Things to do in Wellington

The world’s coolest little capital, as it brands itself, Wellington won’t disappoint – more cafes per capita than New York City, centre of Aotearoa’s film industry, Wellywood, thriving arts and culture scene and it’s home to New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa.

Wellington is also known for its unpredictable weather. When it rains it pours, and the wind can be fierce. On a day like that, head straight to Wellington’s number one indoor activity destination: the Te Papa Museum.

Museum of New Zealand: Te Papa Tongarewa

Te Papa is New Zealand’s national museum and offers all the essential interesting bits about New Zealand under one big roof: Maori architecture and artefacts, history, art and lots of information on the New Zealand’s natural environment, all in engaging and / or interactive displays and exhibitions.

Maori artefact, Te Papa Museum, Wellington

Maori artefact, Te Papa Museum, Wellington

Weta Cave

Weta Cave is another great indoor destination for rainy days. Get behind the scenes and see interviews with Peter Jackson and other Weta co-founders, props, sculptures, masks and costumes from movies such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Chronicles of Narnia or King Kong. There’s also tons of movie merchandise you can purchase in their shop, from collectibles and jewellery to DVDs and graphic novels. Entry is free.

Mount Victoria

Great views of the city and harbour can be had from Mount Victoria, a 196m high hill that is easily accessible by car or walking tracks from Oriental Bay. Apart from the platform that gives the spectator 360 degree views of the city, it’s a great place for taking a walk. Lord of the Rings fans will be eager to know that some scenes for the first movie in the trilogy were shot in the forest up there, including the scene of the four hobbits cowering under the root of a large tree to hide from the ringwraiths.

Mount Victoria, Wellington, New Zealand

Eerie forest on Mount Victoria, Wellington, New Zealand

Cuba Street

It’s not like you need to look for Cuba Street… you’ll be there at one point anyway. Enjoy the Bucket Fountain, the many cafes, art galleries, funky little boutiques and book and music stores. And if you’re hungry, why not pop in to Floriditas; you might just bump into Brett from Flight of the Conchords, who has been seen dining here with his young family. (Read: I bumped into him. He came out of the ladies’ room… Your afternoon in Wellington takes an interesting turn when you queue for the loo and out pops Brett, apologising for the wait because it’s the only place he could change his baby’s diaper!)

Bucket Fountain on Cuba Street, Wellington, New Zealand

Bucket Fountain on Cuba Street. Photo by Wellington City Council under CC BY-NC license @ Flickr

Wellington Cable Car + Botanic Gardens

The Wellington Cable Car is, yes, a typical tourist attraction. But the views over the capital and harbour are breathtaking and very much worth it. The cars run from Lambton Quay in the CBD and take you to the entrance of the Wellington Botanic Gardens, which also host the Carter Observatory.

Motel Bar

In the evening, why not go to a great bar in the city centre. If you’d like to go a bit off the beaten track, check out Motel Bar. They’ve got a fantastic menu, the design of which is reason enough to visit, and kindly refer you to their “bible” for a far greater list of beverages they can procure if nothing strikes your fancy. It’s a funky little place with very attentive staff and quality cocktails far away from any mainstream crowd or music.

Motel Bar is not so easy to find as its obscure entrance is located in a side alley, so here’s a map on how to get there:

View Larger Map

What are your favourite things to do in Wellington? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Christina Hegele

About the author: Christina Hegele runs Sandal Road, a blog on her favourite destinations. It just so happened that 95% turned out to be about New Zealand. Follow Christina and her blog on Twitter, like her blog on Facebook, and subscribe to her Youtube channel. Alternatively, subscribe to her email newsletter at the top right of this blog.

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  4 comments for “Things to do in Wellington

  1. 23 March, 2011 at 03:36

    And the best restaurant would have to go to Monsoon Poon just off Courteney Place! Wellington is definitely the coolest little capital in the world – when it’s sunny!

  2. 23 March, 2011 at 03:44

    Thanks for your comment, John! I haven’t been to Monsoon Poon but I’ll make sure I’ll pay it a visit next time I’m in Wellington. And you’re right, the weather is fierce. The city literally blows you away! 🙂

  3. Lani
    3 September, 2012 at 08:54

    The Bach cafe on Island Bay’s seafront is great on a stormy day and it has a cozy fire… Queensgate Mall is great for the girlies….. I love ‘city to sea’ museum, best of all it’s free….. OK (Orangi Kuapapa) road offers a great lookout over Welly and you don’t have to get out of your car….. driving to Makara Beach cafe is also a nice drive and cafe is quirky and sheltered from those nasty North Westerlies……will no doubt think of more later and will add

    • Christina
      7 September, 2012 at 07:03

      Thanks Lani for these great tips! Nothing like a local’s view on what’s there to see and do 🙂 I’ll be there in October so will definitely check some of these out! 😀

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