Top 10 Free Things To Do In Wellington

Arts & Culture Hot List Top 10

Our guide to the best things to do in Wellington without opening your wallet

From a sunken sailing ship to touring the Beehive, and from botanical gardens to a natural spring aquifer, we introduce you to some of Wellington's hidden gems that won't cost you a penny.  

1. Te Papa Museum

It's hard to do justice to the five levels of permanent and temporary exhibits that make up New Zealand's National Museum and Art Gallery. Te Papa offers a fascinating insight into New Zealand's flora and fauna, underwater creatures, Maori culture and the arts. Read more. 

Location - 55 Cable St. Daily 10.00 - 6.00pm.  
2. Parliament Buildings Tour

The iconic "Beehive" building which overlooks Waterloo Quay is one of three buildings that make up the Parliament Buildings (not to be confused with the Old Government Buildings that now house the Law School). The tour covers the treasury-style Parliament House, the 1899 Parliamentary Library building and the landmark Moderne Brutalist "Beehive" building which was opened by the Queen in 1977 to house the Executive Wing. Read more.

Location - Molesworth Street. Free guided tours - Monday - Friday on the hour 10.00am - 4.00pm.Parliament Buildings Tour
3. Cable Car Museum

Although a ride on the cable car up the steep hillside from Lambton Quay will set you back $5, entrance to the fascinating Cable Car Museum is free. The old Winding House now accommodates two restored cable cars and the original winding gear.

The photographic storyboards tell of the development of the San Francisco-style "grip" cable cars from 1902. At its peak, 2 million people a year used them and the cable cars actually pulled trailers! Read more.

Location - Upland Road, Kelburn. Open 9.30am to 5.00pm daily.Cable Car Museum
4. Botanic Gardens

The best way to enjoy the Wellington Botanic Gardens is by walking downhill from the Cable Car Museum. Pause at the viewpoint for panoramic views of the city and harbour then follow the zigzag path marked with a pink flower.

The 30-minute amble passes the Carter Observatory and historic cannon, the native Australia Garden, Fernery, Threatened Species Garden and Camellia Valley to the grand Lady Norwood Rose Garden and huge glass Begonia House filled with exotic plantings. Read more.

Location - Upland Road or Glenmore St. Open daily, dawn to dusk.Botanic Gardens
5. Wellington Museum

Wellington Museum shares the fascinating stories of the Wellington region, located in the beautiful 1892 heritage building designed by leading architect Frederick de Jersey Clere. From store house to story house, the Museum holds thousands of objects unique to Wellington that traverse its history. On the top floor you can check The Attic, where you'll find quirky and fascinating exhibits that showcase Wellington's colourful past, present and future.

6. Bolton Street Cemetry

This fascinating original burial ground is a real surprise. Pick up a map of the walking trails and discover the stories behind some of Wellington's earliest families.

Over 1,300 carved and weathered monuments line the meandering trails including the tombstone of the former Prime Minister, Richard John Seddon. Look for the Sexton's Cottage near the Bolton Street entrance which was built in 1857 and is one of the oldest houses in Wellington. 

Location - Bolton St. Open daily.Bolton Street Memorial Park
7. Old St Paul's Church

This quaint white wooden church of Old St Paul's with its tall belltower was the cathedral of Wellington from 1866 to 1964. Fortunately saved from demolition, it is a delightful sanctuary to walk around following the free self-guided tour leaflet.

Checkout the naval flags, stained glass windows and unusual illuminated panels. Read more.

Location - 34 Mulgrave St. Free entry. Open dailyOld St Paul
8. St Paul's Cathedral

After visiting the Old St Paul's it may be opportune to walk around the corner to the new St Paul's Cathedral which is a complete contrast to the old wooden church. 

Interesting highlights include the carved memorial, the modern stained glass Holm window depicting three ships on a very blue sea, the carvings of New Zealand birds and flora in the sanctuary, and the historic silver coin collection.

Location - 45 Molesworth St. Open daily.Wellington Cathedral
9. National Portait Gallery

The New Zealand Portrait Gallery, housed in Shed 11 on Wellington's Waterfront is a significant visual archive of the many faces of New Zealand. From the celebrated to the seldom seen, the New Zealand Portrait Gallery defines the unique qualities of Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Location -  Customhouse Quay opposite Johnston St.

10. Mount Victoria Lookout

You can't visit Wellington without experiencing the majesty of the view from the top of Mount Victoria.  At 195m above sea level, you'll need a head for heights, but the reward is stunning. You'll feast on panoramic views of the city below, and the glorious ocean and pretty bays beyond. 

Mount Victoria Lookout is situated on Lookout Road. To reach the Lookout, drive just past Oriental Bay from the CBD and turn right into Carlton Gore Road, following the Victoria Peak Lookout brown signs as you climb a winding and steep road.

Location - Lookout Road