Things to See and Do
Arts & culture
The ‘cultural capital’ dishes up plenty more besides the treasures and fun-times of Te Papa Tongarewa, the national museum. Wellington City Gallery and Museum of City & Sea are other major highlights, with scores of smaller museum and galleries filling the gaps alongside theatrical and musical companies. Concerts, gigs, busking and fringe events ice the cultural cake.
Notable institutions further afield include Lower Hutt’s Dowse Art Gallery, Porirua’s Pataka, and Aratoi in Masterton.
Food & wine
Wellington has a serious obsession with its stomach, and sates itself with literally hundreds of eateries and a dining district regularly touted amongst the country’s best – Cuba Street. Besides a bamboozling array of espresso and craft beer, visitors will discover a wide-ranging culinary scene, covering cheap Asian noodle shops and pizza joints to high-end contemporary restaurants championing local ingredients.
The city’s neighbouring regions are a prodigious source of fresh produce, evident in the roadside stalls lining State Highway 1. The Wairarapa, meanwhile, is a travelling gourmand’s delight, with the likes of chocolate, cheese, pickles and olives mixing it up in the heart of wine country.
The lower North Island supports a surprising array of wildlife, particularly native birds which cluster in sanctuaries such as Wellington’s Zealandia, a fenced reserve with an excellent visitor centre. In the harbour, Matiu/Somes Island is another notable reserve inhabited by penguins, rare reptiles and other interesting creatures. Wildlife sanctuaries further afield include magical Kapiti Island, and two particularly family-friendly reserves – Wairarapa’s Pukaha/Mount Bruce and Kapiti’s Nga Manu.
New Zealand fur seals inhabit craggy shores around the region’s southeast. There is good viewing on the scenic drive to remote Cape Palliser in the Wairarapa, while view-filled 4WD tours take in a colony at Red Rocks, a crazily wild place on the capital’s doorstep.
It’s water, water, everywhere around the Wellington region, which boasts a coastline of extremes. To the west are friendly beaches and sand dunes stretching from Kapiti to the Manawatu; Queen Elizabeth Park and Waikanae are great spots to dip a toe in the water.
The coast is rockier and more rugged to the south and east, as evident on the classic drive around Wellington’s bays. There are, however, decent swimming beaches including Oriental Bay (in town) and Scorching Bay (Miramar Peninsula). Over in the Wairarapa, the memorable drive to Cape Palliser lighthouse follows a wild and woolly shore, dangerous for swimming but great for photo ops and blowing the cobwebs away.
Walks & hikes
Wellington’s city centre offers easy ambles on the flat, but those prepared to puff can reap rich rewards on walkways through hilly suburbs and greenbelt studded with lookouts such as Mt Victoria, the Cable Car terminus, and Brooklyn Wind Turbine. Wellington City Council produces excellent online guides and apps for numerous easily accessible walkways and heritage trails.
This region also offers great wilderness hiking, particularly in the Tararua, Rimutaka and Aorangi forest parks.
Wine and Food
Zest Food Tours; visit gourmet food stores such as Moore Wilsons and Meat on Tory to sample some of Wellington’s finest produce.
If you are a chocoholic, you cannot leave Wellington without visiting Schoc Chocolates, where you can taste a huge variety of chocolates made from interesting combinations such as Lime Chilli and Sea Salt, and purchase beautifully handcrafted chocolates that are almost too precious to eat.
Wellington is home to many restaurants with extensive wine lists – check out Vivo Wine Bar, Boulot, Logan Brown, Matterhorn, Juniper, Arbitrageur, and much more.
Nature & Scenic
Art & Culture
Beach & Coastal Encounters
The Wellington Waterfront; a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Many activities are based around the waterfront from harbour cruises, strolling from Queens Wharf to Oriental Bay, and swimming at the golden sand beach, rollerblading and rock-climbing for the more adventurous. Or grab a coffee or gelato and sit back and enjoy beautiful views of the Wellington harbour and cityscape.
- Karori Wildlife Sanctuary; a world first conservation attraction and home to some of New Zealand’s rarest and most endangered wildliFE.
- Seal Coast Safari; a 4WD way of exploring Wellington’s nature and encountering New Zealand’s native fur seals.
- Take a drive to Upper Hutt and visit the Staglands Wildlife Reserve, a special look at New Zealand’s natural heritage.Take a drive out to the Kapiti Coast and visit Kapiti Island Alive, a unique opportunity in New Zealand to view endangered and rare birds in a completely natural setting.