Not many travelers know much about Wellington, but this quaint town is full of attractions.
We’ve rounded up Wellington’s top attractions to keep you occupied during your visit. You shouldn’t get bored in Wellington, New Zealand with these travel tips.
See Also: Things to Do in Wellington for Under $ 5
Top Wellington attractions
The National Museum. Good if you have kids to entertain you on a rainy day. But even without children, it is definitely a Wellington highlight. Free of charge (except for occasional special presentations).
Wellington City & Sea Museum, Queens Wharf
A well presented museum on Wellington’s history, including its maritime history. Free.
It is open every day, except December 25th, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
City gallery, Bürgerplatz
There is no permanent collection, but there is a consistently avant-garde collection of exhibits. It also has the excellent Café Nikau attached.
The Wellington Cable Car
From Lambton Quay (next to McDonald’s), 04 472 2199. Open 7 days a week until 10 p.m. The cable car is the easiest way to get a nice view of the city and harbor. It runs on rails every ten minutes from Lambton Quay to the Botanical Gardens in Kelburn. $ 2.50 one way, $ 4.50 round-trip (discount prices apply to children, students, and seniors over 65 years of age).
Frank Kitts Park
A great place for hiking, with walls for climbing, rollerblading, and jet ski rentals.
An interesting picnic spot.
A historic Art Deco condominium on the corner of The Terrace and Abel Smith Streets.
A new beach. However, unless you are coming from a really cold place it is unlikely to be hot enough to need an urgent swim. In the Freyberg pool (on the Oriental Parade) there is a whirlpool (whirlpool), which is cheap if you enjoy a “folk soup”.
Karori Wildlife Sanctuary
End of Waiapu Road (first left after Karori tunnel). 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last entry 4 p.m.) every day except December 25th. A predatory fence encloses an ancient water catchment area, creating a mainland island that is a natural haven for endangered native birds, tuatara, and other native flora and fauna that are safe from introduced predators. By far the most convenient place in the country to spot rare New Zealand wildlife.
Below and in the Old Bank Arcade on the corner of Lambton Quay and Customhouse Quay – near Plimmers Steps. A hundred years ago a bank was built on a wrecked ship that had been used as a market. When they were renovating the building, they discovered the timbers of the ship and kept the remains in the building! Just take the escalator through the doors of the bank vault. – –
Parliament Buildings, the Beehive (or Executive Wing) and the Parliament Library.
Parliament’s reasons are open to the public. Known as the Hill, the Parliament site is at the foot of Molesworth and Bowen Streets, where they meet Lambton Quay.
National Library of New Zealand
Corner of Aitken and Molesworth Streets (opposite the Cathedral and Parliament). The library holds exhibitions on a regular basis.
Turnbull House, Bowen Street (directly opposite the Houses of Parliament).
This imposing brick villa now looks small and out of place in the surrounding high-rise buildings.
The old government buildings
With the cenotaph in the foreground and the NZ Post headquarters behind it. Old government building opposite Parliament at 15 Lambton Quay. This is the largest wooden building in the southern hemisphere and the second largest in the world. It is now the home of Victoria University Law School.
Old St Paul’s (one block east of Parliament)
This was the Anglican center for decades. This cathedral is replaced by the new cathedral north of Parliament and is popular for weddings and funerals.
Statues and sculptures
Statues and Sculptures appear in some fascinating places in the city. Famous prime ministers, monuments and works of art have been erected in the streets of Wellington.
Wellington Central Library (in the town square next to the information center)
It’s huge with great places to sit and read, or if you bring your laptop to connect home using one of the city’s paid Wi-Fi networks. Admission is free.
Matiu / Somes Island
In the middle of the harbor, this island has its share of history. It was once a quarantine station for immigrants and later (and more extensively) for animals. It was also an internment camp for “dangerous” people during both world wars. The ferry departs from Queen’s Wharf and Day’s Bay (on opposite sides of the harbor). The ferry only stops on the island at certain times and only on request. The best choice is to leave Queen’s Wharf at noon and return at 2:30 or 3:25.
The botanical garden
The botanical garden is a nice place for a picnic or just an afternoon stroll. You can take the cable car up from Lambton Quay for a short 5-minute ride. but it’s not designed to be exciting, despite being photogenic. If you fancy climbing, take the lifts at James Cook Arcade (or one of several others on Lambton Quay) to the terrace and head south uphill until you reach Salamanca Rd. Go up Salamanca Rd until you reach Victoria University. A staircase across the street to Hunter Lawn leads uphill to the top of the gardens.
If you’ve already bought a daytripper ticket, just take the Mairangi bus, get off at the stop after the university, and walk back down Upland Rd until you reach the Cable Car Museum. There are several attractions at the top of the gardens:
- The Cable car museum has two of the old cars in semi-restored and fully restored condition and some of the original cable car machines from the system that was replaced in 1978. *
- The Danger has a great view day or night and the large map next to the round tree usually has some brochures with maps of the gardens in it.
- The Carter Observatory is a stone’s throw from here. This is the perfect place to go to explore the garden or come back to town.
Bolton Street Memorial Park
Look out for the friendly black cat that haunted this hillside graveyard. When you return on foot from the Botanical Gardens, this is a great place to meander through and view the epitaphs of early pioneers and historical figures.
Red rocks / seal colony
This is one of Wellington’s great attractions. Red Rocks is an interesting hike named for its distinctive red rocks (likely Jasper). Take bus # 1 to the end (Island Bay). Walk across the park towards the ocean and hang right. There is another bus, number 4, that goes to the end of the street, but only at certain times. Head west (right hand side when facing the water) until you are out of a road. Here you will find a disused quarry and a visitor center that will soon open.
The walk along this beach is pleasant, but rocky and often very windy. So dress accordingly. If you walk for about 1 hour, you will come across a striking pass through the rock face. There is a seal colony on the other side that is well worth a walk. Please remember that these are wild animals and therefore require a certain level of respect. So keep your distance and don’t get between them and the sea, especially if you value your health!
If you continue from here you will eventually reach Makara (however this is a long distance and the seal colony is a recommended turning point).