Definitely, good things do come in small packages. Consider Wellington in New Zealand. Despite its size, Wellington’s capital city is big on a cool café scene and breathtaking scenery. Visitors who want to see Wellington outside of the central business district should wear good walking shoes because Wellington sprawls across the hillsides, tucked between high, forested hills and a vast stretch of the bay looking out to Cook Strait.
The wonderful Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa), the principal tourist attraction, is fortunately close to the waterfront, and the charming Wellington Cable Car offers a gorgeous and incredibly enjoyable alternative to climbing the hill to the Kelburn Lookout.
The name “windy Wellington” was given to the city as a result of its geographic location, which captures the windy conditions directly on Cook Strait. But don’t be deterred by that. There isn’t a city in New Zealand that is more beautiful on a summer day with a clear sky. Check out our list of Wellington’s best tourist attractions to discover more about this fascinating travel destination.
The Kelburn Lookout and the Wellington Cable Car
Wellington Tourist: Since 1912, Wellington’s iconic cable car has been ascending the slope to the Kelburn Lookout, which is close to the Botanic Gardens. A gorgeous (and much more leisurely) alternative to slogging your way up Wellington’s steep hill from Lambton Quay in the waterfront central district is this enjoyable five-minute trip. Along the journey, there are great vistas of the city, and once at Kelburn Lookout, avid photographers will undoubtedly want to start snapping away at the metropolitan panoramas that are spread out before them.
The intriguing Cable Car Museum, which showcases the first cable car ever to run on the rails, is located inside the Kelburn cable car terminus. One of the greatest things to do in Wellington at night is taking a cable car. Along with the opportunity to take in the nighttime vistas of the city below you, this ride includes tunnels that are illuminated in vibrant displays. At the top of the cable attraction, there is also a good café.
280 Lambton Quay, Wellington, New Zealand
New Zealand Museum Te Papa Tongarewa
The national museum of New Zealand takes visitors on an interactive journey through the country’s geological formation, the Maori culture that predated European settlement, and the social history of both these groups that have affected the country afterwards.
There are many interesting exhibits at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, also known as “Te Papa” by locals. These exhibits range from the Earthquake House, which simulates an earthquake, to the much more somber Arts Te Papa collection, which includes 11 galleries of works by New Zealand and Pacific Island artists.
The Mana Whenua exhibition, which chronicles the history of New Zealand’s Maori with a remarkable collection of Maori art and treasures and cutting-edge multimedia exhibits, is the museum’s main attraction. On-site cafés and a store are also available, which is convenient if you’re planning a lengthy stay or attending a conference or lecture.
55 Cable Street, Te Aro, Wellington, New Zealand
New Zealand Museum
Modern multimedia exhibits at Wellington’s small but outstanding museum help bring the city’s history to life, making it one of the best free things to do in Wellington. The museum offers educational displays and film presentations that outline Wellington’s maritime history and the development of the city. It is housed in a conserved historic building that was formerly one of the city’s first department shops.
Particularly sobering and thoughtful reminders of the power of nature and Wellington’s connection to the sea are the exhibits on the 1968 Wahine disaster, which involved the sinking of the Wahine ferry near Wellington harbor during a storm that claimed 51 lives and is New Zealand’s worst maritime disaster. A very well-presented gallery devoted to Maori mythology and stories is also available.
The close-by Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, which is home to the nation’s memorial honoring those who have died in battle, is well worthwhile a visit. The War Memorial Carillon, a collection of 74 bells that frequently perform in concerts and are well worth seeing if you’re visiting the city at the time, is of particular interest.
Location: Wellington, 3 Jervois Quay
Wellington Tourist: The Beehive, home to New Zealand’s legislature, is the most recognizable structure in Wellington. The city’s most divisive piece of architecture, the building with its distinctive shape was designed by British architect Sir Basil Spence and constructed between 1964 and 1979.
The more traditional-looking Parliament House is the structure next door. It was constructed in 1907 in the Neoclassical Edwardian style and houses The Chamber, where legislative debates are held.
Daily between 10 am and 4 pm, there are free one-hour tours of the parliament buildings that trace New Zealand’s parliamentary history and take visitors through significant government spaces. They leave from The Beehive’s ground-floor visitor center.
The rose gardens and monument of Richard John Seddon, who served as prime minister of New Zealand from 1893 to 1906, are located in the parliament gardens, which are available to the public.
Molesworth Street in Wellington is the address.
Auckland Botanic Garden
Wellington Tourist: The 25-hectare Wellington Botanic Garden, established in 1868, is a verdant oasis on the city’s hillside that is teeming with local flora and animals and blossoming flower displays. Walking paths wind through the gardens, passing by ferneries, seasonal flower beds, and coniferous forest regions. One of the best attractions in the botanic gardens is the Lady Norwood Rose Gardens, which include 110 rose beds with a dizzying array of different types.
In the eastern part of the grounds, close to the Wellington Cable Car Kelburn Terminal, is where the Space Place at Carter Observatory with its planetarium show is located. The gardens also house Begonia House, which features displays of tropical flower species.
Try to schedule your visit to coincide with one of the many summer concerts that are held here, if at all feasible. Take the Wellington Cable Car for a wonderful day out, then stroll back to the city center after seeing the gardens.
And if you still have time in your day for one or two additional botanic gardens, stop by the fascinating Otari Native Botanic Garden and the adjoining Wilton’s Bush Reserve, known for its native plant diversity.
101 Glenmore Street, Wellington, New Zealand
Ecosanctuary in ZEALANDIA
Wellington Tourist: A 225-hectare urban eco-sanctuary just two kilometers from the city center, ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary is dedicated to showcasing New Zealand’s conservation efforts, as well as its distinctive landscape and animals. More than 100 kiwi (which may be viewed on guided night excursions) and the fabled tuatara, a lizard endemic to New Zealand, can also be heard and seen here. These native birds include endangered species like the stitchbird, saddleback, and takahe.
Visitors can explore the reserve’s 32 kilometers of walking trails and a museum that features information on the natural history of the region. Along with an entertaining electric boat ride, there are also daytime and evening cruises offered.
53 Waiapu Road, Wellington, New Zealand
Visit the Weta Cave Workshop
Fans of Peter Jackson’s popular trilogies won’t want to miss out on Wellington’s connection to the beloved Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. The director’s renowned Weta Workshop, where many of the props and special effects for these blockbuster movies were created, is located in Wellington.
A Weta Cave Workshop Tour is the finest way to see this movie location. These expertly guided tours offer a fascinating glimpse into the production of these films as well as other blockbusters like Avatar and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
A few of the miniatures used to portray different characters and movie scenes will also be on display up close. The tour fee includes round-trip transportation from Wellington’s downtown, a tour guide, the opportunity to speak with workshop employees, and an introductory DVD. There is a fantastic gift shop on-site.
Wellington Tourist: Garden and House of Katherine Mansfield
Wellington Tourist: The most well-known author from New Zealand was born and raised in this modest wooden house in the Thorndon neighborhood of Wellington. The modernist style of short story author Katherine Mansfield (1888–1923) has had a significant international and national impact. She relocated to London as an adult and wrote the majority of the works for which she became renowned there. There, she made friends with D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf.
The home where Mansfield was born and raised has been restored to its original state and is now a museum that displays many of her personal items as well as typical late 19th-century furnishings and fixtures. There are guided tours offered, and a gift shop is on the premises.
25 Tinakori Road, Wellington, New Zealand
Wellington Tourist: Wellington City Gallery
Wellington Tourist: One of the premier venues for contemporary art in New Zealand, Municipal Gallery Wellington was founded in 1980 and is housed in the former location of the city library. This open, roomy gallery hosts a rotating schedule of short-term exhibitions all through the year that showcase works by established and emerging local, Pacific Island, and worldwide artists. Exhibitions that focus on modern visual arts include painting, photography, sculpture, multimedia, and art installations.
The gallery serves as one of Wellington Tourist: Wellington’s primary cultural centers, hosting a variety of year-round talks, meet-the-artist gatherings, tours, workshops, and live performances. There is a café there.
The New Zealand Portrait Gallery features significant works by New Zealanders, including portraits of its residents; of particular significance is a specially commissioned portrait of the Queen. This gallery is interesting to art enthusiasts.
Te Ngakau Civic Square in Wellington, New Zealand
Wellington Tourist: The Colonial Cottage Museum and Nairn Street Cottage
Wellington Tourist: William Wallis constructed the Nairn Street Cottage in the 1850s as a residence for his family, making it Wellington’s oldest original house still standing. An organic heritage garden is located outdoors, and the inside has been painstakingly restored with many of the family’s original 19th-century furnishings and fittings in situ to replicate the atmosphere of life in New Zealand’s pioneering era.
A guided tour is required to enter the home, which is open four times a day. The tour provides an overview of colonial Wellington and provides background information on the three generations of the Wallis family who resided here. Tourists can visit the garden area any time of the day.
68 Nairn Street, Wellington, New Zealand
Wellington Tourist: Princess Bay is a sandy cove located in the Houghton Bay neighborhood, nine kilometers south of Wellington’s downtown. Locals love to swim and picnic along this protected stretch of sand over the summer weekends since it has many rock pools.
The beach offers fantastic views that can reach as far as the South Island on a clear day. In the late afternoon, a small coastal path that runs above the beach leads to a viewing point with even better views and is a popular place for wandering.
In Houghton Bay, Wellington, at The Esplanade
Wellington Tourist: Island of Matiu
Matiu Island, sometimes known as Somes Island, in Wellington Tourist: Wellington Harbour offers a potent dose of untamed New Zealand landscapes for nature lovers seeking a quiet retreat close to the city. The largest of the three northern islands in Wellington harbor, Matiu Island, was inhabited by Maori in pre-European times.
Before being given to New Zealand’s Department of Conservation as a nature reserve, it served as a quarantine station, internment camp, and military post during the modern era.
There are many short hiking routes on the island that lead to its highest point, where there are World War II gun emplacements, and around its circumference. Both of them have wonderful views of the mainland.
Wellington Tourist: Zoo Wellington
Wellington Tourist: The oldest zoo in New Zealand is Wellington Zoo. It was founded in 1906 and is highly renowned for its conservation initiatives. This is a great location to observe some of New Zealand’s wildlife up close if you have young children, especially timid creatures like the kiwi bird (which serves as the nation’s emblem) and the tuatara reptile.
The Malayan sun bear, as well as giraffes, monkeys, chimps, gibbons, meerkats, and large cats, are among the international species that have many well-kept enclosures. Visitors can tour The Nest, the zoo’s animal hospital, to observe the work of the veterinary personnel there.
There are also daily animal talks, feeding experiences, creature encounters, exploring the adventure playgrounds, and even zoo sleepovers, among other entertaining activities.
200 Daniell Street, Newton, New Zealand
Wellington Tourist: Mount Victoria is located just to the east of the city’s core. This hill, which rises to a height of 196 meters, provides stunning views of the cityscape but can be rather windy on top. The Byrd Memorial, which is located below the viewing platform, is reached by a steep, winding road from Oriental Bay that is marked “Lookout.”
The vast city, the port, and Cook Strait can all be seen from the terrace at the peak, and Kelburn Park and the university buildings can be seen in the opposite way. The Byrd Memorial honors American aviator Richard Byrd, who from his base in New Zealand made the first trip across the South Pole in 1929.
Location: Wellington, off Kent Terrace