Whether you have two weeks in New Zealand or two months, no trip is complete without checking out all the best things to do in Wellington. Once called the “coolest little capital in the world” by Lonely Planet, Wellington is is small enough to explore on foot, and experiencing all the top tourist attractions in Wellington is a breeze.
Built in a picturesque bay at the southwest tip of New Zealand’s North Island, Wellington has a delightful waterfront and a backdrop of splendid mountains. The shopping district has plenty of cafes and award-winning restaurants. Wellington also has a thriving movie industry and one of the best museums you’re ever likely to visit. To top it all off, Wellington has managed to bring wildlife and birdsong into the city centre, through its world recognized conservation efforts.
Not sure what to do in Wellington? Here’s a quick Wellington attractions guide including the best places to visit in Wellington…
What to do in Wellington: Top attractions & best places to visit
Explore local culture at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
With six stories of ancient artefacts, modern art and interactive shows the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is one of Wellington’s top attractions and a must-see for every tourist.
The name, Te Papa Tongarewa is Maori for Container of Treasures, an excellent description for a museum full of cultural and scientific wonders.
Head off to the huge Marae, a traditional Maori meeting place to discover the true culture of the indigenous Maori people. Pay a visit to the Earthquake House to experience the power of moving tectonics.
Wander through the art gallery where you can view ancient Kiwi artworks alongside contemporary art. Make sure to visit the Gallipoli Exhibition and witness the humanity and tragedy of war.
The museum is located on the lovely waterfront, a top Wellington attraction, so you can end your day with a relaxing meal in a waterfront restaurant.
Take a Twilight Tour in Zealandia
Time Magazine awarded Zealandia one of the top 100 places to be on earth. This urban eco-sanctuary is a global first as it is fully enclosed and protected from predators.
It has brought indigenous birds, reptiles and small animals from the very brink of extinction and into the urban spaces. Today, Wellington literally trills with birdsong.
Day or night Zealandia offers visitors a treat of local birds and animals. There are four two hour guided tours through the park everyday, one of them a night tour.
Tour by torch lightto see the creatures of the dark. If you’d prefer to make your own way around this urban sanctuary, there are maps available. You can also take a step back in time and partake in the interactive exhibitions on offer.
Picnic at the Top of Mount Victoria
No visit to Wellington would be complete without a trip up Mount Victoria in Central Wellington. It rises 640 feet above sea level offering a picturesque 360° view of the city.
You can drive to the top or make use of the nature trails that run all the way to the summit. There are a number of trails and you can choose to walk through pine forests or use trails that offer you a better view on the way up.
You’ll get spectacular views of Wellington’s harbor and the surrounding hills. Enjoy a picnic while you watch the sunset or just gaze upon the view below and check out the Wellington attractions.
Discover Middle Earth at the Weta Cave
Also known as Wellywood, Wellington is the centre of New Zealand’s film industry. You don’t want to miss out on a tour of the Weta Cave. The Guardian has named it one of the top ten studio tours in the world. This is the Studio responsible for the marvellous Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia.
Here guides will show you some of the spectacular characters and props. The avid movie goer will easily identify many of them. You’ll see craftsmen at work making weird and wonderful props and accessories for use in some of the world’s most extravagant movies.
You can choose from tours that last just 45 minutes to a full day experience. Even if you’re not into fantasy blockbusters, this surely is one of the best places to visit in Wellington.
Take a ride in the Wellington Cable Car
The Wellington Cable Car is a funicular that was built in the late-19th century. It rattles up 120 meters from Lambton Quay to lush Kelburn.
Up here the view of the harbour is spectacular. Though this iconic ride is just five minutes long, at its destination you’ll find a cable car museum worth wandering through. The museum has a collection of cable car exhibits. You can also watch a short movie featuring the construction of these cars.
The Wellington Cable Car drops you right alongside the Wellington Botanical Gardens. You may as well use the opportunity to walk some of the trails that meander through the 60 acres of tranquil garden back to where you started.
Visit the night market in Cuba Street
Lively Cuba Street is one the most famous in Wellington. It’s a pedestrian mall full of shops, restaurants and quaint coffee shops. The street attracts Wellington’s creatives and features street performers, exhibitions and art galleries.
Cuba Street really comes alive on Friday and Saturday night when it hosts the Wellington Street Market where food from around the world is on sale and the air is redolent with the aromas of spices and herbs.
While you’re in the area, don’t forget to check out the famous buckets fountain. It’s one of the top things to see in Wellington.
Enjoy the tranquility of Old Saint Paul’s
Take one day in Wellington to enjoy the tranquility of Old Saint Paul’s. This lovely church was built entirely of New Zealand indigenous woods in 1866. It is one of the top points of interest in Wellington as it is one of the world’s best examples of Gothic architecture.
The church was nearly demolished in the 1960’s but the New Zealand government bought it and ensured that it was restored to its former glory. In 2019 the structure was strengthened to protect it from earthquakes.
Old Saint Paul’s Church is a lovely tranquil space. On a sunny day the light streams in through the glorious stained-glass windows giving the interior a special ambiance.