25 Best Things to Do in Wellington, New Zealand
Wellington is a compact, modern city, and the capital of New Zealand. There are massive green areas in the heart of the city with unique zoos like Zealandia as well as a defense artillery battery left over from WWII, fantastic art galleries such as the Adam Art Gallery and City Gallery Wellington, and fascinating Te Papa Tongarewa, the museum of New Zealand’s history, culture, and environment. Wellington is home to the country’s government, which conducts its business in the iconic Beehive, where anyone can go and listen to the politicians. Photo: Jo Chambers/Fotolia
The Beehive is the popular name for the executive wing of the New Zealand Parliament in Wellington. The building’s shape is similar to a traditional woven beehive called a "skep". It is a New Zealand heritage building and one of the most recognizable structures in the country. It is ten stories high and has four floors underground. The impressive entrance foyer floor is made of marble, its wall panels are made of stainless steel mesh, and it has a translucent glass ceiling. The Beehive is lavishly decorated with noted New Zealand art. The top floor has the c room, and the prime minister's offices are on the ninth floor. Other floors house the offices of various cabinet ministers. The building is open to visitors and there are guided tours. When parliament is in session, the visitors can sit on the public gallery and watch the proceedings.
Contact: Parliament Buildings, Wellington 6160, New Zealand, Phone: +64-48-17-99-99
»City Gallery Wellington
Originally opened in 1980 in a different venue, the City Gallery Wellington is located in Civic Square in downtown Wellington. In 2009 it reopened after extensive renovation with a new auditorium and three new galleries, one exclusively devoted to the Maori and Pacific art. The gallery plays a unique, crucial role in the cultural and art life of New Zealand. It does not have a permanent collection, instead, it constantly presents a range of programs and exhibitions. The City Gallery Wellington focuses on contemporary art, both from New Zealand and from all over the world. Besides mounting frequent new exhibitions, the gallery has an extensive calendar of events, such as artists' talks, live performances, debates, movie showings, guided tours, and others.
Contact: 101 Wakefield St, Wellington, 6011, New Zealand, Phone: +64-49-13-90-32
Photo: City Gallery Wellington
»Katherine Mansfield Birthplace
Katherine Mansfield was New Zealand's most famous writer. Her home, a small Italianate villa in Thorndon, is considered to be of outstanding cultural value and was declared a country’s historic heritage. Katherine Mansfield wrote short stories, poetry, journals, letters, and reviews and lived her life to the fullest until her death in 1923 at the age of 34. Some of her short stories were A Birthday, Prelude, The Aloe, and The Doll’s House. She described her house as “horrid little piggy house” and “dark little cubby hole.” The house was restored to its original look by the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Society in 1980 and the visitors can see some of her parent’s and her personal possessions. The garden that she loved so much has been replanted with heritage plants and flowers that grew in it during the family’s time. Read more
Contact: 25 Tinakori Rd, Thorndon, Wellington 6011, New Zealand, Phone: +64-44-73-72-68
Photo: Katherine Mansfield Birthplace
»Mount Victoria Lookout
Mount Victoria rises 196 meters above the very center of Wellington and is a big part of the city, its activities, and landscapes. It is also by far the best spot to see the city in all its glory, with the ocean stretching beyond. To reach Mount Victoria Lookout, you can drive from the Business District, or hike along the green, shady Town Belt. Once on the top of Mount Victoria, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Hutt Valley, Tinakori Hill, Miramar Peninsura, and Matiu/Somes island. Relax, have a snack and a cold drink, and watch ferries, cruise ships, and sail boats come and go as the sun slowly sets into the ocean in the big show of colors.
Contact: 49 Lookout Rd, Hataitai, Wellington 6021, New Zealand, Phone: +64-48-02-48-60
»Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Te Papa Tongarewa, or “containers of treasures” in Maori, is New Zealand's interactive, innovative, and fascinating national museum. In its six floors, the museum explores the country’s unique, spectacularly beautiful natural environment as well as Maori ancient culture, art, and fascinating history. It is the museum of the land and its people. Among the most memorable exhibits is the giant squid and the actually shaking Earthquake House. The History Collection features textiles and dresses from the 16th century, the New Zealand Post Archive has about 20,000 stamps, and the Pacific Collection contains over 13,000 historic and modern objects from the Pacific Islands. The museum has collections of fossils, a herbarium of more than 250,000 dried plants, a collection of almost 70,000 New Zealand birds and a number of reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. Read more
Contact: 55 Cable St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011, New Zealand, Phone: +64-43-81-70-00
Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari/Fotolia
»Nairn Street Cottage
Visiting Nairn Street Cottage is like going back in time and witnessing Wellington at the end of the 19th century. Wellington's oldest cottage was built by William Wallis for his family when he arrived in New Zealand in the 1870s in search of better life, like so many before him. The Wallis family lived in the quaint Georgian cottage for three generations. Located in the Mount Cook neighborhood, the cottage is now open for tours and has been declared a New Zealand cultural heritage. It is home to the Colonial Cottage Museum. The Museum Society managed to save the cottage from planned demolition and turned it into a museum in 1980. Most of the items in the cottage are original and date from the period between 1850 and 1880. Some belonged to the Wallis family and others were donated by other settler families.
Contact: 68 Nairn St, Mount Cook, Wellington 6011, New Zealand, Phone: +64-43-84-91-22
Photo: Nairn Street Cottage
»National War Memorial
Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington serves as a reminder of the New Zealanders who served and gave their lives in the South African War, two World Wars, Korean war, and wars in Malaysia and Vietnam as well as on various peace-keeping operations all over the world. The Memorial Park consists of New Zealand's National War Memorial, with the War Memorial Carillon built in 1932, the Hall of Memories built in 1964, the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior added in 2004, and the Australian War Memorial built in 2015. The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior hosts the remains of a New Zealand soldier who died during World War I on the Western Front. He could not be identified and serves as a symbol of all the New Zealand soldiers who did not make it back home.
Contact: Taranaki St, Mount Cook, Wellington 6021, New Zealand, Phone: +64-43-85-24-96
Photo: Patrik Stedrak/Fotolia
»New Zealand Cricket Museum
Located at Wellington’s famous Basin Reserve, the New Zealand Cricket Museum is a treasure trove of everything cricket for researchers, fans, writers, and tourists who are curious about this interesting sport. The museum holds more than 20,000 objects in its archives, such as documents, photos, books, and memorabilia, and over 3,000 cricket-related books covering cricket as a sport and its role in New Zealand’s social history. The museum shop offers all sorts of cricket souvenirs, second-hand books, and memorabilia, from cricket ball key rings and early Wisden Almanacs to autograph sheets and posters. The museum is open only during cricket matches and entry fee is by donations.
Contact: 2 Rugby St, Mount Cook, Wellington 6021, New Zealand, Phone: +64-43-85-66-02
Photo: Chris Brignell/Fotolia
»Northern Explorer Train
The Northern Explorer Train is New Zealand's longest-operating passenger service. This long-distance train service runs between Auckland and Wellington, with stops at Palmerston North, Ohakune, National Park, and Hamilton. Passengers have the opportunity to experience the North Island’s amazing range of scenery as the Northern Explorer travels through lush green farmland and dense virgin bush, passes quaint small towns, and chugs along spectacular rocky coasts. They will see the many fascinating engineering solutions that were necessary to complete the line that spans the length of New Zealand's rugged North Island. One of the most fascinating is the iconic Raurimu Spiral. Another highlight of the voyage is the journey through magnificent Tongariro National Park, with its three spectacular volcanic mountains, a place of total extremes and real surprises, with snow-covered fields, old lava flows, and beautiful beech forests, side by side.
Contact: 1 Bunny St, Pipitea, Wellington 6011, New Zealand, Phone: +64-44-95-07-75
»Old Bank Arcade
The Old Bank Arcade is a popular shopping center located on the corner of Lambton Quay and Hunter Streets in the historic Edwardian baroque building designed by Thomas Turnbull and built in 1901 for the Bank of New Zealand. After the bank abandoned the building, it stayed empty until 1990, when it was purchased and restored to its former glory. The Old Bank Arcade was opened in 1999 and offers exclusive, luxury boutique shopping, restaurants, and cafés in beautiful, elegant surroundings. An animated, musical clock suspended from the ceiling of the Banking Chamber opens every hour on the hour to tell the story of the building site.
Contact: 233-237 Lambton Quay, Wellington, 6011, New Zealand, Phone: +64-49-22-06-00
Photo: Old Bank Arcade
Only about 5 kilometers from downtown Wellington in Wellington's suburb of Wilton lies a unique oasis, 5 hectares of botanic gardens created to collect and preserve New Zealand's native plants. Next to it is the largest surviving natural forest on the Wellington peninsula. Otari-Wilton's bush is world-renowned as the only botanic garden exclusively dedicated to the cultivation of New Zealand's flora. The garden’s plant collections have almost 1,200 species, cultivars, and hybrids, with plants from New Zealand's mainland and many off-shore islands. Most of the plants have been cultivated from seeds and cuttings collected from their native habitats. There are 14 kilometers of well-marked walking trails and paths through the garden.
Contact: 160 Wilton Rd, Wilton, Wellington 6012, New Zealand, Phone: +64-44-99-14-00
»Rimutaka Forest Park
A short 15-minute drive down the Coast Road through Cathchpool Valley, Rimutaka Forest Park is close enough to Wellington to make for a lovely weekend drive, but sufficiently far away to be quiet and peaceful. The 22,000-hectare park includes most of the Rimutaka Range, including the Catchpool and the Orongorongo Valleys. The park was established in October 1988 and contains several short hiking trails, swimming holes, five bush cabins for rent, camping grounds, barbecues, recreation areas, hunting areas, and much more. The North Island brown kiwi has been reintroduced to the park’s northern part, so dogs have to be on leash at all times to protect them. The Rimutaka Range is dominated by beech forest and, besides the relocated kiwi, is home to native bellbirds, kaka, tui, kereru, and ruru.
Contact: Nokia House, 13 - 27 Manners Street, Wellington, Phone: +64-43-84-77-70
Photo: Eldad Yitzhak/Fotolia
»Space Place at Carter Observatory
Space Place at Carter Observatory is located near the Botanic Gardens in Wellington. Its fantastic full-dome planetarium offers shows that include a live presentation about the night sky over New Zealand. The exhibition shows how space technology affects life on earth and offers visitors a look at the southern skies through the Thomas Cooke telescope. Carter Observatory is New Zealand’s longest-functioning national observatory. It is named after Charles Rooking Carter, who gifted a portion of his estate to the Royal Society of New Zealand for this purpose. The observatory opened its doors in 1941 and quickly became a base for New Zealand’s astronomical research.
Contact: 40 Salamanca Rd, Kelburn, Wellington 6012, New Zealand, Phone: +64-49-10-31-40
Photo: Yevgen Belich/Fotolia
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»The Weta Cave
For those who love the digital effects, animation, costumes, and special effects in movies such as Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia and Avatar, visiting Weta Cave is a special thrill. Weta is the visual effects company based in Wellington and the Weta workshop is a multi-Academy Award-winning effects and design production facility. Weta Cave is the public face of Weta, with the mini museum filled with props and figurines of characters from the movies Weta worked on. The movie of the behind-the-scenes of Weta's workshops allows visitors to see how it all works, since a visit to the real workshops is off limits. The Weta Cave Shop offers a range of merchandise, such as collectible sculptures created by the Weta artists, replicas of authentic props from some of most popular movies, jewelry, clothing, books, DVDs, prints, posters, and souvenirs.
Contact: 1 Weka St, Miramar, Wellington 6022, New Zealand, Phone: +64-49-09-41-00
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The best way to discover what makes Wellington so special is on foot with the help of a passionate Wellingtonian guide. Walk Wellington is a co-op of well-trained, experienced guides who have particular interests and knowledge – history, culture, architecture, environment, and so on. With their help, you can get the inside glimpse of Wellington's culture, history, people, and landscape. They will tell you what is currently happening, show you little-known restaurants, theatres, and parks and make you curious to explore more on your own. The Essential Wellington Walk takes you on a 2-hour tour of the downtown, waterfront, parliamentary areas, and courts. The evening walk covers more or less the same area in about hour and half and ends at the Embassy Theatre Courtenay Place. All walks have to be booked online in advance.
Contact: 111 Wakefield Street at end of Cuba St, Wellington 6141, New Zealand, Phone: +64-44-73-31-45
Photo: Yevgen Belich/Fotolia
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»Wellington Botanic Garden
Stretched on the hill between Kelburn and Thorndon not far from central Wellington, is Wellington Botanic Garden, a magnificent 26-hectare urban oasis with breathtaking views, a unique native landscape, exotic dense forests, native bush, colorful displays of seasonal blooms, and beautiful specialist gardens. Stroll between the flower beds to see the Duck Pond, Sundial of Human Involvement, Lady Norwood Rose Garden, Begonia House, Treehouse Visitor Information Centre, Children's Play Area, and the historic and serene Bolton Street Memorial Park, a cemetery where many of the city's pioneers are buried. Visit Lady Norwood Rose Garden from mid-November to the end of December when its 3,000 roses in 110 beds create an extravagant show of color and fragrance. Take a walk through Wellington Botanic Garden's Sculpture Trail, with seven significant artworks by New Zealand’s most renowned sculptors.
Contact: 101 Glenmore St, Kelburn, Wellington 6012, New Zealand, Phone: +64-44-99-14-00
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»Wellington Cable Car
Wellington Cable Car will show you Wellington in all its glory on a short 5-minute trip. This charming red cable car has been a city icon for more than 100 years, allowing visitors and locals to enjoy incomparable views of the city, its rolling surrounding hills, and busy harbor. From the heart of the city, up the hillside of Kelburn and its terraced houses, passing by the Cable Car Museum, the serene Botanic Garden and Space Place with its domed planetarium, through three shady tunnels and over quaint bridges all the way to the lookout high above the city, there is no better way of seeing Wellington in full comfort.
Contact: 280 Lambton Quay, Wellington, 6011, New Zealand, Phone: +64-44-72-21-99
Photo: Alena Yakusheva/Fotolia
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The Wellington Museum celebrates the history of Wellington. It is located on Jervois Quay on Queens Wharf in Wellington Harbor, in the heritage 1892 Bond Store designed by leading architect Frederick de Jersey Clere. The museum’s four floors of galleries and diverse exhibits cover the maritime history of Wellington, early European and Maori settlement, and the development and growth of the city and region. The museum tells stories of how the city has evolved and changed over its 150 years since it became the capital of New Zealand. A two-story high cinema screen stretches between the ground and the first two floors, showing films about Wellington. Of the three theatre areas, one tells Maori legends, the other commemorates the sinking of the Wahine ferry in Wellington harbor, and the third is a new exhibition space called The Attic.
Contact: 3 Jervois Quay, Wellington, 6011, New Zealand, Phone: +64-44-72-89-04
Photo: Wellington Museum
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Located in the heart of Wellington in the city's green belt, Wellington Zoo is home to more than 500 animals, some of which do not live anywhere else in this country. You can visit the only bears in New Zealand, tigers, lions, giraffes, meerkats, cheetahs, lemurs, red pandas and many more. Watch the zoo vets work on saving native wildlife or meet an amazing endemic tuatara up close and personal. Walk through the new precinct “Meet the Locals He Tuku Aroha”, a home to native wildlife such as korora little blue penguins, bees, kunekune pigs, eels, Otago skinks, kea, and Maud Island frogs. You can see Australian animals from across the ditch, such as kangaroos, emu, wallabies and emu, dingo and Tasmanian devils.
Contact: 200 Daniell Street | Newtown, Wellington6021, New Zealand, Phone: +64-43-81-67-55
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»Wrights Hill Fortress
The Wrights Hill Fortress, located on Wrights Hill in the neighborhood of Karori in Wellington, was built during World War II as a coastal counter-bombardment artillery battery. It consists of more than 600 meters of underground tunnels and two large 9.2-inch guns. The government decommissioned the fortress in 1960, but the Wrights Hill Fortress Restoration Society is in the process of restoring it. Society members offer an hour long informative guided tour, but visitors can freely wander around using an informative free flier and map. There is a beautiful 360-degree view of Wellington from the small lookout and the whole Wrights Hill area is great for hiking, with lot of trails and picnic areas.
Contact: 50 Wrights Hill Rd, Karori, Wellington 6012, New Zealand, Phone: +64-49-07-41-86
Photo: Wrights Hill Fortress
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Zealandia is a unique zoo and the first fenced ecosanctuary in the world, located about 10 minutes from downtown Wellington. The 225-hectare conservation project has already reintroduced 18 species of native species back into the valley. Six of them were extinct in New Zealand for more than 100 years. The goal of the zoo is to restore a Wellington valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems to their pre-human state, at least as closely as possible. About 1,000 years ago, New Zealand was a world of birds and lizards, with no mammal predators. It is assumed that the project will take about 500 years – that is how long it will take to grow giant trees now replaced with pines and change the quality of soil to suit their needs. At the moment, Zealandia is a wonderful oasis to visit, the most biodiverse square mile of New Zealand with more than forty species of native birds, dozens of species of reptiles, hundreds of plants, and thousands of invertebrates.
Contact: 53 Waiapu Rd, Karori, Wellington 6012, New Zealand, Phone: +64-49-20-92-00
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»Zest Food Tours of New Zealand
Wellington has more cafés and restaurants per capita than New York. Zest Wellington tour guides will show you the city sights at street level, sharing local stories and an insider's points of view. They will reveal some of their favorites in the Courtenay and Cuba Quarters, places that very few visitors get to know. You will visit some special cafés, restaurants, bars, food stores, and coffee roasters and taste some delicious coffee, gelato, chocolate, cheeses, and other local specialties. There are two main tours: Capital Tastes and Walking Gourmet. These easy walking tours lasting 3.5 hours will not only show you the culinary delights of Wellington, but will also tell you about its history, culture, and architecture.
Contact: Wellington, New Zealand, Phone: +64 4-801 9198
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»Adam Art Gallery
Adam Art Gallery is located just a short walk from the city, on the green campus of Victoria University of Wellington. A unique architectural space squeezed between three university buildings, the gallery was designed by Ian Athfield and consists of diverse gallery spaces that are connected by open spaces. The Adam Art Gallery is known for its interesting exhibitions, lectures, performances, and talks. The gallery is home to more than 550 artworks that are part of the VUW Art Collection, the Hall Collection, the Staff Club Collection, the Gordon H. Brown gift, and the Wellington College of Education Collection. Mainly a display collection, almost all paintings, photographs, sculptures, and works on paper are displayed in the public places of all university campuses.
Contact: Gate 3, Victoria University,, Kelburn Parade, Wellington 6012, New Zealand, Phone: +64-44-63-68-35
Photo: Adam Art Gallery
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Dive Wellington is one of Wellington’s most active dive shops, with a fantastic location across the road from Taputeranga Marine Reserve, about a 10-minute drive from downtown Wellington. From the dive shop it is a short boat ride to the famous wreck of the F69 Frigate Wellington, one of the most popular local dive sites. Their shop has great selection of dive gear and their experienced divers who run the shop can help you choose what you need. Dive Wellington offers PADI-certified dive courses of all levels, as well as a range of specialty, technical, and free dive courses. Their 7.5-meter pontoon charter boat Southern Comfort can take you to any offshore dive site or wreck, fishing if you like, or even just sightseeing.
Contact: 432 The Esplanade, Island Bay, Wellington 6023, New Zealand, Phone: +64-49-39-34-83
Photo: leslie sanders/Fotolia
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»Kiwi Coastal Tours
New Zealand is breathtakingly beautiful country. If you would like to see a bit of countryside during your stay in Wellington, let Kiwi Coastal Tours take you on a relaxed, pleasant exploration and show you the beautiful hills around the capital city from high above or take you off the beaten track, where tourists seldom go. The well-trained guides will share with you some insights into Te Ao Maori, or the Maori world, through stories, history, and legends. The tours range from 3 hours to whole day. You will be picked up from your hotel or cruise ship and driven around in a comfortable off-road vehicle. During the longer trips, you will stop for lunch, a bit of fishing, or a shore exploration.
Contact: Wellington 6022, New Zealand, Phone: +64-21-46-49-57
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25 Best Things to Do in Wellington, New Zealand
- Beehive, Photo: Courtesy of NZexplorer - Fotolia.com
- City Gallery Wellington, Photo: City Gallery Wellington
- Katherine Mansfield Birthplace, Photo: Katherine Mansfield Birthplace
- Mount Victoria Lookout, Photo: Courtesy of NMint - Fotolia.com
- Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Photo: Courtesy of Rafael Ben-Ari - Fotolia.com
- Nairn Street Cottage, Photo: Nairn Street Cottage
- National War Memorial, Photo: Courtesy of Patrik Stedrak - Fotolia.com
- New Zealand Cricket Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Chris Brignell - Fotolia.com
- Northern Explorer Train, Photo: Courtesy of ricktravel - Fotolia.com
- Old Bank Arcade, Photo: Old Bank Arcade
- Otari-Wilton's Bush, Photo: Courtesy of virsuziglis - Fotolia.com
- Rimutaka Forest Park, Photo: Courtesy of Eldad Yitzhak - Fotolia.com
- Space Place at Carter Observatory, Photo: Courtesy of Yevgen Belich - Fotolia.com
- The Weta Cave, Photo: Courtesy of Andrea - Fotolia.com
- Walk Wellington, Photo: Courtesy of Yevgen Belich - Fotolia.com
- Wellington Botanic Garden, Photo: Courtesy of dpe123 - Fotolia.com
- Wellington Cable Car, Photo: Courtesy of Alena Yakusheva - Fotolia.com
- Wellington Museum, Photo: Wellington Museum
- Wellington Zoo, Photo: Courtesy of rghenry - Fotolia.com
- Wrights Hill Fortress, Photo: Wrights Hill Fortress
- Zealandia, Photo: Courtesy of Patricia - Fotolia.com
- Zest Food Tours of New Zealand, Photo: Courtesy of steheap - Fotolia.com
- Adam Art Gallery, Photo: Adam Art Gallery
- Dive Wellington, Photo: Courtesy of leslie sanders - Fotolia.com
- Kiwi Coastal Tours, Photo: Courtesy of Friedberg - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Jo Chambers - Fotolia.com
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