10 Unmissable Things to do in Wellington, NZ

I fell a little bit in love with Wellington when we visited. It’s one of those cities that is the perfect mix between between scenic and quirky – always my favourite kind of place and exactly what you’d expect from the capital of New Zealand. There are so many things to do in Welling, for every kind of person – so I figured I’d put together a list of my top picks.
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As with all of New Zealand, the city is surrounded by lush green parks and nature, and the sea is crystal clear and picture perfect. In one place you have bustling city streets with coffee shops and lively bars – and then on the other there are palm tree lined beaches, spectacular vistas and beautiful city parks.
It’s a city to explore and enjoy, and we enjoyed it far more than we expected to. Aside from Queenstown (which I think is classed as a city) it’s definitely my second favourite city in New Zealand (I much prefer it over Auckland and Christchurch). It has character, it’s quirky, it’s fun and there is tonnes to do and explore.
If you’re planning a stay, here are my recommended things to do in Wellington…

Wellington Cable Car
www.wellingtoncablecar.co.nz

For over 100 years, the Wellington Cable Car has offered residents and tourists the chance to enjoy scenic views on its short journey from Lambton Quay to the Botanic Garden, from where a number of other attractions, including the Carter Observatory, can be easily reached. At selected times of the year, visitors are also treated to an impressive light show as the cable cars pass through two 100m long tunnels.

Services run every 10 minutes throughout the day, with adult tickets costing $4 and $7.50 for single and return journeys respectively ($2 and $3.50 for children). I can’t remember queuing for very long when we visited – I think it was about a 15-20 minute wait.

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The photo below is the view from the top of the cable cars!
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Zealandia
www.visitzealandia.com

Located 10 minutes from the centre of Wellington, Zealandia is an unmissable nature reserve covering 225 hectares which is sure to delight visitors of all ages with its extensive collection of rare birds, insects and reptiles living freely in their natural habitat. Guided tours (including a night tour), wildlife feeding and an interactive exhibition provide wildlife lovers with a chance to learn about the rich variety of species as well as 80 million years of natural history. I have a massive soft-spot for nature stuff and zoological gardens – so if you’re like me you’ll love it.

Entry costs $17.50 for adults and $9 for children; under-5s go free.

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Wellington Botanical Gardens
wellington.govt.nz

Officially classed as a garden of national significance, the Wellington Botanic Garden is a haven of tranquillity and has some of the best views in the city! I spent about 20 minutes just snapping photos before we had even headed into the park. It’s seriously gorgeous, and once you arrive at the top of the cable car (mentioned earlier in the article) you can walk down through the gardens and it’s a pretty leisurely stroll (all downhill… yay!).

Entry is free.
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Wellington Zoo
www.wellingtonzoo.com

Another zoo for my list! Branding itself ‘the best little zoo in the world’, Wellington Zoo is such a winner. With approximately 500 animals, including critically endangered species such as the Cotton Top Tamarin and Sumatran Tiger, the collection also features some native animals that cannot be viewed elsewhere. You can also learn more about the different species or the conservation work of the zoo through the regular animal feedings and zookeeper talks. My favourite part of the zoo was that certain animals (ducks for example) were just walking around freely, and it was adorable interacting with them and their babies.

Entry to Wellington Zoo costs $21 for adults and $10.50 for over-3s. Concessions are available.

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Museum of New Zealand
www.tepapa.govt.nz

The Museum of New Zealand, known locally as Te Papa Tongarewa (which translates as ‘container of treasures’), features six floors of exhibits and displays covering a wide range of the country’s cultural, art and natural history. Using state-of-the-art 3D animation and conventional story telling techniques, visitors can enjoy an interactive and innovative peek into New Zealand’s past, come face-to-face with a giant squid or experience the fear of an earthquake! Pad and I went here one rainy afternoon and at the time it really was one of the best things to do in wellington for that kind of weather. We spent a couple of hours walking around the exhibitions and had loads of fun.

Entry to the museum is free; admission charges to special exhibitions may apply.

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City Gallery
http://citygallery.org.nz

I didn’t make it to the gallery during my visit, but this is one of New Zealand’s leading art galleries. The City Gallery in Wellington is host to a variety of national and international artists and is renowned for its innovative exhibitions of contemporary art, design and architecture. Visitors can engage with art through workshops, lectures and talks while temporary exhibitions have featured the work of prominent artists including Tracey Emin (one of my favourites) and Frida Kahlo, making the City Gallery unmissable for anyone with an appreciation of artistic culture.

Free admission.

Carter Observatory
www.carterobservatory.org

Worth scheduling this on the same day that you visit the Botanical Gardens and do the cable cars too, as it’s all in one place. The Carter Observatory is ideal for young and old to come face-to-face with the universe, and you can literally do that in their sky room where you sit on reclining seats and listen to the expo. We loved that part of the tour – but (unluckily) were in the same group as a school trip – who were a bit rowdy at times! For night owls, the observatory opens late on selected nights for telescope viewing, giving you a first-class view of the solar system in its unobscured glory.

Adult admission costs $18.50; child admission is $8. Under-4s enter free. Concessions available.

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Weta Cave
http://wetaworkshop.com

New Zealand has long been associated with international movie making and avid fans are sure to revel in the Weta Cave, a small museum run by the company which brought to life ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’. It’s a real wild-card activity and it’s super fun to see all the props from the movies and know that these people actually had a hand in making the films. If you’re a bit of a LOTR geek like Pad and I, you’ll love this.

Admission for over-12s $24, 6-12 years $12.

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Wellington Waterfront
http://wellington.govt.nz/

For a relaxing day at your own pace, Wellington Waterfront is an ideal destination, where you can pass the time exploring one of the heritage trails, take a paddleboat or kayak ride to the harbour or simply watch the world go by from an outdoor table of one of the many restaurants and cafes. It’s a perfect place for people-watching and in the sunshine – there’s no nicer place to be in the city.

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Eat at one of the many restaurants and cafes 
There are a ton of restaurants and cafes in the city (apparently more than NYC!? Someone told me that, I don’t know if it’s true!) and the few that we ate at during our time there were awesome. My favourite was the Flying Burrito Brothers (best breaded Jalepenos EVER).
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  • JessicaKx

    wow Wellington looks so beatiful, i had always wanted to go to New Zealand, but this article has confirmed that for me once more. Will be sure to keep this boomarked for when i visit 😉

    • ellerosetweets

      Thanks Jessica! x