Planning a trip to Wellington but short on time? There is a tonne of really great things to see and do in New Zealand’s gorgeous capital city and you don’t need a huge amount of time to do them. With one or two days you can get a great taste of what this place is all about and most likely find yourself wishing you could come back again.
If you’re an Aussie, the best way I can describe it is that Auckland, to me, felt a bit like Sydney and Wellington felt a lot more like Melbourne. If you’ve got more than one day, you can definitely extend this itinerary out and take your time, so I’ve added a few extra tips just for you at the end.
You know how I feel about breakfast and coffee… they’re absolutely essential to my existence as a real human and not a very hungry/angry blob of hair. Luckily, Wellington has a bangin’ brunch scene. Here are my top picks on great spots to start your day in Welly-wood:
- Floriditas, with its airy, open and well-lit space, serves up sensational eggs of ALL varieties and their very own house-baked bread!
- Fidel’s Cafe, a Wellington favourite, deliver delicious and affordable options like bagels and butty’s as well as waffles, vegan options and baked eggs.
- Nikau Cafe, this low-key spot offers an understated setting for delightful food, like sage fried eggs. Try to resist the cabinet full of fresh-baked treats, if you can.
- Poneke, a fancier but still very welcoming set-up offering fantastic food and coffee, like twelve-hour braised beef cheek and poached egg on sourdough.
Te Papa Museum
Wellington’s museum is absolutely freaking awesome and, best of all, it’s free to get in and wander around a large number of exhibits. It’s a really great way to learn about New Zealand’s history. Not just the textbook stuff, but really interesting things like huge natural disasters, the story of a giant squid and rotating exhibits that will blow your mind. It’s really well laid out and the exhibits are outstanding. I’d recommend an hour or two spent exploring slowly. Find Te Papa Museum here.
Coffee along the waterfront
After you’re done at Te Papa, walk out to the waterfront and grab a coffee or hot chocolate from the bright silver Airstream. Then, stake out a nice seat for yourself and soak in the sunshine along the water. This is a great spot just to sit and relax for a while, do a spot of people watching and get some really nice photos of the water and islands in the distance. We had a perfectly sunny day and it was gorgeous!
Make your way to Oriental Bay, a really beautiful spot not too far from the main areas of the city. This area is a really quiet, chilled out escape that’ll have you feeling like you’re much further away from the city than you really are. In summer, it’s the perfect place to spend some time swimming. In winter, it’s still gorgeous, but better as a spot for photos and a mid-morning snack. The water here is stunning, it’s so blue and just perfect. Find Oriental Bay here.
If you love movies or just enjoy finding out how things are made and seeing really cool things, you have to visit the Weta Workshop. Honestly, I was on the fence about going but I’m so glad I did. Weta is a kiwi company operating out of a deceptively low-key facility in a regular Wellington suburb. From humble beginnings, they now work on HUGE films, like the Lord of the Rings trilogy and other big films like The Avengers, Avatar and The Chronicles of Narnia. You get to see how they make all the amazing props, suits and other amazing gadgets and it’s a peek into the world of movie magic. It’s so much fun! Find Weta Workshop here.
Take a trip to Lyall Bay and spend the day with your feet in the sand, soaking in the beautiful sunshine. If you’re there in the warmer months, you’ll find the beach here to be a popular, safe spot for a dip. Once you’re done scoping out the beach, grab a bite to eat at a local cafe. I recommend a trip to Maranui Cafe at the Maranui Surf Life Saving Club. This place is super cool, brightly adorned and a warm, welcome spot to refuel for the afternoon. Get your hands on salads and toasties, quesadillas and their super steamed muscles! If you fancy some more time outside, I’d recommend getting takeaway fish and chips from a local fisho and sitting in the sun with a cold drink.
Mt Victoria for the sunset
The best place to watch the sunset is definitely Mt Victoria. If you’re a fit bunny you can run up (mad!) but you can also drive up to the top and catch the sunset. It’s the perfect spot to get 360-degree views of Wellington and see the absolute best of it. The sunsets here are magical and perfect for photographers. Find Mt Victoria here.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Wellington on a Friday night, you have to visit the Night Market! This place absolutely goes off and it’s a great excuse to check out Cuba Street, one of Wellington’s most well-known spots. The market offers up food from everywhere across the globe and some really great live music as well. I definitely recommend trying House of Dumplings, they do the best vegan dumplings I’ve ever had! Find the Night Market here.
For a nightcap, or seven, strap on your party pants and head out to any of these great spots:
- The Library is an incredibly cool spot, where the walls are lined by books, there are great nooks to sit and talk and a fantastic menu of cocktails, wines, single-malt and more to choose from.
- Hawthorn Lounge, with its fit-out straight out of the 1930s offers up a very cosy space and the very best cocktail list in town, with creations you’ve never even heard of before.
- CGR Merchant and Co, the perfect space for anyone who loves rum, gin and booze in general, this alchemist-inspired space is the perfect space to lose a few cosy hours of an evening.
- Good Luck, a very cool basement bar serving up fantastic cocktails and late-night Asian-inspired nibbles.
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Phoebe is a travel writer and photographer with a love for storytelling and making people laugh. Matt is a videographer and photographer with a passion for the great outdoors and big adventures. Together we inspire big adventures through our guides, videos, vlogs and photographs. Find out more about us here.