Your First Trip to Wellington, New Zealand: 10 Awesome Things to Do - Hexbag

Your First Trip to Wellington, New Zealand: 10 Awesome Things to Do


Wellington, New Zealand, has been my passion for much of my life. After graduating high school in 2005, I visited Wellington and informed my parents I was moving there. Three years later, I spent a semester in Wellington at university, falling even more in love with the quirky, artistic, windy city.

Given how many great cities I’ve seen, Wellington remains one of my favorite places in the world after multiple more visits!

I believe I’m qualified to discuss Wellington’s top attractions and why you should come on a New Zealand vacation.


Wellington Harbour

Characterful Wellington. It’s New Zealand’s political, cultural, and artistic capital. It is known as the “coolest little capital in the world” because it sometimes seems like a little village.


Start by getting to know Wellington:

Wellington lies in the south-western tip of the North Island, near the Cook Strait.
Polynesian explorer Kupe supposedly found and explored New Zealand in the 10th century. The Māori people who lived in Wellington before European colonialism in the 1800s called it Te Whanganui-a-Tara.
Wellington was named in 1840 after Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington (who never visited New Zealand).
Wellington is the world’s southernmost capital at 41.2924° S. However, Old Russell/Okiato was the country’s initial capital from 1840-41, and Auckland remained the capital until 1865.
Wellington has around 420,000 residents.
As one of the windiest cities in the world, Wellington is known as “Windy Welly.” Here, winds average 16 mph (7.15 m/s).
NYC has fewer cafés per capita than Wellington!

The greatest Wellington activities

As a frequent visitor and former resident of Wellington, these are my top recommendations for first-timers. I assure you’ll find something amusing no matter your hobbies!

1. Beach day in Oriental Bay

Oriental Bay is Wellington’s sole official beach and suburb. The sea becomes a rich blue on bright days, and Wellington’s colorful buildings on the hills create a fantastic background.

Oriental Bay was when my affections for Wellington began. This is my favorite Wellington spot on a lovely day. Locals and tourists alike go to Oriental Bay on weekends and sunny days.

2. Visit Te Papa
Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand’s national museum, lies at the end of Taranaki Street near the waterfront in downtown Wellington. You may learn about New Zealand’s history and enter the sleek, contemporary museum for free.

I may be prejudiced, but this is one of my favorite museums in the world due to its layout, displays, interactive elements, and expansive exhibitions. Te Papa is known for its displays on New Zealand environment, Māori and Pacific culture, the world’s only Colossal Squid, and the revolutionary Gallipoli war exhibit.

Wellington’s Te Papa is a terrific rainy-day activity (which you may need). You may also take a guided museum tour.

3. Wellington Waterfront Walk

Outdoor places are beloved in New Zealand!
A walking and cycling path, The Great Harbour Way / Te Aranui o Pōneke, spans the whole Wellington harbor, Te Whanganui-a-tara. The Wellington Waterfront Walk from Te Papa to Frank Kitts Park is amazing.

On nice days, people stroll, bike, skate, and row, and pubs and restaurants pour out onto bean bag-filled terraces. Locals are likely here on sunny days if not at the beach.

The Wellington Writers Walk follows this path and has enormous literary quotation carvings.

For families visiting Wellington, Frank Kits Park includes a fun play area with a lighthouse-shaped slide.

4. Civic Square to City-Sea Bridge

Walking along this shoreline, you’ll witness the City to Sea Bridge, a pedestrian bridge and public artwork that links Whairepo Lagoon to Civic Square. The bridge’s wooden carvings by Maori artist Paratene Matchitt are a draw.

On the opposite side of the bridge sits Te Ngākau Civic Square, where the iconic “fern ball” sculpture is hanging.

The original “Ferns” sculpture by Neil Dawson was dismantled in 2015 for safety reasons, and a replacement was installed in 2020.

City Gallery Wellington’s entrance is at Civic Square. Free admission to this art gallery and museum!

5. Take the vintage cable car

Wellington Central’s lower Wellington Cable Car station is a short walk from Civic Square, a must-do in Wellington.

For almost 100 years, the Wellington cable car has transported people and visitors between Lambton Quay, the city’s main commercial district, and Kelburn. Wellington is great since nothing is for residents or visitors.

One stop midway during a 5-minute journey to the summit. Kelburn Station has a modest, free cable car museum and an observation deck with some of Wellington’s greatest views. It places you at the Wellington Botanic Garden.

6. Wellington Botanic Garden
Beautiful 64-acre Wellington Botanic Garden has 150+ years of history in the city. Free admission to the garden, which has flower displays and designed gardens (the Lady Norwood Rose Garden is notable).

The grounds include sculptures, a duck pond, and a café.

Space Place at Carter Observatory, a scientific museum in the garden, includes stars, planets, constellations, and New Zealand’s astronomy. Payment required for this museum.

7. See Beehive
Wellington is New Zealand’s political capital, including all the regular government buildings. Due to its unusual form, New Zealand’s Parliament Buildings’ Executive Wing is known as “The Beehive”.

The historic 1969–1981 edifice contains government ministers’ offices.

If time permits, visit NZ Parliament, including The Beehive. While residing in Wellington, I found it intriguing. Free tours are available daily, 7 days a week! Due to restricted group sizes, tours must be booked in advance. Find out here.

8. See Old St. Paul’s
Old St. Paul’s in Wellington is worth seeing for its fascinating architecture. New Zealand rimu and kauri wood arches decorate this Gothic Revival church from 1866.

Donations are accepted at this famous landmark building near Wellington’s main rail station. Tours are provided.

9. Sunset from Mount Victoria

Have you gone visited Windy Welly without being almost blown away on Mount Victoria? Debatable.

Known colloquially as “Mount Vic,” Mount Victoria is a neighborhood and 650-foot hill east of Wellington City. Mount Victoria Lookout offers 360-degree Wellington views. Though popular during sunset, it’s worth viewing any time of day.

Mount Vic is accessible by transit, hiking, and mountain bike paths, or by driving up Alexandra Road.

10. Spend time on Cuba Street
Cuba Street is my favorite all-weather place in downtown Wellington. You go here to dine, drink, shop, or hang around. Cuba Street includes two car-free blocks with several cafés, pubs, and buskers.

Popular Cuba Street restaurants include:

  • HELL Pizza has 7 Deadly Sins and “Mordor” pizzas.
  • Fidel’s Cafe—A Cuban Street staple selling food and coffee
  • I frequented The Flying Burrito Brothers in college!
  • Midnight Espresso serves coffee and snacks till beyond midnight.
  • Olive has a nice indoor patio and serves French and Italian dishes.
  • A traditional New Zealand restaurant, Floriditas
  • Kaffee Eis is my favorite gelato place in Wellington, where I lived near Cuba Street and frequented often. There are several foreign eateries.

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