Wellington

The capital of New Zealand! From Lambton Quay, the iconic red Wellington Cable Car heads to the Wellington Botanic Gardens. Strong winds through the Cook Strait give it the nickname "Windy Wellington." With so much to see and do, we’ve selected our top 50 picks – so make sure you check them out on your next visit!

1. Te Papa

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa towers on the edge of the waterfront and is host to a range of local and international exhibitions. Featured exhibits have a ticket cost but there are always plenty of free exhibits worth exploring. With reportedly 60,000 hours of reading to be had within the museum there is no chance of running short of material. www.tepapa.govt.nz

2. Parliament Grounds

The Beehive is one of Wellington’s most iconic (and unusual) buildings and, surrounded by long green lawns and stately trees, is the perfect place to take a book or your lunch and enjoy the sun at the political heart of the capital city.

3. Get political

Take a free tour of the Parliament Buildings and see inside the Beehive itself. Tours leave on the hour every day. www.parliament.nz

4. CubaDupa

A two-day party in celebration of Wellington’s best-loved and best-known street. This year CubaDupa are moving Wellington’s most famous on-street party off-street, to indoor venues. March 30-31.

5. Roti Chenai

This curry dish, served generously with roti bread, is a particular local favourite and can be found at any of the Malaysian Restaurants around town, typically priced at between $6-9.

6. The Botanic Gardens

Nestled on the hills above the city, the Wellington Botanic Gardens are lush grounds of winding paths, old trees, picnic spots and tended flower beds. At the very heart of the gardens it is so quiet and green that it is easy to forget the proximity to the city – which remains only a short walk away. 101 Glenmore St, Thorndon. Free entry.

7. Bats Theatre

For an infusion of culture a night at the theatre does not have to also hit the wallet. Bats theatre on Kent Terrace hosts a range of work by both established and emerging local theatre groups. With an average ticket price of only $16, a night out at BATS won’t break the bank! 1 Check out their website for what’s on today. 1 Kent Terrace.

8. People watching on Cuba Street

Cuba Street is the bohemian centre of Wellington city and home to an eclectic array of shops, cafes, and bars. Find a spot on a bench or in the window of one of the many cafes (Fidels and Plum are ideal for this) and watch the passing array of people and fashions.

9. Wellington Cable Car

The cheerfully red Wellington Cable Car offers a painless trip up the hill to the Botanic Gardens and is something of a local icon. Leaving Lambton Quay every ten minutes, they offer stunning views across city and harbour as they ascend the hill. Adult ticket $9 return. www.wellingtoncablecar.co.nz

10. Watch a movie at The Embassy

This historic theatre, originally built in 1926 was fully refurbished inside and out in 2003 for the world premiere of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Since then, the theatre has hosted the Australasian premieres of Peter Jackson’s King Kong and The Lovely Bones, among many of Wellington’s finest film and arts festivals. It’s also where the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was held on 28 November 2012. 10 Kent Terrace, Mount Victoria. www.eventcinemas.co.nz

11. NZ Cricket Museum

The New Zealand Cricket Museum is located in the historic Museum Stand at Wellington’s iconic Basin Reserve. On display are items that show the game’s development since its early 1800s introduction to New Zealand summers. Highlights include one of the world’s oldest bats, gear used by NZ legends like Bert Sutcliffe, Sir Richard Hadlee and Stephen Fleming. www.nzcricketmuseum.co.nz

12. Commemorate ANZAC Day

Pause for a moment to commemorate ANZAC Day on 25 April. Wander down to Pukeahu National War Memorial Park at 6am to join the dawn service, followed by wreath-laying and remembrance service. Or school-up on the history of ANZAC at Gallipoli – The Scale of Our War showing at Te Papa until 30 April 2019.

13. The Bucket Fountain

Cuba Street’s distinctive water feature is a peculiarly strong point of local pride. This tower of brightly coloured buckets has been a feature of Cuba Mall since 1969. As the puddles around the sculpture’s base will attest, this is a feature best observed from a distance – especially on windy days.

14. Second-hand Bookstores

Whether you are looking for a new read or to exchange an old one, Wellington Centre is home to several excellent second-hand bookstores. Arty Bees on Manners Street is one of the largest venues and a walk up Cuba Street will uncover other gems for backpacking bibliophiles. www.artybees.co.nz

15. Hawthorne Lounge

A sneaky turn off Tory Street leads up a flight of stairs to Hawthorne Lounge and back in time to a themed gentlemen’s bar of the 1920s. The bartenders wear waistcoats, jazz plays in the background, and poker sets can be borrowed from the bar. The drinks are not all cheap but the place is perfect if you are after something different for your night out in town. www.hawthornlounge.co.nz

16. Improv at the Fringe Bar

Located on the corner of Cuba and Vivian, the Fringe Bar is generally known as the home of comedy in the capital. The Wellington Improvisation Troupe (WIT) perform here every Wednesday. www.thefringebar.co.nz

17. Left Bank Arcade

Turn off Cuba Mall and discover the varied delights of Left Bank, a paved arcade surrounded by miscellaneous shops, galleries, and cheap but cheerful eateries.

18. Oriental Bay

It is hard to beat the golden beach of Oriental Bay on a sunny day in the capital. Take a dip into the ocean or go for a walk along the promenade and, if you need refreshment, make the most of any one of the cafes just a short stroll from the water’s edge.

19. Kayak along the Waterfront

Get adventurous and hire a kayak or two from Fergs Kayaks on the waterfront and discover a different perspective of the Wellington harbour. With freedom hire kayaks you don’t need to book – just rock up and the fleet is ready to go. Prices start from $10. Shed 6, Queens Wharf, Jervois Quay.

20. Kaffee Eis Gourmet Gelato

Not only is the gelato delicious but the range of flavours expansive – your biggest problem will be choosing between the many, many flavours on display. This delectable gelato shop can be found at 29 Courtney Place, 146 Cuba Street, Shop 2/ 236 Oriental Parade and Boat Shed 8, The Lagoon.

21. Essential Wellington Walks

This easy paced two to two and a half hour walk begins at the i-Site Visitor Centre at the front of the Michael Fowler Centre, 111 Wakefield St at Cuba St Intersection. Some of the highlights will include Civic Square, Wellington’s beautiful waterfront, Queen’s Wharf, Lambton Quay, Supreme Court, Old Government Buildings,  grounds of Parliament and Old St. Paul’s Cathedral. Walks depart at 10am daily. Book at the Wellington i-SITE Visitor Information Centre.

22. Catch the Interislander to Picton

If the South Island doesn’t feature in your overall itinerary you can still get a glimpse of what it has to offer with a same day excursion to Picton. A great way to glimpse the beautiful Marlborough Sounds and still be back in Wellington in time for dinner. You’ll find all the latest Interislander special deals and discounts in one place at… www.greatjourneysofnz.co.nz/interislander

23. Petone

A train trip out of the city centre, Petone is a suburb steeped in European heritage with streets packed with historic architecture and character houses. Jackson Street, the town’s long main street, is packed with shops and cafes. Easily reached by train or bus, Petone is an easy outing from the city centre.

24. Explore the Wairarapa

80km north-east of Wellington, the beautiful Wairarapa can be reached by train or bus. It is a lightly populated area of several small townships – and several vineyards. Follow the Wairarapa Wine Trail Map (available at the i-Site) and sample the local flavours.

25. The City Art Gallery

This grand old building off Civic Square offers world-class exhibitions of contemporary New Zealand and international art. 101 Wakefield St. Free Admission. www.citygallery.org.nz

26. Weta Studio Tours

Weta Studio Tours is your gateway to immersive film making experiences on the Miramar Peninsula. Get up close to the incredible miniatures, props, weapons, armour,creatures, vehicles, models and more. Visit the famous Weta Cave shop, a cavern of creativity where you can shop for collectibles,prop replicas, apparel and more. While you’re there, wander through the mini museum and take a seat for a short documentary about the history of movie-making on the Miramar Peninsula. It’s free and screens throughout the day. Tours operate every 30 minutes from 9am to 5pm, 7 days. 1 Weka Street, Miramar www.wetaworkshop.com

27. San Francisco Bathhouse

Also known as SFBH, or ‘San Fran’ to its regular patrons, this is the place to go for live music and a place to see a range of both local and international acts.  Check out a local gig guide or their website to see what is playing. www.sfbh.co.nz

28. Brooklyn Wind Turbine

The steep walk to the lone wind turbine atop Brooklyn’s Polhill reserve is worth every inch of pain along the path for some of the best views of the Wellington region, Cook Strait and in the distance, the South Island. Off Ashton Fitchett Drive,Brooklyn.

29. Wellington Zoo

Catch the bus through Newtown to Wellington’s Zoo, home to New Zealand’s native treasures and endangered exotic animals. 200 Daniell St, Newtown. Adults $25. www.wellingtonzoo.com

30. Matiu/Somes Island

Located in the centre of the Wellington Harbour, Matiu/Somes Island has an extensive Maori and European history. It has been the site of two Maori Pa, a place of quarantine for people and livestock, and an internment camp during wartime. Today it is a predator free nature reserve cared for by the Department of Conservation and can be reached via ferry. www.doc.govt.nz

31. Aro Valley

This colourful and laid-back part of town is home to many of the cities university population. Between the local park and the small stretch of shops and cafés there is the teeming sense of people coming and going. The streets are lined with historic houses and the fish and chip shop is generally considered one of Wellington’s best.

32. Café Meow

Tucked down Edward Street (between Willis and Victoria) Café Meow is a cheerful café of mismatched furniture and retro décor with a menu which provides plenty of options for those with gluten free, vegetarian, or vegan dietary needs.

33. Zealandia

ZEALANDIA is the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary and the place to see some of the local wildlife up close. Some of New Zealand’s rarest birds, reptiles, and insects live within the 225 hectare grounds. If your trip to New Zealand will not be complete without seeing a kiwi of the feathered sort, this is the place to go. www.visitzealandia.com

34. Boutique Cinemas

If you have a rainy day to wile away, why not try a film at one of Wellington’s smaller cinemas? Paramount, 25 Courtenay Place, Te Aroe shows a range of both popular and art-house films and is the home to many of the film festivals which pass through Wellington on a regular basis. The venue includes in two smaller theatres furnished with comfy two-seater chairs. You can find The Roxy Cinema in the heart of New Zealand’s leading filmmaking neighbourhood, 5 Park Rd, Miramar. Penthouse Cinema, 205 Ohiro Road, Brooklyn and the Lighthouse Theatre, 29 Wigan Street, Te Aro are other places worth checking out.

35. Crocodile Bikes

Sure it’s not the smoothest way to travel, but riding a bike shaped like a crocodile’s head is certainly a more memorable way to navigate the Wellington waterfront. Prices begin at $18 for half an hour and expect photo opportunities aplenty. www.crocbikes.co.nz

36. Southern Cross

This friendly bar at 39 Abel Smith Street hosts a range of events from games nights to free movie evenings. The Cross is also a great place to pop into if you’re in the mood to chill – they have magazines, newspapers and boardgames on hand if you’re keen. www.thecross.co.nz 

37. Locally Roasted Coffee

Wellingtonians pride themselves on their knowledge of coffee and the city is home to several locally roasted coffee brands. Mojo, Peoples, Emporio and Havana Coffees all rate high among the local favourites.

38. Maranui Surf Club Cafe

Grab a coffee from the iconic café clubrooms of the Maranui Surf Club and enjoy the scenic vantage across the waters of Lyall Bay. Maranui is a popular local hangout and there can be long queues on weekend mornings but it is well worth the visit. www.maranuicafe.co.nz

39. Paekakariki

This small town sits on the edge of the Kapiti Coast, wedged between the Akatarawa Ranges and the sea. It is also the gateway into the Queen Elizabeth Park, an area of wetland and forest you can explore by foot or on horseback, tours and rides leaving from Stables on the Park. www.paekakariki.nz

40. Alice Bar

For a bit of magic and whimsy, try the Alice in Wonderland themed Alice Bar tucked down the unassuming Forrester’s Lane. Follow the white rabbit on the sign and indulge in a Mad Hatter’s tea party with cocktails served in teapots. 25 Courtenay Place, Te Aro.

41. Op-shopping

Wellington is a great place for op-shopping with vintage boutiques, bargain racks, and everything in-between. Cuba Street is the ideal place to start with a range of gorgeous stores for all budgets, from the bargain-full Paperbag Princess, 209 Cuba St, Te Aro, and Recycled Boutique, 143 Vivian St, Te Aro, right up to the glamorous garments and eccentric window displays of Hunter and Collectors, 134 Cuba St.

42. Wellington Markets

If you head to the waterfront on a Sunday morning you will find Harbourside Market at Chaffers Carpark beside Te Papa every Sunday from 7:30am – 2pm. Grab some cheap produce or a coffee to go and enjoy the bustle of the crowd. Wellington’s artist and design market is open every Saturday from 10am-4pm. You’ll find the Wellington Underground Market at Frank Kitts Park, Jervois Quay. Join the bright lights, delicious smells and buzzing atmosphere of Wellington Night Market, held in Left Bank (off Cuba Street) on Friday nights and on lower Cuba Street (beside the Manners Street intersection) on Saturday nights from 5pm – 11pm.

43. Free Summer Music

With summer come a variety of outdoor events throughout the Wellington region, not least the popular summer music put on in the Botanic Gardens every year. There is a different band every night so pack a picnic, round up a group, and make the most of this free and vibrant event.

 44. Explore Middle Earth

Make like Frodo and explore the Mt Victoria region east of the city centre. Mt Vic was the site of the project’s very first footage – the “get off the road” scene of the first film – and other subsequent scenes from the films.

45. Discover the Bays

If you have access to your own wheels go for a drive around Wellington’s surrounding bays. It is a chance to see some of the other corners of Wellington and, on a fine day, you will catch a glimpse of the South Island rising up from the sea in the distance.

 46. Museum of City and Sea

This free museum houses the social, cultural and maritime history of Wellington. Smaller than Te Papa but no less innovative, it mixes traditional displays with interactive exhibits and even houses a three story high cinema screen. 3 Jervois Quay, Queens Wharf. www.museumswellington.org.nz

47. Wellington Writers Walk

A series of 19 text sculptures located along Wellington’s beautiful harbour. Each one contains a quotation about the city from a poem or piece of prose by one of the many talented writers who have made Wellington their home at some point in their lives. The writers in the walk include Katherine Mansfield, Robin Hyde, Pat Lawlor, Denis Glover, James K. Baxter, Bruce Mason, Lauris Edmond, Maurice Gee, Patricia Grace, Vincent O’Sullivan, Fiona Kidman, Barbara Anderson, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, Eileen Duggan and Bill Manhire. A free booklet is available from the Wellington i-SITE Visitor Centre.

48. Carter Observatory

At the top of the cable car the Carter Observatory has an optimal position to observe the heavens. Public telescope viewings are held using the Thomas Cooke telescope on late nights (Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays) as weather permits. 40 Salamanca Rd, Kelburn.

49. World of WearableArt

World of WearableArt combines an international wearable art competition with a spectacular stage show held in Wellington, 26 Sept – 13 Oct 2019. TSB Arena, Queens Wharf, Jervois Quay www.worldofwearableart.com

50. Comedy Festival

The 2019 NZ International Comedy Festival launches its 27th year of hilarious, mouth-watering line-ups, featuring over 140 shows from 17 countries. There’s something to tickle everyone’s funny bone, so check out the full programme. 2nd – 26th May. www.comedyfestival.co.nz