Wellington, home to New Zealand’s centre of government has a largely cosmopolitan feel. Often referred to as ‘mini-Melbourne’, this (self described) windy city is a melting pot of art, culture, food and fashion. Quirky laneway bars, underground art shows, and hipster eateries make up its inner city vibe, while a host of sandy beaches outside the urban bustle bring a cheerful holiday feel.
Head to Te Papa Museum for a history lesson and a ticket to one of its many international exhibitions or jump aboard the Wellington Cable Car at Lambton Quay - the only running funicular railway in the country. For those with an eye for boutique fashion wander through Cuba St to sample some of the city's best vintage stores. Break for coffee at a hipster cafe and be sure to snap a pic outside the ‘Beehive,’ New Zealand’s parliamentary debate chamber.
Go behind the scenes at Weta Workshop, the Oscar Award Winning design studio behind Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, and Avatar. We recommend a 45 minute guided tour through both the Workshop and Weta Cave. If you're a foodie at heart, a two hour round trip to Martinborough is a must do. Take your time as you wind through spectacular wine country, and be sure to stop in at Martinborough Wines or Ata Rangi Martinborough. For a educational day out, learn about New Zealand's native species at Zealandia - the world's first fully fenced eco-sanctuary and home to over 40 types of endangered and native birds.
Taking a night tour of Zealandia wildlife eco-sanctuary is an unforgettable experience and one that comes highly recommended. A conservation success and safe haven for some of New Zealand's rarest native animals, Zealandia is home to many remarkable species of birds, reptiles and insects living wild within a beautiful 225 hectare (one square mile) valley - just 10 minutes from the central city.
Your tour begins with an interactive exhibition before you walk through the gates of Zealandia predator-exclusion fence into the sanctuary. Your guide will then lead you on a torch-light walk through the native New Zealand bush. Possible sights include Kiwi foraging on the forest floor, tuatara hunting for food, glowworms shining, tiny Maud Island frogs in their enclosure, pateke (brown teal) ducks feeding at night and kaka (parrots) coming in to roost. Zealandia is one of the best places to see kiwi in the wild. Over 100 of these nocturnal birds live freely in their natural environment inside the safety of the sanctuary valley - so your chances of seeing one is high!
The Northern Explorer is a journey through the heart of the North Island, travelling between Wellington, New Zealand's arts and culture capital and Auckland, New Zealand's largest city. Along the way you pass the Central North Island ski towns of National Park and Ohakune. You also see fantastic views of New Zealand farmland, the volcanic plateau, Mount Ruapehu, the world famous Raurimu Spiral, and stunning river gorges - all from panoramic windows or open air viewing decks. All carriages feature large panoramic windows giving sweeping views of the magnificent North Island. The Observation Carriage includes a mix of seating including lounge-style seating. The lounge-style seating is arranged at the very rear of this glass-backed carriage enabling you to enjoy a totally unique Northern Explorer experience.
One of the most comprehensive Lord of the Rings tours available, the Wellington Rover full day tour encompasses the best filming locations in the Wellington Region for a truly unforgettable experience. The morning is spent exploring the city locations of Mount Victoria for spectacular views of the harbour and the Greenbelt with a short walk through the Outer Shire. You will then drive the southern suburbs, including Seatoun, Miramar and the South Coast to take in the Bree and Dunharrow locations and a stop at the incredible Weta Studios to see the amazing behind the scenes magic. Later In Kaitoke Regional Park you will enjoy a picnic lunch under the elvish trees of the Rivendell filming location.
A guided 60 minute tour of Te Papa's highlights, Maori treasures, and New Zealand history. Ideal for visitors with limited time or wanting an introduction for an extended visit.New Zealand's national museum tells the great stories of New Zealand's past, present and future. Over 20 galleries house imaginative exhibitions and interactive experiences that explore New Zealand's unique natural environment, the triumphs and tragedies of colonial history, and the warmth and vitality of the Maori people.
On this incredible full day Middle Earth tour you will get to visit the River Anduin, Gardens of Isengard and Rivendell before a scenic drive over the Rimutaka Mountains towards Fernside Country Gardens - the filming locations for Lothlorien where Flat Earth New Zealand has exclusive access to the beautiful private property. Enjoy lunch at a local cafe before journeying back to the city and vising the outer Shire on Mt Victoria then finish the day on a high at the home of all things Middle Earth - the Weta Workshop!
With your knowledgeable and entertaining Zest Guide, explore Wellington's foodie quarters and some of their favourite food places on this delicious introduction to the culinary capital. Visit a boutique coffee roastery or specialty cafe. Enjoy tastings at Wellington's best specialist food places including trying regional cheeses, honey, chocolates and much more, tasting at every stop. Savour a delicious, light tasting lunch with matched New Zealand wines at a top Wellington restaurant. During the tour, your guide can also introduce you to many other aspects of the Capital, ranging from iconic city architecture, sculptures and fantastic places to shop and eat. Walking time is approximately 90 minutes, all weather, over 5 hours.
For over a hundred years passengers have enjoyed the dramatic views of the growing cityscape and the surrounding hills that define Wellington's harbour. A five minute trip on the cable car to the top of the Kelburn Hill offers a charming escape from the busy city streets. From here you can enjoy views of the city & harbour Te Whanganui-a-Tara from the indoor or outdoor platforms, and visit the Cable Car Museum and Space Place at Carter Observatory.
Hop on board one of the minibuses and traverse Wellington’s winding streets on an intimate and informative 1½ hour guided Tour. Take in stunning views, cool architecture, eclectic suburbs and beautiful coastal scenery while the local guides tell you all about Wellington’s unique culture, history and city life. The best hop off and hop on stops in Wellington have been handpicked. Attractions along the way include Mount Victoria, Zealandia wildlife sanctuary, a coastal drive around Wellington's inner harbour, the beautiful historic buildings of parliament and old St Pauls and Te Papa - New Zealand's national museum, the list goes on!
The 92 km journey between Wellington and Picton takes around 3 hours and has been described as 'one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world'. Leaving Wellington Harbour you cross the Cook Strait and into the Marlborough Sounds. Then board the Coastal Pacific train for your journey between the delightful port of Picton and Kaikoura, this leg is a scenic feast with the Kaikoura mountain ranges on one side of your train and the rugged Pacific Ocean coastline on the other.
Enjoy an intimate small group tour looking at the unique aspects of the World's Coolest Little Capital. Drive through Courtenay Place and Oriental Parade and head up Mt Victoria for spectacular views of the City and Harbour. Then travel the stunning rugged coastline, now a marine reserve, stopping along the way to taste some famous Wellington coffee. Return to the central city for a drive through the quirky Cuba Street district and along Lambton Quay, the main shopping street for a chance to ride the famous Wellington Cable Car.
This incredible half day tour explores key sites in the film-making process around Wellington City. Pass the Embassy Cinema and ascend Mt Victoria for amazing views of the city and harbour before visiting the Outer Shire and 'Wellywood' - the home of the Wellington film industry. You will also get to visit the famous Weta Cave where you will be guided through the physical props and special effects magic of the Windows into the Workshop exhibit.
Discover Wellington's extraordinary natural features and contrasts. On this small group tour you will visit the summit of one of Wellington's central peaks for 360 degree views of the city, harbour and coastline, then take a 20 minute ferry trip to the wildlife sanctuary Matiu Somes Island. Here learn of the island's rich Maori and European history and current role as a wildlife sanctuary for rare native birds and reptiles. Matiu Somes was once a traditional pa site of Te Whanganui-a-Tara Maori, the island then became a quarantine station, an internment camp, and a military defence position, it now seeks to protect and preserve New Zealand native flora and fauna. Your guide will bring the history alive and help you find the shy wildlife including North Island Robins, Fluttering Shearwaters and Kakariki.
An indulgent day spent tasting some of New Zealand's leading wines, you will experience the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail with a Flat Earth tour through one of the country's best wine-making regions.The Martinborough area of the Wairarapa region is home to dozens of wineries, cafes and vineyards and is internationally renown for the delicious Pinot Noir.
Climb aboard your air-conditioned 4WD vehicle and set out on an adventure that will take you only 12 miles out of Wellington but will feel like another world. After winding your way through the city streets, you'll travel over farmland with fabulous views of Cook Strait and the South Island off in the distance (weather permitting). As you get closer to the Seal Colony, you'll see the famous Leaning Lighthouse come into view. Built in 1915, the decommissioned 65-foot tall tower was one of New Zealand's first automated lighthouses and, yes, it does lean a little. Continue along the beach, over some rough terrain until you reach Tongue Point, home to 600 native fur seals (fewer during the summer months). As your guide leads you to the best spot for taking pictures, they'll share their knowledge of these heart-warming mammals. Go ahead and walk through their natural habitat; although the seals are familiar with human interaction, you do have to be cautious and not approach too close – a fully grown Male Fur Seal can reach ten feet tall and weigh up to 700 pounds! After some refreshing morning or afternoon tea, it's time to head back to the city. En route, enjoy the bumpy ride as you cross Farmland & Fault lines.
Otari Native Botanic Garden and Wilton's Bush Reserve is the only public botanic garden in New Zealand dedicated solely to native plants. The Garden is a unique plant sanctuary and forest reserve and includes 100 hectares of native forest and 5 hectares of plant collections. Some of Wellington's oldest trees are here, including an 800-year-old Rimu.
Otari-Wilton’s Bush was originally covered with dense podocarp broadleaf forest. Maori used the forest for hunting and the name Otari means ‘Place of Snares’.
Following European colonisation, some of the large trees were removed for timber and others were burnt off for farmland. One of the early landowners, Job Wilton, preserved seven hectares of the original forest and fenced it off. This became known as Wilton’s Bush.
Known as one of the best links courses in the Southern Hempisphere, Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club is an international standard course set within the dunes of Wellington's spectacular Kapiti Coast. Designed by Alex Russel, the green has hosted the New Zealand Open 12 times. It also offers a clubhouse with well equipped locker rooms, a bar and a restaurant.
The Royal Wellington Golf Club offers a newly designed Turner MacPherson championship course in a beautiful parkland setting near Wellington. For more information on the course visit the the Royal Wellington Golf Club website.
Wellington city has a number of walking tracks that explore the Town Belt Forest, the harbour and city suburbs.
Home to over 26 hectares of unique landscape, exotic forests, native bush, colourful floral displays and magnificent views. Within the gardens you can explore the Sculpture Trail, there are seven major works by some of New Zealand's foremost sculptors set in the open grounds of the gardens. The Botanic Gardens are open daily from sunrise to sunset and entry is free.
Mount Victoria Loop
Distance 4.7km, Time 2.5 hours
This loop includes sections of the Hataitai to City Walkway and the Southern Walkway and will take you to the Mount Victoria lookout for fantastic views of the city.
Matiu/Somes Island Loop Track
Time 40 minutes of walking, not including ferry ride to island.
This track takes you around Matiu/Somes Island, offering spectacular views across Wellington Harbour to Wellington and Hutt cities. Pause along the way to check out the island’s historic and ecological attractions, including introduced wildlife which are thriving amongst the native vegetation. There are three daily ferries to and from Matiu/Somes Island with East by West Ferry.
Distance 11km; Time 4-5 hours to complete the entire walk – but shorter sections can be walked.
The Southern Walkway follows the Town Belt forest between Oriental Bay and Island Bay. The greatest attraction of this walkway is the variety of scenery, from views of the harbour and central city at Oriental Bay, the shade and tranquility of the Town Belt forest to the rugged and exposed Southern coastline between Houghton and Island Bays. Shorter sections of this can be walked depending on time available and your interests.
City to Sea Walkway
Distance 12km; Time 6-7 hours to complete the entire walk – but shorter sections can be walked.
You can choose to walk shorter sections of this walkway depending on time and interests and in either direction. Starting in the heart of the city near Parliament and finishing at Island Bay on the south Coast, this walkway passes through the Botanic Gardens, Victoria University, historic Aro Valley and many parks and reserves. You will get spectacular views of central Wellington, Mount Victoria, Mount Kaukau and the Cook Strait.
At Space Place you'll hear stories of southern skies through multimedia exhibits, interactive galleries, the historic Thomas Cooke telescope and digital, full-dome planetarium. Learn about planets, stars, constellations and galaxies. Complete your trip through the galaxy with gripping stories of space exploration and the magic and science of Māori astronomy.
The Wellington Botanic Gardens are home to over 26 hectares of exceptional views, unique landscape, exotic forests, native bush, and specialist gardens. One of the oldest botanic gardens in New Zealand, this central city garden was established in 1868. The conifer species were planted as part of a programme to import plant species and assess their economic potential to the new colony. The very large specimens of Pinus radiata that dominate the landscape were grown from the first seed of that species to be imported from California. A feature of the gardens are major seasonal floral displays, spectacular in spring, with a massed display of 30,000 tulips. In summer, the Lady Norwood Rose garden provides a colourful spectacle with 106 formal beds each containing a different cultivar. Adjacent is a large Begonia House displaying tropical and temperate plants and a tropical conservatory with a seasonal display of orchids. Victoria amazonica, the giant water lily can be found here. There are several key attractions in the garden that visitors can experience such as glow worms in the Main Garden, public art throughout the garden, children's play area, Botanic Garden Cafe located in the Lady Norwood Rose Garden and the Carter Observatory. The information centre is located in the spectacular Tree House and nearby there is a rock garden, an extensive fern collection and a camellia walk. There are extensive, well-maintained, walking paths throughout the garden.
Take in Wellington's most scenic highlights on a half-day tour of the city and its surrounds - the perfect way to get your bearings in New Zealand's capital city.
See Wellington's beautiful waterfront from some of the city's most picturesque viewpoints, like the summit of Mount Victoria, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city, its hills and harbour.
Wellington has many fascinating examples of classic architecture - see the iconic Beehive, New Zealand's main parliamentary building, and the Old Government Buildings, the largest wooden building in the Southern Hemisphere. Visit Old Saint Paul's Cathedral, a fine example of Revival Gothic architecture.
Take in the beauty of the Wellington Botanic Gardens including the Lady Norwood Rose Gardens and native bush, and drive around the rugged Wellington coastline discovering hidden bays and some of Wellington's most popular beaches.
As you travel around the Miramar Peninsula and southern bays, you'll see the picturesque seaside suburb of Seatoun, as well as Pencarrow and the Baring Head Lighthouse, while enjoying unobstructed views of Wellington's harbour entrance. On a clear day you can see all the way across Cook Strait to the Kaikoura Ranges in the South Island.
The perfect introduction to Wellington City! See Wellington through the eyes of a local on this tour. Experience the best attractions and must see landmarks of this vibrant city and get off the tourist trail. Gain a 360° view of the city from Mount Victoria, experience the rugged south coast seas and explore interesting quaint villages throughout the city. Take a ride on the famous cable car (optional at own cost) but most of all sit back and enjoy Wellington at its finest.
Te Papa means 'our place' and is considered to be the 'museum of New Zealand'. The building opened in 1998 and since then has shown millions of visitors it's fascinating and unique collection of New Zealand's art, history, memorabilia, natural wonders, treasures and stories as well as hosting many international displays.
One of the finest collections of Maori artefacts can be found here as well as displays dedicated to the many different cultures that make up New Zealand's current population. Make sure you allow enough time to explore museums many floors. The museum is open 10am to 6pm and is free to visit. A small fee may be applicable to some short term visiting displays.
Museum of Wellington City & Sea
Housed in the iconic Bond Store on Wellington’s waterfront, the Museum of Wellington is dedicated to the preservation and study of Wellington’s rich social and cultural history. It provides a backdrop for the permanent display of the people and events that have made Wellington what it is today. The Museum’s atmosphere is thick with history. The Bond Store dates back to 1892, when it was a cargo warehouse and head office of the Harbour Board. Careful restoration has preserved the building’s striking facade, as well as solid timber beams and the original flooring inside. The latest technology is used to further stimulate your senses. Traditional displays sit alongside interactive exhibits, holographs and a giant cinema screen that stretches the length and breadth of an entire wall, a feature unique in Australasia. The collection includes over 95,000 items. Open 10am to 5pm entry is free.
The Weta Cave mini-museum brings you face to face with some of the characters, props and displays from your favourite movies, including The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies. Visit Weta Cave Workshop and get up close to the props, weapons and costumes created for The Lord of the Rings, Power Rangers, The Great Wall, Avatar, District 9, and more. See artists at work on our tour stage and peek through windows that look directly into the Workshop. Hear stories from the Weta Workshop crew. Many have worked on the films themselves! Weta Workshop is also known for its extraordinary miniatures and bigatures created for films like The Lord of the Rings, Furious 7, The Legend of Zorro, and Master and Commander. On the Miniatures Stage Tour, you'll visit the authentic Thunderbirds Are Go shooting stage and discover Weta Workshop's latest jaw-dropping creations.