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Best things to do in Wellington

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Where in the world: South Pacific  /  New Zealand  /  North Island  /  Greater Wellington  /  Wellington
Visitors traveling to New Zealand's compact capital will find plenty of things to do in Wellington. Stepping into the halls of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is a great way to learn something about New Zealand's rich history--there, you'll find a large collection of Maori artifacts, fossils, and local art. A perfect photo op awaits you at the lookout atop Mount Victoria, with a panoramic view of the city's urban sprawl and adjacent blue waters. Those looking to get out of the city can sign up for the many wine tours that showcase one of the region's celebrated exports.

Wellington is best known for its Specialty Museums, Gardens, and Lookouts.

Top 15 things to do in Wellington

1. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

The whole family can get a dynamic and in-depth overview of New Zealand at Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, one of the nation's main cultural institutions. The museum's native name loosely translates as the "Place of Treasures," an apt description for a building featuring six floors of collections that include everything from Maori artifacts and medieval clothing to animal fossils and local arts. With high-tech galleries designed to engage and educate visitors of all ages, the exhibits narrate the history and development of the Pacific Islands. Be sure to walk through the national art collection, and for a hands-on family-oriented experience, head to one of the themed discovery centers. The easiest way to explore the vast galleries is by guided tour--these leave from the second-level info desk several times a day.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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2. ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary

The world's first urban eco-sanctuary, Zealandia hosts New Zealand's most endangered native animals, including tuatara, kiwi and giant wētā, all living wild just ten minutes from downtown Wellington. Visitors of all ages can enjoy hands-on learning about New Zealand's natural history, from 80 million years ago to the present day. If you prefer to venture on your own, you can explore the 225 hectare (560 acre) valley via moderate hiking trails or wheelchair-accessible paths. To gain deeper insight into the sanctuary's special ecosystem, sign up for a guided daytime, twilight, or night tour--just make sure you book in advance. A favorite of guests, the flashlight-guided night tour introduces you to the sights and sounds of the New Zealand bush, which you can only catch after the sun goes down.
Suggested duration: 3h 30 min
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3. Wellington Botanic Garden

The Wellington Botanic Garden in Wellington, New Zealand covers 25 hectares of land on the side of the hill between Thorndon and Kelburn, near central Wellington.

The garden features 25 hectares of protected native forest, conifers, plant collections and seasonal displays. It also features a variety of non-native species, including an extensive Rose Garden. It is classified as a Garden of National Significance by the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture. In 2004 it was listed as an historic area with Heritage New Zealand.
The Wellington Cable Car runs between Lambton Quay and the top of the Botanic Garden, and it is the most direct way to get from the top part of the garden to Wellington's Central Business District. The winding hill paths of the Garden are a popular spot for Wellington residents. It is used for walking, jogging and taking children to the playground, and tourists enjoy meandering through the Garden's many collections via the downhill path to the city.

The Gardens feature a large Victorian-style glasshouse, the Begonia House, the Lady Norwood Rose Garden and the Treehouse Visitor Centre. There is a large children's play area, a duck pond, and glowworms visible some nights along paths in the Main Garden – there are monthly tours during autumn–spring (the Garden is otherwise closed at night). Large sculptures and carvings are located throughout the garden. These are by artists such as Henry Moore, Andrew Drummond, Mary-Louise Browne, Regan Gentry, Denis O'Connor and Chris Booth.

The Wellington City Council organises events during spring and summer months, such as free concerts in the Sound Shell.

The Wellington Botanic Garden is home to several organisations, including:

Carter Observatory, the National Observatory of New Zealand

Wellington Cable Car Museum

Meteorological Service of New Zealand
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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4. Wellington Cable Car

Wellington Cable Car has been in operation since 1902 and is the only public cable car in New Zealand. Departing from the heart of the city centre (Lambton Quay), a five minute ride on this transport heritage icon will take you up to the top of Kelburn lookout for panoramic views over the city and harbour. You can also visit the Wellington Botanic Gardens, Space Place Observatory and Kelburn Villages Shops here. Before you head back down make sure to visit the Cable Car Museum, which showcases the interesting history of the city’s symbolic mode of transport and see the original cars and winding machinery on display.

When you have finished exploring the surrounding attractions at the top, take the short trip back down into the city centre. There are also walking tracks that start at the top of the Cable Car if you're keen on a stroll back to the city. The Cable Cars leave every 10 minutes.

See more on our website.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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5. Mount Victoria

For panoramic views of Wellington, visit Mount Victoria, where a short climb brings you to the top of this prominent hill. Enjoy sweeping views of the city below as well as Tinakori Hill, the Hutt Valley and Eastern harbor bays, Somes Island, and the Miramar Peninsula. Pack a picnic and relax while watching ships in the waters below. This also makes a prime destination for catching a sunrise or sunset, so consider making more than one trip here.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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6. New Zealand Parliament

Take a look behind the scenes of New Zealand's political life and learn the history of one of Wellington's most recognizable sights at New Zealand Parliament. The landmark complex consists of four buildings, each a monument to a different era and architectural style. With each housing a significant collection of artwork, the buildings are just as impressive on the inside. Free guided tours of the complex are available every hour. In the executive building, known as the Beehive, you'll find a visitor center and gift shop. Those interested in witnessing the parliamentary process firsthand have the option of watching a session from the public gallery.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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7. Cuba Street

Take a stroll through Cuba Street for a taste of Wellington's bohemian side. Located right in the center of the city, this historical pedestrian area is without a doubt one of the capital's liveliest spots. Dotted with cafes, bars, restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques stores, the district radiates creative spirit and an easy-going attitude. In addition to the ever-present street performers, some of the main attractions include numerous antique shops where you can find everything from secondhand clothes to old records and vintage furniture. The district is well connected with the rest of the city and easily accessible both by car and public transportation.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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8. Wellington Museum

Take a journey through the capital's history from the earliest days to the modern metropolis at Wellington Museum. Spread over several floors of a historical Victorian building, the museum tells the story of life in Wellington through numerous artifacts, multimedia presentations, and interactive exhibits. On the second floor, dedicated to the region's maritime history, you can find a fully reconstructed ship's cabin and experience what life on the high seas used to be like. Admission is free and guided tours are available.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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9. Wellington Zoo

From the country's trademark kiwis to rare Sumatran tigers and sun bears, get close to species from the four corners of the world at Wellington Zoo. The oldest institution of its kind in New Zealand, the zoo has over a century-long tradition in the housing and preservation of animals. Today, the zoo plays home to over 100 different species, including insects, birds, fish, reptiles, and mammals. Numerous interactive programs let you pet a cheetah, feed a lion, play with meerkats, or even spend the night. Snacks, drinks, and refreshments are available on site, and all the facilities are wheelchair and stroller accessible.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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11. Old St Paul's

In the heart of Wellington's heritage district stands Old St Paul's, a former cathedral made wholly out of native timbers. An outstanding example of Gothic Revival architecture, the wooden building features embroidered furnishings and colorful stained glass windows. Notice the memorial plaques on the interior walls and columns, and the flags displayed in the nave: many of these are dedicated to New Zealand and US marines who fought and died in World War I and World War II. Ask a guide to tell you some of the quirky stories associated with this former church, which today hosts a number of cultural events.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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12. Oriental Bay

Boasting sandy beaches and a bustling promenade, Oriental Bay represents one of Wellington's most fashionable and desirable neighborhoods. Soak up the lively atmosphere on a leisurely stroll before going for a paddle in the bay's clear blue waters. A much beloved fountain sits off shore, creating an impressive spectacle with its 16 m (52 ft) spray, while a disused wooden barge provides a welcome resting and sunning spot for swimmers. It's a good idea to bring a jacket with you on your visit as the bay can get very windy.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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13. Kapiti Island Nature Tours, Paraparaumu

Options for making a booking are:

Phone us on 0800KISLAND (0800 547 5263)

Text or phone 021 126 7525

Email: bookings@kapitiislandnaturetours.co.nz

Book online: www.kapitiislandnaturetours.co.nz
Suggested duration: 4 hours
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14. Marlborough Sounds, Picton

A stunning collection of sea-drowned valleys, Marlborough Sounds represents one of New Zealand's premier natural landscapes. The network includes around 4,000 sq km (1,544 sq mi) of sounds, islands, and peninsulas, and though sparsely populated by humans, the Department of Conservation manages over 50 nature preserves here. Hike through the verdant forests that rise from the sea, relax in the sheltered sandy bays, or sail the striking turquoise waters. If you plan on driving in the area, bear in mind that there are very few gas stations and fill your tank in advance.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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15. Southward Car Museum, Paraparaumu

Every gearhead's dream come true, Southward Car Museum houses one of the largest collections of rare cars in Australasia--including 400 antique automobiles and several aircraft. Highlights include a 1950 Cadillac that once belonged to notorious gangster Mickey Cohen, a convertible driven by Marlene Dietrich, and an 1895 Benz Velo, imported to New Zealand over a century ago. The purpose-built museum features a 6,000 sq m (65,000 sq ft) exhibition hall, plus an engineering workshop, gift shop, cafe, and theater. The surrounding park-like grounds include indoor and outdoor venues available for private events.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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