You’ve probably heard the classic phrase, “You can’t beat Wellington on a good day!” Well, it wouldn’t be a popular saying if it wasn’t true! The southernmost capital city in the entire world, our windy Wellington really does have something for everyone.
Boasting a fabulous coffee culture with plenty of roasteries and trendy cafes, as well as a huge range of delightful eateries, make sure you show up to Wellington feeling hungry! Whether you’re a passionate bruncher, a fine-diner, or a live music lover, you’ll definitely find a new favourite spot in town. Wellington is also known as the craft beer capital of New Zealand, with about 20 breweries in the city. Cheers to that!
Wellington is a cultural hub filled with street-art, galleries, and of course plenty of retail therapy. From the boutique designer stores to the quirky shops dotted along Cuba Street, you’re sure to leave Wellington with a heavier bag.
While it didn’t make our top 5 - we couldn’t recommend Wellington without giving a special mention to the truly iconic Bucket Fountain, which you are bound to encounter on your wander down through the shops of Cuba Street. The colourful Bucket Fountain was originally called the Water Mobile when it was installed in 1969, but thankfully a much catchier name took over.
A trip to the capital comes with plenty of fun things to keep you busy, and you can pack quite a lot in even if you’re only there for a short visit. This is helped by the added perk that Wellington is particularly walkable - in fact if you’re staying centrally around the CBD, most of our top spots are within walking distance. Here are our top 5 spots to visit:
1. Te Papa Museum
- Location: 55 Cable Street, Wellington
- Suitable for: everyone ages 1-100, light walking around the museum.
At the heart of Wellington's waterfront, Te Papa Museum is hard to miss, and is an absolute must-visit whenever you're in the capital city.
You could easily spend an entire day here wandering through all of the exhibits, or you can just spend a couple of hours having a nosy around the exhibits that interest you the most. There’s so much to discover and whether you're trying to or not, you’re bound to learn something new.
Te Papa is incredibly interactive and if you've got little ones in tow, the kids will have a blast! Families can get hands-on with educational exhibits, games and books at the museum's Discovery Centres. Plus, how can you pass up the opportunity to meet the only colossal squid on display in the world?
For a more in-depth experience of the museum, book yourself into a guided tour. Best of all - It's completely FREE to visit Te Papa - however there are occasionally special exhibits that have an entry fee. Head to the Te Papa website to find out what exhibitions are on at the moment.
2. Cable Car & Botanic Gardens
- Location: 280 Lambton Quay, Wellington
- Suitable for: anyone who likes a lookout or doing some light exercise around serene gardens.
It wouldn't be a trip to Wellington without taking a ride on the historic Cable Car. For just $9.00 you can get an Adult return ticket that will take you up to the Cable Car Lookout for panoramic views over the city and harbour.
Once you disembark at the top of the Cable Car, you'll find yourself at one of the entrances to the Botanic Gardens, where you can very easily lose a few hours if you just want to have an explore and follow your feet. Whether you want a picturesque location to get a bit of exercise and fresh air, or you want to relax with a book under a shady tree, the Botanic Gardens have got you covered.
The Wellington Botanic Gardens is a slice of serenity right next to the city, and with such wonderful views, it's a fantastic place to find your perfect picnic spot overlooking the city.
3. ZEALEANDIA Wildlife Sanctuary
- Location: 53 Waiapu Road, Karori
- Suitable for: those interested in New Zealand flora, fauna and conservation.
This incredible ecosanctuary is set in a picturesque reserve in the hills of Karori, just a stone's throw away from the CBD. There's a free shuttle from the top of the Cable Car and many buses that stop at a short walk from the sanctuary.
ZEALANDIA is the world's first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary, and is a groundbreaking conservation production that has so far reintroduced 18 species of native wildlife back into the area! Thanks to the efforts of ZEALANDIA, birds such as tui, kaka and kereru - once extremely rate to the region - are all now common sights around central Wellington.
There are plenty of trails to explore for people of all fitness levels, and you'll get to experience some of the stunning flora and fauna that are totally unique to our country. In case you aren't convinced yet - Time magazine named ZEALANDIA as one of the 100 greatest places in the world!
General admission is free for kids under 5, $10 for kids aged 5-17, and $22 for adults. General admission gives you access to self-guide around the sanctuary, but if you are looking for the ultimate experience, consider booking into one of their guided tours. They offer day tours, twilight tours, and night tours, so head to their website to find out more.
4. Beehive & Parliament Buildings
- Location: 1 Museum Street, Pipitea
- Suitable for: anyone wanting to learn more about New Zealand's government.
Not many countries have a Parliament building with a unique nickname like the Beehive! While you're visiting the capital, it's well worth heading over to the iconic home of our Parliament.
You can discover the heritage of the buildings and learn about New Zealand's democratic processes, as well as seeing some of the many artworks and objects contained in the Parliamentary Collection. While it might not seem like the most exciting thing to do on your holiday, having the opportunity to get an in-depth understanding of our governing body is going to give you a great foundation for engaging with New Zealand politics.
Visiting Parliament is free, and guided tours of Parliament are available seven days a week.
5. Oriental Bay
- Location: Oriental Bay Beach
- Suitable for: swimming, picnics, walking or cycling along the waterfront.
If you find yourself in Wellington CBD on a sunny day, you'd be crazy not to head to the city's most popular beach. Pop down to Oriental Bay to cool off with a refreshing swim and an ice cream. Even if you didn't come prepared with togs and towel, on a hot day you won't regret heading to the beach to go for a wade in the shallows and soak up the atmosphere.
The summer months bring swimmers, tourists, families and party goers to Oriental Bay, and the beach has a wave platform, a pier, and a playground to keep the kids busy. Just remember to slip, slop, slap and wrap!
On your way to Oriental Bay you’re likely to pass the Boat Sheds, which were originally constructed in the early 1900s and were the first buildings constructed on the newly formed boat harbour. The Boat Sheds are a particularly eye-catching feature of the area, and make for a great photo opportunity!
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