Wellington is the capital of New Zealand. The Lonely Planet calls it the coolest little capital in the world. The city is located in the south of the North Island and is connected to the South Island by a ferry service. Wellington also has a large international airport and is therefore a place where many tourists come. The city is beautifully situated between the water and the mountains and therefore there is much to experience and see.
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Must see & do
Te Papa Museum
If you don’t plan on visiting many museums during your trip in New Zealand, be sure to go to this one! The Te Papa Museum is an innovative and interactive national museum. Here you can learn everything about the nature, Maori culture, art and history of New Zealand. Combining the latest technology and interactive exhibits, it is both entertaining and inspiring. It is also possible to take a guided tour, click here for more information.
Cuba street is a creative, bohemian street in the center of Wellington. This is the place to experience Wellington’s culture and creativity. Cuba Street is full of nice cafes, shops and above all very good restaurants. Also street art can be found in and around Cuba street, therefore it is a wonderful place to wander around for a while. Read more about street art in Wellington.
The red cable car is the most iconic view of Wellington. Take a ride up for a nice panoramic view of the city. Once at the top you can enjoy the wonderful view, but also go to the Cable Car Museum or Space Place for a virtual journey through the universe.
Red Rock Reserve
Owhiro Bay is a 10-minute drive from the center. From here, take an easy walk along the coast. This walk takes you along the Red Rock Reserve where you can admire the red rocks. These were formed 200 million years ago by submarine volcanic eruptions. After passing the Red Rock Reserve you will get to Sinclair Head, where a fur seal colony can be seen from May to October, an incredible sight. Owhiro Bay is easily accessible by local bus.
The Weta Workshop is about a 10 minute drive from the center. This is a fun attraction for The Lord of the Rings fans among us. Weta is the company that made the digital special effects for the films. This workshop, including mini-museum, can be visited free of charge. A documentary gives you a look behind the scenes. You can also take a selfie with one of the life-size statues. There are several paid tours to gain even more insight into the work they do. Weta Workshop has also worked on films such as Narnia and King Kong. For The Lord of the Rings fans there are even more filming locations in Wellington.
Zealandia is the world’s first fully enclosed urban eco-reserve. Rare native species thrive and live here in the wild. Set around a picturesque lake, Zealandia is home to some of New Zealand’s rarest animals. More than 40 different species of native birds have been spotted in this reserve, twenty-four of which cannot be found in any other country. Dozens of reptile species, hundreds of plant species and thousands of invertebrates have made Zealandia their home. Visit this reserve yourself or take one of the tours, such as the evening tour. On this tour you will look for the birds that are active at night, such as the famous kiwi bird.
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Wellington is a great city so you would expect to find great accommodations too. In terms of hostels, this is unfortunately very disappointing. I have stayed in several hostels and I am not satisfied with any of them, I have not heard any good stories from fellow travellers about the other hostels either. Fortunately, there are many hotels and you can also rent apartments. Read my tips below.
YHA Wellington – hostel – €
If you still want to stay in a hostel in Wellington, I think the YHA is the best option. YHA hostels are located throughout New Zealand, also in less habitable locations. Unfortunately I didn’t like the atmosphere and staff as much as I have in some of their other hostels, but this may have changed by now. This hostel does have an ideal location, because it is right in the center. They also have two large kitchens and many seating areas. Click here for more information.
Aura hotel – hotel – €
This is one of the cheapest hotels in Wellington. The hotel is nicely located in the heart of the city, close to Te Papa museum and Cuba street. They have very standard rooms, but they all have free Wi-Fi and a TV. Some rooms have a private bathroom, while others have to use a shared bathroom. A shared kitchen is also available. Click here for more information.
Wellington top 10 holiday park – camping – €
If you have your own transportation and are you looking for a campsite where the children can play, then this campsite is for you. This site is out of town, in Lower Hutt. This is about a 20 minute drive from the center of Wellington. In addition to camping spots, they have self-sufficient huts for 2 to 6 people. This campsite has a swimming pool, several playgrounds for children, a games room and a living room with TV. Click here for more information.
Willis Wellington – hotel – €€
Willis Wellington is located just outside Wellington city center, but still within walking distance of many attractions. All rooms have free WiFi, a flat screen TV, refrigerator, telephone, kettle and coffee maker, hairdryer, iron and an alarm clock. There is also a restaurant and a fitness center in this building. Breakfast is included with the room. Click here for more information.
Rydges Wellington Airport – hotel – €€€
Are you looking for a hotel near the airport, then Rydges might be a good option. This 4-star hotel is a bit on the expensive side, but it offers a lot. All rooms are extra soundproof so that you will not be bothered by the planes. The spacious rooms have private bathrooms, a sitting area, flat screen TVs, safes and all other “standard” amenities. The frontdesk is open 24/7 so it’s no problem if you have a late or early flight. The Whiskey Lima Gold restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks. Click here for more information.
Wellington is quite far away from other major cities and attractions. It is an 8-hour drive from Auckland and nearly 5 hours from Taupo. Fortunately, Wellington has a large international airport and is therefore easily accessible from both New Zealand cities and Australia. Ferries also go from Wellington to the South Island (Picton), the boat takes just over 3 hours. There is also a train connection between Wellington and Auckland. This train takes more than 10 hours, but on the other hand, you will pass beautiful places!
Upper Hutt is about half an hour’s drive from Wellington and is the perfect place for nature lovers. The Upper Hut area has more than 50 nature parks and reserves. This is an excellent place to enjoy hiking, cycling, golf and fishing.
Kaitoke Regional Park
Kaitoke Regional park is approximately 50 minutes’ drive from Wellington. This area was used as a filming location for both Rivendell and the Fords of Isen in the Lord of the Rings movies. In this park you will find pristine rainforests and crystal clear rivers. You can also hike, swim, camp, picnic and kayak in this beautiful area.
Martinborough is known for the many vineyards that can be found nearby. This is the perfect getaway to enjoy fine wines and good restaurants. Many of the vineyards are within walking or cycling distance of the village, so you can easily go out yourself. Several bicycle rental companies can be found in the village and you can get a map of the vineyards at the visitor center. If you’d rather do a tour, that’s also possible.
Mount Victoria Lookout
Mount Victoria is within walking distance of the center and from above you have an amazing 360 degree view of the city. If you prefer not to walk everything, you can also take the bus or car up. Mount Victoria has also been used as a filming location for Fellowship of the Rings in the Lord of the Rings series.
The botanical garden in Wellington is beautiful and huge! 25 hectares full of unique landscapes, protected native forests, conifers, specialised plant collections, colourful flower displays and panoramas of the city. The garden is on the slope of a hill. I advise you to take the cable car up, so you can walk down through the garden. The garden is free to visit.
It is an easy walk along Wellington Harbour. The route starts at Queens Wharf and ends at the Te Papa museum, but you can also continue to Oriental Bay. The walk takes about an hour and takes you past old buildings, monuments, the visitor center and of course many boats. This area is also widely used to exhibit works of art and hold events. You never know what you will find.