her Queen Bee!
8) Hike Mount Victoria
Mount Victoria is a mini-mountain compared to that of the mighty Southern Alps but don’t tell it that or you’ll get blown from the top! Just kidding, Mount Victoria boasts incredible 360-degree views from the top and seeing Wellington from this spot is quite cool!
There are a few different ways up to the top including Oriental Parade onto Carlton Gore Road but as I discovered, there are a few hidden tracks among Mount Victoria’s pine forests which are also commonly used by mountain bikers. On the summit on a windy day, watching planes fly in as they battle the howling winds of Wellington is an incredible thing to see!
9) Trolling at Weta Cave
Unless your name is Gollum and have been living under a rock for the past 15 or so years, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. New Zealand is the country where Lord of the Rings was filmed and throughout Aotearoa, there are thousands of spots where the film was made.
Weta Cave isn’t actually a cave it’s a place where props, animatronics, costumes and a whole array of things are made for movies including Lord of the Rings, Blade Runner, Thor Ragnarok, Chappie and the list goes on and on.
Keen to check out Weta Cave? The good thing is that it’s free and if you want to take a guided tour with one of the pro’s it will cost $28 to $88 NZD depending on the tour you choose, maybe don’t choose to take the one ring to Mordor tour…
10) Get Scorched at Scorching Bay Beach
When Wellington isn’t windy, its beach are seriously beautiful and are worth donning the budgie smugglers for a dip; translation from Kiwi to English “when the weather is fine, get out your bathers and go for a swim”
Scorching Bay Beach is located on the other side of Evans Bay which looks outwards Wellington Harbour. This part of Wellington is less commonly visited by tourists meaning that the chances of having the beach to yourself been pretty likely.
11) Wellington’s Underground Market
There’s no better way than to start your weekend by checking out the local markets especially when you know there’s going to be incredibly fresh produce available! There are over 100 stalls to explore ranging from jewelry, candy, fine art, clothing, sushi, pastries to wieners! Wellington’s Underground Market happens most Saturdays and can be found on the Wellington Waterfront near Whairepo Lagoon.
When it comes to supporting New Zealand’s economy when traveling around there stunning country, it helps communities so much when you purchase one of their products. Instead of buying a Big Mac, why not grab a locally sourced burger using New Zealand produce or an item of clothing that comes from a sustainable source.
Local markets always deliver the goods and your input helps them live.
12) Explore East Harbour Regional Park
Beyond Wellington and the Wellington Harbour is the pristine environment of East Harbour Regional Park, a hotspot for wildlife, rugged landscapes and forests full of ancient trees.
East Harbour Regional Park is a fantastic day out and the perfect place to go when Wellington gets too busy to too windy with a stack of hiking trails and lookouts that span back over Wellington Harbour and Pencarrow Lighthouse built and used from 1859 until 1935. Pencarrow Lighthouse was used to warn ships of the rocky shorelines that lay before them.
Getting to East Harbour Regional Park from Wellington is a 40-minute drive around Wellington Harbour and through Lower Hutt, another fantastic place to visit when in Wellington.
13) A Day Trip to Picton
Fancy a quick trip out of Wellington to the South Island? Well you can do that very easily with two ferries that run daily between Wellington and Picton via the gorgeous Marlborough Sounds.
Crossing the Cook Strait is quite an epic way to see the waters of New Zealand’s coast for a relatively cheap price. Both the Interislander Ferry and the Bluebridge Ferry sail 4 or 5 times daily across the Cook Strait taking around 3 to 3.5 hours each way.
The highlight of the journey is definitely Marlborough Sounds, one of the South Islands most beautiful coastlines with seals, dolphins and the occasional whale making an appearance. Both ferries are fitted out with bars, eateries, lounges and a movie theatre which is choice for a wet and raining crossing of Cooks Strait however when it’s beautiful and sunny, make sure to get outside onto the deck to enjoy the sites.
Picton is often seen merely as a place to go to wait for the ferry to Wellington; however there are a stack of epic things to do before you board the ferry. Kayaking in the Marlborough Sounds is unbeatable as you can hire a kayak right on the shores of Picton while the Queen Charlotte Track begins in Picton and is considered one of the most beautiful tracks on the South Island.
Tickets for the ferry cost $56 NZD each way for the Interislander as for the Bluebridge Ferry its $50 NZD each way.
14) Do a Coastal Tour
If you don’t already know, New Zealand has some of the most pristine, rugged and often home to seals and penguins. Wellington is situated right and the bottom of the North Island and has been exposed to the winds of the Cook Strait for millennia paving way for spectacular coastlines.
The best way to see Wellington’s coastlines are by car or on foot with specialized tours such as seal coast safaris who can show you the best of the best spots around Wellington.
If you are going by foot there is a fur seal colony at Sinclair Head Promontory which is an easy 9 kilometre hike and been only a 45 minutes’ drive from Wellington is pretty epic. For a comprehensive list of hikes and advice on walks around the Wellington region be sure to check out www.doc.govt.nz.
15) Learn to Windsurf
Wellington and windsurfing is a match made in heaven and after reading through the list of best things to do in Wellington, I am sure you have figured out why.
Let me explain exactly what windsurfing is! Windsurfing is a combination of surfing and sailing and basically you’re out on a lake, the sea or a river in which you hold onto the mast of the sail and hope that the wind takes you!
Throughout Wellington there are various tour companies that can train you on how to windsurf! Check out www.wildwinds.co.nz for more on windsurfing.
16) Experience Wellington’s Festival Scene
Wellington gets full marks when it comes to all things festivals with a selection of events bound to keep you dancing, laughing or on the edge of your seat as an epic try is scored. So which are the best of the best festivals to see?
Beervana is held annually for 2 days a year as the beer brewers get all hoppy and produce some of the finest drops in the country. With over 60 different beer breweries descending on Westpac Stadium there’s a very good chance of discovering the beer of your dreams.
Rugby Sevens is one of the most exciting formats of Rugby Union and is huge throughout the pacific islands and New Zealand. Each year the New Zealand Sevens are held throughout the country including Wellington.
One of the biggest and most anticipated festivals in Wellington is the New Zealand Festival, an intricate mix of dance, theatre, music to visual arts over a period of 3 weeks. I am hearing that the 2020 festival is going to be one of the biggest yet so keep an eye for updates!
Am I Missing Any Epic Things To Do in Wellington, New Zealand?
Have you been to Wellington recently and think I need to add any specific activity, attraction, tour, day-trip, restaurant, or bar to my list of things to do!? Please, let me know! Wellington was one of my favorite places in New Zealand, and I’d love to keep my blog up to date with the best information possible!
Planning a trip to New Zealand / Australia…?
I’ve spent a decent amount of time in this corner of the world, and they really are two of my favorite destinations to visit! My travel blog is filled with tons of articles just like this, and I’d love for you to browse a few more! As always, if you ever have any questions about anything on my site, feel free to reach out to me on social media, and I’d be glad to help any way I can!
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