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Elements of the New Zealand summer archetype, Oriental Bay | © Phillip Capper/flickr
Elements of the New Zealand summer archetype, Oriental Bay | © Phillip Capper/flickr

The Top 10 Things To Do And See In Wellington

Picture of Jesse Gurney
Updated: 9 February 2017
Wellington, New Zealand’s capital and cultural hub, sits on the North Island’s southernmost tip. Along with outdoor adventures and relaxing getaways, Wellington provides more opportunities to discover New Zealand’s incredibly colorful colonial, indigenous, and geological histories than any other New Zealand city.

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Te Papa Tongarewa, loosely translated as ‘The place of pleasures of this land,’ is New Zealand’s national museum and art gallery. The museum showcases groundbreaking exhibits that allow you to immerse yourself in celebrations of New Zealand’s unique wildlife, natural environment, and native Maori people. While you may be interested in the display honoring WWII tragedies, be sure to tell your children or friends that Te Papa is home to the world’s largest colossal squid specimen, clocking in at 4.2 meters.

Mount Victoria Lookout

Mount Victoria rises 196 meters above Wellington. A perfect setting for all selfie-lovers, the Mount Victoria Lookout provides a 360 degrees panoramic view of the surrounding city, harbor, and rolling hills. While you can see for miles during the day, locals recommend that you go up right before twilight to watch the sun go down and the lights come up. Too tired to hike? You can always drive or take the hop-on hop-off bus. The place was also featured in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings – although you’re going to have to visit to figure out which one!

Zealandia

New Zealanders often refer to themselves as Kiwis, which are flightless birds and the national symbol of New Zealand. Kiwis, along with other birds including Saddlebacks, Kakas, and Wekas, are only native to New Zealand. These birds started dying out once ferrets and other land mammals were introduced to the island. Zealandia preserves these populations within a predator-free fence and allows visitors to get up close and personal with birds their in natural environments.

The Wellington Cable Car

Established in 1902, Wellington’s historic Cable Car is a city landmark and is New Zealand’s only cable railway currently in operation. Used by locals and travelers alike, the cable car takes you from the suburbs to the city’s center, stopping at the Cable Car Museum, the Wellington Botanical Garden, and the city’s shopping center. More than a commute, the route has stunning views of the cityscape and surrounding hills. Brace yourself for the two hundred meter tunnels, which have spectacular light shows as you ride through.

Oriental Bay

Need a day to relax? Oriental Bay’s white sandy beaches and clear blue water are smack-dab in the middle of Wellington (fear not, the Bay is clean like the rest of New Zealand). Leave the sand only to head to one of the various small cafés and ice cream spots dotting the beach front. And if for whatever reason you’re not a fan of sunbathing, Wellington’s most popular beach makes for a great jogging and cycling route.

The Space Place at Carter Observatory

Due to its lack of pollution, New Zealand is one of the best star-gazing countries on earth. The Carter Observatory became New Zealand’s national observatory in 1977, and since then it has shifted its focus to public education. The Space Place’s world-class planetarium and digital exhibits take you on a journey from Maori cosmology to the southern constellations and beyond. The observatory even allows you to launch a rocket – Virtually of course.

Botanic Gardens

If you ever feel like having a picnic, head to the Wellington’s Botanic Gardens. The park covers an area of 25 hectares that allow you to explore fauna from New Zealand’ native forests, colorful plant collections, and seasonal floral displays. Visit the park during the night to check out some of the glowworms visible from the main garden. And if you’re visiting during the summer, keep your eyes out for local concerts in the garden.

Old St. Paul’s Cathedral

Likely built from the body of an English flagship in 1866, Old St Paul’s Cathedral showcases its colonial Gothic architecture in the heart of Wellington, and its inside bolsters stained glass windows and plaques honoring the soldiers who fought in WWII. When not being used for weddings and other events, the Church is open to the public. And if St. Paul’s isn’t enough colonial architecture for you, head to  St. Mary of The Angels, another beautiful church on the other side of Wellington.

The Underground Market

Tucked in an underground carpark next to the Wellington waterfront, The Underground Market is a great activity for one of Wellington’s few rainy Saturdays. Venture into one of the 90 stalls to find handmade crafts ranging from upcycled creations to vintage goods. The market is a great place to visit whether you’re looking to buy a gift or to learn more about New Zealand’s art culture.  You’re bound to find as many unique crafts as you are thought-provoking people.

Helicopter Tours

Reckless teenagers and cautious grandparents alike can enjoy time together by taking a helicopter ride over the Wellington skyline. Wellington offers helicopter tours starting at ten minutes in length. The experience is equally calming as it is stunning, providing panoramic views from the city to the endless ocean. And if you are in the mood to treat yourself, you have the option to land on the bay – right next to some friendly seals.

By Jesse Allan