Best Things To Do In Wellington
Our guide if you only have 48 hours in New Zealand's capital city
Got a couple of days to spend in the coolest little capital in the world? Take in the best things to do in Wellington and then head further afield to explore everything the greater Wellington region has to offer too.
Day 1 - Hit The City
Wellington is a compact city, easy to walk around, with most attractions close together, so it is possible to get a really good impression of the city in just one day.
If you are in town for breakfast there are plenty of options. On a weekday, follow the suited and booted work crowd to find the best early morning breakfast, or on weekends enjoy a leisurely brunch. Gotham Cafe, Drexels John’s Kitchen and Olive Restaurant are all good choices.
The city has a well beaten tourist trail including Parliament Buildings and Te Papa but while you might be tempted to stay away from these locations that feature in every guide book, they are actually well worth a look so make sure you include them in your itinerary and think about taking a guided tour for that extra insight.
If you want to walk off breakfast, head up the hill in the Cable Car and then take a stroll through the Botanic Gardens back down to the city centre. Be sure to stop and check out the Bolton Street cemetery on your way down. The site of the city’s original burial ground it contains the graves of many early settlers and important people from the city’s history.
On the Waterfront, don’t forget to pop into the tiny market shops along the way and look out for the quotes and sculptures that line the way. If you don’t fancy walking you can hire roller skates or a crocodile bike and the bravest of the brave can jump from the diving platform near Te Papa into the harbour below.
Later, take a stroll through the main shopping area known as the Golden Mile along Lambton Quay and Courtenay Place and you’ll find shops to suit every taste and budget, then head on to Cuba Street, where you’ll find an eclectic selection of vintage boutiques and other shops as well as artists galleries and a great range of restaurants if you are ready to give your tastebuds a workout. From the opulent Logan Brown located in a refurbished 1920s bank building, to the ever popular with locals Floriditas Cafe, Cuba Street has something for everyone.
In the evening treat yourself to dinner at one of the award-winning restaurants. Try Hippopotamus for fine dining or Ortega Fish Shack for great seafood. There's some good hospitality with an expat flavour at The Green Man Irish bar (also a favourite of the local Hurricanes rugby team) or the Welsh Dragon Bar, strangely located on a traffic island in the city centre.
If you want to work up an appetite, take a trip up to the Mt Victoria look-out, one of the best places to see the sunset and with spectacular views over the harbour and the city lights at night. (If you really don’t fancy the walk, you’re in luck as you can actually drive all the way up!)
Day 2 - City Centre Or Beyond
With so much to see in the city centre you could spend your second day in Wellington checking out more of the city’s main tourist attractions. Head for Wellington Zoo, Zealandia or Otari-Wilsons Bush to get closer to nature or visit the Wellington Museum, Great War Exhibition or the Art Gallery for a bit of culture. However, a two-day stay gives you the chance to explore some of the quirkier choices so why not head a little off the beaten track and try one of these…
Matiu Somes Island
A trip across to Matiu Somes Island is like heading to another world. Just a short ferry trip from Wellington, the island has at various times been a Maori site, a lighthouse location and a quarantine station for immigrants, and is now a historical site and protected nature reserve.
The Attic at Wellington Museum
Even if you aren’t a fan of museums, The Attic might attract you with its random collection of artefacts telling stories of some well known and not so well known Wellingtonians.
The National Tattoo Museum
A private museum housed at Underground Arts in Vivian Street, exploring the history of tattoos and the traditional Maori tattoo art “Ta Moko”.
Go see a movie at The Roxy, and admire the stunning interior decor and sculptures by the Weta Workshop team.
Katherine Mansfield’s House
Katherine Mansfield is one of New Zealand’s most famous writers and in her childhood house, an exhibition explores her life and writing as well as showing what life in Wellington was like in the 1800s.
Beyond the city
Forty-eight hours in the region also gives you the chance to head out of the city centre, with much of the greater Wellington region easily accessible especially if you have access to transport. Here are some of our favourites to get you inspired:
If it is a sunny day take a scenic drive around the Wellington bays - there are beaches to swim, cafes to lounge in and endless scenery along the way. Don’t go past the Chocolate Fish Cafe in Maupuia without stopping - that’s if you can get in past all the locals.
Test yourself at Adrenalin Forest in Porirua with a series of high wire and rope courses to challenge your bravery, head up to Kaitoke Regional Park in the Hutt Valley which was used as the location for Rivendell or go a bit further north to the Kapiti Coast - the place many Wellingtonians choose for their own holidays. Yoiu can then take a stroll along one of the beaches or enjoy lunch at The Fisherman’s Table in Paekakariki with a stunning view of Kapiti Island.