Here for a good time, not a long time? Don’t sweat it – in New Zealand you’re never far from buzzing city life with its killer shopping, trendy ...
New Zealand’s capital has got it going on – you’ll never be short of cool things to do in Wellington, whether it’s soaking up the culture, exploring the arts or getting out in the unique and beautiful landscape. We’ve pulled together some of the best things to do for free (or cheap) in the coolest little capital that the whole family will enjoy.
Delve in to history and culture at Te Papa
You first stop for an awesome free activity in Wellington should definitely be Te Papa. The excellent Museum of New Zealand has a ton of interactive displays that the kids will love getting their hands on, such as drawing their own Pasifika-inspired tattoo, making their own music and playing with puzzles.
Pay a visit to the Red Rocks seals
Check out the wilder side of Wellington with a walk from Owhiro Bay to Red Rocks, where you’ll get to see fur seals lazing on the rocks. The red rocks themselves are an amazing sight too, and there’s some interesting Māori folklore around how they got their colour. Remember to keep a safe distance from the seals – they don’t like it if you get between them and the sea.
Climb the lighthouse at Frank Kitts Park Playground
This iconic playground on the Wellington waterfront will quickly become a favourite with your kids – if it isn’t already. The lighthouse slide is an obvious highlight, with swings, harbour views and a market on Saturdays all adding to this park’s charms. In summer, keep walking along to Oriental Bay for a swim.
Get splashed by the Cuba Street bucket fountain
Walk the foot-traffic-only Cuba Street, check out the shops and cafes, and be sure to stop by the famous bucket fountain. Little ones will love guessing when the buckets will tip, and there’s also a slide just next to the fountain for a bit of added entertainment. Get close in summer for a refreshing splash.
Get on the nature trail at Otari-Wilton’s Bush
With over 11km of walking trails through stunning native forest, Otari-Wilton’s Bush is a nature lover’s paradise. Walks in this area will be serenaded by a chorus of native birds, including tūī, kererū, korimako and ruru, and you can even get on the birds’ eye level with the Canopy Walkway. Kids (and grown-ups!) can use the free downloadable adventure map to complete the trail activities, and find the code word on the Guardian Post to get a special Kiwi Guardians medal!
Head up the hillside on the Wellington Cable Car
This is a Wellington must-do: New Zealand’s only inner-city funicular railway takes you on a delightful ride up the terraced hillside of Kelburn to give you stunning views over the city. Once you’re at the top, you can explore the Cable Car Museum, Wellington Botanic Gardens, and it’s also a great jump-off point for Carter Observatory and Zealandia. Adult return fares are $9, children (aged 5-15) return fares are $4.50.
Indulge your inner astronaut at Space Place
Kids will have stars in their eyes visiting Space Place at the Carter Observatory. This museum is all about the stories of New Zealand’s skies, with plenty to learn about the planets, stars and galaxies, and all-ages shows to take in at the full-dome planetarium. Interactive galleries give kids the chance to experience a rocket blast off and being inside a space ship, among many other awesome space-related activities. Entry is $14 for adults and $9 for kids aged 4-16.
Visit a home-grown chocolate factory
Pop in to the Wellington Chocolate Factory to have a cup of possibly the best hot chocolate you’ve ever had, and peek in at the deliciousness churning away behind the scenes. If you want to go further into the factory, the kids can take a Junior Chocolate Tour, where they’ll learn all about the making of this delicious treat, get to create their own wrapper artwork and take home a personalised bar. The tour is for children aged 5-13 and costs $25, and there are several other tour options available.
Explore movie making at Weta Caves Workshop
Get an in-depth behind-the-scenes look at how the Weta Workshop team creates movie magic for films like The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and Avatar. You’ll get to learn about how the props, costumes and creatures for these films are made, as well as seeing artists at work. Tickets are $28 for adults and $13 for children aged 6-14. Children under 6 are free.
Discover a land untouched at Zealandia sanctuary
This unique ecosanctuary is home to over 40 different native birds, as well as dozens of reptiles and hundreds of plant species, making it possibly the most biodiverse place in New Zealand. Day, twilight and night tours are available, and you might even spot a kiwi on one of the night tours! Adult tickets are $23, children aged 5-17 are $10 and children under 5 are free.