Top Things to Do in Wellington
Beloved for its delicious coffee, clean air, laid-back culture and Hollywood connections, it’s easy to see why Wellington is beloved by Kiwis and travellers alike. If all that’s not enough, it’s also a great jumping off point for exploring both New Zealand’s North and South Islands. But, before you rush off in search of adventure beyond the city, it's worth taking the time to soak up all that New Zealand's compact capital has to offer. To get you started, here we look at the best things to see and do in Wellington:
Spot native birds at Zealandia
Stroll through the gates of the ground-breaking conservation project that is Zealandia, and it feels like stepping onto the set of Jurassic Park or Lord of the Rings. There’s lush vegetation as far as the eye can see and, hidden among the foliage, 40 native bird species – 24 of which can only be found in New Zealand. There’s the double-throated tui, the warbling bellbird and of course the iconic, flightless kiwi. Or, if birds aren’t your thing, cast your eyes to the ground and see if you can spot the camouflaged tuatara, the giant weta or several different varieties of gecko. Feeling peckish? The on-site Rata Café serves up some great, locally sourced fare too.
Geek out at the Weta Cave
If you’re a fan of the big (or small) screen, the delights of Wellywood will no doubt be a huge draw. Thunderbirds, Lord of the Rings, and my personal favourite, District 9… you’ll be able to get up close to some of the best props from these productions, and more, when you take a tour of the Weta Cave and Workshop. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to catch some work in progress – we visited in October and saw the pros creating some scary Halloween heads!
Soak up Kiwi culture at Te Papa
As New Zealand’s national museum, a visit to Te Papa is an absolute must. It’s a great intro into Maori culture – in particular New Zealand’s oldest Māori meeting house (wharenui, pictured below) – as well as being home to some of the most fascinating artwork in the country. If you’re short on time, don’t miss the Gallipoli exhibition – eight giant war figures, funnily enough crafted by the guys at the Weta Workshop – or the fun colour room, where you can illuminate yourself and your travelling companions in a shade of your choice.
Dine in 1920s style at CoCo @ The Roxy
Inspired by the flapper movement, the Art Deco CoCo @ The Roxy is so much more than just a restaurant – it’s an experience. Of course it helps that the food is delicious but, above all, being surrounded by 1920s sculptures and artworks created by (yup, you guessed it!) the Weta Workshop makes for some unique dining. If you’re not sure what to try, I recommend the Peninsula Platter. Put together by Head Chef Nic Spicer, it offers tasters of the restaurant’s most beloved dishes and is utterly sublime, especially the arancini balls.
Ride the Wellington Cable Car to the top of Mount Victoria
This historic funicular is a Wellington institution and, with departures every 10 minutes, it's a great way to get a view of the city quickly and easily. At the top, admire the waterfront city and its hillside homes, charming green spaces and pretty architecture – all of which is particularly majestic at sunset. From here you can also go on to visit the Botanic Garden, Cable Car Museum and Space Place at the Carter Observatory.
Take a photo with ‘The Beehive’
Otherwise known for being the Executive Wing of the New Zealand Parliament Buildings, ‘The Beehive’ is one of Wellington’s most famous structures. Built in 1981, it earned the nickname thanks to its woven-style design, resembling the intricate workings of a bees' nest. Be sure to snap a selfie with this beloved building and, if you’re into politics, you can even head inside and into the Visitor Centre on the ground floor of The Beehive itself. If you’re lucky, you might even get to watch Parliament meet in the public galleries!
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