Skip to Content

14 Things to KNOW Before Visiting Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington

14 Things to KNOW Before Visiting Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington

This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.

You probably know that Wellington is New Zealand’s capital city, but what you might not know is that it’s the country’s film capital, too! 

While many people think visiting Hobbiton from Auckland is the big draw for movie buffs, the city of Wellington is actually home to a thriving media industry. There are some world-renowned studios here, but the most famous of them all is Wētā Workshop, the special effects company behind movies like Lord of the RingsKing Kong, and Avatar

Going on a tour of Wētā Workshop and Cave is a great day trip while you’re in Wellington. Of course, it’s a must for Lord of the Rings fans but to be honest, I’m not a big fan of the movies and I still really enjoyed the experience. 

If you’re wondering what to expect from a visit to Wētā Workshop then look no further, because this guide contains everything you need to know about visiting, from where to park to what you’ll see! 

Please note: You cannot take photos inside the actual workshop so the photos used here are from the Wētā Cave.

1. About Wētā Cave and Workshop 

Gollum with his fish statue at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
A life size orc at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
Scared yet?

Wētā Workshop is a special effects and prop company, and it’s been around since 1987. However, it became super famous for providing sets, costumes, creatures, and more for the Lord of the Rings trilogy in the early 2000s. 

Superfans of the movies began visiting the workshop each day, hoping to catch a glimpse of the goings on there. As a result, the founders decided to open the Wētā Cave, where fans could go and see costumes, statues, and weapons that were used in the movies, and even buy replicas to take home. 

As you would expect, this was a massive hit and so the studio decided to take it one step further. In 2012, they opened a section of the workshop to the public for guided tours. 

When you take a tour of Wētā Workshop, you can see the working studio, learn all about the creative process behind their world-famous props and effects, and sometimes even see artists at work! You can only visit the workshops as part of a tour, but if you’re on a budget you can still visit the cave for free and see all of the amazing displays there. 

As well as Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Wētā Workshop has provided special effects for many famous movies, like Avatar: The Way of Water, Disney’s live-action MulanThe Chronicles of NarniaThor: Love and Thunder, and Clash of the Titans. Basically, if you’ve ever seen an action, adventure, or fantasy movie, there’s a good chance that Wētā Workshop had a hand in it!

2. Where is Wētā Cave and Workshop?

Bailey looks at life size figurines at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
Photos with Gollum!

Wētā Cave and Workshop is located in the suburb of Miramar, about 7 kilometers (4 miles) from Wellington city center on the North Island. It takes around 15 minutes to drive there from central Wellington, and some tours like this full-day Lord of the Ring tour include transport if you don’t have your own wheels.

You can also take the Number 2 bus from the CBD to Miramar and then it’s just a short walk to the Cave.

Related Read: A trip to New Zealand isn’t complete without some hiking. Luckily, the North Island is full of amazing scenic hikes that are suitable for all levels!

3. When is Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington open?

Troll face figure at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
They look so realistic!
Lord of the Rings figure at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
You can actually buy these!

The Wētā Workshop and Cave is open from 8:45 am to 5 pm, 7 days a week (excluding Christmas Day), so you really have flexibility on your timing! We have a lot of great tours mentioned below and most of those will depart in the morning. These tours also include stops at other iconic Wellington or Lord of the Rings locations, so you will have a full day of exploring in addition to the Wētā Workshop and Cave. 

If you’re looking to simply tour the cave and workshop, this guided tour is our favorite option. You’ll have 90 minutes to get an in-depth look at the workshop, leaving plenty of time to explore the other things to do in Wellington the rest of the day!

Most people travel to Wellington during the summer, as the weather is gorgeous this time of year! But if you happen to visit in the winter, stopping at Wētā Workshop and Cave is one of the best winter activities in New Zealand. It gets you out of the rain and cold, and you’ll see fewer tourists, so it’s a totally different experience!

4. Can you visit Wētā Cave and Workshop without a tour?

An orc at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
You can walk the cave at your own pace!

Yes, you can visit the cave without a tour. This is really cool and you get to see tons of props, figures, and costumes, but to see the workshop where the magic actually happens, you’ll need to go on an official guided tour.

This tour is absolutely amazing because you get to learn all about the techniques and how movie magic is made! You also get to check out miniatures that are used to create landscapes in films. Often, you’ll see artists at work and even have the chance to ask them some of your burning questions. 

The only thing to note is that you don’t get to see inside the actual workshop where the creative team works on designs for new movies. This is because they’re confidential and have to be kept top secret, otherwise, the company would have a major lawsuit on their hands!

You can choose to book your official Wētā tour with transportation from the i-Site bus bay in central Wellington. Or, if you have other means of transportation, you can book a Wētā tour without transportation, depending on what works best for you. 

5. Is there parking at Wētā Cave and Workshop?

A tour van pulls up at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington for the tour
One of the tour vans!
Bailey poses for a photo with the troll out the front of Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington

Yes, there is street parking but it gets very full – as you can imagine, the Wētā Cave is super popular!

If you get a rental car while visiting Wellington, it’s best to visit in the morning or later on in the afternoon so you can find parking. Wētā Cave and Workshop opens at 8:45 am and closes at 5 pm, so arriving before 10 am or after 3 pm is best in terms of parking. This is why I sometimes prefer to book a tour, as they take care of the logistics (like parking) and you don’t have to worry about it!

I actually had a lot of trouble finding parking close to the Wētā Cave! However, I went in the summer and tried to park really close to the premises, which in retrospect perhaps wasn’t the best idea. I managed eventually, but I was in a small car – if you’re in a bigger vehicle, don’t even think about parking close by!  

Knowing what I know now, if I went again I would try parking a bit further away and walking. Miramar is a small, industrial neighborhood so you’ll be fine to leave your car a bit further away and walk to the Wētā Cave. 

Related Read: It’s actually really easy to rent a car in New Zealand, or you can get a little more adventurous and rent a campervan to explore more of the country.

6. Do you need to book a tour to Wētā in advance? 

Bailey walks through the entrance of Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
Entering the Wētā Cave!

Yes, definitely. Wētā Workshop and Cave tours are incredibly popular and they book up well in advance. Lord of the Rings fans come from all over the world just to see this place! 

The tours are also small group tours with a maximum of 15 people, which definitely makes for a great experience but it does mean that they book up super fast. So yes, I would highly recommend booking your tour in advance, especially if you’re visiting during the summer – but to be honest, it’s a good idea no matter what time you’re visiting New Zealand!

banner asking people to click to join the Queenstown Diary Facebook Group

7. What are the highlights of Wētā Cave and Workshop?

Bailey looks at a display case at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
The displays are so cool!
A costume from Lord of the Rings at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
One of the actual costumes used in the films!

The Cave 

The Cave is a museum and shop where you can see a plethora of artifacts from the Lord of the Rings films, and even take a selfie with Gollum (and of course the huge troll right out the front)!

You can see a ton of cool movie replicas up close and even touch them, which certainly isn’t like most museums. There are fun souvenirs so you can shop to your heart’s content and pick up something to remember your time here. You’ll find everything here from the handwritten recipes of Bilbo Baggins to the bow and arrow Legolas used. And if you’re a die-hard fan, you can even commission custom armor and swords! Basically, you get to go shopping in a prop house. 

There’s also a 20-minute documentary screened inside the Cave where you can learn more about the history of Wētā Workshop and how they became so wildly successful. They also show clips of some of the most notable movie moments they have created. 

Wētā Workshop 

The Workshop tour is the best part of visiting Wētā! It’s a very interactive and immersive experience that allows you to peek behind the curtain (or screen, in this case) and learn lots of fascinating production secrets. 

You see a ton of cool exhibits along the way, including life-sized robots, cars, and huge statues that positively tower over you! You also get to hold some movie swords and you see miniatures and puppets that were used in the Thunderbirds movies. There’s even a “touching room” where you can literally get hands-on. 

One of the highlights is also seeing how the Lord of the Rings helmets are made, and oftentimes you’ll come into contact with working Wētā artists on the tour. This isn’t guaranteed, but it’s super cool if it does happen because you can learn a ton from them!

The tour guides are also really great. As you can imagine, tons of movie buffs want to work at Wētā Workshop, so these guys really know their stuff. The group sizes are small, so you’ll have plenty of chances to ask them all of your burning questions. 

You can just go to the cave if you’re on a tight budget but honestly, I really do recommend taking this tour because it’s fascinating and a lot of fun. 

Related Read: Wellington is the perfect launch point to catch a ferry to the South Island and continue exploring the country!

8. What are the best tours to Wētā Cave and Workshop?

Half-Day Lord of the Rings Tour

The mask of Sauron at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
The mask of Sauron!
The troll statue out the front of Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
The troll!

This small group tour is a must for Lord of the Rings fans – especially ones who are short on time! 

First, you’ll head to Hobbiton Woods. This forested mountain area was used in the movies to depict the woods where the Hobbits hid from the Black Riders. You’ll visit five filming sites from the first movie, and then head onto Wētā Cave and Workshop for an official guided tour. This is a great look into The Hobbit film creation, even if you don’t have time to make it to Hobbiton!

This is an excellent option for Tolkien fans because you get to see a filming location that not many people get to visit! I also like the fact that it’s capped at 15 people, as I think you learn more and get a personal experience this way. 

The tour lasts for about 3.5 hours so it’s easy to fit into your Wellington itinerary, and hotel pickup and drop-off are included, which is super convenient! It costs $185 NZD for adults or $95 NZD for kids. Be sure to book this tour in advance, as there are a lot of fans who want to book this fan-tastic tour out of Wellington!

This tour can also accommodate those arriving by cruise ship and pickup from the dock can be arranged. Just be sure to reach out to the tour company with these details when booking.

Full Day Lord of the Rings Tour

Bailey walks through Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington in New Zealand
Wētā Cave!

If you’ve got a bit more time in Wellington, then this full-day Lord of the Rings Tour not only takes you to Hobbiton Woods and the Wētā Workshop, but all over Wellington to check out filming locations from the movies. 

You’ll visit rivers, forests, and quarries, and learn more about how and why each location was chosen for the iconic trilogy. The guides are fun and friendly, and it’s a small group tour so everyone can bond over their love of Lord of the Rings. I found that learning more about the making of the films helped pique my interest even more!

This tour is also suitable for cruise passengers stopping in Wellington for the day, as you can arrange pickup from the dock. It is scheduled to last 6 hours, so you really get a full-day experience!

This experience costs $285 NZD for adults and $145 NZD for kids, including hotel pickup and drop-off from the CBD. It does not include lunch, so be sure to bring some extra cash! You can reserve this full-day LOTR experience online here!

Related Read: If you love wine like me, you’ll absolutely love visiting Napier! It’s only a 4-hour drive from Wellington to Napier and there are some fabulous wine tours in Napier to check out!

Wellington Shore Excursion: From Cave to Coast Highlights Private Tour

Bailey at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington, New Zealand
It’s so cool that NZ got to film the movies!
Bailey enjoys the view over Wellington New Zealand from Mount Victoria Lookout
You’ll even head up Mount Victoria!

Of course, not everyone who wants to visit Wētā Workshop and Cave is a Lord of the Rings super fan. This private tour allows you to combine a visit to Wētā with some of Wellington’s other, non-movie-related highlights like Oriental Bay and Taputeranga Marine Reserve

You’ll be picked up from your hotel or cruise terminal at a time of your choice, and then head to the Mount Victoria lookout for gorgeous views over the city and the harbor. Because this is a private tour, you can move at your own pace and spend more time at a location if you’re really enjoying it!

Then, you visit the Wētā Cave. It’s worth noting that this tour only includes the cave visit – you can’t do the workshop tour. However, you still get to see some amazing movie replicas and even buy a few of your own! 

After Wētā, you get lunch at the Chocolate Fish Cafe, a classic Kiwi stop! This place specializes in freshly caught seafood and overlooks Wellington Harbour, so you’ll get great views as you dine. The price of your tour includes mains and a drink, and if you can’t eat seafood they do have other options available. 

Other highlights on this tour include a visit to the Wellington Wind Turbine for more fantastic views, a walk through the Lady Norwood Botanical Gardens, and a visit to Old St. Paul’s Cathedral

There’s also an optional stop at the Wellington Cable Car, where you can buy a ticket for an additional $9 NZD. The ride lasts for about 5 minutes each way and you get some nice views, so I think it’s worth doing. 

This tour is scheduled to last five hours and is only for your private group of up to 11 people. It costs $215 NZD per person and you have to book for at least 4 people at once. If you’re short on time and want to see the best of Wellington in a single day, then I think that it’s a fantastic choice! To make sure this private tour fits into your Wellington itinerary, I recommend booking this tour in advance.

Why I Book Tours on Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! I almost always book all of my tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here

9. Is Wētā Cave and Workshop suitable for kids? 

Walking tree at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
Gollum statue at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
Gollum is creepy!

For the most part, yes. 

I will say that some of the designs and figures at Wētā Cave and Workshop can be a bit scary for some kids because they look so realistic! Overall, though, children love visiting Wētā because it’s very immersive and there’s so much for them to explore. While many museums don’t allow any touching, there are many interactive and hands-on pieces at Wētā, so children think it’s pretty cool!

As long as your kids don’t tend to scare easily, I think that Wētā is a great family day out. And if your kids like Lord of the Rings or some of the other many movies that Wētā has worked on, it will be a really magical experience for them. Plus, kids under 4 go for free, which is a bonus!

10. Are Wētā Workshop and Cave wheelchair-friendly?

Weapon props at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
Weapon props at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington

Yes! Wētā Workshop and Cave hold a silver-level “Be Accessible” rating, and wheelchair users shouldn’t have any problems here. There’s also a specially designated accessible parking lot on Wētā Street, which is the closest entrance to the Wētā Cave.

If you’re booking a tour to Wētā, double-check their specific wheelchair accessibility, as some with bus transfers are not wheelchair friendly.

11. Can you take photos on the tour of the Wētā Workshop?

King kong face at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
King Kong!
Gollum head figurine at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington

No, photography is heavily restricted during the tour so you can only really take photos in the Cave shop. I actually thought that this was one of the worst things about the tour because you see so much cool stuff but you can’t take photos of any of it. 

(It’s also the reason why some of the images in this blog are provided by Wētā Workshop rather than taken by me!).

However, in the Cave, you can take as many photos as you want which is still a lot of fun! You can pose with Gandalf, wield swords, or pretend to fight the giant troll. 

12. What is Wētā Unleashed?

Weta workshop unleashed AUckland
Photo credit: Weta Workshop Unleashed
Gollum at Wētā Workshop Unleashed in Auckland
Photo credit: Wētā Workshop Unleashed

Wētā Unleashed is the Auckland Wētā experience. It’s brand new and absolutely awesome, but don’t get it confused with the Wētā Workshop and Cave when booking tickets

You don’t get to see the workshop at Wētā Unleashed, but there are tons of cool displays and interactive exhibits. This is more of an immersive experience than a traditional tour. You also still get to learn about the behind-the-scenes processes, just not to the same degree. To top it all off, you can take as many photos as you want! 

It’s actually located right across from the Auckland Sky Tower, so you can knock off two amazing things to do in Auckland at the same time!

Like Wētā Workshop, Wētā Unleashed requires a tour. You visit three different production zones for hypothetical movies: one horror, one fantasy, and one sci-fi. Here, you learn all about how Wētā works its magic within these genres of movies to make them so captivating and realistic. There are also fun experiences along the way like mazes, caves, and light shows. 

Wētā Unleashed is a different kind of experience to Wētā Workshop and both are definitely worth doing if you get the chance! It costs $60 NZD for adults and $36 NZD for kids and lasts for about 90 minutes. Book this tour online here!

Related Read: While in Auckland, make sure you have comfy accommodations, so check out my guide on the best places to stay in Auckland for recommendations!

13. Is Wētā Workshop worth visiting? 

Orc Statue at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
Small statue at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
It’s not all LOTR!

Yes, absolutely. The tour of Wētā Workshop is fantastic, and it’s the only way to truly get behind the scenes of this world-class special effects company. The Cave and the Unleashed Experience in Auckland are both great, but the Workshop gives you a unique insight into the place where Wētā’s amazing costumes, props, and effects are actually made. 

Personally, I loved the tour even though I’m not a Lord of the Rings super fan or anything like that. It’s so interesting to learn about the techniques the artists use and how they produce all of the things you see on screen. It was awesome!

14. Is Wētā Cave worth visiting?

Costume clothing from the Lord of the Rings movies at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
Costume clothing from the Lord of the Rings movies at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
Bilbo baggins figurine at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington

Yes! Wētā Cave is completely free to check out, so if you’re visiting Wellington on a budget, it’s still worth going to see the Cave. The displays here are really cool and it’s like a mini museum that you don’t even have to buy a ticket for. I do recommend doing the Workshop tour as well, but the Cave alone is still worth it!

Other Activities to do While You’re in Wellington

The vibrant Cuba Street in Wellington, New Zealand
Cuba Street is my favorite place to walk in the city!
Bailey walks down some steps at Zealandia Ecosanctuary, Wellington
Zealandia Ecosanctuary, Wellington

While Wētā Workshop and Cave is a super unique activity in Wellington, there are a ton of other things to do and see in NZ’s capital city (and yes, Wellington is the capital, not Auckland as many assume). Here are a few things to add to your to-do list:

  • Mount Victoria Lookout – 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. You can hike here, drive, or take the bus. I recommend visiting for sunset!
  • Visit Zealandia Zealandia Ecosanctuary is right in the city and protects the country’s native flora and fauna. Taking a tour of Zealandia is not only insightful, but you forget you’re in a city with how lush and jungly it is! It is a totally unique experience and a definite must-see in Wellington!
  • Te Papa Museum – This is my favorite museum in all of NZ (a big statement, I know!). Most of the museum is free to visit with a recommended donation. 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.
  • Explore Cuba Street – 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, and casual restaurants – many with great outdoor seating areas.

If you want to get out of the city, there are plenty of fun day trips from Wellington that you should also check out!

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

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

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’s what most budget travelers use 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…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your campervan or motorhome through JUCY or Star RV! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey takes a selfie at Wētā Workshop and Cave in Wellington
Thanks for reading!

Wētā Workshop and Cave is a unique experience that you can only get in Wellington! If you’re a movie buff, this will be an enthralling experience, but even if you’re not a huge LOTR fan (like me!) you can still be in awe of the craftsmanship it takes to make these props! The fact that Wētā is part of nearly every major fantasy movie shows how impressive of a company this is.

I hope you found this blog helpful, but there is even more to check out in Wellington and New Zealand! If you need any more advice while planning your adventures, check out more blogs on the North Island. Some of my favorite activities are below: 

4 BEST Tours to Hobbiton from Auckland + 8 Things to Know

3 BEST Tours from Tauranga to Hobbiton +KNOW Before You Book!

Guide to Visiting Hastings in Hawke’s Bay

Best Stops on the Road Trip from Palmerston North to Wellington!