The ultimate itinerary for your one day in Wellington New Zealand

New Zealand ’s capital city Wellington is a must-see for visitors to New Zealand. Unlike many capital cities, this one has a true heart. It is not just the political capital, but also the cultural and coffee capital of the country. Nestled around the beautiful Te Whanganui a Tara (the great harbour of Tara), this compact and vibrant city offers culture, history, architecture, beautiful scenery and great food all within walking distance of the city centre.

This itinerary for one day in Wellington includes a mix of the best things Wellington’s inner city has to offer: scenery, food, history, architecture and more. This itinerary can be undertaken on foot by a reasonably fit and active person (there are hills!) or a mix of walking and driving using buses/taxi/uber. We have included some options for nature-lovers and history-buffs. If you do these, you will have to skip some of the other stops if you are doing this in one day.

Working to a tight timeframe (eg from a cruise ship) or just not keen on the walking? – book a private tour with uTours we help you focus on the things you are interested in, and get you further out of the city as well. Our local knowledge also helps with those tricky ‘What should I do in my one day in Wellington? decisions.

Our itinerary for one day in Wellington

The day starts with a coffee – or three

Wellington is not called the coffee capital for nothing. It is full of coffee roasteries and is home to many award-winning baristas.

Our first stop is The Hangar on Dixon St. The Hangar is home to the ‘Flight’ of coffee – your opportunity to taste three great coffees. Be aware that Wellington coffee always comes in a double-shot, so you may need to share your flight. The Hangar also has a great all-day menu with choices from granola to burgers.

Now that you are fuelled for the morning…

Time for a view: Take a ride on the Cable Car

A short walk from the Hangar, down Willis St and onto Lambton Quay you will find the Cable Car Ticket office.

Nothing says Wellington quite as much as a ride on the Cable Car. This 5-minute ride will take you from Lambton Quay up to the top of the Botanic Gardens to some of the best views across the city.

At the top of the ride you can explore the Cable Car Museum or visit Space Place.

A ride on the Cable Car is included in your fun day with uTours and is high on our list of top things to do in Wellington.

Return tickets are $12.00 for an adult and $6.00 for a child with discounts for families.

An option for nature-lovers Zealandia
An option from the top of the Cable Car is to catch the free bus to Zealandia, a wild life ecosanctuary. We would recommend spending at least an hour at Zealandia and this may mean you skip some other parts of our one day in Wellington itinerary.

And now for a walk: Take a walk down through the Wellington Botanic Gardens

After you have taken in the views over the city from the top of the Cable Car, it is time for a walk down through the Botanic Gardens. Follow the signs to the Lady Noorwood Rose Garden where you can also visit the Begonia House which is full of unusual tropical plants.

From the rose garden, walk through the old Bolton St Cemetery to Bowen St, travel down Bowen St and cross at the intersection with Lambton Quay. On your left will be the Parliament Precinct.

Some Culture and History

Enjoy the architecture and history of New Zealand’s Parliament buildings.

New Zealand’s Parliament Buildings can be enjoyed from the outside – there is a lovely grassed area, shady trees and even a children’s playground – Go on, go down the slide, you know you want to!

If you have a deeper interest in architecture, history or civics (it is the capital city after all) you can also do a tour. Introductory tours are 60 minutes long and run 3 times a day during the visitor off-season and more frequently in summer. These tours are free, booking is recommended and you can find more information here.

An option for history buffs – See New Zealand’s founding documents and Wellington’s oldest Church

For history buffs there are two other must-dos in the same area of town as the Parliament buildings.

Just up the road from Parliament on Molesworth St is the National Library. The library holds three iconic constitutional documents that shape Aotearoa New Zealand in the He Tohu exhibition. You can visit and learn about New Zealand’s histories, the journeys these documents have taken, and what they mean for New Zealanders now.

On the next block over (Mulgrave St) you will find Old St Paul’s Church. Built in 1866 this gothic revival church is a beautiful architectural piece of Wellington’s history. Entry is free, and a koha (donation) is welcome.

It’s time to eat again!

From the Parliament Grounds (or Old St Paul’s Church if you have added this stop) head down-hill to Wellington’s beautiful waterfront. As you walk along the waterfront towards Te Papa, the National Museum, there are several restaurants and cafés.

If you want to try something you won’t find anywhere else in Wellington, stop at the Karaka Cafe for food and hospitality inspired by indigenous traditions from Aotearoa and the Pacific.

(Image supplied by Karaka Cafe)

Have some hands-on fun at Te Papa

We get it, museums are not for everyone, but Te Papa Tongarewa, the Museum of New Zealand should be high on every Wellington visitor’s to-do-list, particularly if you have kids with you. You can learn about New Zealand’s culture, history and natural environment in Te Papa’s interactive exhibitions.

Become a tiny tuna (eel) swimming upstream, desperately trying to make it to adulthood or experience the smell a kiwi bird. If you are up for it, experience an earthquake in the earthquake house simulator.

For art-lovers, New Zealand’s national art collection is also housed within Te Papa. You can find out more about the collection here.

To be honest, to cover everything, this is one place that you might have to come back to more than once.

Entry is free but charges may apply to some short-term exhibitions and events and a Koha (donation) is always appreciated.

Appreciate the City from Oriental Parade

From Te Papa, you can continue walking along the waterfront, past Chaffer’s Marina to Oriental Parade. This is where you will find the subjects of several iconic Wellington photo opportunities: the Boatsheds, St Gerard’s Monastery and the Carter Water Fountain.

Time for an ice cream anyone? You will be spoilt for choice at the Oriental Bay Store, opposite the band rotunda. Hokey Pokey Ice cream, vanilla ice cream with small lumps of honeycomb toffee, is a must try flavour for visitors to New Zealand.

Time for another view – from the top of Mount Victoria

It is a bit of a hike up to the top of Mt Victoria, but worth every step of the 196 meters (643 feet). From the top you will enjoy amazing panoramic views of the city.

There are two ways of getting there on foot – you can keep walking along Oriental Parade to Oriental Terrace where you follow a winding uphill footpath through the trees. The path leads onto Moeller Street which you continue following until you see the signs for the Mt Victoria

Lookout Walkway & the Southern Walkway. From here, it will take you about 25 minutes to reach the lookout.

You can also join the walkway from Majoribanks St in the suburb of Mt Victoria if you are following the itinerary in a different order. The walk from Majoribanks St takes about 30 – 35 minutes. You can follow this map of the Mount Victoria Lookout Walkway .

Visit funky Cuba St

You will be pleased to know it is all down-hill walking from Mt Victoria to our final stop on Cuba St. Follow the path to Majoribanks St, cross the intersection with Kent and Cambridge Terraces and walk along Courtenay Place (which you might want to return to in the evening for a drink) to Cuba St.

Take in the iconic retro bucket fountain. A favourite (and sometimes alcohol-fuelled) game is to guess when the big blue bucket is going to tip – just don’t stand too close! On Cuba St you will find an eclectic array of restaurants, cafés, bars and shops, there really is something for everyone here. A few of our favourite eating spots on Cuba are Floriditas, Olive and Kisa. Check them out for dinner at the end of your ultimate one-day in Wellington.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you see Wellington in one day?

Yes you can, but you won’t do this beautiful little city justice. In one day you will be able to explore some of the main attractions and sample some of the great food on offer.

Do you need a car when visiting Wellington?

The centre of Wellington is very compact and walkable for an averagely fit person. Many of the must-do attractions are within walking distance of the centre. If you are tight on time (for example you are on a cruise) or want to see more of the Wellington region, consider booking a private day tour with uTours.

Does Wellington have an international airport?

Yes, Wellington has a small international airport with direct flights from several Australian cities. There are regular flights to and from Auckland and Christchurch which makes getting to Wellington easy for international travellers.

Can you see Wellington’s main attractions if you have mobility challenges?

Three of the venues in this itinerary Te Papa, Wellington Botanic Garden and Zealandia have free mobility scooters that you can use within each of the venues. You can also hire a mobility scooter or powered wheelchair from the Mobility Centre (this is about a 30 minute drive from the centre of the city, so probably more useful for those staying more than a day.

Most of Wellington city’s buses are accessible for wheelchairs and mobility aids, with priority seating and wheelchair areas available.

Should I include Wellington in my trip to New Zealand?

Yes, this compact and vibrant capital city offers culture, history, architecture, beautiful scenery and great food all within walking distance of the city centre. Wellington is centrally located, making it a great base for your travel to other parts of the country. The two ferry companies that link New Zealand’s two main islands depart from Wellington and there are flights to and from all New Zealand airports from the capital.

Summary

If you follow this ultimate itinerary for one day in Wellington you will see the main inner-city attractions and experience the best of the culture, architecture, history, hospitality and funky vibes the city has to offer. The itinerary can be completed on foot, or with a mix of walking/bus/taxi/uber.

If you are short on time, consider booking a private tour with uTours to make sure you get the most out of your visit to Wellington.

Happy travelling!