Have you ever dreamed of exploring the best things to do in Wellington, New Zealand? Wellington is more than just New Zealand’s capital, it is a hub where culture, scenery and good food come together for an unforgettable experience. But how can one navigate through so many options and where do you start?
We’ve got you covered. This post will be your travel companion, guiding you through iconic spots like Te Papa Museum, with its captivating history or Mount Victoria, offering stunning views over the city. Or, if you want to get an immersive, local experience, try personalised private tours with uTours Wellington. Get a taste of Kiwi life while seeing all the highlights. These tours are perfect for any group (so bring your kids along!) and are entirely tailored to what you want to see.
So, what are the best things to do in Wellington, New Zealand?
Overview of Wellington, New Zealand
Welcome to Wellington, the cultural heart of New Zealand. This underrated capital city is a gem waiting for you to explore.
As Wellingtonian’s who started our tour company in 2017, we delight in sharing the city we love with visitors, so here are our top picks.
Featuring a unique, captivating atmosphere, Wellington is renowned for its wind, stunning scenery and vibrant arts & culture scene. It is also known as the coffee capital, where flat whites reign supreme.
You can easily spend days immersing yourself in the city’s creative culture at places like the City Gallery or get lost in history at the Wellington Museum. But let’s not forget about nature. From the stunning views and golden sand of Oriental Bay to exploring the native plants of Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush, there’s plenty here for outdoor lovers too.
Wellington is a great base for visiting some New Zealand must-sees, including the Putangirua Pinnacles, the Paekākāriki Escarpment Walk, or Red Rocks and Turakirae Head for the seals. And did we mention it’s just a ferry ride from the South Island? Perfect for those planning an epic New Zealand road trip.
8 Best things to do in Wellington, New Zealand
1. Exploring the Iconic Wellington Cable Car
A trip to Wellington, New Zealand, isn’t complete without experiencing a ride on the historic Wellington Cable Car. This popular attraction lets you soak in panoramic views of this vibrant city. Take a stroll down Lambton Quay to the ticket counter. Tickets are affordable (starting at $6), with special discounts for combined cable car tickets and Space Place admission.
Visit to the Cable Car Museum
The adventure doesn’t stop with just a picturesque cable car ride. At the top, there’s more excitement waiting for you at the dedicated Cable Car Museum. Here, you can learn about how this iconic ride works and its history, which dates back over 100 years.
This free museum explains why locals love it as much as tourists do. It’s not just a mode of transport but also serves up some incredible views across our beautiful city. You’ll be amazed by how far-reaching these panoramas stretch from central city buildings to the beautiful Wellington Harbour.
We love sitting on the old cable car with open seating (located in the museum) – a flash back to our childhood rides.
2. Discovering Te Papa Museum
The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, affectionately known as ‘Te Papa’ is more than just a museum. Explore the core of New Zealand with an immersive experience at Te Papa, open 10 am-6 pm daily and general admission is free. If you are short on time, consider taking one of their guided tours to focus on the highlights.
Dive deep into Māori culture, art, history and the natural environment – all beautifully displayed within its walls. This richly diverse museum offers interactive exhibits that let you touch, see and feel New Zealand’s story.
Te Papa also holds New Zealand’s National Art Collection, which is displayed alongside new and exciting commissions and visiting exhibitions, at Toi Art on levels 4 and 5.
Beyond being a great free activity for a rainy day in Wellington city, every visit to Te Papa is like taking a guided tour through time. From ancient geological formations to modern-day art pieces, there’s always something new to discover.
We love the Earthquake House – Perfect for anyone who has wondered what it is like to experience an earthquake.
3. Cuba Street – The Heartbeat of Wellington
A visit to Cuba Street is essential for its eclectic mix of shops and dining options showcasing this early settler area. It’s not just a historic street with fabulous architecture, it is the soul of Wellington City, showcasing many local characters and trends.
In 1969, it was the first street in New Zealand to become pedestrian-only. Every step reveals something new, whether you are into unique second-hand boutiques offering one-of-a-kind treasures, craft & clothes shopping or watching the street performers. Cuba Street has it all, you can even buy a lawn mower from a third-generation family business.
Cuba Street is the culinary capital of Wellington for a reason. It is the ultimate destination for an unforgettable food experience, from casual coffee spots to exquisite local eateries. Whether grabbing a quick flat white at Fidel’s Cafe or indulging in sumptuous local cuisine at Floraditas or Ombra, Cuba Street offers food adventures like no other place can.
Cuba St is just around the corner from Wellington’s Nightlife district. Be it catching live music performances or shaking off stress on dance floors, there is never a dull moment when dusk falls over this vibrant area.
No visit to New Zealand’s capital would be complete without experiencing the heartbeat that is Cuba Street – an unmissable stop on any travel guide for Wellington.
We love sitting by the 1970s art icon, The Bucket Fountain, watching the world go by while enjoying an ice-cream from one of the many local ice-cream shops.
4. The Lush Beauty of Wellington Botanic Garden
Spend a day exploring the lush beauty of Wellington Botanic Garden. Here, you will discover specialised native and exotic flora collections that provide an enchanting mix of colours, textures, flowers and fragrances. This place isn’t just about plants, though.
This gem also offers stunning views over Wellington City, making it an excellent place for photography enthusiasts or anyone looking to relax in nature’s lap. From vibrant tulip fields to tranquil duck ponds – there is something for everyone.
Apart from its botanical allure, the garden has several points of interest, like the historical buildings and sculptures dotting its landscape. The Begonia House, Lady Norwood Rose Garden and Treehouse Visitor Centre are must-visit spots within this botanic wonderland.
Being easily accessible from the central city makes it an ideal escape into nature without straying too far off your travel itinerary. So, if you are in Wellington, don’t miss the chance to explore its fantastic Botanic Gardens. And, if you happen to be in the area between January 9-28 2024, don’t miss the iconic Garden Magic light show full of vibrant light art and live performances.
We love taking the Cable Car up to the top of the Botanic Gardens and walking back down to the city through the gardens. We often stop off at the Picnic Cafe on the way down.
5. Mount Victoria Lookout – A Panoramic View of Wellington
Enjoy breathtaking city, south coast and harbour views from the iconic Mount Victoria Lookout. This Wellington lookout is a must for any traveller to New Zealand’s capital city. Whether you are there for the sunrise or to witness the twilight, the view never fails to amaze or provide stunning photo opportunities.
You can reach the lookout point by foot, bike, or car (a 10-minute drive from the city centre). Situated 196 meters above the city, the winding journey up the narrow streets of Mount Victoria is part of the experience. As you arrive through the green belt, be prepared to be serenaded by birdsong before reaching your destination. On a clear day, you can even catch glimpses of the South Island in the distance.
The locals also love this spot. Many start their day with a morning jog or take an evening stroll here, thanks to its tranquil surroundings and breathtaking scenery. Standing atop Mount Victoria, you’ll understand why Wellington is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
We love the extremes of Mt Victoria, the occasional calm day and the full-on blast of a strong Northerly or Southerly. Either way it is an unforgettable experience.
6. The Artistic World of Weta Workshop
For any movie buff, a visit to Wētā Workshop is like stepping into a dream. Here is where props and effects for blockbuster films have their beginnings.
Wētā Workshop has crafted incredible artifacts for many well-known movies including Avatar, King Kong, Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit series. That level of mastery doesn’t come easy, but seeing their locally-made handiwork firsthand will make your heart skip a beat.
It’s not just about churning out props, it’s about creating experiences that transport viewers to different worlds.
The artists here work tirelessly on every detail – from design sketches to finished products. Each prop or effect has its own story, narrated through layers of craftsmanship and creativity.
A visit to Weta Cave to check out the mini-Museum, get instagrammed with an ogre and check out their retail facility is a great starting point for any Wellington visitor.
For those who want to get up close to the artists and their magic, then check out one of their behind-the-scenes tours. The starting price is $50 NZD, and it offers excellent value for the money. Experience this creative marvel; it’ll be worth every moment spent there.
We love being a part of the joy that fans express when we visit Weta. I’ve seen people scream with excitement, dissolve into tears of joy then spend an hour in the shop trying to decide what they will buy.
7. Coffee Culture in Wellington
This city isn’t just New Zealand’s political capital, Wellington has also earned its stripes as the country’s coffee capital. This city brims with countless cafés and roasteries crafting some fine brews – each adding their distinct note to our harmonious symphony.
With so many great roasteries and specialty coffee spots in Wellington, it is hard to choose where to start. In this caffeine-fueled world, every sip tells a story.
Taste the heart of Wellington’s coffee culture with a flight of three coffees at The Hangar, a beloved local Flight Coffee roastery.
Then there are the old favourites, like Havana Coffee Works on Tory St, Cafe L’affare on College St and Peoples Coffee in Newtown, to a relative newcomer Pour and Twist, the country’s first manual coffee brew bar which invites you to slow down, savour and chat. . . So grab your fix from these local hotspots and taste what makes us unique.
We love chilling out at our local cafe, enjoying the buzz while indulging in a pie or cheese scone, with our coffee.
8. Paradise – Zealandia Ecosanctuary
There is something magical about the Zealandia Ecosanctuary. It’s not just a sanctuary; it’s an eco-paradise. Here, native wildlife doesn’t just survive, it thrives. The birdlife across the wider Wellington region has exploded since the sanctuary opened in 1999. We particularly love seeing Tui and Kākā all over the city now.
Experience a unique opportunity to observe New Zealand’s most stunning species in their natural habitat. The twittering sounds of tui and bellbirds fill the air as they flit between ancient ferns and towering trees.
And don’t forget to look down. You might spot a cheeky kākā parrot rummaging in the undergrowth, a tuatara or even catch sight of our nocturnal national icon – the kiwi.
A visit here isn’t simply another attraction in Wellington city; it’s stepping into another world where nature rules supreme. Open daily from 9am to 5pm, Zealandia also offers dawn, twilight and night guided tours so you can see and hear the species that don’t come out during the daytime. Prices start from $21.50 for Students & Seniors. So, if you are looking for that one unique experience on your North Island road trip, let this be it.
We love the native bush, the cafe, the swoosh of wings from low flying birds and the bird calls of Zealandia.
FAQs about Best Things to Do in Wellington New Zealand
What is Wellington New Zealand, best known for?
Wellington, NZ is famous for its vibrant arts & culture scene, natural beauty, culinary scene and iconic cable car. The harbour makes the views breathtaking from anywhere, especially at sunset. And did we mention the wind? Only ten percent of our days are calm.
Is Wellington New Zealand, worth visiting?
Absolutely. From exploring Te Papa Museum to experiencing local coffee culture and stunning views from Mount Victoria Lookout, there’s a lot to love in Wellington. It may not be the biggest city in New Zealand, but it sure has a lot to offer.
How to spend a day in Wellington NZ?
Spend your morning at Te Papa Museum, then head to Cuba Street for lunch. Ride the cable car to the top of the Botanic Garden and walk down through the Garden to the city. End the day watching the fading light from a harbourside restaurant.
Sights in the central city are easy to get to so you can pack your day with fun things to do without needing a car. For those who want to venture further, uTours Wellington offers personalized tours with transportation so you get the most out of your day.
How many days should you spend in Wellington New Zealand?
To fully explore this dynamic city without rushing, plan around 4-5 days. This will let you enjoy all major attractions, including Te Papa, Wētā Workshop and Zealandia Ecosanctuary.
Summary of the best things to do in Wellington New Zealand:
1. Wellington Cable Car and Museum
2. Te Papa Museum
3. Cuba Street
4. Wellington Botanic Gardens
5. Mount Victoria Lookout
6. Weta Workshop
7. Coffee Culture
8. Zealandia Ecosanctuary
The best things to do in Wellington, New Zealand are easy to get to in this compact Capital. Wellington offers a world of experiences waiting to be discovered, from the historic ride on the Wellington Cable Car, and the panoramic views of this beautiful city from Mount Victoria, to immersing yourself in the nation’s diverse culture and history at Te Papa Museum.
Stroll through Cuba Street – a vibrant area that showcases local flavours or spend time amidst nature at Wellington Botanic Garden. Breathtaking views from Mount Victoria Lookout are another highlight among the best things to do in Wellington, New Zealand.
Dive into Wellington’s renowned coffee culture with visits to local roasteries and quality cafés on a walking tour. End your journey by getting up close with native wildlife at Zealandia Ecosanctuary – it’s all part of what makes this underrated capital so unique!
This guide was designed as your companion for exploring some truly unforgettable spots across this amazing Kiwi city. Remember these highlights as you plan your adventure – they’re not only recommendations but also gateways into an experience beyond ordinary tourism.