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33 BEST Things to do in Wellington, New Zealand

33 BEST Things to do in Wellington, New Zealand

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The best and probably most underrated capital city in the world – Wellington is quirky, cool, easy-to-navigate, and full to the brim of awesome things to do and places to eat. It’s easily one of the best places to see on the North Island!

Not only is Wellington the “craft beer capital of New Zealand,” with over 20 awesome breweries within a short driving distance from the CBD. But, there are loads of other awesome activities and attractions in Wellington that it’s easy to spend a week or two here and still not see/do everything on offer. 

Wellington is home to one of the best museums I’ve ever visited – the Te Papa museum, the quirky and cafe-filled Cuba Street, as well as the famed Wellington cable car. Further afield, you can let off some steam at a challenging forest obstacle course, see over 300 seals at the Red Rocks, or go on a Lord of the Rings tour.

In this blog post, I’ll tell you about these activities and so much more with 33 of the very best things to do in Wellington, New Zealand!

Things to do in Wellington, NZ

1. Mount Victoria Lookout

Bailey walks up Mount Victoria Lookout at sunset with magnificent views of Wellington, New Zealand
We drove up but you still have to walk a bit!
Bailey looks over Wellington City from Mount Victoria Lookout at sunset
Such a fantastic view!

One of the best views of Wellington can be found atop the Mount Victoria Lookout. Here, you will be treated to a 360-degree view of the city’s eastern beaches, Hutt Valley, and the Miramar Peninsula. There’s even a memorial that points towards Antarctica, a whopping 4000 km in the distance! 

Fun fact – the area surrounding the lookout was once a Maori pā (village).

There are a couple of different hikes you can do to reach this viewpoint. The longer (and more popular) 4.6 km loop track starts at Courtenay Place, traveling onto Majoribanks Street before reaching the summit. The return track takes you via the affluent neighborhood of Oriental Bay. All in, this track will take 1.5 hours to complete.

A shorter 45-minute walking track starts from the top of Majoribanks Street. The return track takes you via the Charles Plimmer dog park to your starting point at Majoribanks Street.

You can also drive to the summit and park at the parking lot here if you don’t want to hike. Come at sunset for the absolute best view!

2. Te Papa Museum

Gallipoli display at the Te papa Museum in Wellington, New Zealand
The Gallipoli wax statues were really cool!

My favorite museum in all of New Zealand is the Te Papa Museum on Cable Street in Wellington CBD. In fact, this is probably one of the most visited sites in the country. By 2019, it had attracted over 30 million visitors since its official opening in 1998!

Its full name – Te Papa Tongarewa, which is a Maori phrase meaning “container of treasures.” Many of the artifacts within the museum have links to the Maori people. Te Papa does lots of work with the native kiwi (tribes) through a variety of programs.

One of the best ways to see Te Papa is on this particular tour which gives you the chance to explore the museum 30 minutes before it opens its doors to the public. The internationally acclaimed Explore Gallipoli Exhibition (pictured above) is best seen without the crowds. 

This outstanding exhibition was developed together with Weta Workshop in Wellington (a specialist prop company founded by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame) and features giant sculptures of New Zealand war heroes. They are 2.4 times the size of the average person! The detail on the sculptures is just incredible! Learn all about the harrowing Gallipoli Battle, an important historic event for New Zealanders.

Another worthwhile tour is this small-group tour, which offers insight and understanding into the taonga (Maori treasures) held here. Your experienced guide will give you a unique look inside the Maori culture, as well as tell stories of their art and history. This tour is an hour in duration and costs from $21 NZD per adult.

Of course, you can also just visit the museum on your own without a tour. Admission to Te Papa Tongarewa is free, which is amazing considering it’s one of the best museums I’ve ever visited. With that said, donations are encouraged.

3. Take a stroll down Cuba Street

Bailey poses for a photo on Cuba Street in Wellington, NZ
Cuba Street!
The vibrant Cuba Street in Wellington, New Zealand
It’s my favorite place to walk in the city!

Easily the most popular street in Wellington, Cuba Street is known for its quirky and fun atmosphere. Filled with colorful cafes (serving the best coffee in Wellington), vintage clothing stores, casual restaurants – many with great outdoor seating areas – visiting Cuba Street is a not-to-be-missed experience in Wellington.

Fidel’s at 234 Cuba Street is a Wellington icon and attracts huge crowds for their brunch menu especially. Try “Fidels Feast”, which comes with poached eggs, streaky bacon, mushrooms, and house hash on sourdough bread.

Literary lovers will love Pegasus Books in the Cuba Street Mall, which is home to rare and unusual books and a great spot to snap a photo – the storefront is so photogenic!

You’ll also find the unusual Bucket Fountain on Cuba Street, which is, yep, you guessed it, a fountain operated by colorful buckets which has been here since 1969. Watch out though, as the buckets randomly splash people walking by. Wellingtons Fear Factory is also located here and is described as the country’s best haunted house!

Cuba Street is the gay and drag district of Wellington, and you will find many gay bars here, such as Scotty & Mals and Ivy Bar.

4. Wellington Botanical Gardens

Wellington Botanical Gardens
The gardens are filled with interesting plants and lots of walking trails!

Wellington Botanical Gardens is home to 25 hectares of specialized plant collections and is a great place to take a stroll on a sunny day. The history of the Gardens dates back to 1869 when it was used by native Maoris for ngākinga (food cultivation.)

My favorite sections of the gardens include the rose gardens, the rock gardens, and the Otari-Wilton bush collection. A whopping 110 rose beds can be found at the Lady Norwood Rose Gardens. The roses are in bloom from November through to April. The Rock Gardens are pretty too and grow a huge range of shrubs and herbaceous plants – you may even spot skinks and geckos among the plants here.

The Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush section is home to over 1,200 native plant species, with both plants from the mainland and the outlying off-shore islands to be found here. Almost all of these plants have been grown from cuttings or seeds collected from their original home.

Top tip – from the Visitor Center, there are great views over Duck Pond and the rest of the gardens.

Related read: Another botanical garden that I love in New Zealand is the Queenstown Gardens!

5. Visit the Weta Cave and Workshop

Bailey poses with a troll at Weta Cave and Workshop in Wellington, New Zealand
So cool!
Golum at Weta Cave and Workshop in Wellington, New Zealand

Movie buffs will love this guided tour of the famed Weta Workshop, one of the best special effects and prop companies in the world. In fact, it was founded by none other than Sir Peter Jackson, the director of the Lord of the Rings movies. So, as you can imagine, it’s a must-visit for Lord of the Rings fans.

During the guided tour, you will be introduced to costumes and props from the Lord of the Rings movies as well as the Chronicles of Narnia movie! You will even get to see the miniature puppets used in Thunderbirds Are Go and take a photo with the Tracy brothers! On the tour, your guide will tell you all about the practical effects created for the aforementioned movies, as well as introduce you to the tools and technology the staff at Weta Workshops use to make their creations!

Entrance to the Weta Cave is free, but it is just a shop with some special props on display (a mini museum.) It isn’t the same experience as going on a tour of the workshop with the expertise of a knowledgeable guide.

Weta Workshop and Cave is located in Miramar – a 15-minute drive from the CBD. This is easily one of the best things to do in New Zealand for LOTR fans!

6. Walk the waterfront

Oriental Parade Beach in Wellington, New Zealand
Not many people expect a beach so beautiful in Wellington!

Wellington’s waterfront is a super scenic area that’s home to the beautiful Oriental Bay and plenty of places where you can eat and drink with a view. 

The best way to explore the waterfront is to walk along it. You can start at Queens Wharf and walk 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) one way to Roseneath Memorial Park and Flag Pole, although of course you can turn back sooner if you wish. 

Along the way, you’ll pass the famous Wellington sign, which is a fantastic photo opportunity. The sign is missing the “i” so naturally, you fill in the gap and become part of the sculpture! 

You’ll also head past the iconic Man in the Wind statue, which has become an iconic sight along the Waterfront walk since its installation in 2008. Also known as Solace in the Wind, the statue was designed by English artist Max Patte as he prepared to bid goodbye to New Zealand after working at the Weta workshop. Ironically, however, the statue made him famous and he never actually left Wellington! 

You’ll also head past some great swimming spots on the walk. You can lounge on the golden sand at Oriental Beach between dips and admire all of the opulent homes in the area, or if you’re brave enough, you can also jump off of the 5- and 8-meter high platforms at Taranaki Street Wharf. 

Oriental Parade Beach is Wellington’s most popular beach, and one of the best beaches in NZ, mainly due to its central location in the CBD – this beach is just a 20-minute walk from the city center. It’s especially popular with families, due to the safe swimming conditions here – there are Lifeguards on duty during the summer months only.

There are also plenty of great places to eat and drink along the Waterfront, like Beach Babylon, which has a killer view of Oriental Bay, or the Crab Shack at Queens Wharf where you can enjoy fresh seafood by the scoop.

7. Ride in the cable car

View from the top of the Wellington Cable Car
I never get sick of this view!

You can’t visit Wellington without a ride on the city’s historic cable car, which departs from Lambton Quay and ends at Kelburn Lookout. Here, you can enjoy epic views over the city – this viewpoint is 120 meters above sea level. It’s just a 5-minute journey to the top, and you can return to the CBD via the cable car or walk back to the city via the Botanic Gardens.

At the terminal station (Kelburn), why not treat yourself to some food or drinks with a view at the Cable Top Eatery located here. This place serves up some amazing pizza, gelato, and of course, local craft beers, which are a must-try in Wellington!

As mentioned, you can catch the cable car from Lambton Quay, and tickets cost $9 NZD return or $5 one-way per adult.

8. Visit Zealandia

Bailey walks down some steps at Zealandia Ecosanctuary, Wellington
It’s such a beautiful place to explore!
Kākā at the Kākā Feeding area at Zealandia

Zealandia is one of the first fully-fenced eco sanctuaries in the world, built to protect native wildlife, particularly birds like the Tui, Takahe, and Takariki. You will also find unusual reptiles here, such as the Tuatara and the Green Gecko. Interestingly, Zealandia has a 500-year vision to restore the valleys and waterways around Wellington as close as possible to their pre-human state.

On this 2-hour guided walking tour, you will be treated to a knowledgeable rundown of all the species that call Zealandia home, as well as getting up close to these unique and often rare creatures at the feeding stations dotted throughout the park. What’s great too, is this particular tour is limited to just ten people, enabling a more personalized experience. Tours depart at 10 am, 11 am, or 1 pm and cost from $58 NZD per adult.

You don’t have to do a guided tour to visit Zealandia and can instead opt to explore on your own. Entrance to Zealandia costs from $23 NZD for an adult and $10 for children over the age of 5.

Related Read: Traveling all the way from Taupo? Here are all the best routes and stops on the road trip from Taupo to Wellington!

9. Drink local craft beer

Craft beers at a brewery in Wellington, New Zealand
Mmm craft beer!
Bailey drinks craft beer in New Zealand

There are over 20 craft breweries in Wellington, and this has given the city a reputation for being the craft beer capital of New Zealand. So, what better way to spend a day or half a day if you’re short on time than tasting some of the best craft beers in the country. 

Some Of my favorite breweries in Wellington Garage Project, which is a very popular beer brand in New Zealand and is sold in almost all supermarkets here. The brewery is filled with funky art and is especially popular with locals. It is located in Te Aro – under a 5-minute drive from the city.

There are plenty of other smaller breweries in Wellington too. I really like Parrotdog Brewery out in Lyall Bay – I just love their Birdseye Hazy IPA!

A great way to explore Wellington breweries is on this guided beer-tasting tour which takes you to not one, not two, but four Wellington and Hutt Valley breweries. Tastings are included at Kereru, Boneface Brewery, Baylands Brewery, and The Third Eye. Pick-up and drop-off to CBD hotels is included which means you can drink as much as you want without having to worry about a designated driver!

Related read: Headed to Queenstown? Check out all the best craft breweries in Queenstown!

10. Wine tour through the Martinborough Wine Region

Bailey drinks wine in the Martinborough Wine Region near Wellington, New Zealand
Grape vines in the Martinborough Wine Region
Such a beautiful region!

An hour’s drive from Wellington is the Martinborough wine region, which is quickly becoming renowned on the international wine scene, especially for its Pinot Noir variety. The cute European-style village is very popular with holidaying Wellingtonians especially, but has been attracting lots of overseas tourists lately.

This small-group tour is a convenient way to visit Martinborough – it’s a 5-hour tour and includes wine tastings at three local vineyards. You will visit Poppies Martinborough, Moy Hall Vineyard, and Te Kairanga wines for a personalized wine-tasting experience. 

Not only will you get to visit these awesome vineyards, but you will get to stop by C’est Cheese to taste some delicious cheeses and stop at Stuart Macaskill Lakes viewpoint for the perfect photo opportunity! This particular tour costs $146 NZD per person.

11. Putangirua Pinnacles

The Putangirua Pinnacles near Wellington, New Zealand
How LOTR do they look??

The Putangirua Pinnacles are most famous as the Paths of the Dead scene in the Lord of the Rings movie – the Return of the King. The Pinnacles are, in fact, ‘hoodoos’ or earth pyramids and are exceptionally photogenic. They were formed over 7 million years ago by heavy rain and flooding that forced the sediments of the Putangirua Stream to combine together into these ‘hoodoos’.

There are three walking tracks leading to the Putangirua Pinnacles. The easiest is the Pinnacles Track which is 1.5 km each way and takes 45 minutes. It leads mostly through native bush to the lookout point. The Ridge Walk Track is just as short at 1.5 km, but there’s a very steep climb that leads you to join with the Pinnacles Track – so I advise this track for those with a reasonable level of fitness.

For a longer walk with fantastic views of Palliser Bay and Lake Onoke, continue uphill from the lookout, which leads to the coast. Worth noting is this track will take 3 to 4 hours return, but is one of the best hikes in New Zealand.

12. See fur seals at the Red Rocks

Seal at the Red Rocks, Wellington
Seal at the Red Rocks, Wellington

One of the most popular day trips from Wellington is the famous Red Rocks.

Every winter, you can spot up to 300 seals at Wellington’s Red Rocks in Owhiro Bay, a 30-minute drive from the city. The rocks got their interesting name thanks to a Maori tale that tells of a Polynesian explorer named Kupe who cut himself on paua (shellfish) and bled all over the rocks. The red rocks are believed to be over 200 million years old!

During the winter months in New Zealand, there are only bachelor males seals to be found here. They come here because they were not lucky enough to breed among the larger colonies on the South Island. 

The walking track to the seals is 7.4 km in length and should take approximately 4 hours return. The track begins at the car park located at the end of Owhiro Bay. You can walk down onto the beach at Sinclair Head to view the seals lazing on the rocks, but be careful not to get too close. If you have a 4WD, you can drive right to the rocks but 2WD vehicles should not attempt it!

13. Enjoy a barista-made coffee

Bailey with brinch at Neo Cafe in Wellington, New Zealand
Neo Cafe!
Breakfast at Neo Cafe in Wellington, New Zealand
Neo Cafe!

Did you know Wellington is the home of Flat White coffee? Yep, this popular coffee drink is said to have been first invented by a local barista in 1989 who accidentally made a cappuccino with low flat milk that would not froth. He called it the Flat White. 

However, the origin of the flat white is disputed by neighboring Australia, who claim it was first invented in Sydney. No matter its true origins, I think it’s safe to say that Wellington is one of the best cities in the world to try a Flat White (or any coffee, for the matter). Kiwi’s take their coffee very seriously, and I must admit the best coffee I’ve ever had has been in New Zealand.

The best cafes in Wellington include Prefab on 14 Jessie Street, which has won many awards for its coffee and offers bottomless filter coffee!

Neo Cafe is an absolute gem. They serve an amazing all day brunch which includes everything from healthy seasonal salads to gingerbread pancakes smothered in butterscotch and enormous burgers. It’s open until 3 pm daily and you can’t book a table so visit on a weekday if you can, but if there is a queue, trust me, it’s worth the wait.

Extra Extra Cafe is also a great place to grab a coffee and maybe treat yourself to one of their beautifully decorated cupcakes, which almost look too good to eat. Or, head to the Buenos Aires cafe to try some traditional Argentinian treats like empanadas, medialunas, and alfajores. Yum! 

And finally, Midnight Espresso on Cuba Street is a super-cool cafe filled with colorful art, pinball machines, and serving up some excellent flat whites!

14. Mini Golf at Carlucci Land

Mini golf is always an entertaining way to spend a few hours and Carlucci Land in Wellington is home to an 18-hole course. Carlucci Land is a sculpture park that features a ton of artwork made from recycled discarded metal, and the junkyard-themed mini golf course is a ton of fun!

It’s honestly such a unique mini-golf course and it has numerous 5-star reviews, people love it here!

A game here costs $15 NZD for adults, $12 NZD for seniors and students, $10 NZD for kids aged 5-15, and $5 NZD for under 5s. The sculpture park is open from 9 am until 9 pm, 7 days a week, and operates on an honesty box policy. 

15. Skyline Walkway – Makara Saddle

Skyline Walkway - Makara Saddle
The views from the Skyline Walkway!

The Skyline Walkway is a walking and mountain bike track that runs between Old Coach Road in Johnsonville and Makara Saddle. It’s 13.4 kilometers in length and will take walkers approximately 6 hours to complete (mountain bikers will complete it a lot faster!). This track is very popular because it offers both city and coastal views. You may even see the Kaikoura ranges on the South Island on a clear day.

Reasonable fitness is recommended for this trail as most of the track follows along the ridgeline, and it can be tough on the legs. Nonetheless, many say that it is one of the best hikes on the South Island.

16. Join a Lord of the Rings tour

Lord of the Rings tour in Wellington
They are so realistic!
Bailey on a Lord of the Rings tour in Wellington
Heading into Weta!

One of the most popular reasons for tourists visiting New Zealand is to see the sites from the famed Lord of The Rings movies. These movies certainly put New Zealand on the world stage. So naturally, one of the best things to do in Wellington is to join a LOTR tour!

This half-day tour takes you to the famed Weta Workshop to see the brand new ‘Windows into Workshop’ exhibition – this workshop was founded by movie director Peter Jackson, and it is where many of the props for the movies were created. 

You will also be taken to the Embassy Movie Theater, where they had the world premiere of Return of the King and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and Mt. Victoria, where the very first scene from the first Lord of the Rings movie was filmed! You will even get the chance to walk through the ‘green belt’, a forest where many scenes from the movies were filmed! It’s a must-do tour for LOTR fans.

17. Visit Lyall Bay

Lyall Bay, Wellington, NZ
Lyall Bay, Wellington, NZ
Moai statue at Lyall Bay in Wellington, New Zealand
Moai statue at Lyall Bay in Wellington, New Zealand

Lyall Bay is a super chilled out suburb of Wellington with a pretty beach that’s popular for surfing and watching the planes land at the airport, which you can see across the water. The eastern end of the beach is also dog friendly, so it’s perfect if you’re traveling with a four-legged companion. Plus, my favorite brewery, Parrotdog, just so happens to be in Lyall Bay!

Lyall Bay is also located just 4.7 kilometers (2.9 miles) away from the famous Weta workshop and caves, so it makes sense to stop here if you’re already heading that way. 

One of the biggest attractions in the area is the 3.2 tonne Moai Statue. Moai statues are monolithic statues that resemble humans, albeit with no arms or legs. They’re typically associated with Easter Island, which is home to around 900 moai even though no-one really knows how they got there. We do know, however, that they were carved by the Rapa Nui people in order to honor their ancestors.

So yeah, you might be surprised to find a moai looking out at the water in Lyall Bay’s very own Dorrie Leslie Park, but I think that’s all the more reason to go check it out! The moai here was a gift from a former Chilean president and it’s pretty awesome to see this mysterious ancient figure gazing out over the bay.

18. Rent an electric bike and explore

Colorful buildings in Wellington
Wellington is a really beautiful city!

A fantastic way to explore Wellington city is on an electric bike tour. This guided tour follows along the Wellington Waterfront and onto the Miramar Peninsula. You can stop at one of the many beaches along the way, including Scorching Bay Beach. It’s a guided tour so, and you will have an experienced local guide on-hand to point out all the city’s landmarks as well as help you with your bike if you get into any difficulty. 

One of the major pros of riding an electric bike in notoriously hilly Wellington is you can use it to effortlessly cycle up steep Mt. Maupuia for the epic city and coastal views – make sure to have your camera handy at this viewpoint. This 5-hour tour costs $131 NZD per person.

If you don’t want to join a guided tour, you can also just rent an electric bike and explore Wellington on your own. An electric bike is a good way to get around the city. You can rent electric bikes from Switched On Bikes for about $80 NZD per day.

Related Read: If you want to plan a few day trips, these are my tips on renting a vehicle in Wellington!

19. Visit the Brooklyn Wind Turbine

Views from the 19. Visit the Wellington Wind Turbine
The views are spectacular!

The Brooklyn Wind Turbine was New Zealand’s first commercial wind turbine. It began generating in 1993. Not only is this a historic site, but the viewing platform here provides panoramic views of Wellington and can be reached via a 2-hour walking track or a 6 km mountain bike track. 

The track starts from the top of Aro Street at Polhill Reserve. It’s an easy track to follow and is well-signposted – just follow the signs with the wind turbine symbol. A short detour from the track is the Brooklyn Gun Emplacements. On the walk or cycle, you are likely to spot native birds from the nearby Zealandia Sanctuary.

Once at the top, feel the force of the wind power as you stand under the 13.5-meter blades!

20. Then Hike up to the Hawkins Hill Radar Dome

If you follow the sign-posted trail from the Brooklyn Wind Turbine (as described above), you will come across the hidden gem that is the Hawkins Hill Radar Dome, which offers some of the best views of the South Island. This is the highest point in Wellington city! Yep, in the distance, you can see the South Island, a 3-hour ferry ride away. 

Since it’s an off-the-beaten-track, you’re likely to have this easy 6.3 km trail all to yourself! Allow 2-3 hours to complete the return track. On your walk, you will see the famed castle of Wellington.

Not long after the castle, you’ll reach the Hawkins Hill dome. It’s much bigger than it appears from far away. Beware, it can be very windy here!

21. Eat at local restaurants

A worker at Pizza Pomodoro in the pizza oven
Wood-fired pizza is the best!
Pizza from Pizza Pomodoro in Wellington, NZ
So good!

Given that Wellington is home to so much natural beauty, tons of craft breweries, and is close to the Marlborough wine region, it really should come as no surprise that there’s lots of fresh produce and yummy seasonal dishes to be found here.

Pizza Pomodoro is definitely one of our favorites. They hand roll their pizza dough and then cook it fresh in a wood-fired oven, and it really is the best we’ve had in the city. Plus, we love that you can take your pizza and eat it next door at Goldings Free Dive, which is a great craft brewery with a buzzing atmosphere. 

Meanwhile, Rita exemplifies Wellington’s reputation as a fresh food haven. Their 3-course menu changes every single night because they only use local, fresh produce, so you never really know what you’re going to get, but it will definitely be good. The set menu costs $95 NZD per head, so it’s a bit of a treat to dine here, but totally worth it if you’re in the mood to treat yourself. It’s in a small house in the Aro Valley so there’s not a ton of seating, which means it’s always a good idea to book. 

We also like The Old Quarter, a small Vietnamese fusion restaurant with a bustling atmosphere, authentic beef pho, and yummy bao buns – how good does a five spice roasted pork belly bao sound?

If you’re a self-professed foodie like me, you will love this walking food tour of Wellington. Your experienced local guide will take you to all the best spots, the places the locals eat, and those off the beaten tourist trail – those are always the best spots, aren’t they! 

Try out the best coffee in Wellington, freshly baked goods, a yummy lunch, and of course, finish with some sweet treats and a drink!

This particular tour takes 3 hours 30 minutes and is mostly along Cuba Street and costs from $250 NZD per person, which includes all food and drink! You should book your spot on the food tour online here in advance.

22. Check out the unique cocktails bars around the city

Drinks in Wellington on a food tour!

It only seems fitting that a city as quirky and cool as Wellington would be home to some unique cocktail bars. 

My favorite has to be the Hanging Ditch, where you’ll find all of the liquor bottles hanging on the ceiling on bungee cords. I don’t know about you, but I had certainly never seen this before! But I promise, this place isn’t all style and no substance. It has a nice, cozy atmosphere and the cocktails are delicious! 

Night Flower is another great spot to grab a drink. It’s a speakeasy bar on the uber-cool Cuba street and has a large deck where you can watch all the action as you sip on classic cocktails with a delicious botanical twist. One thing I really love about this place is the fact that they make their own tonic water. It really does take their G&Ts to a whole new level!

Meanwhile, book lovers should definitely go visit The Library, a book-themed bar with a really cozy vibe. The craft cocktails here are great and the staff will even be happy to whip up a custom drink for you if you say the word!

23. Take the ferry to Matiu/Somes Island

Matiu/Somes Island near Wellington, New Zealand
With a cool sea breeze, the island is a nice place for a walk!

Matiu/Somes Island is a predator-free scientific reserve. It is also a historic reserve with a rich multicultural history as it is owned by a local Maori tribe called the Taranaki Whānui.

There are a few walking trails on the island. The shortest is the Bullock Track at just 10 minutes long. The trail follows through native forest. It is one of the original walking tracks on the island. It’s a 30-minute return walk to the top of the island via the Gun Emplacements Track. On this track, you can see the gun emplacements used during World War II – there are also great views from the top of Wellington Harbor.

The Loop Track around the Island offers the opportunity to see wildlife, evidence of its World War II history, as well as excellent views of Wellington Harbor.

You can catch a ferry to Matiu/Somes Island that runs several times a day from Queens Wharf. Services are less frequent at the weekend. Tickets cost $24 NZD return per adult and $12 return for a child from 5 to 15 years.

24. Te Ahumairangi Hill Lookout

The Te Ahumairangi Hill Lookout is another popular spot in Wellington with walkers and mountain bikers. That’s because of the views from the top of the CBD, Wellington Harbor, and the Orongorongo ranges are breathtaking. The summit is also the perfect spot for a picnic. Interpretation boards at the summit tell the history of the Maori tribes who once called this spot home, as well as descriptions of the vegetation and plants found here.

The trail begins from Orangi Kaupapa Road, a 10-minute drive from the city. There are two trails here – the 2.7 km Elephant loop walk (which will take 2 hours to complete), or the 1.4 km Stellin loop walk, which is shorter and will take 1.5 hours in total.

25. Adrenalin Forest Obstacle Course in Wellington

Adrenalin Forest Obstacle Course in Wellington
Photo credit: Adrenalin Forest Obstacle Course

For the adventurous traveler, head out to the Adrenalin Forest Obstacle Course, in Porirua a 20-minute drive from the CBD. In fact, it’s one of my favorite stops after driving from Palmerston North to Wellington.

The challenging course is not for the faint-hearted or those afraid of heights – it boasts over 100 challenges across seven different height levels! Can you work your way up from 5 feet (1.5 meters) to the very-high 101 feet (31 meters)?! And most importantly, can you complete the entire course? Worth noting is the challenges are easy to begin with, but get much more difficult (and scary) as you continue through!

Some of the fun challenges include the Indiana jump, crossed logs, wrecking balls, and a Tarzan jump.

It’s important to note that at the beginning, an experienced staff member will teach you how to use the Clic-iT safety system that allows you to do the course alone, without a guide.

Entry to the Adrenalin Forest Obstacle Course costs $47 NZD per person. It’s one of the most exciting activities in Wellington – especially for kids!

26. Ride the Remutaka Cycle Trail

Wellington is known for its challenging mountain bike trails, and one of the best is the Remutaka trail in Upper Hutt. This trail has two options for mountain-bikers the longer 25 km trail, which starts at Maymorn, or the easier 18 km trail, which begins in Kaitoke. 

Both trails follow along an old railway line, through native forest, and even include the chance to cycle on some bridges and tunnels. The view from the summit is breathtaking, and on your return cycle, you will take in some typical New Zealand farm views – think rolling green hills and plenty of cows and sheep grazing.

This guided tour is a great option as it includes transport to and from the cycle trail, as well as all equipment, and lunch is even included. When booking, you will be given the option to choose the 18 km or 25 km trail. Allow 6 hours for this tour, and prices start at $143 NZD.

27. Satisfy your sweet tooth!

Wellington Chocolate Factory
Photo credit: Wellington Chocolate Factory!

I’ve already mentioned some amazing restaurants, bars, and cafes in this blog – but what about dessert?! That’s right, if you have a sweet tooth then Wellington has you covered, too.

Wellington Chocolate Factory in the CBD is not only a great place to buy delicious, ethical, locally made chocolate, you can also learn all about the journey from bean to bar on one of their tours. And if that weren’t enough, you’ll also get the chance to make your very own bars of chocolate. 

The Eva St Experience is the “standard” Wellington Chocolate Factory tour. It costs $60 NZD, lasts for 90 minutes, and takes you through the chocolate-making process from hand sorting the beans to wrapping up the finished bars. But best of all, you get to make 3 of your own chocolate bars to take home. There are also lots of chocolate tastings along the way and you get a complimentary cup of chocolate, so you’re bound to be riding a sugar high by the end of the tour.

Or if you’re a real chocoholic, you’ve also got the option to take part in a masterclass with one of Wellington Chocolate Factory’s very own founders, Gabe Davidson, who’s a pretty big deal in the chocolate world. You’ll learn how to taste chocolate properly, learn about the history of the world’s favorite treat, and then get creative and make your own bars. This workshop lasts for 2 hours and costs $100 NZD per person.

Of course, I can’t promise to satisfy your sweet tooth without mentioning an ice cream place! I can’t get enough of Duck Island Ice Cream. In fact, it’s my all-time favorite ice cream! 

The original store is located in Hamilton, but you can enjoy delicious Duck Island Ice Cream right here in Wellington, too. There’s a store on vibey Cuba Street, so you can grab a scoop and then enjoy it as you enjoy a stroll down Wellington’s quirkiest and most colorful street. 

In terms of which flavors to choose, I highly recommend the salted caramel with chocolate, or the peanut butter cookie dough. And remember, you can choose 2 flavors even if you go for the 1 scoop option, so you can even get both! 

28. Play Golf

Paraparaumu Beach golf club
Photo credit: Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club

New Zealand is known as one of the best countries in the world to golf, attracting about 250,000 golfers every year. The good news for golfers, then, is that Wellington is home to some of the best golf courses in the country.

A not-to-be-missed course is the Royal Wellington Golf Club in Upper Hutt, a 30-minute drive from the CBD. It is known as one of the most spectacular golf courses in the country and has 27 holes. Interestingly, it has hosted 7 New Zealand Open Championships and was the first course in the country to receive royal status!

Another great course – Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club, which is famous for being the course the ‘tamed the Tiger’ referring to the day in 2002 when the course beat famed golfer Tiger Woods. This course is a traditional links course and has been rated in the top 100 courses in the world. It has also hosted an impressive 12 New Zealand Opens!

29. Take the ferry to Day’s Bay for a coffee

Bailey in Days Bay near Wellington, New Zealand
Arriving in Day’s Bay!
Bailey at Chocolate Dayz Cafe in Wellington, NZ
Chocolate Dayz Cafe!

“You can’t beat Wellington on a good day” is something local Wellingtonians say a lot, and there’s no better place than Day’s Bay on a sunny day. Days Bay is a stunning beachside town, just a short 15-minute ferry ride from Queen’s Wharf in the city, or if you have a car, you can drive the scenic coastal road here.

Day’s Bay is a great place to relax in the sun or grab coffee or food from one of the cafes and restaurants here. The best cafes here include Chocolate Dayz Cafe and Days Bay Pavillion, both on Marine Parade.

30. Wellington Museum

The front of the Wellington Museum
Another awesome free museum!

Wellington Museum is a stunning heritage building on Jervois Quay, and it’s a great way to spend a rainy day in Wellington learning all about the history of the city.

Uncover the nautical side of Wellington with artifacts of explorers who once called the city home. You can visit Jack’s Boathouse to see how a captain’s cabin looked back in the 1800s. The Wahine Theater is a must-visit in the museum, and here you can watch the emotional story of the 1968 Wahine disaster, a tragic moment in Wellington’s history.

For a sense of the grandeur of Wellington’s past, visit the luxurious Von Kohorn Room, which was once the boardroom of the Wellington Harbour Board, where big historical decisions were made such as the decision to make Wellington New Zealand’s first nuclear-free port.

The Wellington Museum is free to visit and is open every day of the week from 10 am to 5 pm.

31. Go mountain biking at Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park

Featuring over 40 kilometers of trails and attracting 80,000 visitors every year, it’s easy to see why Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park (the largest bike park on the lower North Island) is one of the most popular attractions in Wellington! 

The park features steep trails for experts and more family-friendly gentle trails, so there’s a trail for everyone here. You can bike over a 72-meter swing bridge, through native bush, and even take in epic views of Wellington Harbor and the South Island from the summit here.

Makara Mountain Bike Park is located in Karori, a 15-minute drive from Wellington city.

32. Space Place at Carter Observatory

The inside of Space Place in Wellington, New Zealand
How cool is this!? Photo credit: Space Place

Space-lovers will love the Space Place at Carter Observatory, where you can learn all about New Zealand’s famed starry skies – New Zealand is also home to the Southern Lights. There are several multimedia exhibits where you can gain an understanding of the planets, stars, and galaxies that can be seen above New Zealand. Housed here too is the historic Thomas Cooke telescope, which you can use to view the night sky.

Your admission includes a Planetarium Show and telescope viewings for just $14 NZD per adult. I recommend allowing 2 hours here.

33. Go on a scenic flight

On a scenic flight with Wellington helicopters
Take in the sights from the air! Photo credit: Wellington Helicopters

Experience a truly unique view of Wellington from the comfort of the luxurious EC130 helicopter on this short and sweet 9-minute flight.

The flight path flies over Wellington CBD, where you can see famous buildings like Te Papa, the Beehive (the New Zealand parliament building) from your unique vantage point. 

On a clear day, you will be able to see beyond the harbor to the Marlborough Sounds and maybe even the South Island. Beyond the city, your pilot will fly over beautiful Makara Peak, where you can see the large wind farms there in operation.

This is one of the best ways to see Wellington city if you’re short on time, oh and be sure to take a camera with you – the views from the helicopter, as you can imagine, are stunning!

Related Read: There are plenty of other places in New Zealand where you can enjoy a helicopter tour!

Take the Ferry to the South Island

Cars an the back of a ferry from Wellington to Picton

The only way to reach the South Island (if you don’t fancy flying) is by ferry. Wellington is located on the North Island together with Auckland, while Queenstown and Christchurch are located on the South Island, so, as you can imagine, many tourists come to Wellington to catch the inter-islander ferry.

The ferry journey to the South Island is just 3 hours long and takes in the incredible scenery of the Cook Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound – you may even spot dusky dolphins frolicking in the water. The ferry arrives into the picturesque town of Picton on the South Island, which is well worth spending a night or two before embarking on your South Island road trip.

You can book tickets for the South Island ferry here.

Where to Stay in Wellington, New Zealand

The Marion Hostel
I stayed at The Marion Hostel on my last visit!

There are a ton of great places to stay in Wellington, however, as with any big city, location is everything! So if you need help narrowing down your options, keep reading. I’ve highlighted my favorite accommodations for each budget.

Luxury – $$$

If you’re a luxury traveler, then check out the Doubletree By Hilton Wellington. I stayed here once on a business trip/getaway. The location is a little further from the center of the city, but I enjoyed the walk. Plus, the rooms here are so stylish and beautiful, with a super comfy bed and a luxurious rain shower.

You can expect to pay closer to $400 NZD per night, but the best deals I’ve found are on

Mid-range – $$

Those on a medium budget will love Ramada by Wyndham. You get great value for money here since it has a good location, a trusted hotel name, modern rooms, a fitness center, and parking (huge bonus!). The center of town is just a short walk away, and there are laundry services if you’ve been on the road for a while! Prices per night are roughly $150-300 NZD.

To snag this awesome deal, check availability and book the Ramada by Wyndham online here.

Budget – $

My top choice in the budget category is The Marion Hostel. It’s right in the heart of the city, just steps from Cuba Street, which is full of restaurants and bars and a 5-minute walk to Courtney Place’s nightlife. They provide towels and toiletries and access to a kitchen, lounge, and rooftop terrace. They have big dorm rooms starting at $44 NZD and private accomodations starting around $134 NZD for 2 people. You can book this awesome boutique hostel on or through Hostelworld.

Another option for budget travelers is The Cambridge Hotel and Backpackers. I sometimes stay here if I’m driving to other North Island destinations since it’s perfect for a stopover. For starters, it’s one of the cheapest places in Wellington and has dorm beds for around $35 NZD and private rooms starting at $113 NZD. It’s also located centrally and easy to book on

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

A motorhome by the beach
Me and my trusty campervan!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It is what most budget backpackers get for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic. We also have a 5% discount code (QUEEN5) with Mad Campers, which you can use at checkout.
  • Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one, you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! We are also partnered with Kiwi Motorhomes, which is well known as the top motorhome rental company in New Zealand. You can get 5% off using the code Queen5. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!

Travel Insurance Has Your Back!

Life can be unpredictable and when you’re traveling abroad the last thing you want to worry about is getting sick or injured and having to pay out of pocket for treatment.

If this concerns you, SafetyWing can help! SafetyWing specializes in very affordable and comprehensive medical and travel insurance that is aimed at digital nomads, remote workers, and long-term travelers. It costs just $45 USD per 4 weeks!

To start coverage you must purchase it after leaving your home country, so we usually purchase it as soon as we land in the airport.

Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!

Thanks for reading! 

Bailey and her mum in Wellington, New Zealand
Thanks for reading!

As you can see, Wellington is a vibrant city with tons of amazing things to see and do. From the famous LOTR production company to the many viewpoints (I did mention a lot of them) I never get bored exploring Wellington!

Once again that’s it from me! I hope this guide to Wellington’s activities and attractions has helped plan your upcoming visit! As always, if it has, then check out more of My Queenstown Diary, or, these related blogs below!

25 most beautiful places to visit in New Zealand

12 BEST Stops between Napier and Wellington

27 best hikes on the North Island

Best time to visit New Zealand

Don Penlington

Thursday 19th of January 2023

Your Wellington site is the best I've seen. I lived in Wellington for my entire working life, but retired to Australia Gold coast some 30 years ago. I'm returning to Wellington to visit family and old friends next month (Feb 23) and your site was a great reminder of all the things both old and new that are good about Wellington.

Beautifully presented and most impressive and informative website.

Don Penlington


Sunday 22nd of January 2023

Hey Don,

That so nice to hear. I am actually heading back in a few weeks and can;t wait to explore some more and update the blog!

Thanks Bailey