Wellington is a compact and walkable city. With a downtown area only 2 km across, most of the major attractions are within easy walking distance from the hotels, cafés, restaurants, bars and shops. A petite picturesque capital city has got a downside. The weather, it is not called Windy Wellington for nothing. Invest in a Blunt umbrella and think of the weather as invigorating, embracing as it whips your hair into a messy, frizzy mess, Wellington mode. Layers, especially a light waterproof jacket thigh length is a must. A fabulous city with enormous personality and a sense of community should be on all visitors’ must visit list. Some places are great without a Bondi on their doorstep and Wellington is one of these magical destinations.
Wellington travel guide — best things to do, what to see
As well as historic and cultural attractions, Wellington also offers Hollywood glamour – the majority of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was filmed in and around the city, and visitors can now follow in the footsteps of Hollywood stars. Inspired by the weather perhaps.
Wellington is picturesque, pretty painted wooden houses stacked up and down hillsides. However the weather can be horrible. Check out the weather forecast for Wellington and do not let that stop you. All those museums are indoors. And buy a Blunt umbrella, tested in Wellington, sold globally.
AWESOME JOURNEYS AND DAY TRIPS FROM WELLINGTON
TOP FIVE PLACES TO VISIT
The historic tram is a regular link for university students and office workers. It is recommended that peak times are avoided. The free shuttle to Zealandia meets the cable city.
The sanctuary is an unexpected hidden gem, in the middle of a city. New Zealand wildlife at the end of an urban street is definitely worth a visit to see what can be achieved with a durable steel fence.
Tucked away in Miramar, a short drive from Wellington’s city centre, Weta Workshop crafts physical effects for some of the world’s most renowned films and TV shows. And, the doors are open for fans who want to see exactly how the magic is made.
Wellington is the home of the National Museum Te Papa. Wellington is a major site for the New Zealand narrative, of history, heritage and what is the kiwi identity. From quaint 19th cottages to maritime heritage stories or contemporary edgy art spaces there is a museum or gallery for all tastes. The area has a history of human occupation reaching into the origins of Polynesian discovery of Aotearoa New Zealand over 800 years ago. The stories of people, settlement and history is encapsulated in Te Papa.
As the website aptly describes “OTARI BOTANIC GARDEN is 5 hectares of botanic gardens dedicated to the collection and preservation of New Zealand’s native plants. Highlights include The Canopy Walkway and the self-guided Nature Trail. WILTON’S BUSH RESERVE: 100 hectares of ancient and regenerating native forest. Highlights include an 800-year-old rimu and some of Wellington’s oldest trees, picnic areas, several waterfalls and 11 km of walking tracks.”
It is a great place for families as there is enough space to run and jump while older members of the family group read the various plaques describing the plant’s geographical location within New Zealand.
WELLINGTON: WHAT TO SEE & DO
CULTURE: MUSEUMS & ART GALLERIES
Te Papa National Museumlearn more
National Library of New Zealandlearn more
Te Wharewaka o Pōnekelearn more
Wellington Museumlearn more
Nairn Street Museumlearn more
Cable Car Museumlearn more
Space Placelearn more
City Gallery Wellingtonlearn more
The Dowse Art Museumlearn more
Pātaka Art + Museumlearn more
The New Zealand Portrait Gallerylearn more
New Zealand Parliamentlearn more
Katherine Mansfield Birthplacelearn more
New Zealand Cricket Museumlearn more
An urban stroll:
- Wellington waterfront including Oriental Bay.The walk starts from Bond Store, now the City Museum, wandering through the food establishments on the waterfront, passing Te Papa and onto Oriental Parade. You will observe how Wellington is a city shaped by the sea and the impact of a large natural harbour on the design of the city. Wooden houses will stretch up the hills providing a backdrop to the city centre and its waterfront.
- The Southern Walkway skyline views provide a photo moment around every curve of the coast. The walk is dog friendly and, while it is 11.5km in length you can exit at numerous points along the route. Follow the pink bollards.
- Wellington Botanic Garden walk. Minutes from downtown Wellington the Botanic Garden is easily accessible for those who are short on time and want to explore Wellington by foot. All paths within the garden are either paved or with a firm surface. There are many entrances to the Garden including: Glenmore Street, Salamanca Road, Upland Road, the Cable Car, The only public vehicle access is through the Centennial entrance on Glenmore Street. Generally the Botanic Garden is hilly, wheelchair friendly areas are: Top of the Cable Car, Lady Norwood Rose Garden and the Glenmore Street main entrance.
- Walks, City Sculpture walk. Seventeen sculptures and counting. A great way to get exercise with culture thrown into the mix. Finish your walk in the historic precinct of Cuba Street and wonder about the controversial city by-pass.
- For dedicated walkers Wellington regional trails is a comprehensive description of the grade of the trail, duration and what the walk/ bike ride emcompasses. For visitors short on time Wellington Council has a city wide description of the walks / bike trails. There are five top trails recommended by Wellington Regional trails, these are, Remutaka Cycle Trail – WellingtonRegionalTrails.com, 1- 5 day trail, Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park – WellingtonRegionalTrails.com, Escarpment Track – WellingtonRegionalTrails.com, ½ day trail, Exploration of the city Southern Walkway – WellingtonRegionalTrails.com, ½ day trail, Skyline Track – WellingtonRegionalTrails.com, an all day skyline trail.
- For a comprehensive directory of city walks consult. Enjoy the outdoors – Walks & walkways. Over fifteen walks in the city to explore. My favourite is the Art Deco Walk and get inspired with our Travel Pack Information on Wellington Walks.
Otari-Wilton’s Bush Reservelearn more
Bolton Street Cemeterylearn more
Wellington Botanic Gardenlearn more
Truby King Parklearn more
SHOPPING AND WHERE TO EAT
- Due to the compact nature of Wellington it is a very walkable city for the dedicated shopper. While the weather is sometimes not great the shops are perfect for days when the weather is windy Wellington.
- Wellington is a premier shopping destination for New Zealand. Auckland and Christchurch could debate this statement. Wellington with its variety and ease of access continues to attract visitors who know a good place when they find it. Nothing like a core of government employees to keep retailers busy.
Where to find a bargain to eat:
Wellington is not cheap, and while the restaurants are world class, if you are on a budget then you need to pop down Cuba Street or visit the Night Markets for cheap eats. Head to the Cuba Street Night Market for an array of delicious food stalls with cuisines from around the world. The lively markets are colourful and lively with buskers and entertainment and the smell of delicious, sizzling hot food in the air.
Go for a taste of Wellington’s famous craft beer. Ghuznee Street boasts a fantastic line-up of brew bars including Whistling Sisters, Fortune Favours and Husk. Aro Valley is home to Garage Project, one of Wellington’s best-known breweries, where you can get a taste of their boundary-pushing beer and wine at their cellar door and taproom.
FAMILY FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES
- Dowse Art Space in Lower Hutt. A veteran at providing children focused activities you will not have bored younger members of your group.
- Otari-Wilton’s Bush Reserve for its canopy walk which includes an information visitor centre.
- Red Rocks Reserve. Enjoy the outdoors – Red Rocks / Pariwhero to observe seals and the rugged southern coast.
- Weta Studios is a guaranteed success. Movie magic, our own Wellywood with its technical excellence appeals to all ages.
- Wellington Playgrounds Stuff for kids – Play areas. A favourite of mine is Central Park Brooklyn with its three cable flying fox, a six-metre high space ball climbing frame, spinner bowl, whirl and swings. The park also has a junior section with slides, swings, crawl tunnels, climbing net, seesaws and a springy racer. An upgrade in 2009 added new toilets near the playground and a mini-BMX track. Due to its proximity to numerous central city hotels the playground is easily accessible. It is a 10 to 15 minute walk (2km) from central Wellington to the park. Location, on the fringe of Wellington’s CBD on Brooklyn Road.
DAY TRIPS FROM YOUR WELLINGTON HUB
- Wellington is also the ideal launching pad for other great parts of New Zealand, including the wine region of Wairarapa.
- Kapiti Island (predator free) reserve.
- Wellington is a gateway to New Zealand’s South Island, with two regular ferry services taking visitors across the Cook Strait to Picton.
Hop-on Hop-off bus
Wellington has guided hop on and hop off bus. Home – Hop on Hop off | Guided Tours Wellington. Tours depart and finish from the city i-SITE Visitor Centre bus stop at 145 Wakefield St opposite the Amora Hotel, starting at 9.30am, with the last Tour leaving at 2.30pm
Guided walking tours of Wellington Walk Wellington are available. Recommended for first time visitors to Wellington for insider tips and latest pop store openings.
- Two hour walking tour
- Focus on the inner city and waterfront
- Departs from the ‘i’ Visitor Centre
- Book online at the above website
Wellington public bus service is excellent check Metlink – Greater Wellington’s Public Transport Network for details.
Wellington is home to a great public rail system with its heart being the historic Railway Station. Check the link for train timetables and enjoy the Railway Station grandeur. Just be careful of Wellington government commuters in the workday rush hour. They are focused on getting to work on time.
The journey is worth it.