The Wellington Cable Car is one of the best things to do in Wellington

The 12 Best Things To Do In Wellington | Cool Little Capital

Explore the 12 best things to do in Wellington, New Zealand. The country’s capital. Located on the southeastern tip of the North Island, many people stop here for a night to catch the 3.5 hour ferry across Cook Straight to the South Island. While you’re here, discover the best things to see and do, including walking along the waterfront, experiencing some local culture on vibrant Cuba Street, seeing the panoramic views at Mount Victoria Walkway Lookout and the Wellington Cable Car, going on a Lord of the Rings movie tour, visiting the Botanic Garden, and more.

Best Things To Do In Wellington

Walk Along The Waterfront

One of the best things to do in Wellington is to stroll along its picturesque Waterfront. This harborside promenade offers views of the harbor with shopping, museums, and sculptures, as well as many cafes, bars, restaurants, and coffee shops to stop at along the way.

The Wellington Waterfront Walkway is one of the best things to do in Wellington
Whairepo Lagoon In Wellington Harbor

Walk from Queens Wharf to Clyde Quay Wharf, or all the way to Oriental Bay (see below). Explore all its nooks and crannies and find a place to eat.

If you’re more adventurous, look for the jumping platforms in the area like the Taranaki Platform and jump into the bay. Just make sure to check water quality levels first at Land Water & Air Aotearoa.

There’s also a Writers Walk here with 23 unique tributes. The image below shows one of these installations.

The Wellington Waterfront Walkway is one of the best things to do in Wellington
Wellington Harbor

Explore Cuba Street

Cuba Street is one of the liveliest streets in central Wellington and another one of the top things to do. It’s the perfect place to spend some time. Explore its many restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, art galleries, and shops and get a dose of local culture as this area is frequented by locals as well.

This is the bohemian area of Wellington, a popular place for young people, and home to many colorful heritage buildings. You’ll see Victorian and Edwardian buildings dating back to the late 19th and early 20th century, as well as Art Deco influences and modern additions.

It’s a pedestrian street serving as a pedestrian mall in the heart of the city. There are wide sidewalks and plenty of public seating areas making it easy to navigate and enjoy.

Cuba Street also has a colorful rainbow painted on it at its intersection with Dixon Street. Rainbow Crossing, painted to honor the LGBTQI community, was created on the birthday of Carmen Rupe, New Zealand’s first drag queen.

Fun Fact: How did Cuba Street get its unusual name? Although there is a bar named Havana and a Cafe name Fidel’s, it’s actually named after an early settler ship named Cuba from the mid-1800’s.

Dance With Strangers on Cuba Street

You can also dance with strangers in Cuba Street. I stopped by here on a Sunday evening and it was full of people dancing with a boom box playing music, but this also occurs on Friday, Saturday, and other days of the week. Show up solo and I’m sure you’ll find someone to dance with you!

Dancing On Cuba Street

There is even a festival called CubaDupa in this area. It’s a family friendly event with two days of entertainment, parades, dance, and music and an explosion of color and fun. In 2024 it was held in March.

Find The Philanthropist’s Stone

On lower Cuba Street, look for the blue Corinthian column topped with a giant gold plated bronze nugget. This is the Philanthropist’s Stone, a monument to commemorate philanthropist, Thomas George Macarthy who came to New Zealand during the gold rush years and left a very substantial trust to strengthen and build the community.

You can even find it at night as its hand-blown glass candles are illuminated at night.

Seeing the Philanthropist’s Stone is one of the best things to do in Wellington
Philanthropist’s Stone

Hike Mount Victoria Walkway

For the best view in Wellington, head to lookout point on Mount Victoria Walkway. It offers amazing panoramic views across Wellington’s picturesque harbor, the Cook Straight, and the surrounding valley.

And if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, make sure to look for Hobbit Hideaway while on Mount Victoria.

The stunning view from the lookout point of Mount Victoria Walkway.
Mount Victoria Walkway Lookout


You can walk to the lookout from central Wellington or take the bus. You can also take the bus to the starting point of the trail and then hike. Or, if you have a car, you can just drive. To learn more about it, how to get here, and what to expect, see my post on Mount Victoria Walkway Lookout.

Ride The Wellington Cable Car

If you don’t have time to hike or drive to the lookout at Mount Victoira, the Wellington Cable Car is closer to central Wellington and just a 5-minute ride up to its lookout point. This iconic red cable car starts in the city center and heads up past the terraced houses on Kelburn hillside to Kelburn Lookout.

The cable car starts on Lambton Quay at Cable Car Lane near the Novotel. There are several intermediary stops (mostly for locals), but the main stop is Kelburn Lookout at the summit.

The Wellington Cable Car is one of the best things to do in Wellington
Kelburn Lookout

From here you can also walk to the Wellington Botanic Garden and the Space Place at Carter Observatory (more details on these below). There’s also the Wellington Cable Car Museum and the Cable Top Eatery which offers a variety of lunch and dinner options with a view.

Visit The Wellington Botanic Garden

The Wellington Botanic Garden ki Paekākā sits a short walk from the Kelburn Lookout. It offers 25 hectares of colorful botanical displays and unique landscapes with views over the city.

Some of the top sites here include the Lady Norwood Rosegarden, with 110 rose beds, Begonia House, Treehouse, the education and environmental section of the garden, a duck pond, an herb garden, a play area for kids, and more.

The full trail around the gardens is a 2.2 mile (3.5 km) loop. Expect to spend about an hour here. More if you want to take your time and evaluate everything in more detail.

The easiest way to get to the Botanic Garden is via the Wellington Cable Car, but you can also drive, or walk up the 2 mile track along the hillside.

Fun Fact: The name ki Paekākā is a historical Māori name for this area. It means ‘realm or perch of the kākā’, which is the now endangered native parrot that once thrived here.

Learn About The Skies At The Space Place

Learn about the southern skies here at The Space Place at Carter Observatory. They teach you about the skies with interactive galleries, mutli-media exhibits, and a planetarium show.

It’s located a short walk from the Kelburn Lookout of the Wellington Cable Car.

Explore Oriental Bay

If you want some beach time in the city, Oriental Bay is sandy stretch of beach frequented by locals and tourists. Its crescent shaped beach is framed by the towering hills staggered with architecture.

Oriental Bay

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There’s a promenade for walkers, cyclists, dog walkers, and joggers, and it’s a great place for swimming, laying on the beach, and picnicking. There are also many cafes and restaurants offering great views of the bay.

Visit The Te Papa Tongarewa Museum

The Te Papa is New Zealand’s national museum so well worth a stop. Plus, it’s free (except for special exhibits and events).

Te Papa Tongarewa means “container of treasures” in Māori, showcasing its role in representing and displaying New Zealand’s natural and cultural heritage.

This is the largest museum in New Zealand with six stories and over 800,000 artworks, objects, and specimens. You can choose to walk on your own or get a guided tour for a small fee.

Discover The Zealandia Eco-Sanctuary

Zealandia is a protected natural area in Wellington fenced to keep predators out and protect endangered wildlife, making it a world-class sanctuary.

You can see a variety of rare birds, like the kākāriki, takahē, kākā, and kiwi, as well as lizards that walked the earth with dinosaurs. You can also eat at the Rata Cafe for sustainable, locally sourced food or bring your own picnic.

Zealandia is located a 15-minute drive west of central Wellington. If you don’t have a car, transportation is provided via a free shuttle from Wakefield Street and the top of the Cable Car. See the visitzealandia website for details on this.

Visit Lord Of The Rings Movie Sites

If you’re a Lord of the Rings Fan, there are several Lord of the Rings filming locations and sites to visit. Highlights include the Wētā Workshop on the Miramar Peninsula and Kaitoke Regional Park where Rivendell was filmed, as well as Hobbit’s Hideaway noted above on Mount Victoria.

Tours are the easiest way to do this. There’s the Wētā Workshop Experience In Wellington, which is a one and a half hour tour that meets in Miramar. This is best if you have a car. There is, however, a bus you can take too. See metlink.org.nz for details.

There’s also Wellington’s Half Day Lord of the Rings Tour(including Weta Tour) This tour takes you to the Wētā Workshop as well as other LOTR locations in Wellington. And if you’re a true fan, try Wellington’s Full Day Lord of the Rings Tour including Lunch. On this tour you visit nine Lord of the Rings locations and have a Lord of the Rings themed lunch. Both of these offer pick up in Wellington making it easy if you don’t have a car.

Where To Stay In Wellington

There are many hotel offering in Wellington, but only a few get really good reviews. I’ve selected a few of these in different areas of the city. These are all affordable options:

  • The Cobbler Hotel is located near central Wellington, a 4-minute walk from the Te Papa Museum.
  • If you want to stay near lively Cuba Street, stay in the Intrepid Hotel.
  • B and B on Hay Street by the Sea is also located in Central Wellington, a 3-minute walk away from Oriental Bay Beach and a 12-minute walk east of Te Papa.
  • If you want to stay near the train station, the Ibis Wellington is just a 10-minute walk away.

Want More Of New Zealand?

For other great things to do in the North Island, visit Tongariro National Park and hike Tongariro. It’s not every day you can hike in a live volcano. Another amazing hike on the North Island Cape Brett Walkway up by the Bay of Islands. Waiheke Island, not far from Auckland, makes a great day trip.

For other great hikes in New Zealand, see my posts on Routeburn Track, Abel Tasman Coastal Track, Key Summit Track, A Day Hike on Kepler Track, Ben Lomond Track, and Queesntown Hill Walkway. Routeburn, Kepler, and Abel Tasman are 3 of New Zealand’s 10 “Great Walks”, but all of these hikes are amazing!

If visiting the South Island, make sure to visit stunning Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world, the unmissable Milford Sound, sometimes called the 8th wonder of the world, and all the stops along the way on the drive from Queenstown To Te Anau and Te Anau to Milford Sound.

There’s also incredible Wanaka, with the hidden gem hike up Roy’s Peak Track for an incredible view, amazing Skydiving, Franz Josef Glacier where you can walk on a glacier, and Marlborough, the premier wine tasting area for Sauvignon Blanc. Christchurch is also a delightful city to stay in for a day to two.

To help plan your trip, see my New Zealand Travel Guide. It covers the top destinations above, how to get around, when to visit, safety tips, and more.

Safe Travels!

Julie

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

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