Top 5 Things to Do in Wellington on Your First Visit

Top 5 Things to Do in Wellington, According to a Local

Before heading to New Zealand's ridges and peaks, why not take a stroll at the capital first?

New Zealand is on the bucket list of many nature lovers. The country is, after all, never short of picturesque landscapes, many of which could be explored and appreciated up-close. Whether you like snow-capped mountains, thriving rainforests, or rolling hills, you will find what you are looking for in the island nation. But what about the city lovers — does New Zealand have something to offer for them?

The good news is it does. And if you’re after a city that you could explore in just a day or two, then look no further than the country’s capital (and the windiest city in the world!): Wellington, the capital city that sits at the southernmost point of North Island. Famous for its eclecticism, it boasts a thriving art scene, coffee culture, and bohemian personality. No matter where you are in the city, there’s always something to look at! 

And because Wellie (as we locals call it) is compact, it will take you no longer than a day or two to explore the best of what it has to offer. So, before heading to the nation’s ridges and peaks, why not take a stroll at the capital first? Here are the five main things to do in Wellington, especially for newcomers!

Best things to do in Wellington

1. Have a cup (or three) of coffee

Wellington’s locals are coffee snobs — and for a good reason: the capital produces the best coffee in New Zealand. Named by CNN as one of the world’s top coffee destinations, it’s a city where most things in life happen over a cup of joe.

When in Wellington, make sure to have a cuppa in one of its many cafés. Visit Frank’s and pair your flat white with one of their bespoke doughnuts. Feeling drowsy? Go to Flight Coffee Hangar and try out their Tasting Flight: three cups of coffee, each made with different types of beans. If you want a taste of history, head over to Midnight Espresso. It’s one of the capital’s first cafés, and one of the few that serve late-night coffees.

2. Visit Cuba Street

things to do in wellington

Image credit: Krizelle Lacson

Cuba Street, the most well-known in the city, is host to everything cool and quirky. From secondhand stores and art galleries to bars, cafes, and ice creams shops, the street reflects Wellington’s heart and soul. One might even say that you could spend your whole day on the street alone!

Cuba Street can tickle the fancy of any traveller looking for things to do in Wellington. Art lovers will appreciate {Suite} and McLeavey Gallery, both of which celebrate contemporary art. Meanwhile, those scoring vintage clothes might find treasure in Hunters & Collectors, Thrift, Spacesuit, or one of the many other thrift shops along the street. 

Image credit: Zelati Instagram Page

Even ice cream lovers will delight in the variety of choices. Here, they can taste-test any of the flavours in Kaffee Eis, Duck Island, and Zelati (where you can order the Filipino dessert, halo-halo)! 

3. Soak up the sun at the waterfront

Image credit: Krizelle Lacson

 “You can’t beat Wellington on a good day,” is the city’s unofficial slogan. For a good reason, too — when the sun shines, it shines brilliantly on the coastal capital.  Head to the waterfront and see for yourself why it’s a place people keep coming back to!

Here, you can enjoy a range of free things to do in Wellington. Take a walk along  Commonwealth Walkway, coffee in hand, and soak up the gorgeous views of the sea. Or follow the coastline leading to Freyberg Beach and Oriental Bay Beach, where you could take a dip or work on your tan. 

And if you’re feeling courageous, why not leap eight metres off the jump platform in Taranaki Wharf and make a splash in the sea? There’s something for everyone.

Hot tip: Wellington gets a lot of marine visitors. Whatever the season, it’s not unusual to spot stingrays, dolphins, and even orcas and penguins in the waterfront!

Also read: 5 Cute Animals You Can Get up Close & Personal with in New Zealand

4. Visit multiple art galleries

Living in the windiest city in the world makes you appreciate the indoors. Many Wellingtonians have an artistic streak in them; a streak, perhaps, forged by cooping in whenever the wind gets nasty. This appreciation for art has resulted in a multitude of art galleries in the capital, most of which are free.

Those who are interested in New Zealand’s history can visit Te Papa, the country’s national museum, to learn more about the nation’s roots. If you’re after Maori and New Zealand art and design, head to Kura, which features local carvings, paintings, sculptures, and jewellery. Those with a taste for the contemporary have multiple options, including Enjoy, Adam Art Gallery, and City Gallery — all of which showcase a new lineup of talent on the regular.

5. Experiment the many craft beers

Gone are the days when making craft beer was merely a homebrewer’s hobby. Now it’s a full-fledged industry in New Zealand! Wellington is known to have an exciting craft bar scene, and its range of options will leave bar crawlers — both young and old — delighted.

No matter what your palate is, you’ll be sure to find something you’ll enjoy. Head to Fork & Brewer to check out its microbrewery, while sampling one of the 40 beers on tap. Beer geeks will also appreciate Little Beer Quarter, which houses 14 rotating taps, two handpulls… and over a hundred beers in the fridge! Those who want cheeky pizza with their booze, on the other hand, can go to Goldings Free Dive and order a Neopolitan pizza, while sipping on their adventurous craft beers.  

Also read: 8 Fantastic Reasons Why We Love New Zealand (And Why We Think You Will, Too) 

While New Zealand is better known for its great outdoors, its cities definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. So if you’re planning your trip to the country, make sure to stop by at Wellington, too. Consider it your fuel for the adventure that awaits you!

Featured image credit: Wolf Zimmermann | Unsplash

About Author

Krizelle Lacson
Krizelle Lacson

Kring defines herself as an urban explorer and wannabe writer. Having lived in New Zealand for four years, she has come to realise that she's more at home in cities than she is with the outdoors. All of her spare time is devoted to getting out of her comfort zone, reading macabre novels, and dodging all warnings of an existential crisis. She resides in Wellington with her partner and her six houseplants.


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