10 Unique Things to do in Wellington, New Zealand
Last Updated on October 10, 2022
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Although Auckland is usually the first stop for many travellers coming into New Zealand, Wellington shouldn’t be missed.
The city is still by far one of the most beautiful capitals in the world and one of the must-see places in New Zealand.
It sits right on the water and there’s a young, arty vibe throughout the city. It’s filled with amazing eateries, interesting museums and beautiful views.
I asked some of the top travel creators to name their recommendations on what to see in Wellington as well as the best things to do in Wellington – also known as the windy city.
They gave all kinds of suggestions, from the top things to do in Wellington and some unique Wellington experiences to famous places in Wellington and whats on in Wellington right now!
Join me as we discover the best places to visit in Wellington on your next adventure to the southern hemisphere. What is there to do in Wellington? Plenty!
🧳 MUST-HAVE: Before you head out on your trip, make sure you have travel insurance. I recommend either SafetyWing or World Nomads.
10 Unique Things to Do in Wellington, New Zealand
1. Check Out the Wellington Street Art
Suggested by Jennifer from Backyard Travel Family
If you are looking for something unique to do in Wellington that is a little different from the norm, then why not take yourself on a DIY Street Art tour.
Wellington is such a cosmopolitan city, diverse in its people and talents and is particularly strong in art.
Adults and kids alike will enjoy scouring the city for the brightest, wackiest and most thought-provoking of murals.
The two best streets to start at are Eva Lane and Opera House Lane right off Courtenay Place in the Wellington CBD.
Eva Lane houses the old Hannahs factory (an iconic New Zealand shoe store).
The lane is now filled with boutique businesses such as the Fix and Fogg peanut butter window and the Wellington Chocolate Factory.
The Cuba Street rainbow crossing is also a must-see, celebrating the inclusion of all people in the city. Wellington really does showcase the diversity of its people and cultures!
You will find the crossing near the famous bucket fountain on Cuba St.
Exploring Wellington’s street art scene is one of the best unique things to do in New Zealand!
2. Visit the Wellington Botanic Gardens
Suggested by The Invisible Tourist
When I was living in Wellington, one of my favourite things to do was spend time exploring the Botanic Gardens.
Unlike other botanic gardens around the world, what makes these grounds so interesting is they’re situated on the side of a hill.
I can’t think of another where you need to take a cable car up to the entrance!
With incredible views over Wellington Harbour far below, the Botanic Gardens are forever changing with the seasons, making them a must-see at any time of the year.
But these gardens are especially one of the best things to do in Wellington in winter.
I love the burst of colour when bulb flowers pop up towards the end of winter, and the incredible scent of roses from the award-winning Lady Norwood Rose Gardens in the summer.
The hues of reds and orange throughout the trees during autumn are like something out of an impressionist painting.
Founded in back in 1844, the 25 hectares of winding paths and themed displays are some of the oldest in the country.
A hidden gem within these gardens is the Japanese Peace Garden, where a stone lantern was lit from the fires after the Hiroshima bombing in WWII.
Japan gifted the flame to New Zealand for their work in condemning the use of nuclear weapons.
There’s just something so special about getting in touch with nature and the best part is entry into the gardens is one of the many free things to do in Wellington!
3. Take a Trip to ZEALANDIA
Suggested by Wales to Wherever
It’s no surprise that one of the most uniquely interesting things to do in Wellington is to visit ZEALANDIA.
This world-class eco-sanctuary is dedicated to the protection and preservation of New Zealand’s native wildlife, flora and fauna.
ZEALANDIA has more than 200 native bird species, some of which can’t be found anywhere else in the world. It’s one of the highlights of the entire North Island!
Due to its isolation, New Zealand has always been an almost predator-free environment.
That is, until those pesky English folk came along, bringing with them all sorts of seemingly harmless mammals that in time proved to be fatal for New Zealand’s native species.
The main goal of ZEALANDIA is “to restore a Wellington valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state”.
They help provide a safe, natural environment for New Zealand’s native animals and plants to thrive and, in some cases, come back from the brink of extinction.
And so far, it’s been a roaring success! Since its inception in 1999, ZEALANDIA has seen the revival of several species of animals.
This includes birds such as tūī, kākā and kererū, as well as two of the weird little creatures most synonymous with New Zealand: the little spotted kiwi and the dragon-like tuatara.
This little slice of paradise is perfect for anyone who enjoys bird-watching, or simply anyone who wants to experience a bit of nature in the heart of New Zealand’s delightful capital.
Those travelling with children will also have a great time here!
At the visitors centre there’s an incredibly interesting museum (included in the ticket price) that teaches you all about the history of ZEALANDIA and its wildlife.
You’ll also get the history of its namesake Zealandia, ‘the Earth’s lost continent’.
A stone’s throw from Wellington CBD, a free shuttle runs to and from ZEALANDIA throughout the day.
Pick up points are at the top of the Cable Car or outside i-Site, and general admission tickets are just $21 NZD per adult. The best part? They’re valid for two consecutive days!
So if you don’t get to see the entire 225 hectares on your first day, or the weather doesn’t cooperate – just go back!
After all, it’s one of the best things to do around Wellington for a reason!
🗺 TOUR RECOMMENDATION: Looking to do a tour to discover the best of New Zealand? Join a Haka tour and see some of the most beautiful spots NZ has to offer!
4. Take a Trip to Red Rocks
Suggested by Chur New Zealand
Wondering what to do near Wellington for a little day trip? Less than 10km from the Wellington CBD is the southern coastline of the North Island that looks out to the Cook Strait.
While you could spend a day exploring the coast, one of the more unique areas is known as Red Rocks (formerly, Sinclair Head).
Yes, the rocks are red, and as a bonus it’s the crash pad of choice for a colony of seals year-round.
Seeing a landscape of red rocks covered in seals basking in the sun is not just one of the most unusual things to do in Wellington – it’s also one of the most unusual things to do in New Zealand!
Despite being so close to the city, you’ll feel like you’re hours away from civilization as you start to make the 4km walk (each way) from Owhiro Bay to the Red Rocks.
You’ll be following a 4WD trail along the beach (if you’re super confident you can drive all the way), with the scraggy hillside climbing up next to you.
On a windy day the walk can be brutal with the sand flying, but that only enhances the experience, right?
You’ll know when you reach the Red Rocks, as they’re clearly red, which occurs because of iron compounds.
The seals can be hard to spot if the rocks are wet, but they should be within 200 metres either side of the rocks. Once you see one, you start to see many…
For a free activity, this is certainly unique and on a nice sunny day makes for a magical walk. On a windy day, it’s a not so nice walk, but if you’re in up for an adventure you won’t forget it!
5. Visit Makara Beach
Suggested by Travels of a Bookpacker
Wellington is a quirky little city blessed with funky bars and cafes, rugged coastline and amazing bush.
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to unique and interesting things to do in Wellington!
But if you’re looking to get off the beaten path then a trip out to Makara Beach is a great opportunity to experience a lesser-known side of Wellington and get a good dose of fresh air.
You’ll need your own transport to get out there and will need to drive past the end of Karori and off to what seems like a dead-end until you emerge at the wind-swept shores of the West coast.
The small beachfront community boasts amazing driftwood collections, a small café and the chance to wander along the beach.
But the highlight is the Makara Walkway, a 6km loop track which takes you up along the ridgeline for stunning views of the coast.
It then follows along the side of the wind farm to the gun emplacements which mark Fort Opau used during World War II.
You’ll wander your way through farmland and back down to the coast to end up back at the main carpark. Makara Beach and Walkway is an epic day out and unknown even to many locals.
6. Sample the Best Craft Beer in Wellington
Suggested by Katie from Two Wandering Soles
There are many things to see and do in Wellington, but sooner or later it’s time to stop and get refreshments.
Fortunately, Wellington has arguably the best craft beer scene in all of New Zealand. And trying some is a must do in Wellington.
If you’re a fan of the beverage, you’ll definitely want to make a stop in the self-proclaimed “craft beer capital of New Zealand” and try a local brew (or two!).
For anyone travelling around New Zealand’s North Island, it’s one of the most fun things to do in Wellington!
With somewhere around 20 breweries (plus bars and restaurants that serve craft brews), beer-lovers will be spoiled for choice.
Another great thing about Wellington is that the city is relatively walkable, making it possible to do your own DIY craft beer tour on foot.
Here are some notable breweries to check out in Wellington:
- Heyday Beer Co: Located on a quiet part of Cuba Street, this brewery has a good selection of IPAs, patio seating, and food to boot! Plus, there are gin cocktails for those who don’t like beer.
- Garage Project: The combination of local brews and local art makes this brewery a favorite of Wellington residents and visitors alike.
- Tuatara Brewery: Serving up some tasty burgers, pizzas and curly fries, you won’t have trouble finding grub to go with your beer.
- Black Dog Brewery: Cozy, dog-friendly brewery on Cuba Street with a relaxed vibe.
7. Mount Victoria Lookout – Wellington’s Best View Point
Suggested by Suzy Stories
I always say that one of the best things you can do in a new city is get an aerial view. So one of the cool things to do in Wellington is to head to Mount Victoria, where you can do just that.
The lookout at the summit gives the perfect vantage point to appreciate 360 views over Wellington city and the nearby harbour with ocean views stretching beyond.
Mount Victoria is one of the most beautiful places in Wellington for an afternoon of escapism away from the bustle of the city.
The walk itself can take various routes depending on your time and physical restrictions.
Generally, the trail requires a moderate level of fitness due to the steep incline, but you can also drive to the top if you prefer.
To get the complete experience, I’d highly recommend embracing the walk to the lookout. Who doesn’t love a sense of achievement to accompany incredible views?!
By taking the quickest route (around 30 minutes from the bottom) you’ll enjoy thick forests flanking the track – a beautiful way to be immersed in nature!
If you’re after a more scenic route there are longer tracks to take you to the summit with fabulous viewing spots the whole way.
Even better, if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan then you can stop by a genuine filming location from one of the movie’s most iconic scenes!
Here you can find where the hobbits hide from black riders beneath tree roots – it’s one of the most cool places in Wellington! Who could resist recreating the scene for a fun photo souvenir…
For a free, easy, and highly rewarding activity in Wellington you can’t miss the sweeping landscape views from the Mount Victoria lookout.
📸 PRO TIP: My go-to camera for all my travels is the Sony A7iii – I highly recommend it!
8. Do the Weta Workshop Tour
Suggested by Alex of Discover Aotearoa
Wellington has many nicknames; Wellywood is just one of them but a very fitting one.
Especially because of the Miramar Peninsula; just a 10 minutes’ drive from the city centre, this is THE haven in New Zealand for movie buffs.
Peter Jackson, the person behind the Lord Of The Rings movies, not only lives on the peninsula but also claimed big parts of the suburb as the headquarters of Weta Workshop and Weta Digital.
Walk around the peninsula and explore where a part of King Kong was shot, see the giant outdoor greenscreen and many more things (it’s free and most places accessible unless they’re filming).
The highlight is to visit the Weta Cave. It’s really ‘only’ the souvenir shop of the Weta Workshop but it’s so much more. You get to play around with trolls and take selfies with Gollum.
Don’t miss out on booking the Weta Workshop tour! It’s really more a museum rather than their actual workshop.
You get to see props Weta used for previous movies, learn how they make real-looking but lightweight chainmail armour and some other Weta secrets.
Get up close and touch the silicone material they’re using to make face masks look so incredibly real.
I’m not a huge fan of the LOTR movie series but I really enjoyed the tour. The fact that you could touch a lot of the props and re-enact a fight with the White Orc made it so much fun!
A day dedicated to the art of movie-making is definitely one of the best activities to do in Wellington.
9. Meander around the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Explored by Lee from The Travel Scribes
When you’re sauntering the streets of windy Wellington, one of the last things you’d expect in this slightly sleepy city is one of the world’s best museums.
But you’ll find it perched on the water’s edge in the form of the Te Papa National Museum, an absolutely iconic place to visit in New Zealand.
Now we’ve been to too many museums to count but Te Papa is easily in our top 3, so of course we consider it one of the best things to see in Wellington!
The museum not only documents the most fascinating bits of New Zealand’s history but does so in a way that is so interactive and contemporary, offering visitors of all ages the chance to engage with the exhibits.
You’ll learn more about everything from the country’s natural heritage in the Te Taiao Nature area, to the volcanic activity still bubbling today in the Realm of Rūaumoko.
There’s also a fascinating insight into the darker war and battle history.
This last one was the most powerful for us; simply named Gallipolli – The Scale of War, this immersive exhibition is easily the best we’ve ever seen.
Chronicling the battle of Gallipolli where nearly 3, 000 Kiwis lost their lives, the exhibition is told through the eyes of eight ordinary New Zealanders.
After you’ve wandered the halls, you really feel like each of their stories have personally touched your heart.
You’ll find gigantic sculptures, atmospheric music, 3D maps and projections, interactive displays and heart-wrenching film footage, all perfectly curated.
Location: 55 Cable Street, Wellington
Cost: The museum is absolutely free!
Open: 10.00am – 6.00 pm daily
… and Another Vote for Te Papa Museum!
Suggested by Leah from Officer Travels
If you’re looking to submerge yourself into New Zealand’s history, nature and culture, then the Te Papa Museum is one of the best places to go in Wellington!
Like most of the museum’s in New Zealand, Te Papa (which translates to ‘our place’) is free to enter and is located in the heart of the CBD.
There are 5 levels to Te Papa that cover a wide range of topics. Our favourite was the ‘Blood, Earth + Fire’ section on level 3.
This exhibit shows you how New Zealand has changed due to natural events such as volcanoes and earthquakes, as well as the changes since the arrival of European settlers.
For the foreign tourists (like us) who are lucky enough to have never experienced a tragic earthquake, the Te Papa museum now has an earthquake simulation.
This specially built house allows visitors to learn about the household dangers – such as chimney stacks and unsecured cabinets – while safely experiencing a mid-category earthquake for themselves.
Some of the other levels include Traditional Maoi artwork, remains of the extinct Moa bird, stories from the New Zealand War and even Phar Lap – the most famous racehorse in the world!
This museum really does have something for everyone.
Whether you’re short on time or have a whole day to kill we highly recommend the Te Papa Museum as one of the best things to do in Wellington!
10. Wellington Museum
Suggested by Rhiannon from Wales to Wherever
If you didn’t know Wellington Museum was there, you’d be forgiven for walking straight past it.
That’s because what is undoubtedly one of the very best things to do in Wellington city for all ages is unassumingly housed in an 1892 heritage building along the harbour.
Often overlooked in favour of the much larger and more well-known Te Papa Museum, Wellington Museum gives you an incredibly intimate view into The Coolest Little Capital and all of its history.
Through a combination of interactive displays, audio and visual presentations and the occasional holograph, the museum will take you on a journey through time.
You’ll travel all the way from early Māori and European settlements up to the tragic 1968 Wahine maritime disaster, and even as recent as the making of Lord of the Rings.
The museum also gives you a nice insight into all of the city’s little quirks, as well as its local celebrities.
One of our favourites was Paddy the Wanderer, a dog who was so loved by absolutely everyone that when he passed he had a drinking fountain erected in his memory.
Wellington Museum does exactly what it says on the tin: it tells the story of Wellington. But it does so in such entertaining and innovative ways that you’ll easily lose hours of your day here.
The best part? It’s perfect for those wondering what to do in Wellington for free, because entry to Wellington Museum costs nothing!
🎫 TOP TIP: Looking for tickets to some of the best shows, activities and passes? I highly recommend booking via Viator for the best prices and deals!
Frequently Asked Questions
That depends on your itinerary. To cover a lot of the best things to do in Wellington I would recommend 3-4 days to make sure you see most of what the city has to offer.
Because of its location in the southern hemisphere, the summer months of December through to February or March is the best time to experience all the things to do in Wellington.
Because of its location beside the Cook Straight, Wellington is considered the windiest major city in the world!
Wellington is a great place to visit with its diverse landscape and culture. These 10 unique things to do in Wellington are sure to keep you entertained for your stay!
What will you pick from the list? Leave us a comment below telling us which one of these activities sounds most appealing, or if there is something else that should be on this list.
We want to hear what excites you about visiting New Zealand’s capital city! What are your favorite things to do in Wellington New Zealand?
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