Great Family Activities in Wellington, New Zealand

Oriental Bay is one of Wellington’s most beautiful beaches, so why not head there for a picnic?
Oriental Bay is one of Wellington’s most beautiful beaches, so why not head there for a picnic? | © David Wall / Alamy Stock Photo
Bianca Ackroyd

Located on the south-west tip of New Zealand’s North Island, Wellington is often referred to as the coolest little capital in the world. This city is great for families to visit as it is home to many places where children can play, learn and be entertained without older family members getting bored.

1. Travel back in time on a cable car ride

Museum, Train Station

The Wellington Cable Car, a funicular railway in Wellington, New Zealand
© jiGGoTravel / Alamy Stock Photo
Wellington’s bright shiny red cable car opened in 1902 and is the country’s only funicular railway still running today. Buy tickets at the station in Lambton Quay and get transported to the past by grabbing a seat on one of the old-fashioned wooden benches. Wellington’s red cable car climbs 120m (394ft) through a tunnel of changing colourful lights to a viewing deck overlooking the capital from the suburb of Kelburn. Visit the Cable Car Museum opposite the lookout to learn more about the history and engineering of the cable car that has transported people from the harbour to the hills for more than 100 years.

2. Discover the night skies at Space Place


Only a short walk from the cable car is Space Place at Carter Observatory, home to Wellington’s planetarium and museum for astronomy. Discover the science, history and mythology of New Zealand’s night skies through watching one of several informative short films or walking through the multimedia exhibition at the full-dome planetarium. Space Place is situated at Wellington’s Botanic Garden and is open during the day from Tuesday to Sunday as well as on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights (weather permitting) for those who want to stargaze.

3. Get close to wildlife at Zealandia


New Zealand North island Wellington Zealandia (formerly known as the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary) tucked in the hills is a
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

Hop on a free shuttle from the cable car lookout point to Zealandia, Wellington’s popular native wildlife eco-sanctuary. The 225ha (556 acre) sanctuary is home to a range of engendered birds and reptiles living safely in this predator-free reserve. The tuatara lizard and tui bird are some of the species that can be seen on a day tour. For those who want to see the elusive kiwi bird, the best chance is on a night tour. The sanctuary is situated in the Wellington suburb of Karori and is open every day from 9am to 5pm except for Christmas Day. Spaces are limited for day tours which run from 10am to 2pm and night tours which depart at dusk.

4. Experience an earthquake simulation at the Te Papa Museum


NEW ZEALAND WELLINGTON NEW ZEALAND Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa national museum and mixed art gallery wellington waterfront new zealand
© Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Wellington’s Te Aro suburb is home to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the country’s national museum for natural history. Children will love engaging with the Te Taiao | Nature permanent exhibition where they can interact and play as they learn about New Zealand’s unique natural environment. Don’t miss the informative earthquake simulation where visitors can stand in a small structure and feel the building shake and rattle. The museum is open every day (except Christmas Day) from 10am to 6pm and admission is free except for some short-term exhibitions and events.

5. Picnic lunch and play at the beach at Oriental Bay

Natural Feature

Visit Oriental Bay, one of Wellington’s most beautiful beaches and the perfect spot for some fresh air and a picnic. Take a breather on the beach and look out onto the bay as ships come in and out of the busy harbour while children can play on swings and slides close by. The best spot for a picnic with nearby playground equipment is the Freyberg Beach playground or Waitangi Park, both located along the Oriental Bay parade.

6. Experience movie-making magic at Weta Cave


Join a tour of the Weta Cave workshop to learn about how props, costumes and creatures were made for The Lord of the Rings(2001), The Hobbit (2012) and Avatar (2009) films. Weta Workshop is situated at the Weta Cave store in Miramar and should be booked online in advance.

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