Wondering what to do in Wellington, New Zealand?
There are so many cool things you can do in Wellington! It’s absolutely worth it to spend some time in Wellington!
Here’s a list of all the places you can go in Wellington, including iconic Wellington destinations and stops off the beaten tourist path. This travel guide lists the best museums, local shops, hikes, and more, plus my shortlist of the top Wellington things to do.
I written the most comprehensive post on things to do in Wellington! I hope it gives you lots of ideas to plan your own Wellington itinerary!
Top best places to go in Wellington
- Te Papa Tongarewa The Museum of New Zealand
- New Zealand Parliament
- Wellington Museum
- Cuba Street
- Zealandia Eco Sanctuary
About Wellington New Zealand
Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand. It’s known as “Windy Wellington,” and it certainly earns the moniker.
Strong winds from the Cook Strait, which separates the North Island from the South Island, are funneled between the Tararua range on the North Island and Richmond and Kaikoura ranges on the South Island.
Wellington is the world’s windiest city by average wind speed. Blustery days are just part of being in Wellington!
Temperatures in Wellington are moderate. In summer, temperatures in Wellington range from 57 to 70 °F. Winter temperatures in Wellington average 44 to 56 °F.
Wellington is at the south-western tip of the North Island. Many visitors arrive there by ferry from the South Island or by plane to begin a trip around the North Island.
In addition to being the political hub of the country, Wellington is the cultural heart of New Zealand, with an active arts scene.
Wellington, including its metro area, is New Zealand’s second largest city. Wellington’s urban area has approximately 216,000 residents. The Wellington metro area, which encompasses central Wellington, Porirua, Upper Hutt, and Lower Hutt, has a population of around 433,000 people.
Although Wellington is a relatively small city, there’s loads to see and do! You’ll find a wide range of activities in Wellington.
This ultimate travel itinerary will leave you wishing you had more time to explore the many attractions in the capital of New Zealand. When you’re deciding what to do in New Zealand, be sure and put Wellington on the list!
Best Places to go in Wellington
You will not lack for things to do in Wellington, NZ. The capital city of New Zealand is a perfect place to learn about New Zealand culture and history, and this small city doesn’t fail to impress. Wellington truly is “the coolest little capital.”
Te Papa Museum
The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is an absolute must-see when you’re in Wellington. Te Papa is the national museum of New Zealand. Since Wellington was our first stop in New Zealand, the Te Papa museum was an incredible introduction to New Zealand history and culture.
Don’t miss the Nature exhibition to learn about New Zealand’s unique natural environment, native species, and dramatic geology.
The Gallipoli exhibit tells the uses historic artifacts and oversized models (created by Weta Workshop) of eight New Zealanders involved in the campaign. It was an incredibly informative and moving exhibit.
My daughters have basically zero interest in military history, but they spent so much time immersed in the exhibit, we had to prompt them to leave. It was that good. “Gallipoli: The Scale of our War” is on display through April 25, 2025.
Te Papa also has an amazing collection of New Zealand art. You’ll find changing special exhibits, as well as a café with delicious food.
I can’t say enough about the Te Papa museum. Honestly, you could spend an entire day here if you had time. Te Papa is certainly one of the best museums in New Zealand.
- Location: 55 Cable Street, Wellington
- Cost: Free; costs for some short-term exhibits
- Open: Every day except Christmas Day, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
New Zealand Parliament
New Zealand’s Parliament is housed in the Beehive (the Executive Wing), Parliament House, the Parliamentary Library, and Bowen House. These distinct buildings serve as landmarks in Wellington.
The Beehive, a nickname that comes from its unusual shape, is where Parliament’s Visitor Centre is located and where public tours begin.
I highly recommend taking the time for a tour of the Parliament Buildings. We definitely learned more about what makes New Zealand’s government unique.
You can take a guided tour, participate in a tour designed for kids, or even observe Parliament’s debating chamber when the House is sitting.
It’s best to book a tour in advance.
- Location: Molesworth Street, Wellington
- Cost: Free; cost for certain tours
- Hours: Tours on the hour between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
National Library Wellington
In addition to excellent research services, you’ll find a range of exhibits at the National Library Wellington.
On permanent display, in the He Tohu exhibit, are the Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand, the Treaty of Waitangi, and the Women’s Suffrage Petition. Expect to find temporary exhibits on New Zealand history and art, as well.
- Location: Corner of Molesworth and Aitken Streets
- Cost: Free
⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH: 6-8 hours | ✅ Book it!
Take a full-day private sightseeing tour of Wellington, personalized or your group. Your day-long experience can include Mt. Victoria, Weta Workshop, Cuba Street, New Zealand Parliament, and so much more.
Old Government Buildings
One of the largest wooden buildings in the world, the Old Government Building now houses the Victoria University of Wellington’s Law School.
Visitors can see an entrance hall paneled in kauri, displays on the ground floor, a spectacular hanging staircase, and an old birdcage lift.
While there, stroll the grounds to see examples of native New Zealand plants.
- Location: 55 Lambton Quay
- Cost: Free—$15
- Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
New Zealand Portrait Gallery
Experience the stories of New Zealanders and New Zealand through the art of portraiture. Exhibits at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery change, so check to see what’s on. But expect to be impressed and moved.
- Location: Shed 11, 60 Lady Elizabeth Lane, Wellington Waterfront
- Cost: Free
- Hours: 10 a.m.—4 p.m. Closed Christmas and Good Friday
Wellington Cable Car
Riding the bright red Wellington Cable Car is a must-do when you’re in Wellington. You’ll go from the Lambton Quay shopping district to the best panoramic views of the city.
You can buy tickets online or at the ticket counter there when you’re ready to ride the Cable Car.
- Cost: Varies by ticket type
- Hours: Exact hours vary by day, but open until 9 most evenings.
Cable Car Museum
At the Cable Car summit, visit the Cable Car Museum. It’s a small museum that won’t take long to visit. But it give an interesting look at Wellington history, and you can see the old winding machine.
- Location: 1A Upland Road, Kelburn
- Cost: Free
- Hours: 10 a.m.—5 p.m., seven days a week
Space Place at Carter Observatory
The Cable Car summit also gives easy access to Space Place at Carter Observatory. Here, you can explore multimedia exhibits and interactive galleries (where you can DIY a black hole), learn about Maori navitagating traditions, and take in a planetarium show.
- Location: 40 Salamanca Rd., Kelburn
- Cost: Varies by age.
- Hours: 10 a.m.—5 p.m. or 11 p.m., depending on the day
Fans of 20th century architecture will not want to miss this gem! The Futuna Chapel is generally considered to be one of the most significant New Zealand 20th century buildings. This historic building is rarely open, so plan our schedule accordingly if you want a tour.
- Location:67 Futuna Close, Karori
- Cost: Donations requested
- Hours: 11 a.m.—3 p.m., first Sunday of every month
The Wellington Museum offers a fantastic look at the history of New Zealand’s capital, including Maori legends and maritime history.
You start out at Wellington’s waterfront in the late 19th century, then get to experience 100 stories from Wellington’s past.
Then you head to the top floor of the museum. Take your time engaging with the interactive exhibitions as you make your way down. Don’t miss the time machine “Up in the Attic.”
Also, check out the daily schedule if you want to take in a special talk, musical performance, or workshop. The Wellington Museum is conveniently located right on Wellington harbour, so you can stop in as you’re exploring the city.
- Location: 3 Jervois Quay, Queens Warf
- Cost: Free
- Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week
The Wellington Zoo features animals from around the world. You’ll see Australian wallabies, kangaroos, and Tasmanian devils, in addition to otters, a variety of primates, capybaras, lions, and tigers.
At the Wellington Zoo, you can experience close encounters with the animals and behind-the-scenes special experiences. There are additional fees for these, and tickets can sell out in advance, so don’t wait to book.
- Location: 200 Daniell Street, Newtown (about 10 minutes by car from central Wellington)
- Cost: prices vary by age; family passes available
- Hours: 9:30 a.m.—5 p.m., every day except Christmas day
If you’d rather focus on native New Zealand wildlife species, visit the Zealandia Ecosantuary.
You can also visit with a general admission ticket, which allows you to wander more than 32 km of paths, so you can spot wildlife in a natural setting, as well as gives you access to the indoor exhibit.
General admission tickets are valid on two consecutive days, so you don’t have to try to see it all in one go.
Look for the native birds, plants, reptiles, frogs, and invertebrates of New Zealand while you wander. And ask for the daily schedule to see if there will be any special talks happening while you’re there.
- Location: End of Waiapu Road, Karori
- Cost: price varies by age and tour option
- Hours: 9 a.m.—5 p.m. for general admission
Cuba Street is so much fun. To me it captured the spirit of Wellington.
We stayed right nearby, so we could explore the area repeatedly, and I’m so glad we did.
On Cuba Street, don’t miss:
Wellington is a foodie paradise, with loads of delicious options for every budget. Every menu features fresh, local foods, craft beer, and regional wine. There are plenty of great options, so try anything.
On Cuba Street, we particularly liked:
Flying Burrito Brothers: Excellent tacos and other Mexican specialties.
Rasa: Delicious Malaysian cuisine.
Fidel’s: Don’t miss the Cuban coffee! Open for brunch and lunch.
Midnight Espresso: Cakes, sandwiches, meat pies, pastries, smoothies, and coffee. What more could you want?
Hell Pizza: Seriously amazing pizza. Gluten-free and vegan options available too.
Walking Food Tour of Wellington
⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH: 3.5 hours | ✅ Book it!
Anyone who loves good food and drink will appreciate this food-focused walking tour of Wellington. Your guide will show your small group (max 8 people)the best local spots that a tourist might not find on their own. Tour begins on Cuba Street Mall.
Oh my gosh, the vintage stores! If vintage fashion is your thing, you will love Cuba Street.
Ziggurat: vintage clothing, accessories, and shoes.
Hunters and Collectors: vintage and designer clothes and accessories for women and men.
Thrift: focused on American vintage style
Tangent: a vintage store focused on menswear
Spacesuit: urban vintage clothing for men
Paper Bag Princess: secondhand and vintage clothing and accessories for women and men.
Cool (non-vintage) shops
Iko Iko: known for it’s great design books, home items, and paper goods.
Carly Harris: lovely, elegant women’s clothing designed and made in New Zealand.
Madame Fancy Pants: New Zealand-made home goods, clothing, and trinkets for everyone.
Havilah: fun, frilly, colorful clothes that make sustainable shopping a delight.
Frutti: quirky, fun, made-in-New Zealand clothing that is playful and sophisticated.
Slow Boat Records: You can find new and used records and CDs. It really does look like a record store from a 1990s movie. This is the place to go to find something you’ve never heard before or that one song you never thought you’d hear again.
Flying Nun Record Store: They have their own label and carry LPs from artists they deem worthy of the honor.
The Ferret Bookshop at 175 Cuba Street. The Ferret invites you to “poke your nose in,” and you’re sure to find something that will intrigue you. If not, ask the helpful staff for a recommendation.
Pegasus Books, off Cuba Mall, Left Bank. The place for secondhand books on art, music, design, philosophy, and religion, as well as books on New Zealand topics and foreign language books.
Whitcoulls at 91 Cuba Street. For new releases and kids books. Whitcoulls is a New Zealand bookstore chain (also selling gifts, stationery, and toys).
Arty Bees at 106 Manners Street (right around the corner from Cuba Street). Loads of books about or set in New Zealand, plus thousands of secondhand books on any subject.
Minerva at 237 Cuba Street. The destination for fabric lovers, Minerva is a bookstore dedicated to textile and handcraft books, plus lifestyle magazines, gifts, and hand-dyed threads, felts, and fabrics.
Graphic at 105 Cuba Street, for comic books.
Touring Weta Workshop is a must when you’re in Wellington. Learn the secrets behind the special effects that made The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings films so amazing.
You can choose the Weta Workshop Experience or a specialized Creative Workshop. Learn about the artists who brought life to films such as The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit Trilogies and The Chronicles of Narnia.
You can book a guided tour with transportation, for the easiest Weta Workshop experience. It’s about a 20 minute drive from downtown Wellington, if you have a rental car, but allow plenty of time to find parking!
There’s even a tour with guided transfers that will take you to and from city centre, so you can relax and not worry about driving in Wellington (or parking at the Weta Cave).
Visiting Weta Cave was a highlight of our time in Wellington, and I highly recommend taking a tour or a workshop.
- Location: Corner of Camperdown Road and Weka Street, Miramar, Wellington
- Cost: starts at $49 per person
- Hours: 9:30 a.m.—5 p.m., every day except Christmas
⭐️ RATING: 4.5/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH: 3.5-4 hours | ✅ Book it!
Perfect for the Lord of the Rings fans visiting Wellington! Take a tour of Weta Workshop and Hobbiton Woods, location of many movie scenes. Skip the hassle of driving and parking in Wellington, because transportation is included. An essential tour for Hobbit fans!
Explore shops and cafes in Wellington’s City Center as you explore the iconic Lambton Quay. Stop by the Old Bank Arcade buildings for shopping and dining experiences that take you back in time.
Old Saint Paul’s
Old Saint Paul’s is a spectacular wooden cathedral. The Old Saint Paul church is a testament to heritage preservation in New Zealand, as well as a fine example of Gothic Revival Architecture and a spiritual space.
- Location: 34 Mulgrave Street, Pipitea
- Cost: by donation; charges for large groups
- Hours: 10 a.m.—4 p.m.; closed Good Friday and Christmas, and until 1 p.m. on Anzac Day
Stroll the waterfront on your way to and from Wellington museums, shops, and venues. Enjoy fabulous views of the harbor, and try not to be blown away! This is a classic must do in Wellington!
Mount Victoria Lookout
The Mt. Victoria Lookout offers spectacular views of Wellington and Oriental Bay. You can drive up to Mt. Victoria from Wellington city center 15 minutes.
Alternately, you can hike there in less than an hour. The Mt. Victoria walkaway look will take you up one side of the mountain and down a different way, to maximize your views.
Katherine Mansfield House and Garden
The Katherine Mansfield House home is three stops in one. You’ll see a lovely heritage garden, get a glimpse into the 1888 home of a colonial family, and take an up-close look and the life and writing of acclaimed New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield.
- Location: 25 Tinakori Road, Thorndon
- Cost: Rates vary by age
- Hours: 10 a.m.—4 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday; closed certain holidays.
Archives New Zealand
New Zealand’s national archive, Archives New Zealand, has a location in Wellington. It’s not a traditional tourist destination, but if you’re in Wellington for research purposes, you’ll be able to access Aotearoa’s official records and government documents. It would be best to “ask an archivist” and make an appointment before your arrival.
- Location: 10 Mulgrave St, Thorndon, Wellington
- Cost: Free
- Hours: Monday—Friday, 10 a.m.—3 p.m.
Nairn Street Cottage
Explore what life was like for three generations who lived in the Nairn Street Cottage, from 1857 to the late 1970s. It’s an interesting look at colonial life in New Zealand.
- Cost: $4-8
- Location: 68 Nairn Street, Mt. Cook
Wellington Gardens is actually four distinct spaces:
Wellington Botanical Garden
The Botanic Garden is the easiest to get to from central Wellington, as you simply take the cable car up to the garden. You can see the Lady Norwood Rose Garden and the Begonia House. Enjoy tea at the Botanic Garden Café. Children will enjoy the playground on site.
- Location: Glenmore Street, by car; Cable Car Lane, off Lambton Quay, by cable car
- Cost: free
- Hours: dawn to dusk; certain areas 9 a.m. — 4 p.m.
Otari-Wilton’s Bush Native Reserve
The Otari-Winton’s Bush Native Reserve is New Zealand’s only public botanic garden dedicated solely to native plants. Take a self-guided walk through 11 km of walking trails through native bush and garden collections.
- Location: 160 Wilton Road
- Cost: free
- Hours: dawn to dusk; visitor centre 7:30 a.m. — 4 p.m.
Truby King Park
Truby King Park beautiful heritage-listed estate boasts picturesque gardens and a stunning ocean view. It’s a great place to visit on a sunny day!
- Location: 21 B Manchester Terrace, Melrose
- Cost: free
- Hours: dawn to dusk
Bolton Street Cemetery
Bolton Street Cemetery is Wellington’s oldest European cemetery and as such features historic gravestones. Visitors can visit the Bolton Street Cemetery Museum and will also enjoy viewing the heritage rose collection.
- Location: Bolton Street, Bowen Street, Kinross Street, Wellington (quite near the Botanic Garden)
- Cost: free
- Hours: dawn to dusk; Bolton Street Chapel, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday
Nga Taonga Sound & Vision
Learn more about New Zealand culture and history through the collections of Nga Taonga Sound & Vision audiovisual archive. You can’t visit, but you can check out Nga Taonga Sound & Vision and see their online exhibits.
One of the best day trips from Wellington is taking a ferry to Somes Island. You can spend the day hiking in this predator-free historic nature preserve. If you’re lucky, you can even book overnight accommodation.
Best Things to do in Wellington
There’s even more you can do while you’re in Wellington. Explore the city’s music, arts, and theater culture:
Performance Venues in Wellington
Music and Dance in Wellington NZ
Wellington’s music scene boasts a number of bands and venues for live music. Check out:
The Opera House
The Opera House hosts a variety of musical and dance performances, as well as theatre and special events.
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Listen to live classical music in a lovely venue.
Royal New Zealand Ballet
If you love the ballet, check to see what the Royal New Zealand Ballet is performing when you’re in town.
Art Galleries in Wellington, NZ
City Gallery Wellington
Go to City Gallery Wellington for inspiring contemporary art. Don’t miss brunch or the Gallery Shop.
- Location: Te Ngākau Civic Square, Wellington
- Cost: Free; charge for special exhibitions
- Hours: 10 a.m.—5 p.m.
Dowse Art Museum
This super hip museum invites visitors to explore contemporary art and culture. Numerous exhibitions explore varied themes and regularly change. It’s well worth a visit.
- Location: 45 Laings Road, Lower Hutt (a bit out of Wellington, but the website will give detailed door-to-door directions based on your mode of transport)
- Cost: Free
- Hours: Tuesday—Sunday, 10 a.m.—5 p.m.; closed on Christmas day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Eve
Pataka Art + Museum
Pataka features contemporary Maori and Pacific arts, New Zealand arts, and international arts and culture. Take in the exhibitions, eat at the café, and browse the gift shop.
- Location: Corner Norrie and Parumoana Streets, Porirua
- Cost: Free
- Hours: Monday—Saturday, 10 a.m.—5 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m.—4:30 p.m.; closed various holidays
AVID features exhibits of works by New Zealand’s glass, ceramic, and jewelry artists. These stunning exhibitions changes regularly. Not a traditional museum gallery, but rather a gallery for collectors to find exceptional art and treasures.
- Location: 48 Victoria Street, Wellington
- Hours: Tuesday—Friday, 10 a.m.—5 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m.—4:00 p.m.
Best Festivals in Wellington, New Zealand
If you’re lucky enough to travel to Wellington when there’s a festival going on, participating in it will definitely be one of your best things to do in Wellington.
Here are just a few of the fun festivals that take place in Wellington:
⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH: 10 hours | ✅ Book it!
Enjoy award-winning wine and gorgeous scenery on this full-day tour from Wellington to Martinborough.
You’ll get to visit the stunning areas and vineyards around Wellington that most tourists never see.
Take in mountains, valley, and coastal scenery, and enjoy lunch, dinner and wine! All transportation included!
This will be a very memorable tour!
Theatre Venues in Wellington, NZ
Check out Wellington’s thriving theatre scene:
The St James Theatre
Sporting Events in Wellington
If you’re a sports fan, traveling to New Zealand is great opportunity to watch sports you don’t usually get to see. (We will never forget seeing our first rugby game in Australia!)
Also, sports gear from a local team is one of my favorite souvenirs to take take home!
Find out if any of these teams have matches/games when you’re in Wellington:
Final thoughts on Best Things to do in Wellington, New Zealand
Wellington charmed me and my family when we visited. There was so much to do and learn in Wellington! It’s hard to narrow down a list of the best things to do in Wellington, which is why this post is so comprehensive!
If you want to learn about the history and culture of Wellington or New Zealand in general, there are plenty of museums to get you started.
If you’re looking for great souvenir shopping, you’re all set. If you want to experience New Zealand’s flora and fauna, you’ve got plenty of great options.
There are plenty of free things (and cheap things) to do in Wellington, as well as great tours and sites worth splurging on.
Whatever you do, don’t overlook the “windy capital” when planning your trip to New Zealand!