As the capital of New Zealand there is no shortage of things to do here in Wellington. This is the first place I saw when I moved here and it’ll always have a special place in my heart. Whether you’re just passing through or you’re living here and looking for some tips, below is my ultimate Wellington must do’s!
Cable Car and the Botanical Garden
The cable car is an iconic landmark in the city. Stroll on down to Lambton Quay and ride it all the way to the top to the famous botanical gardens. The car runs every 10 minutes and costs $9 for an adult return. It’ll also save you the long uphill climb to Kelburn – trust me.
Once up there you’ll have incredible views of the waterfront, harbour and the entire city. While you’re there take one of the many walks throughout the beautiful gardens from the rose garden to the herb garden or, if that’s not your scene, catch a show in the Planetarium. After all that walking you can grab a coffee or a bite to eat in the Picnic Café or the Cable Top Café. Up here you can also grab a free shuttle to Zealandia.
Zealandia & Wellington Zoo
Zealandia is the world’s first urban eco sanctuary located a short drive from the Botanical Gardens. Here you can spend the day exploring the native reptiles, birds and plants across 500 acres. The sanctuary opens daily from 9am to 5pm and an adult tickets costs $19.50. They also offer a special night tour where you can roam the enclosure after hours in search of the native nocturnal creatures. Tickets are pricey however with an adult ticket costing $85.
You can also check out Wellington Zoo. Tickets cost $25 for an adult and the zoo opens daily from 9:30am to 5pm. Here you can see everything from snakes, baboons, giraffes, and dingo’s to kangaroos, lions and penguins.
The best things in life are free and Te Papa is no exception. This is one of the best interactive museums in Wellington and includes exhibitions on the country’s art, history, science and culture. Some of the most recent exhibitions include Women’s fight for equality in New Zealand, Kaleidoscope: Abstract Aotearoa and Tangata o le Moana: The Story of Pacific people in New Zealand.
One of the long-term exhibitions that blew me away was Gallipoli: The Scale of our War. This installation depicts the Gallipoli campaign which took place in World War I and saw thousands of soldiers from New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, France, India and Great Britain lose their lives.
The exhibition depicts eight people from New Zealand who were caught up in the fighting. This is a must see exhibition. Each statue is 2.4 times human size and the detail is second to none – you can see every hair and bead of sweat on each person. The local artists in Weta Cave spent over 24,000 hours to create the entire exhibition.
More recently Te Papa hosted the Terracotta Warriors which guarded the tomb of Qin Shihuang, China’s First Emperor for over 2000 years. This is an incredible opportunity to get up close and personal with one of the greatest archeological findings of our time. The exhibition is only in Wellington until 22nd April 2019 so get in there soon!
The Weta Cave Workshop is most renowned for creating the incredibly intricate weapons and armour for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. However the designers at this small studio have also worked on plenty of other well known movies over the years including Blade Runner, Pacific Rim, Indiana Jones and the Narnia movies, to name but a few.
I went along to the combined Weta Caves and Thunderbirds are Go tour. Overall I was slightly underwhelmed. The tour is advertised as an opportunity to “wander through Manufacture Alley…”. In reality we saw a couple of real props and a lot of replicas of famous movies and had an overview of how they made some of the weapons used in the LOTR movies. Unfortunately i think this is the type of tour whose success is very dependent on the tour guide – get a bad one and its not worth your while.
The studio are in the process of rebooting a new animated series of the Thunderbirds are Go tv series. As part of the combo deal we got to see the original and new storyboards for it as well as the miniature sets.
For $45 I was fairly disappointed. I don’t think either tour lasted the advertised 45 minutes (more like 30 mins) and if we hadn’t gotten to see the Thunderbirds are Go sets (which were impressive) it wouldn’t have been worthwhile. Again a different tour guide may mean a much better experience although I’ve talked to a few others who have visited and no one had much to say other than it was “ok”.
You can’t mention Wellington without talking about its incredible waterfront. Down here you can bask in the sun, grab a coffee, walk down to the beach at Oriental Bay or stop in at one of the weekend markets.
Grab a seat by the waterfront and watch the cruise ships come in and out of the harbour. If you’re lucky you could also catch a glimpse of some baby seals, dolphins or even whales who have been known to swim into the harbour!
There is no shortage of markets throughout Wellington. On Friday and Saturday nights you can eat out at one of the food markets in the city center. These start at 5pm and there are food stalls serving Indian, Malaysian, Italian and Greek food (to name but a few). You’ll also be able to catch some local musicians for free who play at them each week. Every Saturday from 10am to 4pm you can head to the Waterfront to the Underground Market to pick up some food, coffee, jewellery, clothing or art.
As if that’s not enough, every Sunday you can join the locals at the food markets in the city centre and by the Waterfront to buy your fresh fruit and vegetables for the week ahead.
Climb Mt Victoria
Want the ultimate view of the Wellington? Look no further than Mt Victoria. At 190m high, up here you can get a full 360 degree view of the entire city. You have the option of either driving, catching the number 20 bus or walking. I completed the walk and although it’s quite a steep climb through the forest, it’s also a very accessible and well worn walkway. From Courtenay Place it’ll take about 30 mins one way.
If you’re lucky while you’re up here you may be able to see the planes landing and taking off at Wellington Airport. Be warned, this is windy welly and its pretty wild up there (in case you can’t tell by how windswept we look).
Check out the Street Art
Wellington is full of amazing pieces of street art. Honestly one of the best ways to spend a day here is to grab a coffee and spend some time wandering throughout the city looking at some of the art adorning the walls.
Can you think of any other recommendations that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below!