What are the best things to do in Wellington?

Jeff Fleisher

Wellington’s attractions cover the gamut from historical sites to places of natural beauty. As a university town, there’s a vibrant arts and food scene here that’s one of the best in New Zealand. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ recommendations for the best things to do during your next visit to Wellington.
 
1. Visit Te Papa. The free national museum, Te Papa (“Our Place” in Maori) is actually three museums —natural history, New Zealand history, and art — in one beautiful building on the waterfront. Te Papa is open every day of the year, and stays open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays.
 
2. Tour Parliament. Both buildings of New Zealand's government — the landmark “Beehive” structure and the older Parliament building next door — are free and open to the public for informative tours; the lush grounds around them are also worth a visit.  
 
3. Hike Mount Victoria. The top of this mountain on Wellington's eastern side provides the best view of the city and harbor. It's a pleasant hike to the top along a wooded trail, though bus transport to the viewing area is also an option.
 
4. Explore the Waterfront. You can find lots to do along the curve of the city's harbor. Take a ferry ride, rent a bike, or sign up for a helicopter ride. Check out the beautiful sculptures on the city-to-sea walkway, or relax on one of the city's beaches.
 
5. See the Botanic Gardens. New Zealand has some of the world's most unique foliage, and you can see plenty of examples, including colorful flowers and prehistoric ferns, in the 25 hectares of the capital's expansive botanic gardens.

  • On June 22, 2013
    Sharon Stephenson answered the question: Sharon Stephenson

    What are the best beachside hotels in Wellington?

    Perched at the bottom of New Zealand's North Island, Wellington is fortunate to have miles of coastline. So it makes sense that you should stay at a hotel with a beautiful sea view, right?

    One of the best is Ohtel, a boutique establishment on Oriental Parade that has only 10 rooms. So you'll never feel like you're just another nameless guest shoe-horned into an impersonal chain hotel. Plus, Ohtel has 4.5 stars.

    Stroll across the road and you'll be on Wellington's main promenade where you'll join dog walkers, joggers and those out enjoying the beautiful walk and eating ice creams. Five minutes the other way and you'll be at Te Papa and Wellington's principal entertainment precinct with theatres, restaurants and clubs.
         
    While modern urban boutique hotels aren't unique, the 'Mid-Century' furnishings that adorn the interior spaces of this hotel certainly are. From chairs to ceramics to tables to clocks, the owner and designer, Alan Blundell, has filled the rooms and lobby with treasures he has been collecting for more than two years. And he and his delightful staff will make you feel like one of the family, not a guest.
  • On June 22, 2013
    Sharon Stephenson answered the question: Sharon Stephenson

    Should visitors rent a car in Wellington?

    In a word, No. Nestled between rolling hills and an expansive coastline, New Zealand's capital city is compact enough that your two legs will get you around most of the key  attractions.

    And, should you wish to venture across town to, say the stunning natural sanctuary, Zelandia, one of Wellington's cheap and efficient public buses will get you there from the centre of town in about 15 minutes.

    If, however, you wish to venture further from the city - such as over the winding hills to the glorious Wairarapa wine region or even to sample the vintage shopping delights of Petone, the Dowse Gallery in Lower Hutt or the Kapiti Coast's beaches - then renting a car is easy. All the main global hire car companies are represented here and there are also a variety of privately owned car rental agencies. The internet is your friend in this instance.   

     
  • On June 22, 2013
    Sharon Stephenson answered the question: Sharon Stephenson

    What are the best things to do with kids in Wellington?

    There's no reason for the rug-rats to be bored in NZ's Capital City. They certainly won't be bored by ancient buildings or crumbling castles (there aren't any, NZ isn't old enough!) but there is enough 'new' stuff to keep them interested. 

    Here's some of the things the ankle-biters (and their parents) can get up to on your next visit to Wellington.

    1. Visit Te Papa. The free INTERACTIVE national museum, Te Papa (“Our Place” in Maori) is actually three museums —natural history, New Zealand history, and art — in one beautiful building on the waterfront. Te Papa is open every day of the year, and stays open until 9pm on Thursdays.

    2. Tour Parliament. Both buildings of New Zealand's government — the landmark “Beehive” structure and the older wooden Parliament building next door — are free and open to the public for informative tours; the lush grounds around them are also worth a visit. 

    3. Hike Mount Victoria. Have a Kodak moment atop this hill on Wellington's eastern side which provides the best view of the city and harbour. It's a pleasant hike to the top along a wooded trail, and you'll probably meet numerous dog walkers, runners and cyclists. if you're not up to the walk, there's also a bus option.

    4. Explore the Waterfront. You can find lots to do along the curve of the city's harbour. Take a ferry ride, rent a bike, or sign up for a helicopter ride. Check out the beautiful sculptures on the city-to-sea walkway, or relax on one of the city's beaches.

    5. See the Botanic Gardens. New Zealand has some of the world's most unique foliage, and you can see plenty of examples, including colorful flowers and prehistoric ferns, in the 25 hectares of the capital's expansive botanic gardens
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  • On May 24, 2013
    Sharon Stephenson answered the question: Sharon Stephenson

    What are the best outdoor activities in Wellington?


    Nestled between a sparkling harbour and rolling green hills, Wellington was made for outdoor activity.

    Start at Oriental Bay, Wellington’s golden-sand inner-city beach, and take a stroll around the harbour; if you're lucky, you may chance upon seals frolicking in the water.

    A walk up Mt Victoria will give you a good workout, but you'll be rewarded with spectacular views. While you're there, check out the numerous Lord of the Rings filming locations.

    On the other side of town, try the visually stunning Makara Peak track. Ride the cable car up the hill to Kelburn for amazing views over the city and enjoy an ice cream at the top.

    There's also ample opportunity to kayak, mountain bike, swim or run - a city with this much open space and stunning vistas demands that you lace up your sneakers and get out and enjoy it. 
  • On May 24, 2013
    Sharon Stephenson answered the question: Sharon Stephenson

    What should I pack for a trip to Wellington?


    As with most places, it depends on what time of the year you visit the world's southern most capital city.

    Wellington is known for its brisk winds (it's not called Windy Wellington for nothing) and it's been said that only fools and tourists unfurl an umbrella here! But in winter, the temperature seldom slips below 10 degrees Celcius and in my lifetime, there's only been snow a few times. So if you're here in Autumn (fall) or Winter, make sure you bring a good coat with a hood. And gloves and a scarf. And, of course, comfortable walking shoes.

    There are plenty of shops to stock up on beautiful New Zealand merino knit clothing so if you like to travel light, you can buy what you need here. In New Zealand we run 240v electricity, but your travel agent and/or hotel should be able to help with conversions.

    In summer, it can get quite hot and the Ozone layer is apparently less robust in the Southern Hemisphere, meaning the sun can burn more quickly. Bring a good sunscreen and a sunhat and make sure you use both! The local mantra that all Kiwis learn from a young age, is Slip, Slop, Slap (slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat). So do as the locals do.  
  • On May 24, 2013
    Sharon Stephenson answered the question: Sharon Stephenson

    What should I pack for a trip to Wellington?


    As with most places, it depends on what time of the year you visit the world's southern most capital city.

    Wellington is known for its brisk winds (it's not called Windy Wellington for nothing) and it's been said that only fools and tourists unfurl an umbrella here! But in winter, the temperature seldom slips below 10 degrees Celcius and in my lifetime, there's only been snow a few times. So if you're here in Autumn (fall) or Winter, make sure you bring a good coat with a hood. And gloves and a scarf. And, of course, comfortable walking shoes.

    There are plenty of shops to stock up on beautiful New Zealand merino knit clothing so if you like to travel light, you can buy what you need here. In New Zealand we run 240v electricity, but your travel agent and/or hotel should be able to help with conversions.

    In summer, it can get quite hot and the Ozone layer is apparently less robust in the Southern Hemisphere, meaning the sun can burn more quickly. Bring a good sunscreen and a sunhat and make sure you use them both! The local mantra that all Kiwis learn from a young age, is Slip, Slop, Slap (slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat). So do as the locals do.  
  • On May 24, 2013
    Sharon Stephenson answered the question: Sharon Stephenson

    What is the best time to visit Wellington?


    Wellington, or Te Whanganui-a-Tara as it's known in Maori, is beautiful no matter what time of the year or season you visit. So the best time to visit is pretty much the time that suits you best. However, if you have more than one date in mind, the following information may help with your travel plans.

    The warmest months of the year are from September through to April; being Downunder, this is Spring to the end of Summer. December, January and February are the three hottest months of the year (Summer). Spring is from September - November. Autumn (or fall) is from March - May and the Winter season runs from June - August. Maximum daytime temperatures vary from 15 to 30+ degrees (Celcius) in the Summer, 10 to 25 degrees in the Autumn (and Spring) and 5 to 18 degrees in the Winter.

    Before you arrive, and while you're here, weather forecasts and historical weather pattern information can be obtained from the Metservice website (www.metservice.com).
  • On May 18, 2013
    Sharon Stephenson answered the question: Sharon Stephenson

    What are the best clothing boutiques in Wellington?

    You don't need to get in your car to cover yourself in beautiful garments in Wellington — all are handily within walking distance.

    Featuring both local and NZ designers, as well as a fair smattering of international names, start at the grand department store, Kirkcaldie & Stains, then cruise Lambton Quay for shops such as Amazon, Workshop and Gregory, detour into Featherston Street for names like Robyn Mathieson and Witchery, before ducking into the beautiful Old Bank Arcade where shops such as Richochet, Ruby and local designer Andrea Moore await.

    If your shopping itch still hasn't been scratched, head up to Cuba Street. Along the way you can see what quirky Auckland designer Karen Walker is serving up, as well as dip into Kate Sylvester's beautiful store and the glorious WORLD clothing and beauty stores where your credit card is assured of a workout. If you're partial to a spot of vintage shopping then Cuba Street is your best bet. Hunters & Collectors is a favorite.
  • On May 18, 2013
    Sharon Stephenson answered the question: Sharon Stephenson

    What are the best clothing boutiques in Wellington?

    You don't need to get in your car to cover yourself in beautiful garments in Wellington — all are handily within walking distance.

    Featuring both local and NZ designers, as well as a fair smattering of international names, start at the grand department store, Kirkcaldie & Stains, then cruise Lambton Quay for shops such as Amazon, Workshop and Gregory, detour into Featherston Street for such names as Robyn Mathieson and Witchery, before ducking into the beautiful Old Bank Arcade where shops such as Richochet, Ruby and local designer Andrea Moore await.

    If your shopping itch still hasn't been scratched, head up to Cuba Street. Along the way you can see what quirky Auckland designer Karen Walker is serving up, as well as dip into Kate Sylvester's beautiful store and the glorious WORLD clothing and beauty stores where your credit card is assured of a workout. If you're partial to a spot of vintage shopping then Cuba Street is your best bet. Hunters & Collectors is a favorite.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Sharon Stephenson answered the question: Sharon Stephenson

    What are the best local dishes in Wellington?

    Okay so coffee isn't strictly a dish but that's what Wellington is probably best known for.

    The very best cafes roast and grind their own beans and Wellington breeds coffee connoisseurs like rabbits. At any one time there are more than 350 cafes in the city alone but for my money, the best cup of java is be found in the funky end of town, the Cuba Quarter. When you need a break from bowsing trendy boutiques and searching for vintage bargains with the cool kids, escape into Floriditas for a spot of old world glamour. High ceilings, European elegance and the yummiest cakes this side of the international date line. Give your tastebuds a treat with the Kiwi invention, the flat white — a shot of espresso with steamed milk. It'll make the coffee you've been drinking all your life taste like muddy water.
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