When you think of capital cities it often conjures up images of dull, bureaucratic hubs—not the kind of places likely to make it onto anyone's bucket list. But as far as capitals go, we like to think Wellington is a little bit spesh.
While the city might cop a fair bit of flack for its less than ideal weather, the challenging elements have forced locals to get creative, and have fuelled a buzzing drinking and dining scene, as well as plenty of quirky attractions and activities.
We’ve rounded up 50 awesome things to do that can be enjoyed rain or shine—just be sure to invest in a good raincoat and leave the umbrella at home—you’ve been warned.
- Get Crafty | Try your hand at brewing your own beersies at The Occasional Brewer. Dabble in different flavours and ingredients, and take home a whopping 40L of your own unique brew. Brewed not to.
- Catch A Flick In A Boutique Cinema | Wellington boasts a stellar lineup of cosy cinemas that will take your movie-going experience to the next level. Enjoy a flick with a vino in hand at the Roxy Cinema, Lighthouse Cuba or The Embassy.
- Discover Movie Magic | Dubbed by some as ‘Wellywood’, Wellington is home to New Zealand’s brightest movie-making talent. Get a sneak peek behind the scenes on a Wētā Workshop Tour and see how films like The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were brought to life on the silver screen.
- Take A Trip Through The Galaxy | Learn the stories of the skies at Space Place. Explore interactive exhibits, stargaze through the mighty telescope, and travel to space with a full-dome planetarium show.
- Get Up Close To Nature | Meet some of New Zealand’s feathered friends at Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne, a 225-hectare ecosanctuary and home to more than 40 species of native wildlife including kākā, takahē, kiwi and tuatara.
- Make Friends With Meerkats | Book a Close Encounter with the meerkats at Wellington Zoo and enjoy a play date with these mischievous critters. Feed the meerkats special treats and you’ll be besties in no time.
- Jump Into Willy Wonka’s Shoes | Calling all chocoholics. Join a Wellington Chocolate Factory masterclass and sink your teeth into all things chocolate. You’ll learn the art of craft chocolate-making, before indulging in a tasting experience, and then finish off with a chance to make your own chocolate to take home.
- Support Creative Up-And-Comers | If you’re in the mood for quirky theatre or rib-ticklin’ improv, look no further than BATS, the local theatre known for its bold and buzzing year-round programme of theatre, dance, improv, stand-up and experimental performances.
- Visit The House Of A Famous Writer | Step back in time with a visit to a colonial house built in 1888, and once home to one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed writers, Katherine Mansfield. Discover the world and writing of Mansfield, while exploring her childhood home and the picturesque heritage garden.
- Ride The Cable Car | It doesn’t get any more Wellington than the bright red Cable Car. Jump on at Lambton Quay and cruise up the hill to the Botanic Gardens, where you can soak up epic views of the city.
- Make Your Own Shoes | Kick it old school style and hand-make your own pair of shoes at Shoe School. Choose from a one-day sandal or sneaker workshop, or enrol in shoe-making night classes to whip up a pair of Derbys, Mary Janes or boots.
- Taste Wellington’s Finest Brews | Of the hoppy variety. Wellington has a cranking craft beer scene so hop around some of the greats, from the OG craft beer kids Garage Project to local favourites Choice Bros, Heyday and Whistling Sisters.
- Find Your Gin-spiration | Become a gin maestro with a Blend Your Own Botanicals class run by Southward Distilling. Learn the art of gin and enjoy tastings of the Southward range before blending your own unique drop to take home.
- See Wellington From The Sky | Soar to new heights and get a new perspective on the capital city with a scenic helicopter flight. Get a bird’s eye view of the city and harbour or head further to soak up jaw-dropping vistas of the rugged south coast and Cook Strait.
- Become An Axe-pert | There’s no better way to blow off some steam than hurtling axes at a wall. Round up some mates and huck axes at Sweet Axe. In your two-hour session, you’ll be coached on the proper technique before getting down to business in a tournament to find the axe-throwing champ.
- Frolic With Farmyard Friends | For a wholesome day out, head to Staglands Wildlife Reserve and get warm fuzzies from the resident animals. Explore this idyllic reserve that is home to all kinds of furry, finned and feathered friends, from kune kune pigs to Flemish rabbits, as well as cheeky kea and frolicking deer.
- Do Brunch | Weekends are made for sleep-ins and brunching. Start your day right (preferably after 11) with a leisurely meal at one of Wellington’s best cafes. For city-side brunching, we love Loretta and Pickle and Pie, or for brunch with a view, you can’t beat Maranui or Scorch-O-Rama.
- Catch A Wave | It might not be as tropical as Hawaii, but Lyall Bay is a top spot to get amongst the surf. Join a group class with Wellington Surf Lessons and master the waves quicker than you can say “hang ten”.
- Indulge In A Staycation | There's nothing like exploring our capital city from a base right in town, here are the best hotels in Wellington that'll take your day trip to luxe new heights.
- Eat The City | When it comes to food, Wellington takes the cake. There’s no shortage of top-notch eateries to sink your teeth into, so treat your tastebuds to a foodie crawl around some of the city’s best haunts.
- Sip The Local Drop | Venture over the hill to the quaint country village of Martinborough, grab yourself a snazzy bike, and pedal from vineyard to vineyard, stopping in for tastings of the local vino. Favourites include Poppies, Moy Hall, Cambridge Road and Colombo.
- Bust Moves Like Beyonce | Whether you’ve got two left feet or fancy yourself a bit of a twinkle toes, you’ll get a buzz out of Shut Up & Dance. These epic dance/fitness classes are guaranteed to get you sweating and smiling, in equal measure.
- Embrace The Grind | Wellington’s favourite pastime is drinking copious cups of coffee and you don’t have to stumble far to find a decent spot for a flat white. Here are a few of our favourite places to get your fix.
- Breakfast Like Royalty | Start your day the right way with a sumptuous breakfast from one of the best spots in Wellington. Here are just a few of our faves.
- Get Zen With Yoga In A Tree House | What better place to perfect your tree pose than a yoga studio nestled amongst lush greenery? Book a class at Pause Yoga in the seaside suburb of Eastbourne and soak in the tranquil vibes at this bushy sanctuary.
- Master The Macaron | Fancy trying your hand at crafting delicate French treats? Sugar Flour Pastry School offers classes where you can learn to make fabulous petit gateaux. Your new pastry skills are sure to impress your pals at your next dinner party.
- Food And Film Pairing | Head along to the chic Roxy Cinema in Miramar for one of their Feast Your Eyes screenings. Catch a classic flick and tuck into a themed dessert and cocktail for just $40.
- Get Amongst The Action At Brewtown | The ultimate amusement park for adults, Brewtown combines craft beer with high-octane activities. Race your mates on the go-kart track, strike it lucky on the bowling lanes, or give axe throwing a go, before cooling off with a few crafty brews at one of the on-site breweries.
- Lap Up The Inside Word On Our National Museum | Learn some lesser-known facts about our country on an Introducing Te Papa Tour. Let one of Te Papa’s experienced guides take you on a journey through New Zealand’s rich history, cultures, wildlife, and landscapes.
- Become Besties With An Art Gallery | If you’re a bit of a contemporary art buff, become a friend of City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi. This is a friendship with plenty of benefits, including discounted entry to exhibitions, sneak peeks and invitations to special events, as well as 10% off merch at the gallery shop.
- Visit An Historic Quarantine Island | Jump on the East By West Ferry and sail across the harbour to Matiu-Somes Island for a fab day trip. Explore this peaceful little island and discover its rich history, and enjoy the abundant wildlife that calls this predator-free sanctuary home.
- Play A Round of Spooktacular Mini Putt | Round up your fave guys and ghouls for an after-dark, adults-only round of mini golf at The Witching Hour. Down some brews to keep up your courage as you tackle this spooky-themed course.
- E-Bike An Historic Rail Trail | Discover the rich history of the Remutaka Ranges by cycling from Kaitoke to Cross Creek, passing through native bush, over historic bridges, and through eerie tunnels on the picturesque Remutaka Cycle Trail. Cycle Remutaka can sort you out with a day trip package which includes bike hire, lunch and snacks, maps, and shuttles to and from the trail.
- Stay On An Off-Shore Bird Sanctuary | Fall asleep to the sounds of kiwi calling from the comfort of your luxury tent on Kāpiti Island. The overnight tour package includes ferry transfers, meals and accommodation, and gives you two full days to explore the wild beauty of this predator-free nature reserve, where you can see some of New Zealand’s most beautiful and at-risk bird species.
- Go For A Hoon On A Crocbike | These quirky green contraptions have got to be the most unique way to explore Wellington’s waterfront. Hire a three or six-seater bike with your mates and go for a spin around the scenic harbour. Afterwards, treat yourself to an epic Crocshake (IYKYK).
- Be Dazzled By Ballerinas | Check out the upcoming show season by the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and spend a night with New Zealand’s finest ballet dancers as they plié and pirouette across the stage at the Grand Opera House.
- Shop Local At The Markets | There’s no better weekend ritual than heading to one of the capital’s bustling markets to stock up on fresh veg, locally made artisan goodies, and food truck fare. Make a beeline for these markets next weekend.
- Chase An Adrenaline Rush | If you like things fast and furious, grab your pals for an afternoon at Boomrock. This stunning cliff-top site offers clay bird shooting, and extreme golf, as well as the chance to put the pedal to the metal in a Jaguar and hoon around an exhilarating racetrack.
- Get Out And A-Boat | It may be a local pastime to niggle about the wind in Wellington, but one thing it is good for is sailing. Embrace the infamous breeze and learn to sail with Wellington Ocean Sports. Whether you’re a complete novice or have a bit of experience under your belt, you’ll find a course to suit.
- Nab Some New Threads | Give your wardrobe a zhoosh up with new garments from uber-talented local designers. Head to Ghuznee Street to shop up a storm at twenty-seven names and Mandatory, then swing by College Street to pick up some pieces at Kowtow.
- Get The Scoop | No matter the weather, Wellingtonians have a soft spot for frozen treats. From classic Italian gelato at Kaffee Eis to the quirky ice cream flavours of Duck Island, here are the best scoop shops in town.
- Pamper Yourself | Indulge in a little self-care and make a date with the very lush East Day Spa. This inner-city sanctuary blends Eastern remedies with European skincare, so whether you get a soothing massage or a nourishing sugar scrub, you will leave feeling all kinds of blissed out.
- Experience Māori Cuisine And Hospitality | One of Lonely Planet’s top travel picks in 2021, Hiakai (“hungry” in Māori) serves up an unforgettable taste adventure. The seasonal degustation menu features indigenous and local ingredients and is inspired by the land, sea and people of Aotearoa. You’ll want to book this one well in advance.
- Stock Up On Gourmet Groceries | Going to Moore Wilson’s on a Saturday is one of the most Wellington things you can do. Locals head there in droves to get their fix of fine cheeses, deli meats, freshly squeezed OJ, baguettes and boujee treats. Take a breather from all the buzz and find a perch at the in-store cafe, to refuel with a coffee and the weekend paper.
- Go On A Cocktail Crawl | Shaken, stirred, fruity or fresh, whatever your cocktail preference, Wellington delivers the goods. Take a wander in the city and you’ll stumble on an ace cocktail bar in no time. Hanging Ditch, Hawthorn Lounge, Night Flower and Crumpet are just a few of our faves.
- Browse Classic Cars | If you’ve got a petrol head in your life, a trip to Southward Car Museum will get their engines revving. This museum on the Kapiti Coast is home to more than 400 cars, bikes and other vehicles, from all eras of motoring. Even if you’re not a car person, there’s something charming about seeing so many polished, historic cars all neatly lined up.
- Shop Sustainably | If you’re after some pre-loved threads, hotfoot it to Cuba Street where you’ll be spoiled for choice. Emporium, Ziggurat, Thrift and Paperbag Princess are all top spots to score vintage pieces and modern garments, ready for you to give them a new home.
- Raise Your Pinky | There’s nothing more delightful than spending an afternoon scoffing fancy cakes and tiny sandwiches. Treat yourself to high tea at Hippopotamus, or The Lobby Lounge at the InterContinental.
- Glamp Beside A River | If camping makes you think of mosquitos and long drops, then opt for the more glamorous option with a stay at Rivers Edge - Ruru Tent. Set in a picturesque valley in the Wairarapa, this luxury tent/cabin hybrid lets you relax in nature with plenty of cosy comforts.
- Test Your Puzzling Skills | Fancy yourself a super sleuth? Take the gang along to Escape Mate and put your detective skills to the test to free yourselves from the locked room. Check out our fave escape rooms in Wellington, if you dare.
Feeling a little skint? Don't worry, here are 50 epic free things to do in Wellington that won't cost you a cent.
Image credit: Ghuznee Bowie Mural by Camilla Rutherford, Weta Workshop, Lyall Bay Beach by WellingtonNZ/Celeste Fontein, Gallipoli - The Scale Of Our War by Diego Catto, The Witching Hour, Crumpet Bar Wellington by PIVOT.
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