Are you embarking on a New Zealand road trip and looking for the best places to visit in New Zealand? Heading to the capital of New Zealand and looking for the best things to do in Wellington? Then you’re in luck, because this is the post that’s going to help build your New Zealand bucket list!
Wellington is one of the most beautiful and exciting cities in the world to visit. It is the southernmost capital city in the world and promotes itself as “the coolest little capital’, evoking both the weather and the young creative community. It’s the kind of place where you can surf before work, mountain run in your lunch break, hop between hidden cocktail bars in the evening and hit up a late-night vegan cafe on the way home. Wellington is one of the best places to visit in New Zealand, and for good reason. If you’re embarking on a New Zealand road trip, Wellington is also a perfect addition to your itinerary!
You don’t have to be a ‘city person’ to enjoy Wellington. Surrounded by hills and sea, it’s a great destination for natural beauty, and because of this, there are so many fun things to do and beautiful places to visit in Wellington. From anywhere in Wellington you can see the towering Tararua and Rimutaka Ranges, often dusted with snow. The city is linked up by myriad trails from the Town Belt to the City to Sea Walkway where you will be surrounded by dense native bush and great mountain biking tracks. Some of the best hikes in New Zealand can be found in the Wellington area.
You might recognise Wellington as the location for the Lord of the Rings movies but it’s also been likened to Melbourne or San Francisco, a windy city full of culture. Nicknamed Wellywood, Wellington has a thriving arts scene and is home to the national performing arts schools as well as several local theatre companies. So there are fun things to do in Wellington, even if you’re not an outdoorsy type!
If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand and want to see some of the best places to visit in Wellingon, then this is the blog post for you. This Wellington travel guide has all the best things to do in Wellington. I’ll share all the Wellington travel tips you need to know if you’re going to Wellington in 2022.
Other New Zealand blog posts you might be interested in…
- The best things to do in New Zealand
- How to plan for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
- How to get a working holiday visa for New Zealand
- Everything you need to know about hiring a camper van in New Zealand
- The best hikes in Queenstown, New Zealand
- Top tips for visiting New Zealand
- Top tips for budgeting for backpacking New Zealand
- How to save money when you’re in New Zealand
- The best hikes in New Zealand
- The ultimate 2-week New Zealand road trip itinerary
How to get to Wellington…
If you’re wondering how to get to Wellington, you’ll be surprised at how simple it can be. You can fly directly into Wellington Airport from most Australian cities and from Singapore. Otherwise, fly into Auckland Airport and connect on to Wellington. Check out Jetstar and Grabaseat for cheap domestic flights. To save money getting into the city, take the bus, it’s much less than a taxi or Uber.
The best time to visit Wellington…
You may be wondering when to visit Wellington, and I recommend going to Wellington in summer, between November and February. In these months it’s sunny and warm enough to hit the beaches but not too hot to enjoy being outside. If you do choose to go to Wellington in winter, make sure to bring lots of warm layers. One of the best things to do in Wellington in winter is the Wellington on a Plate Festival in August, which foodies will love.
The best things to do in Wellington, New Zealand...
1. Visit Te Papa
When in Wellington you must visit Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum and one of the best places to visit in Wellington is you’re interested in New Zealand’s history and culture. Entry to Te Papa is completely free making it one of the best free things to do in Wellington if you’re on a budget.
The Gallipoli Exhibition (on until 2025) was designed as a collaboration with Weta Workshop (see number three!) and is an amazing visual experience. It tells the story of the New Zealanders who fought in World War I.
2. Do a chocolate making class
Wellington is a great foodie city and one of the best local food spots is Wellington Chocolate Factory. Tucked away in Hannah’s Laneway, the factory is a great place to warm up on a cold Wellington day and the hot chocolate is spectacular.
They regularly run chocolate tours and chocolate making workshops where you can learn about their process which is proudly fair trade and sustainable. Best of all, you’ll walk away with blocks of chocolate, so it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Wellington if you’ve got a sweet tooth! If you don’t have time for the tour, just grab some of the tastings at the counter on your way through.
3. Tour Weta Workshops
Weta Workshops are the team behind Lord of the Rings, Stranger Things and many other big-name movies. The Weta Workshop Experience is New Zealand’s answer to Universal Studios with lots of studio effects, props, and costumes on display. Visiting is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Wellington! You will find them over on the Miramar Peninsula, behind the Wellywood sign.
4. Wander the laneways
One of Wellington’s hidden gems is the laneways. Taking inspiration from the famous Melbourne laneways, you’ll find creative murals, secret bars and cute cafes. The laneways are some of the best places to visit in Wellington if you’re looking for a relaxing afternoon or evening!
The best laneway, which I couldn’t leave out of this Wellington travel guide, is Hannah’s Laneway in the central city. There you’ll find Wellington Chocolate Factory, Fix & Fogg peanut butter window, Goldings Freedive, Pizza Napoli, and many more. There is also Jessie’s Lane closer to the waterfront and Left Bank off Cuba Street.
5. Climb Mt Victoria
Wellington is a city built on hills so while you’re there you have to climb one of them. Mt Victoria is the most popular walk in Wellington and is very short (only about 30 minutes up to the summit) so it’s easily accessible even if you’re not super fit.
The highlight of the walk is the view from the top, making this one of the best things to do in Wellington. You get 360 views of the city and harbour and it’s the best spot to take photos in Wellington. If you really don’t want to walk, there is a bus that takes you almost to the summit, with only around 100m to walk up from the carpark.
6. Eat fish and chips on the beach
Fish and chips, or “fush n chups” as we say with a Kiwi accent, is a New Zealand classic. For the best fish and chips in Wellington go to Thorndon Chippery on Marjoribanks street and order the daily special fish with handcut agria fries. Then walk around Oriental Parade and eat either on top of the boatsheds (where all the Wellington University students hang out) or on Oriental Bay Beach, two of the best places to visit in Wellington for a sunset dinner!
7. Look for Kiwis in Zealandia
A trip to Zealandia is one of the best things to do in Wellington. Located in Karori, on the western edge of the city and accessible by bus (or a long walk), Zealandia is a pest-free wildlife sanctuary surrounded by kilometres of fencing to keep predators away from its precious residents. If you want to see New Zealand as it was before any settlers arrived then you need to go to Zealandia.
The environment is strictly controlled and bags and shoes are checked on entry to make sure nothing harmful gets in. Once in, you follow the path up the river valley, keeping your eyes peeled for Tuatara and Kiwis. Where the path opens into parkland, you might see some Takahe next to the water. All of these are native species that are sadly endangered and almost impossible to find in the wild in New Zealand.
8. Try some craft beer
Wellingtonians are very proud of their craft beer scene, and so we couldn’t not add it to this Wellington travel guide. The original local brewery is Garage Project which started out of an old petrol station in Aro Valley. You can still find them at the same site, which has now been done up, or go to one of the many other breweries and beer gardens in Wellington like Fortune Favours on Leeds Street or Black Dog Brewery on Cuba Street.
9. Visit New Zealand’s Parliament
When you’re in New Zealand’s capital, one of the best places to visit is Parliament, where the inner workings of the country happen. These are some of the most historic buildings in what is a relatively young country. The Beehive is the most famous building in Wellington and you’ll recognise it by its shape.
Tours are run several times a day, are free, and are offered in a range of languages. You’ll find out about New Zealand’s Westminster democracy and see where it all goes down, so it’s one of the best things to do in Wellington if you want to know more about politics here. Across the road from The Beehive is the decommissioned Old Government Building, parts of which are open for free viewing.
10. Take the ferry over to Matiu/Somes Island
On your landing into Wellington, you might have spotted the island in the middle of Wellington Harbour. That is Matiu or Somes Island. The island has been returned to the local iwi (indigenous Maori tribe) and is open for visitors. You can take a ferry from Queen’s Wharf in the central city. Go on a sunny day and the views around the harbour from the top of the island will be spectacular. The ferry trip can be very choppy on windy days so check the forecast and pick your date carefully.
Previously a quarantine station, the island is now a scientific reserve, home to native plant and wildlife species including the Tuatara. Walking the loop track around the island will take 60-90 minutes. Visiting here is a must-do when you go to this wonderful city, and a great way to end this Wellington travel guide!
What are your top things to do in Wellington?
Where are the best places to visit in Wellington? Anything you’d add to this Wellington travel guide?
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