Choose from 15 Fun Things to Do in Wellington
The panoramic views stretch from the harbor islands all the way to planes taking off and landing at the airport south-east of the city center.
Mount Victoria is 196 meters (642 feet) high. The lookout is topped by a triangular memorial to Antarctic explorer Admiral Byrd.
The Karori Wildlife Sanctuary’s restored forest and wetlands provide a habitat for more than 30 native bird species, as well as frogs, lizards and cute green geckos.
View the exhibition tracing the development of New Zealand’s natural history, take a guided walking tour through the predator-proof, 225-hectare (550-acre) sanctuary, then refuel at the park’s cafe overlooking the lake.
Buses stop nearby, or it’s 10 minutes by taxi, 20 minutes by bike and around 1 hour on foot via the botanic garden.
The Museum of Wellington City and Sea explores the maritime connection that ties Wellington so closely to the sea.
Mixing historical displays with cutting-edge technology, the museum brings history alive with maritime artifacts, interactive exhibits, holographs, audio-visual displays and documentaries screened on a giant cinema screen.
The museum is spread over 3 floors of the restored 1892 Bond Store warehouse. The building is a feature in its own right, with historic timber beams and virtual vermin to set the scene.
Another highlight is the sailing ship conservation project known as Plimmer’s Ark.
The Museum of Wellington is near Lambton Quay on the waterfront in the city center.
- The Wellington Botanic Garden is a must for nature lovers and those looking for a nature-filled respite from the city.
- Sit back with a coffee or an ice cream at the Gardens’ Picnic Cafe, located right outside the Lady Norwood Rose Garden.
- Explore the six striking statues along the Botanic Garden Sculpture Trail.
- Visit the Peace Garden, which holds a flame created by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, presented by the people of Japan in recognition of New Zealand’s nuclear-free movement.
- The garden is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. Mobility scooters are available; book in advance.
How to Get to Wellington
If you are arriving on a large cruise ship, you will dock at Aotea Quay, located between the Interislander Ferry Terminal and the train station. From there, a walk into the city center is about twenty minutes. You might also take a free shuttle if offered by your ship or catch a shuttle operated by the city, which costs around five New Zealand dollars. Smaller cruise ships dock at Queens Wharf, which is right in the center of town.
One Day in Wellington
Start your day in Wellington by taking the cable car from Lambton Quay up to Kelburn. Enjoy spectacular views over the city and harbor and then spend some time exploring the hilltop Botanic Garden and the Lady Norwood Rose Garden. You can walk all the way down to the city or backtrack and take the cable car back to Lambton Quay.
Next, head to the Museum of New Zealand, also known as Te Papa. Covering five floors, the museum features exhibits and interactive displays telling the story of New Zealand’s past, present and future. If you’re lucky, your visit will coincide with one of many special cultural performances. Allow a few hours to take it all in and then head to the waterfront to enjoy lunch at one of the many cafes along the quay.
After lunch, hunt down some of Wellington’s famous public art, including various sculptures, a cenotaph, a wind mobile and two stainless steel monoliths. A guide is available from the Wellington City Council. Time permitting, visit the Museum of Wellington City & Sea or the City Gallery before you return to your ship.
Nature enthusiasts may prefer a visit to the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary to check out rare New Zealand wildlife, including many of its native birds, while movie buffs will enjoy a “Lord of the Rings” tour, visiting many of the sites used in filming the popular trilogy.
The simple white-painted exterior leads to a dramatic interior featuring bold use of native timbers. The piers of wood form trusses that curve upwards to meet in the roof’s center, a bit like the hull of an upturned boat.
Another highlight of this popular building is the lovely stained glass, particularly the windows surrounding the apse and south alcove.
While the church no longer hosts regular Sunday services, it’s a popular venue for weddings and funerals.
Old St. Paul Cathedral's is north of the waterfront near Wellington’s central train station.
New Zealand’s architectural symbol is the beehive-shaped Parliament House in Wellington.
Hosting the executive wing of parliament, ‘the Beehive’ was built between 1969 and 1981, and features murals and artworks by noted New Zealand artists.
The building has 10 floors, filled with cabinet rooms, prime ministerial offices, a banqueting hall, function rooms and several restaurants.
Take a free guided 1-hour tour or drop into the visitor center in the ground-floor foyer. You can sit in the public galleries of the debating chamber when the House is sitting.
The Parliament Buildings are a 5-minute stroll from Wellington Station in the city center.
The cable car has been operating since 1902, providing panoramic views over Wellington on its 5-minute chug up the hill to Kelburn village and the botanic garden.
At the top, visit the Cable Car Museum to learn more about this historic attraction, and get out your camera to snap must-have photos of those harbor views. Nearby, the Carter Observatory explains the mysteries of the southern night sky.
If you’d like to walk back to town, it’s an interesting and pleasant 35-minute downhill stroll.