Wellington, New Zealand

15 Things to do in Wellington

Wellington, New Zealand is a city that should not be missed. Here are the top 15 things to do in Windy Wellington! There’s something for everyone!

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The capital city of New Zealand is a wonderful city to spend a few days exploring. Windy Wellington, nicknamed for its crazy winds, often gets overlooked by the natural beauty of New Zealand. The city is located at the southern tip of the North Island. Comfortably set near Welling Harbor, the city bring a sense of calm. This unhurried atmosphere is part of the reason the Lonely Planet named it the coolest little capital.

While you won’t find century-old buildings and architecture in Wellington (or throughout New Zealand for that matter), there are plenty of other things to see and do. Here are the top 15 things to do!

Wellington Harbor

Wellington, New Zealand and it's beautiful harbor  and neighboring mountains.
Wellington and it’s beautiful harbor from the air.

While I recommend walking through the harbor, the tranquility can also be experienced from some of the hills surrounding it. A leisurely stroll around the harbor will make you feel like a local. Joggers, walkers, and cyclists also frequent the harbor.

Te Papa Tongarewa Museum

The outside of the Te Papa Museum features modern, minimalist architecture.

More commonly referred to as Te Papa Museum, it is the National Museum of New Zealand. The museum’s exhibitions are truly captivating and encompass everything from dinosaurs to Maori culture, from mother nature to contemporary art. Bonus: Admission is FREE!

Wellington Cable Car

The red Wellington Cable Car in New Zealand ascending to the Botanical Gardens.
The Wellington Cable Car

The icon of Wellington is the bright red cable car that runs from Lambton Quay to the top of the Botanic Gardens. The cable car is used by both tourists and locals alike. It only costs $5NZD for one way or $9NZD for a round trip. The view of Wellington from the top is absolutely mesmerizing. I recommend only taking a one-way trip up and walking your way down through the Wellington Botanical Garden.

Wellington Botanical Garden

One example of the exotic plants you can find at the Wellington Botanical Garden.

I don’t have a green thumb and I don’t know much about flowers or exotic plants – but the botanical garden was still awesome! There are a number of walkways in the garden, typically marked by painted flowers on the ground. You could easily spend a few hours here enjoying nature and the views of the city. If you’re short on time, follow the Te Araroa Walkway to get you back to the city center directly.

The Weta Cave

New Zealand has some jaw-dropping scenery, making it a great place for movies to film. The Weta Cave is a museum dedicated to all things movies-based-in-NZ. They have props and items from the set so any movie nerd can get consumed for half a day or full day. The museum has tours and workshops to give you an inside scoop. The museum is in Wellington because Peter Jackson (director of Lord of the Rings) was born in the city.

Wrights Hill Fortress

The fortress was built during World War II to protect Wellington from invasions from the Pacific. The fortress is only open to the public a few days a year. If you wanted to arrange a private tour, you could explore the circular building and its underground tunnels. Even if you see it from the outside, it’s pretty cool.

Cuba Street

Cuba Street in Wellington features many small shops and cafes where you can sit or stroll.
View of Cuba Street

The evening is the best time to visit this laid-back, quirky street. Lined with small vintage shops, coffee shops, and restaurants, the street gives you an inside look at the life of kiwis (or local New Zealanders).

Mt. Victoria Lookout

A view of Wellington Harbor, New Zealand from the Mt. Victoria lookout.
Wellington Harbor from Mt. Victoria

There are plenty of hills surrounding Wellington to enjoy the views, but none quite like Mount Victoria. Hang out with locals to watch the sunset over the harbor. Be sure to dress for the wind since it’s even windier here.

A takahe bird in Zealandia.
A takahe in Zealandia

Zealandia

Nature lovers would enjoy this wildlife sanctuary right in the city center. Admission is $55NZD for adults and you can take a guided tour or explore on your own. This is also a great spot for kids. Travel tip: Visit Zealandia at night when the birds are most active. You’ll have a better chance of seeing the iconic kiwi bird.

The Skyline Walkway

New Zealand is an adrenaline seeker’s dream – and Wellington is no exception. You can walk this 12 km walk – some of which is on an exposed ridgeline – for astonishing views. The views encompass not only the city and harbor but also Marlborough Sounds and Kaikoura ranges.

Wellington Chocolate Factory

Any lover of chocolate would enjoy the tastings at the Wellington Chocolate Factory. On Saturdays, there are tours where you can get a fascinating in-depth look behind the scenes into the chocolate-making process.

Katherine Mansfield House & Garden

For a glimpse into New Zealand past, step into Katherine Mansfield’s house. The write is one of New Zealand’s beloved daughters. The house is in pristine condition with gas lamps and polished wood and admission is only $8NZD. Any history or literary fan would enjoy spending an afternoon here.

Nairn Street Cottage

Believed to be Wellington’s oldest original house built in 1858, the cottage is a must-visit for history buffs. Small in size when compared to the Katherine Mansfield house, but it shows a different side of New Zealand’s past.

Wellington bay at night reflects the lights of the night market.
Wellington at night

Wellington Night Market

Another free thing to do in Wellington is to walk the Night Market (though you may spend money through shopping). Enjoy street performers, food from around the world as you shop the local stores. You can find everything from old books to new electronics.

Watch the Wellington Phoenix

If you love football (or as us Americans say, “soccer”) and loud crowds, then check to see if the Wellington Phoenix have a home match while you’re visiting. Kiwis (or New Zealanders) love their rugby, but football is growing in popularity. Click here to purchase tickets.

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Wellington, New Zealand

Have you visited Wellington before? What are your favorite things to do?

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