The central hub for getting the scenic ferry ride from the North to South Island, Wellington has millions of visitors pass through its city every year. This bustling city is a fantastic place to spend a day or two exploring before jumping on the ferry or heading further North. With its quirky shops, vibrant nightlife, and stunning view points, Wellington has much to offer for all walks of life. It is often tricky to narrow down quite what to do in a busy city centre without spending lots of money on tours, so I have curated some of the bests things to do in Wellington so you don’t have to.
Take a hike
Like much of New Zealand, Wellington has no shortage of walks which lead to a stunning view. The most visited of these is Mount Victoria, which you can access from the city centre. The 2hour 30 minute loop is steep, but takes you through patches of forrest before emerging at the peak for 360-degree scenic views of the city. Make sure you go on a calm day, as the summit is very exposed. Mt. Vic, is however a very popular tourist destination, meaning its prone to larger crowds and buses of tours which might ruin your photo opportunity.
If you fancy the same stunning views without the crowds – I suggest you take a short 10 minute drive out of the city to visit Mount Kaukau. Still complete with some wicked steep hills, this walk leads you to a lookout over the city just as good as Mt. Victoria but with half the people. I highly recommend it!
Top Tip: If you tackle Mount Victoria; on your way down, stop off at The Mt Vic Chippery. They are a fish mongers-come-chip shop with a little bit of a twist. Not just fish and chips you can nab yourself homemade tacos, burgers and salads at the same time. The best deal are their lunchtime specials – Market fish in your choice of batter, (also with a gluten-free option), crinkle cut chips, their delicious slaw and a choice of sauce for only $12. Total bargain and the best way to refuel after a walk up all those hills!
Stroll up Cuba Street
If you want to get in with the buzzing atmosphere of Wellington, Cuba Street is the place to start. Stretching along one long high street, decorated with murals, water features and colourful buildings, its easy to spend most of the day here. The street is lined with quirky vintage stores where you can easily get lost for an hour or two searching for hidden clothing gems. When you are all shopped out, take a break in one of the many wonderful independent cafes, restaurants and bars. Look out for regular buskers and flash mobs, Cuba Street is the place for a party.
If you find yourself in Wellington at the weekend, make sure to head to the Friday and Saturday Wellington Night Markets held on Cuba Street. Packed with free entertainment and cheap and delicious street food from across the globe. It is a must do if you visit Wellington and is a favourite of locals and tourists alike to join with friends and enjoy cuisine, culture and creativity.
Sample some of Wellington’s finest craft beer
New Zealand has got a buzzing craft beer scene, and leading the pack is Wellington with many exciting breweries and craft carrying bars dotted across the city. Wellington is a wonderfully compact city making it the perfect place to spend the day stumbling from brewpub to brewpub sampling some of Wellington’s finest. If you find yourself in Wellington make sure to check out:
Built in an old car garage decorated stylishly in mint green with a little hint of pink – HeyDay is the perfect place to spend your afternoon in the summer. Relax on the grass with some lawn games as you sip some of their finest ales which can be flavoured with anything from s’mores to nectarines. Don’t fancy a beer? They also offer gin tasting flights complete with all the instagrammable decorations, and a good selection of wines.
Fork & Brewer
Choose if you wish to dine on the left, or stop by for a casual drink on the right. Fork & Brewer are about two things married together in perfect harmony – food and beer. With over 40 beers on tap to choose from you can easily spend a few hours sampling their offerings. If you are feeling peckish, Fork & Brewer have carefully matched all their regular dishes to one of their craft tap beers, meaning you can have the perfect pizza or burger with the perfect beer to go with it!
Rogue & Vagabond
Just off Cuba Street, Rogue & Vagabond is the place to go if you want your beer with a slice of entertainment. From Jazz and Blues to Rock & Roll, they host a wide variety of local talent regularly to spice up your night. It is also honourable to mention their weekday $20 lunch with a pint deal, and Taco Tuesday, where you can nab a taco for a mere $2!
Hit the beach
When you are right in the city centre, it is hard to believe that just a stroll walk or car journey away you can reach several of Wellington’s stunning beaches. Just a five minute walk takes you out from the city and on to Oriental Bay, one of the most beautiful urban beaches you will ever come across. Or just a short bus ride or drive away is Scorching Bay beach which is a great spot for a sea swim or sunbathe during the summer months. Heading to the beach is a great way to escape the buzz of the city and catch some rays.
If you fancy the sea views and sunshine without all the sand in your socks, take a walk along Wellington’s Waterfront. There are many places to sit along the harbour after you have walked, jogged or cycled to watch the world go by. Seaside cafes and ice cream parlours line the walkway tempting you to treat yourself as you explore the stunning coastline.
Visit the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum
With six floors of engaging and interactive displays the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum is a great activity for a rainy day. Free general admission with charges only for special exhibitions or tours, the impressive building is only 15 minutes from the airport and offers features on Māori and Pacific culture, art, history and the natural world. It is an immersive experience for adults, kids and families and an excellent place to visit for a few hours of fun and education.
Grab a bite to eat
One of my favourite things about visiting a major city, are the endless exciting food options, and Wellington is no exception. Their food scene caters to everyone, including the vegans and vegetarians among us. Check out Aunty Mena’s, they serve up delicious Malaysian-style dishes which are good for your soul and for the planet. For a restaurant with the perfect Instagram aesthetic The Botanist also provides some delectable vegan and vegetarian options from brunch to dinner. Order their ‘Botanist Platter’ complete with chickpea popcorn, chilli tofu, homemade sourdough focaccia, vegan feta and spicy tempeh.
Other delights include Pizza Pomodoro, who make fresh wood fired traditional pizzas every day. For those who love a glass of wine with their pizza, a top tip is to head to Golding’s Free Dive. Here you can relax with your favourite drink and order pizza from Pizza Pomodoro which sits just across the courtyard all without having to lift a finger!
Wellington is an excellent city to explore by foot, peppered with lots of craft beer bars and delicious places to eat to treat yourself after a long day exploring. Make sure to spend a day or two to appreciate city life here before rushing off towards the ferry – it is definitely worth it!