Here’s a list of the 15 best things to do in Wellington (New Zealand), along with famous landmarks, museums, and other points of interest.
Wellington is the capital and one of the largest cities in New Zealand with a population of 415,000 within the metro area. It’s located on the North Island, near the southernmost point on the Cook Strait. Wellington is famous for its iconic cable car and the surrounding hills that are lined with colorful timber houses.
In this article, I’m sharing some of the best places to visit in Wellington as well as attractions that shouldn’t be missed while visiting.
Mount Victoria Lookout
One of the most scenic spots in New Zealand’s capital Wellington is definitely the Mount Victoria Lookout.
Climbing up the hill can be quite exhausting but once you have made it to the top you will realize it was the effort as you will enjoy a fantastic panorama of the harbor and the various districts of the city.
The Mount Victoria Lookout is also known for its great sunsets and serves as a good place for a picnic during the day.
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is considered the country’s national museum and showcases the rich culture and history of the people living here.
The museum was opened in 1998 and today attracts more than 1.5 million visitors a year. The name of the museum translates to “Container of Treasures” which proved to be a very suitable description.
The site is particularly great to learn about the indigenous Māori people which many western visitors know very little about before coming to New Zealand.
Wellington Cable Car
If you are looking for a means of transport that is both scenic and historic, the Wellington Cable Car is just what you are looking for.
The cable car was inaugurated in 1902 and connects the shopping street Lambton Quay with the suburb Kelburn. A one-way trip takes around five minutes as the total length of the rails is only 628 meters.
There is also an interesting museum adjacent which showcases the history of this popular means of mass-transport.
Old St Paul’s
The Old St Paul’s is a former Anglican Church built in the Gothic Revival style of architecture that was typical for the 19th century. Today the site is considered one of the landmarks of the city and hosts many events throughout the year.
Many residents use it as a venue for weddings or other private events. What makes the building so impressive is its wooden interior made of native timber.
Another interesting aspect of the Old St Paul’s is its numerous memorial plaques dedicated to the soldiers who died in the First World War.
New Zealand Parliament
New Zealand Parliament is the political heart of the country and houses the House of Representatives as well as the Queen of New Zealand (usually represented by her governor-general).
The parliament is open to the general public and visitors not only have the chance to take part in guided tours around the building but can also experience interesting art exhibitions showcasing works of the most influential New Zealand artists.
Of course, you can also take a seat in the public gallery and follow a parliament meeting. If you enjoy learning more about political systems and see government buildings while traveling, visiting the New Zealand Parliament is one of the best things to do in Wellington.
The most impressive part of the New Zealand Parliament is undoubtedly the so-called Beehive. The structure closely resembles a traditional woven beehive and is considered a national heritage.
The structure was built between 1969 and 1981 and is home to the prime minister of the country. Unless there are any special events taking place visitors can enter the Beehive as part of a guided tour (free of charge) between 9 am and 5 pm.
Wellington Botanic Garden
The Wellington Botanic Garden was established in 1868 and offers a great collection of imported as well as local plants. The botanic garden initially served as a program to assess the economic benefit of importing species from Europe to New Zealand.
Today the garden is mostly known for its seasonal display of flowers including 30,000 tulips in spring. There is also a lovely rose garden here that consists of 106 formal beds of different rose varieties.
If you like tropical vegetation the Begonia House is a place you shouldn’t miss as it displays mainly tropical and temperate plants including beautiful orchids.
Weta Cave Workshop Tour
The Weta Cave Workshop Tour connects you with the art of filmmaking in New Zealand. Many of the items found here were used for the production of the Lord of the Rings, Avatar, and District 9.
The exhibitions are generally very interactive and especially children will find the costumes and creatures very interesting. In addition to Hobbiton, Weta Cave is one of the best places to visit in New Zealand for Lord of the Rings fans.
Nairn Street Cottage & The Colonial Cottage Museum
Nairn Street Cottage is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Wellington, dating back to 1858 when it was built by William Wallis.
The insides of the cottage are very well preserved and resemble the changing living conditions of the three generations who lived here from 1858 to the 1970s. Coming here feels like a real-time capsule.
The cottage is also much more intimate than you would expect and walk through the old building in many ways feels like visiting a still-intact family home.
City Gallery Wellington
The City Gallery Wellington is dedicated to displaying contemporary art and aims at developing Wellington’s international standing as a capital of art. The gallery does not offer access to a permanent collection and instead solely focuses on temporary exhibits.
Particularly interesting are the exhibits covering Pacific art (including works of the Māori people). Due to the ever-changing exhibits, the gallery is always an interesting destination for a few cultural hours.
Matiu Island is the biggest island in Evans Bay and over the last decades has become a very popular destination for day-trips. Coming here is worth it especially if you like wild nature as most of the island is completely untouched.
Apart from an old anti-aircraft battery and a lighthouse, there is not much to do but enjoy the scenic panorama and the rugged landscape. The ferry ride from Wellington takes around 50 minutes which makes the island ideal for day-trips.
Wellington’s Waterfront is one of the most popular places for residents and visitors alike. There are many lovely footpaths here that lead along the water and offer great views of the city as well as the numerous boats anchoring in the bay.
The Wellington Waterfront is also a fantastic place for dining as there are plenty of restaurants here that combine modern food with a nice panorama. If you are traveling with children you shouldn’t miss the lovely Frank Kitts Park which offers a great playground.
Cuba Street is likely Wellington’s most atmospheric street and a definite highlight for its vibrant nightlife and great cuisine as many of the city’s most renowned restaurants are located here.
But Cuba Street is not just known for great food, it is also a center for art and features a great array of colorful street art.
If you like exploring slightly more unique shopping venues you will find Cuba Street a great place too as it offers many vintage fashion shops, alternative record stores, and cool book shops.
Wellington Museum is situated in a historic building from the 19th century right on Wellington’s waterfront. The museum is internationally renowned and was named as one of the world’s 50 best museums by The Times.
The museum is dedicated to the history of Wellington and New Zealand and tells both the tale of the native Maori people as well as the European settlers. Coming here is a great place to learn about all the interesting aspects of the 150 years of the city’s existence.
Around 115 km east of Wellington, visitors get the chance to immerse themselves in what seems like a totally different world, the Putangirua Pinnacles.
Thousands of years of erosion have created an incredible landscape here that is totally unique and incomparable to anything you have seen before. The area has been used as a set for several famous movies including The Lord of the Rings.
Words can not do it justice, and the Putangirua Pinnacles is definitely one of the most beautiful places to visit in Wellington.
Want more recommendations on things to do in Wellington, New Zealand? Leave a comment below!