- For other places with the same name, see Wellington (disambiguation).
The Windy City is on the foreshore of Wellington Harbour and ringed by hills, providing the scenic home of many of New Zealand's national arts and cultural attractions.
The Wellington urban area is divided between four city councils – Wellington, Porirua, Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt. Above the city councils is the Greater Wellington Regional Council, which covers the entire Greater Wellington region (i.e. Wellington, the Kapiti Coast and Wairarapa) and is responsible for most of the shared services across the urban area. Proposals for a large "super-city" as was established in Auckland in 2010 have been put forward, but none have come to fruition due to local opposition.
Wellington is home to 412,500 people, making it New Zealand's second-largest urban area, well behind Auckland and just ahead of Christchurch. Wellington became New Zealand's capital city in 1865, replacing Auckland; the government wanted a more centrally-located city as capital to quell the South Island nationalist movement.
Wellington offers a blend of culture, heritage, fine food and coffee, together with lively arts and entertainment.
Surrounded by hills and a rugged coastline, the city has a stunning harbour. Wellington’s charm is that it serves up a vibrant inner city experience with a slice of New Zealand scenery. And because of its compact nature, you can sample it all: boutiques, art galleries, trendy cafés and restaurants. Right on its doorstep is a network of walking and biking trails with beautiful wineries and vineyards just a few hours away.
Wellington offers an array of theatre, music, dance, fine arts and galleries and museums. It is also home to one of the nation’s key attractions, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
The city promotes itself as "Absolutely Positively Wellington". Its motto Suprema a situ claims site supremacy, with some justification.
- 1 Wellington Visitor Information Centre (iSITE), 111 Wakefield Street (Lower Cuba St., in front of Michael Fowler Centre), ☏ , toll-free: 0800 933 5363. A good place to begin your Wellington visit - they're able to book accommodation, activities and provide useful information about Wellington and surrounding areas. Their website contains the same information and is worth checking out prior to your visit. They are a member of the national i-SITE visitor information centre network.
Much of the central city is built on land that was raised up after a major earthquake in 1855. More land has been reclaimed since then. The shoreline as it was in 1840 is marked by plaques in the footpaths on Lambton Quay (hence the street name). There are several "quays" which are now nowhere near the harbour. The harbour's former name was 'Port Nicholson' and the smaller bay surrounded by the city is called 'Wellington' or 'Lambton Harbour'.
Earthquakes have played a major part in forming the whole Wellington region. Several earthquake fault lines run through the Wellington region, including the Wellington Fault, which runs west of the city centre along Glenmore Street and Tinakori Road to the Aotea Quay motorway interchange and then up the western Hutt Valley. Building regulations have meant that many older city buildings have been either demolished or strengthened, or require such work to be undertaken. Small and moderate earthquakes occasionally rock Wellington; so if the earth seems to move for you, it may not be just your imagination. Stay indoors until a "warden" or similar authority advises evacuation (unless you are in imminent danger, e.g. from a fire), and take shelter from potentially falling objects wherever you are.
There are some places in Wellington where damage from the 1855 earthquake is still visible. The most accessible is a large landslip on State Highway 2 between Ngauranga and Korokoro (just north of Rocky Point where the BP petrol station is located) where the dramatic change in terrain is visible. Bush has overgrown the slip but it is visible. However, most people are oblivious to the location of landslip as they drive by on the highway.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
The city is known as "Windy Wellington" - often said to be the world's windiest city, with an average wind speed of 27km/h. The prevailing wind is from the northwest but the strongest winds are southerly. The wind speed and direction can be seen by the flag being flown from the Beehive; a large flag is flown only on calm days, a small flag is flown when windy days are expected. The highest wind speed ever recorded in Wellington was 275 km/h (170 mph) during the Wahine storm of 10 April 1968 (so called because it blew the interisland steamer ferry Wahine into the reef at the entrance of Wellington Harbour, causing her to founder and claim 53 lives.)
The temperature in Wellington rarely drops to 0°C (32°F), even on cold winter nights, while daytime winter temperatures are rarely lower than 8°C (46°F). During summer, the daytime maximum temperature rarely gets above 25°C (77°F). Away from the seaside, in inland valleys, frosts of up to -10°C (14°F) have been recorded. Snow falls on the nearby ranges during winter, but is rare in the urban area.
Wellington sits at the southern tip of New Zealand's North Island. The city core lies along the western shore of highly protected Wellington Harbour, with the city's suburbs spreading out in all directions. The city's primary urban core consists of the CBD and the adjoining 'city suburb' of Te Aro, to the south and east. A fairly dense zone continues south from Te Aro into the adjoining suburbs of Mt Cook and Newtown, as well as Kilbirnie on the other side of the parklands of Mt Victoria.
East from Te Aro, north-south-running ridgelines form Mt. Victoria and, further east yet, the Miramar Peninsula, which forms the western side of the mouth to Wellington Harbour. These hills—and the isthmus between—are home to a number of suburban areas as well as parkland and beaches.
Several kilometres south of central Wellington is the rugged and stunning South Coast of the North Island, consisting of a string of small (and some large) bays, many with rocky beaches and interesting tide pools.
To the west, the suburbs between Karori and Johnsonville spread into the hillsides, with various parks and hiking trails, and then give way to open rural areas such as Makara.
Aside from the national public holidays, Wellington has its own public holiday, Wellington Anniversary Day. Commemorating the arrival of Wellington's first European settlers aboard the Aurora on 22 January 1840, it is observed across most of the Greater Wellington and Manawatu-Wanganui region on the Monday closest to 22 January.
1 Wellington International Airport (WLG IATA) is in Rongotai, about 5 km (3 mi) southeast from the central city. It sits on an isthmus between the Miramar Peninsula and Mount Victoria. The southerly approach is over Cook Strait, while the northerly approach is over the harbour.
Wellington Airport is a major transit point for domestic travellers. There are frequent flights from Auckland, Christchurch, Palmerston North, Rotorua, Hamilton, Nelson, Blenheim and many other destinations. International flights from Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane) arrive about twice daily: the evening flights arrive after midnight when most facilities are closed. There are also flights from Fiji, Canberra and the Gold Coast. There is a single terminal building, for both domestic and international.
Landing at Wellington Airport in a strong wind can be an adventure, and most pilots adopt a powered approach, followed by a full reverse thrust and hard braked landing due to the shortness of the runway (2,081 m). This tends to create a roller-coaster ride, so make sure your seatbelt is securely fastened and all loose items are stowed before landing. Many locals swap stories of approaches with large dips, shudders, bumps, sudden sideways movement, followed by the plane going around for a second (and even sometimes a third) attempt to land. While there has been the odd Cessna landing on its roof, no large passenger plane has ever had a serious accident in Wellington.
The Metlink Route 2 bus runs to the CBD from Hobart Street, which is a 700-metre walk from the airport. Exit from Door E and follow the signs.
When you get to the airport, you can call the Metlink hotline at 0800 801700 for info. A friendly person will answer very quickly. If you say where you are going, they will tell you what bus to take and even what special pass to buy (for example, if you are catching a train after getting off the bus).
If travelling in a group, it will be more cost effective to use a ride-sharing service. Uber to CBD will cost around $20. Turn right when exiting the terminal and follow signs to the "App-based Pickup Zone".
Shuttle van services, taxis and covered car parking are directly outside the terminal.
- See also: Cook Strait ferries
There are regular ferries between Wellington and Picton in the South Island operated by Interislander and Bluebridge, connecting with buses and the train to Christchurch. The Bluebridge terminal is next to the railway station. The Interislander terminal is about 2 km (1 mi) northeast of the railway station, and a $2 shuttle bus runs between it and the station (bus terminal next to Platform 9). Some cruise ships from overseas stop in Wellington.
Wellington sits at the southern tip of the North Island and is accessed from the north via two State Highways: State Highway 1 and State Highway 2. From most destinations in the North Island, you'll follow State Highway 1 south of Levin through to Peka Peka, where you join the expressway through the Kapiti Coast, Porirua and northern suburbs of Wellington. From the Hawke's Bay and the Wairarapa, you'll follow State Highway 2 over the Remutaka Ranges and through Upper Hutt and Lower Hutt. Both routes meet at the Ngauranga Interchange, on the harbour shoreline 5 km north of the city centre.
Road access into Wellington along State Highway 1 has been greatly improved by the opening of the Transmission Gully Motorway on 31 March 2022, bypassing the narrow two-lane Centennial Highway route along the coast (now State Highway 59). However, traffic on State Highway 2 will encounter the Remutaka Hill Road, which winds its way over the Remutaka Ranges and may occasionally close due to high winds or snow during winter.
Hitchhiking from central Wellington is difficult as most traffic stays within the metropolitan area, and it is illegal to hitchhike on the motorway until the Hutt Valley (about 15 km or 9 mi northeast of Wellington) or Peka Peka (about 65 km or 40 mi north). If intending to hitchhike, you are best to catch a train to Waikanae or Upper Hutt and walk to the main highways to catch a lift from there (the best spot for Upper Hutt hitchhikers is at the Caltex petrol station about a 3 km walk north from the railway station along Fergusson Drive). Using a sign will help in finding a willing driver going your way.
Approximate distances and non-stop travel times to the Wellington city centre:
- Auckland – 640 km, 8 hours
- Hamilton – 520 km, 6½ hours
- Rotorua – 460 km, 6 hours
- New Plymouth – 360 km, 5 hours
- Napier/Hastings – 310 km, 4½ hours
- Palmerston North – 140 km, 2 hours
- Masterton – 100 km, 1½ hours
There is an article on Rail travel in New Zealand.
The Northern Explorer train service runs between Wellington and Auckland, with departures from Auckland on Sat, Mon and Thur, and departures from Wellington on Sun, Tue and Fri. There is a once per day commuter service from Palmerston North, and a service from Masterton and the Wairarapa operates several times daily.
National bus carrier InterCity Coachlines operates bus services to Wellington from across the North Island. Daily services operate between Auckland, New Plymouth, Napier, Hastings and Palmerston North. All InterCity Wellington services depart and arrive at Platform 9 at the Wellington Railway Station. Skip Bus, launched in November 2018, operates daily express bus services to Wellington from major cities in North Island, like Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Tauranga.
It's easy to get around the central city on foot, as it's very compact and pedestrian-friendly.
Wellington has an extensive and well-patronised public transport network, with buses, trains and ferries serving the city and beyond extending into the Greater Wellington region. The network is coordinated by Metlink, the public transport arm of the Greater Wellington Regional Council. Its website includes an interactive journal planner.
- , ☏ , toll-free: 0800 801 700. M-F 6AM-10PM, Sa 7AM-9PM, Su & holidays 8AM-8PM.
Tickets and fares
Bus and train fares use a zone structure. While there are 14 fare zones in total on the Metlink network, nearly all the Wellington urban area is covered by seven zones (there are two semi-rural suburbs of Upper Hutt in zone 8). Child tickets are available to those aged 5 to 15 and those 16 and over still at secondary school, while children under 5 travel free.
Electronic Snapper fare cards can be used on all buses, and are available from most supermarkets and convenience stores. These cards offer a discount off the adult cash fare, with an additional discount on off-peak travel. Snapper cards can be topped up electronically at various agencies for a small fee. However, you need to remember to tag not only when you board the bus but also as you leave the bus, or you will be charged for the whole route.
Trains still use paper ticketing. Ten-trip tickets and passes can be bought from ticket offices at major railway stations and from selected outlets across the city.
If you plan to use public transport extensively, you can buy a day pass which allows unlimited trips after 9AM on weekdays and all day weekends and holidays. Four Metlink Explorer day passes are available: zones 1 to 3 only (i.e. Wellington City only) for $10, zones 1 to 7 for $15, zones 1 to 10 for $20, and all zones for $25.
Special fares apply on some routes, including the 91 Airport Flyer bus. On outbound Wairarapa trains (i.e. to Masterton), you will be charged for a fare to Maymorn station (zone 8) even if you disembark before then; this minimum fare does not apply in the inbound direction (i.e. to Wellington).
Wellington has an extensive network of buses. The city was the last in the Southern Hemisphere, and the last left-hand-traffic country, to use electric trolleybuses; these were phased out in October 2017 due to ageing infrastructure and the imminent arrival of battery electric buses. Excellent and free network maps and route timetables and maps are available from locations throughout town, including the main visitor centre in Civic Square, the Central Library, and many convenience stores. You can also access the timetables and maps online. While these maps can be quite useful if you desire to travel into the suburbs, they aren't generally necessary if you simply want to travel across the central city. Being a rather linear city, the heart of Wellington is heavily served by the central bus corridor between the Railway Station and Courtenay Place known as the "Golden Mile". Major bus routes run along most of the route length, so you rarely have to wait more than a few minutes to catch a ride.
Metlink's suburban rail network provides frequent electric trains connecting central Wellington with the northern suburbs of Wellington City, Porirua, Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt and the Kapiti Coast. On weekdays, services run every 20 minutes on the Hutt Valley and Kapiti lines, every 30 minutes on the Johnsonville line, and hourly on the Melling line. On weekends, the service on the Hutt Valley and Kapiti lines reduces to every 30 minutes and there are no services on the Melling line. Metlink also operates a diesel train service to Masterton in the Wairarapa several times daily.
At Wellington station the destination and departure time of the next train departing from each platform is displayed on the message board at the entry to each platform. Two announcements are made a few minutes before each train is due to depart.
Tickets can be bought at the Wellington station ticket office or suburban ticket agents. Since most smaller stations do not have ticket offices, you can also buy single journey tickets and day passes, with cash, from the conductor onboard the train. Ten-trip tickets and monthly passes do need to be purchased from a station ticket office or suburban ticket agents in advance.
The core of Wellington is notably compact and vibrant, and is well-suited to exploration by walking. As dictated by geography, the core of the city is quite linear, with the classic commercial backbone known as the Golden Mile making for a diverting and pleasant walking route. This route runs from the Railway Station down Lambton Quay to its southern end at Willis Street. It then runs down lower Willis Street to Manners Street, and continues straight onto Courtenay Place. On the Manners Street section, the route crosses Wellington's bohemian heartland of Cuba Street, which heads south into the core of Te Aro. While these streets mark the traditional core of the commercial city, the surrounding blocks also have plenty to be seen.
Another enjoyable and popular place to amble in the city core is the Waterfront, from the revitalized Kumutoto area in the north, past Queen's Wharf to Frank Kitts Park, and then through the Lagoon and City-to-Sea Bridge areas and on to the Te Papa museum and Waitangi Park. From here the waterfront curves northeastward along lovely Oriental Bay with its beach and promenade.
By cable car
The Kelburn cable car is a Wellington icon. It provides a regular service between Lambton Quay and Kelburn. The Wellington city terminal is at the end of Cable Car Lane, just off Lambton Quay, near the intersection with Grey Street. The Kelburn terminal is at the end of Upland Road by an entrance to the Botanic Gardens.
As in all New Zealand cities, taxi rates vary according to the company. There is a "flagfall" charge, then a per kilometre charge once the cab starts moving. Extra fees apply for things like airport pickup, phone booking, electronic payment etc. Major taxi companies in Wellington include (alphabetically) Combined, Corporate, Green and Kiwi. There are many alternate taxi companies and taxis are usually in plentiful supply.
Check the door of the taxi before you get in for the current approved fare rates.
- Wellington Combined Taxis, ☏ .
- Corporate Cabs, ☏ .
- Green Cabs, ☏ , toll-free: 0508 447 336.
- Kiwi Cabs, ☏ , toll-free: 0508 42 54 94.
As noted above, driving in the core of Wellington is generally not necessary or as convenient as walking. However, it's not particularly difficult once you learn the one-way system, nor is traffic a big worry outside of normal rush-hour periods.
Street and garage/surface lot parking is not particularly difficult for a city of Wellington's density, but as with any city you may have to search a bit for a street spot. Street parking is generally metered in the centre at a rate of $4/hr (M-Th 8AM-6PM, F 8AM-8PM), often with a one or two hour time limit. Multi-storey car parks tend to be similarly priced, but you can generally stay for longer periods.
In the suburbs immediately surrounding the city, coupon parking zones exist in conjunction with Resident Only parking. In the Coupon Zones, two hours of parking are free. Beyond that you must display a coupon to allow you to park for the entire day. These are available at convenience stores for $5 each. Enforcement of the Coupon Zones is 8AM-6PM. Resident Zones are generally reserved for residents (displaying a current permit) at all times, and you may be served with a ticket for parking there without a permit.
On the weekend, metered car parking is free, with a two-hour time limit on both days.
The Eastbourne ferry service, which provides regular services between Queens Wharf and Days Bay in Eastbourne, also stops at Somes Island most trips.
As the capital city, Wellington is the centre of New Zealand's government. The city is home to the residence of the Governor-General (the Queen's representative in New Zealand), offices of the New Zealand Government (executive), the New Zealand Parliament (legislative), the New Zealand Supreme Court and Court of Appeal (the country's highest and second-highest courts respectively) and the head offices of many Government departments. Most are within walking distance of Parliament, around the northern end of The Terrace and Lambton Quay areas and the Thorndon commercial area.
- 1 Parliament Buildings, Molesworth Street, Thorndon, ☏ . Home of New Zealand's lawmakers and leaders, the complex consists of four building: the Beehive (or Executive Wing), Parliament House, the Parliamentary Library and Bowen House. The grounds of Parliament are open to the public, and free tours of the buildings are available from the visitor centre located between the Beehive and Parliament House. Depending on parliamentary business, tours may include a visit to the House of Representatives debating chamber and the Select Committee rooms. For security reasons, you need to leave all your belongings at the visitor centre and clear a checkpoint.
- 2 Old Government Buildings (opposite Parliament at 15 Lambton Quay). This is the largest wooden building in the southern hemisphere and the second-largest in the world. It is now the home of Victoria University Law School.
- 3 Supreme Court, 85 Lambton Quay, ☏ . M–F 9AM–5PM. The Supreme Court was established in January 2004 to replace the UK Privy Council as New Zealand's highest court, and primarily hears appeals from the Court of Appeal (New Zealand's second-highest court). The Supreme Court complex was completed in January 2010, extending on and incorporating the old 1879-built High Court building. The building is open to the public, but you can only look at the courtroom through a window. If you want to see inside the courtroom, join a free tour available three times a week.
- 4 National Library of New Zealand, 70 Molesworth St. Displays include key documents from New Zealand's history, including the Treaty of Waitangi, which is considered New Zealand's founding document. Free.
Museums and galleries
- 5 Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa), 55 Cable St, ☏ . F-W 10AM-6PM, Th 10AM-9PM. New Zealand's national museum contains interesting exhibitions on the country's history and culture and includes several shops. It has the only complete colossal squid on display. Free (except for the occasional special presentation).
- 6 Wellington Museum (Formerly Museum of Wellington City & Sea), Queens Wharf, 3 Jervois Quay, ☏ . Daily 10AM-5PM, closed 25 Dec. A well-presented museum of the history of Wellington, including its maritime history. Free.
- 7 City Gallery, Civic Square. Lacks a permanent collection but runs a consistently avant-garde set of exhibits. It also has the excellent café, Nikau, attached to it.
- 8 Carter Observatory (Space Place), 40 Salamanca Rd, Kelburn (2-min walk from the top of the Cable Car), ☏ . 10AM-5PM. Carter offers a state of the art planetarium show, along with multi media exhibits show how early Māori, Polynesian and European settlers navigated their way to New Zealand. $18.
- 9 Cable Car Museum, 1A Upland Rd, Kelburn (take the Cable Car to the top). Daily 9:30AM-5PM. Free.
- 10 Holocaust Centre of New Zealand, 80 Webb St. Su-F 10AM-1PM. A small museum. Free.
- 11 Katherine Mansfield Birthplace, 25 Tinakori Road. Victorian house where the author Katherine Mansfield was born, and lived for her first five years. The house is furnished as it would have been in the 1890s.
- 12 Nairn Street Cottage, 68 Nairn Street (Top of Willis Street). Sa and Su tours at noon, 1PM, 2PM and 3PM. Preserved cottage built in 1858 and kept in the same family until it became a museum, with an exhibition on its history. The small garden is open every day. $8.
- 13 National Tattoo Museum of New Zealand, 187 Vivian St. F Sa noon-8PM, Su-Th noon-17:30. History of tattooing in New Zealand and the Pacific, especially traditional Maori tattooing. Free.
- 14 Reserve Bank Museum, 2 The Terrace. M-F (also Sa in Jan-Feb) 9:30AM-4PM. Small museum on the economic history of the country, with an unusual analog water powered computer.
- Plimmer's Ark (Under and in the Old Bank Arcade on the corner of Lambton Quay and Customhouse Quay - near Plimmer's Steps.). A hundred years ago a bank was built on top of a wrecked ship that had been used as a market. When they renovated the building they discovered the ship's timbers and preserved the remains in the building! Just take the escalator down through the bank vault doors
- 15 Turnbull House, Bowen Street (just across the road from Parliament Buildings). This imposing brick mansion now seems small and out of place amongst the surrounding high-rises.
- 16 Old St Paul's (one block east of Parliament). Daily 9:30AM - 5PM. This was the Anglican centre for decades. Superseded by the new cathedral north of Parliament, this one is popular for weddings and funerals. donation, tours $5.
- 17 National War Memorial. Daily 10AM - 5PM. A tall art deco memorial dedicated in 1932 in National War Memorial Park. The Australian Memorial was added in 2015 when the area around the memorial was extended to form the park. Carillons (bells) are rung 12:30PM every Wed and Fri, 14:30 every Sun. Free.
Wellington City is surrounded by hills, so there are a number of good vantage points.
- 18 Wellington Cable Car, ☏ . M–F 7AM–10PM, shorter hours at weekends & around Christmas & New Year. From Lambton Quay (next to the McDonald's). The easiest way to get a nice view of the city and harbour, the Cable Car runs on rails from Lambton Quay to the Botanic Garden in Kelburn every ten minutes. Adult $5 one way, $9 return. Concession prices are available for children, students and senior citizens over 65.
- 19 Mount Victoria, off Lookout Rd (take #20 bus from Courtenay Place). 196 m high, this is the best lookout in Wellington. The full 360-degree view is a great place to see the airport, the harbour, the CBD and the Town Belt with just a turn of the head. It takes about an hour to walk up from Courtenay Place. Many tourist buses go there but also a lot of the locals, especially at night to 'watch the view'.
- 20 Mount Kaukau, off Woodmancote Road, Khandallah (take Johnsonville train from Wellington Station to Khandallah). 455 m high, and easily recognisable by the 122-metre television transmitter atop it. A great lookout point, but not as close to the city as Mt Victoria.
- Wrights Hill. More views, and World War II underground tunnels which are open to the public on public holidays for a small fee.
- 21 Brooklyn Wind Turbine, off Ashton Fitchett Dr, Brooklyn. Another great place to go to get an excellent view of the city, the harbour, and Cook Strait, plus experience the wind! The current turbine was installed in 2016 and is the second on the site; the first was erected in 1993 to test the potential of turning Wellington's infamous wind into electricity.
- 22 Massey Memorial, Massey Road, Miramar. An interesting place to go if you want to see a large memorial in the middle of nowhere, with a good view of the surrounding harbour. The memorial's namesake is William Massey, Prime Minister of New Zealand between 1912 and 1925.
- 23 Zealandia (Karori Wildlife Sanctuary), Waiapu Rd, Karori (1st left after Karori Tunnel, #2 bus from Lambton Quay), ☏ . Daily 9AM-5PM (last entry 4PM), closed 25 Dec. A predator-proof fence encloses an old water catchment area, forming a mainland island that provides a natural haven for endangered native birds, tuatara, wētā, and other indigenous flora and fauna, safe from introduced predators. By far the most convenient place in the country to see rare New Zealand wildlife. $18.50, child (5-17) $10.00, more for guided tours.
- 24 Matiu/Somes Island. Out in the middle of the harbour, this island has its share of history. It was once a quarantine station for immigrants, and later (and more extensively) for animals. It was also an internment camp for "dangerous" individuals during both world wars. The ferry leaves from Queen's Wharf and Day's Bay (on opposite sides of the harbour). Only at certain times will the ferry stop at the island and only upon request. The best choice is to leave Queen's Wharf at noon and return at 14:30 or 15:25. $22.
- 25 Weta Workshop. The studio that made the hit movie trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Tours must be booked online in advance. Also features a gift shop where you can buy Lord of the Rings memorabilia.
Parks and gardens
- The Botanic Garden is a nice place to go for a picnic, or just an afternoon walk (or run for a challenging fitness experience). You can take the Cable Car from Lambton Quay for a quick 5-minute trip to the top; but it is not designed to be exciting, despite being photogenic. If you're keen on walking up, take the lifts in the James Cook Arcade (or one of several others along Lambton Quay) up to The Terrace, head south uphill until you reach Salamanca Rd. Head uphill up Salamanca Rd until you reach Victoria University. A set of stairs on the opposite side of the road to the Hunter Lawn goes uphill right to the top of the Gardens. If you already shelled out for a Busabout Daypass ticket, just catch the Mairangi bus, get off at the stop after the University, and walk back along Upland Rd until you reach the Cable Car Museum. At the top of the Gardens, there are several attractions:
- The Cable Car Museum has two of the old cars in semi-restored and fully-restored condition and some of the original Cable Car machinery from the system that was replaced in 1978.
- The Lookout has a great view day or night, and the large map next to the round tree usually has a few pamphlets with maps of the Gardens.
- The Carter Observatory is a stones throw from here. This is the perfect place to explore the Garden from, or wander back to the city.
- 1 Bolton Street Memorial Park. Watch out for the friendly black cat who haunts this hillside cemetery. If you're returning from the Botanic Gardens by foot, this is great place to meander through and check out the epitaphs of early pioneers and historical figures. Between 1968 and 1971, over 3700 bodies were controversially exhumed to make way for motorway construction; their remains are now in an underground vault below the Early Settlers Memorial Lawn.
- 2 Dive the frigate Wellington (F69). Probably the world's most accessible dive wreck. Just a few kilometres around the coast from Wellington International Airport. Sunk on 13 November 2005 in 23-26 m of water off Island Bay on Wellington's south coast. The wreck lies about 600 m southeast of Taputeranga Island (the island of Island Bay).
- Take a ferry across the harbour. Go down to Queen's Wharf and check out the destinations and times.
- Oriental Bay, Oriental Parade (Past Te Papa). Oriental Parade is Wellington's most beautiful street. Wellingtonians and visitors run, walk, cycle, rollerblade and eat at the great cafes & restaurants on this strip or sunbathe at the beach. However if you are not from somewhere really cold it is unlikely that it will be hot enough for you to be in desperate need for a swim. There is a spa pool (Jacuzzi) in Freyberg Swimming Pool (on Oriental Parade) which is inexpensive if you enjoy "people soup".
- Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park.
- Karori Cemetery is an interesting picnic spot.
- 3 Frank Kitts Park (waterfront). A great place to wander around, with walls to climb, inline skates, and jet ski rental.
- Art Deco Heritage Trail. Pickup a leaflet or download the guide to this walk around central Wellington looking at the outside of 30 art deco buildings. There are also quite a few other art deco buildings in the centre, so look about as you explore.
- 4 Red Rocks/Seal Colony (Take the number 1 bus to the end (Island Bay). Walk across the park towards the ocean and hang a right. There is another bus, number 4, that goes to the end of the road but only at certain times. Travel west (right side, if facing the water) until you run out of road. Here you will find a disused quarry and a soon-to-open visitors centre.). This is an interesting walk named for its distinctive red rocks (probably Jasper). The walk along this beach is pleasant but rocky and often very windy, so dress accordingly. If you walk for about an hour you'll come across a distinctive pass though the rock face. Just on the other side of this is a seal colony that is worth the walk. Please bear in mind that these are wild animals and so require a certain level of respect, so keep your distance and don't get between them and the sea, especially if you value your health! Continuing on from here, you will eventually arrive at Makara (but this is a long distance, and the seal colony is a recommended turn-around point).
- 5 Skyline Walkway. A 12-km (5- to 6-hr) challenging walk.
- 6 The Enormous Crocodile, 5/22 Herd Street, email@example.com. Daily 10AM-6PM. Explore the waterfront in a crocodile-shaped quadricyle. Available in small (2 cyclists) and large (4 cyclists). $18+.
- Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, ☏ .
- Bats Theatre, 1 Kent Tce, ☏ .
- Capital E National Theatre for Children.
- 7 The Embassy Theatre, 10 Kent Terrace (opposite Courtenay Place), ☏ . 09:30 until late. This 1920s heritage-listed theatre is Wellington's premier film venue, and hosted the world premières of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Events and festivals
- Beck's Incredible Film Festival. Incredibly strange, exploitation cinema and extra low budget movies.
- Comedy Festival.
- Cuba Street Carnival. Wellington's largest free street festival is held biennially in March.
- Dance Music.
- Fringe Festival. 3 weeks during February/March.
- New Zealand International Arts Festival. February/March every year.
- Out in the Park. Annual gay and lesbian carnival on the first Saturday of March.
- 1 New World, 279 Wakefield St (east of Te Papa). Daily 7AM–11PM. Main central supermarket, with small stores in the Railway Station and on Willis Street.
- 2 Old Bank Shopping Arcade (corner of Willis St and Lambton Quay). Small upmarket arcade in the former Bank of New Zealand headquarters which opened in 1901. Has an animated musical clock which performs on the hour, and a small display on the remains of a boat washed up here in 1855.
- 3 Queensgate Shopping Centre, cnr Queens Dr & Bunny St, Lower Hutt Central. M-W Sa 9AM-6PM, Th F 9AM-9PM, Su 10AM-5:30PM. The largest shopping mall in the Lower North Island, with over 175 stores in 45,000 m2. Part of the mall was demolished after the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake, meaning it no longer has a cinema complex.
- 4 The Warehouse, 133 Tory St. The red shed for cheap clothing and household goods.
|This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
Wellington has a lot of restaurants and cafés, in fact more cafés, bars and restaurants per head than New York City. Malaysian food is surprisingly popular and available in most areas. You can also get good Turkish kebabs anywhere in the city, or Lebanese at the Phoenician Falafel on Kent Terrace (their kebabs are better than all the Turkish places too). Fish and chips is the best value food and you usually get better quality in the suburbs. The quality of pub fare is often decent to pretty good, but prices can range from relatively low to faint-inducing.
Express 24-hour snack joints such as Day N' Nite and Fix are very prevalent in the CBD, serving lower quality snacks such as pies, noodles and confectionery for rock bottom prices. If you're in need of a good meal and you've got a low budget, there's nothing better.
Uber Eats and Deliveroo are common to see in Wellington, especially around the CBD.
Wellington has a bustling nightlife, concentrated along Courtenay Place, one of the major streets running from the CBD. It runs through Te Aro and ends in Mt Victoria. The nightlife causes this street to have the highest population density in all of New Zealand on Friday and Saturday nights. In most establishments, drinks are remarkably affordable at about $6, and entrance charges are either nonexistent or minimal. In some of the better clubs reasonable dress standards apply, however in the day the mood is usually extremely casual, with flip-flops (called Jandals in New Zealand) and even bare feet occasionally accepted (a common Kiwi choice on hotter days). Cuba Mall also features some cool and more alternative bars.
Away from Courtenay Place in the CBD district (Lambton Quay) there are many after work bars frequented by office workers, however this area becomes deserted in the later hours, and thus these establishments usually do not provide all night partying.
- 1 Hotel Waterloo & Backpackers, 1 Bunny St (cnr Waterloo Quay, opposite the Railway station), ☏ , toll-free: 0800 225 725, firstname.lastname@example.org. Dorm beds from $29. Single room with shared bathroom $70. The travel desk on the ground floor can help with booking transport and activities.
- Lodge in the City, 152 Taranaki St (cnr Vivian & Taranaki Sts), ☏ , toll-free: 0800 257 225, fax: , email@example.com. Dorm $23, single room $50, doubles from $85.
- Nomads Wellington (Nomads Capital), 118-120 Wakefield St, ☏ , toll-free: 0508 666 237, firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. Dorm from $26, doubles from $95..
- Worldwide Backpackers Wellington, 291 The Terrace, toll-free: 0508 888 555, email@example.com. Queen, double, twin, double + single, 3 share, 4 share and 6 share.
- Rowena's Lodge, 115 Brougham St, ☏ . Camp sites from $15, dorms $23.
- 2 The Setup on Manners, 57 Manners St, CBD (opposite McDonald's), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Free Wi-Fi & Sky TV. From $105.
- 3 Oaks Wellington Hotel, 89, Courtenay Place, Te Aro, ☏ , Wellington@theoaksgroup.co.nz. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. Starting from $145.
- 4 CityLife Wellington, 300 Lambton Quay (vehicle entrance: 14 Gilmer Terrace), ☏ , toll-free: 0800 368 888, fax: , email@example.com. Four-star plus, suite-style hotel. Rooms on the Gilmer Terrace side face directly onto the steep hill the hotel sits on and have no view.
- 5 Distinction Wellington Century City Hotel, 70 Tory St, ☏ . Studio rooms, 1- & 2-bedroom apartments and penthouse suites. From $149.
- 6 Museum Hotel - Hotel de Wheels, 90 Cable St (opposite Te Papa - Museum of New Zealand), ☏ . In one of the largest ever building relocations, this hotel was moved across the street in 1993 to make way for Te Papa museum. From $149.
- InterContinental Hotel Wellington, 2 Grey St, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Adjacent to the waterfront, InterContinental Wellington is the only internationally branded 5-star hotel in Wellington.
- 7 Park Hotel Lambton Quay, 101 The Terrace, ☏ . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Hotel opened in 2016. Rooms have some cooking facilities. from $149.
A better way to get to know more locals and experience some NZ culture (if that's what you are looking for) is a shared house (a "flat" in NZ English). These are an option for stays of a month in summer while students are away – usually flats are taken for the year or at least several months). Look for "Flatmates wanted" in the local Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday newspaper (Dominion Post) classifieds.
Flats are much cheaper and usually well furnished already by the other tenants in the communal rooms. You may need to provide your own bed (you could buy a cheap one second hand for the summer), or they might be able lend you one. All flatmates share the rent, bills and chores, and occasionally food, meals and even washing too. Some flats come fully furnished, but this is not the norm.
To find flats, the locals use www.trademe.co.nz
- Wellington Central Library (in the city square, next to the information centre). The Central Library Building has been closed since March 2019, and its future is uncertain. Following the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes its structural strength was re-assessed inline with the Government’s seismic performance assessment guidelines. The public car park and the footpath around the library are also closed.
- CBD Free Wi-Fi, ☏ . Free Wi-Fi is available on the waterfront between the Railway Station and Te Papa. This is paid for by some adverts.
Wellington is reasonably safe at night, but common sense should prevail, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, as in any other city.
Occasionally, tourists relax security in New Zealand thinking that it is a crime-free paradise. While violent crime against tourists is very rare (and is usually followed up by public outrage against the offenders), opportunistic petty crime can still occur. Taking simple steps like locking valuables away and keeping to well-lit areas at night usually prevents problems.
Vehicle break-ins are common, especially in shopping malls and 'park and ride' type car parks. Thieves generally target older vehicles with less complicated locks. Removing all valuables and leaving the glove box open (to show that no valuables are hidden) will usually act as a deterrent. Police will normally give you a copy of their report for insurance purposes, but it is very unusual for any stolen property to be recovered and returned to its owner.
- Wellington Central Police Station, 41 Victoria St (between Maning Ln and Harris St), ☏ . In any emergency, dial 111
- 2 Wellington Accident and Urgent Medical Centre, 17 Adelaide Rd, Mount Cook, ☏ . Daily 8AM-11PM. Has on-site x-ray and plastering for fractures and attached pharmacy. Medical $98-108; Accident (ACC) $59-69.
Embassies, High Commissions and consulates
Although there are 41 foreign missions in Wellington, some countries may have representatives in other cities such as Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Nelson and Queenstown. In some cases the consular officials accredited to New Zealand from your country may actually be based in another country such as Australia or China! The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) maintains a useful list.
Details listed on Wikivoyage, such as telephone numbers and opening hours, are typically those of the consulate or consular section rather than for the embassy or High Commission itself.
Greater Wellington region
The Greater Wellington region is far bigger than just Wellington City. The old Wellington Province used to cover much of the southern half of the North Island, including the Manawatu and Wanganui regions.
There are three other cities that are close enough to Wellington City that together they form a single metro – the Wellington metropolitan area. The cities are Porirua, Lower Hutt (sometimes erroneously called "Hutt City", after its local council's preferred name) and Upper Hutt. The latter two cities may be referred to together as the Hutt Valley.
There are a number of interesting sights and beaches in the Hutt Valley and Porirua. Plimmerton, for example, has seen future world windsurfing champions training, and Edmund Hillary practised rock-climbing at Titahi Bay before conquering Everest.
The suburbs of Eastbourne and Days Bay are on the eastern side of Wellington Harbour. They can be reached by car, bus or ferry. There are a number of enjoyable hill walks in both Days Bay and Eastbourne. The East By West ferry service departs from Queens Wharf (Wellington) and travels to Days Bay Wharf, some services will stop on request at Somes Island (in the middle of the harbour). On weekends and public holidays the ferry also operates a harbour tour service which stops at Petone Wharf and Seatoun.
The Kapiti Coast as referred to as 'The Nature Coast' is a beautiful mix of beaches and lush native scenery. Spend the day at the beaches, near a river, or taking a walk through one of the many beautiful trails surrounding the hills and valleys bordering the coastline.
Further afield, the south Wairarapa has become one of New Zealand's wine growing regions. Tranzit run a wine tasting tour that leaves from Wellington Railway station each morning and visits four vineyards in the Wairarapa town of Martinborough, $199.
Bluebridge and the Interislander ferry companies sail across Cook Strait to Picton in the South Island through the Marlborough Sounds. The ferries take bikes, cars, buses and trains and the scenery on a good day is spectacular. The ferries are substantial ships designed for the sometimes rough conditions and the journey takes 3-3.5 hours.
Sounds Air provides flights to Blenheim, Picton and Nelson.