Named after Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington and victor of the Battle of Waterloo, Wellington is proud to be New Zealand’s capital city.
The city of Wellington showcases a variety of architectural styles, art and sculpture, it is sometimes referred to as the “coolest little capital in the world” and is also the political centre of New Zealand, housing Parliament, the head offices of all Government Ministries and Departments.
Top 3 Day Trips From Wellington
Located at the bottom tip of the North Island, between Cook Strait and the Rimutaka Range, Wellington offers a great base for exploring the region and beyond. Let’s hit the road to experience some of the great attractions in the area and some of the best Wellington road trips.
1. Kapiti Coast
The beautiful Kapiti coastline is home to some 40 odd kilometres of glorious sandy beaches, a rather enviable climate and that world-away-from-anywhere feel that New Zealand does best. Book ahead and experience the remote bird sanctuary just offshore – Kapiti Island.
Visitors can visit the Island by boat for a day tour or stay overnight for a more immersive experience. Only approved operators are allowed to bring people to the Island, there are currently two approved operators; Kapiti Island Eco Experience and the team at Kapiti Island Nature Tours.
Heading home, just 20 minutes north of Wellington you will find the town of Porirua, complete with peaceful surroundings, a vibrant art culture, boutique shopping and a mammoth amount of outdoor activities.
Porirua is a good place for an afternoon cup of coffee and a stroll through the Porirua Scenic Reserve. Or try your skills at the popular rope climbing destination Adrenalin Forest, or just appreciate the Maori artworks at the Pataka Art + Museum on Parumoana Street.
Just over an hour north east from Wellington is what’s known as the mighty Wairarapa. The region is mostly a rural area stretching from Woodville in the north to Cape Palliser in the south. For those with a palate for fine wine and fresh local food, and who like to explore and relax at a slightly slower pace, a day trip or an overnight stay in the Wairarapa is the perfect complement to your visit to Wellington.
Taking it northward, you can explore the likes of Woodville, Mangatainoka, Eketahuna, the Whangaehu Valley, Castle Point, and the local township of Masterton. Spend an afternoon in Masterton and find out more about sheep farming at the The Wool Shed, New Zealand’s national museum of sheep and shearing.
Riversdale and Castlepoint have some of the best swimming, surfing and fishing beaches on the coast and off State Highway 2, there are rolling hills, lush valleys and vineyards.
Or to the south take a look around Martinborough where you can take your pick from over thirty six wineries located around the town. Nearby Greytown offers gourmet chocolate, French pastries, superb coffee and stylish shopping or just around the corner stop for a bite at the Gladstone Inn or the café at Gladstone Vineyard.
Head down to Palliser Bay and see the evocative Putangirua Pinnacles at the edge of the Aorangi Forest Park and check out the Cape Palliser Lighthouse.
3. Remutaka Forest Park
The Remutaka Forest Park is a great place to spend the day, particularly for those who love the great outdoors. Enthusiastic hikers and mountain bikers will find 22,000 hectares of great trails and forest to enjoy. The Butcher Track is great for some amazing views if you don’t mind a bit of a climb or try the Catchpool Loop walk for something a little easier on th elegs.
The Forest Park’s main entryway is from the Catchpool Valley gates, open from 6am – 8pm during summer and 6 am–6 pm in the winter months. There are various other entries, see the Department of Conservation website for more information on walking tracks in the Remutaka Forest Park.
Recreational hunting is also allowed in the Remutaka Forest Park, however a permit is required. Permits can be obtained online or from the local DOC office. Be aware there are some parts of the Park where hunting is not allowed.
10 Short Drives From Wellington
Short on time or just don’t feel like spending a lot of the day driving? There is a wide range of activities available for all tastes within the Wellington city limits to keep you busy during your visit.
- Te Papa Museum. Our top pick is the iconic Te Papa Museum home to many New Zealand treasures, artefacts and fascinating historic memorabilia.
- Wellington Zoo. With more than 500 exotic and native animals the Wellington Zoo is the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon. Take a picnic lunch and enjoy the sights and sounds of the animals.
- Weta Workshops. Get a taste of “Wellywood” at the Weta Workshop studios and take a behind the scenes tour of the famous movie making masters.
- Oriental Bay. Watch the world go by at Oriental Bay, Wellington’s golden sand inner-city beach – just 10 minutes from the Wellington CBD.
- Wellington Cable Car. Another top attraction to add to your list is the Wellington Cable Car. The Cars runs every 10 minutes between 7 am and 10 pm.
- Staglands Wildlife Reserve. Wildlife, heritage and natural beauty await at Staglands Wildlife Reserve. Enjoy a cup of coffee at the onsite café and connect with the friendly animals.
- Wellington Ferry. Take a ferry across Wellington harbour to the upmarket Eastern Bay Villages with a stop on the nature reserve of Matiu/Somes Island.
- Wellington Botanic Gardens. Explore the peaceful native bush, rolling grass lands and seasonal flower beds within the 60 acres of the Wellington Botanic Gardens. Fresh air, sunshine, roaming birds and wildlife – what more could you want for a relaxing afternoon?
- Space Place at Carter Observatory. Learn about planets, stars, constellations and galaxies at the Carter Observatory set in the Botanic Gardens.
- ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary. This fully-fenced urban 225 hectare ecosanctuary is the perfect place to spot some of New Zealand’s rare native birds. Look out for the Bellbird, Tui, Hihi, Karariki and many more.
Getting around Wellington is easy with a rental car and there are plenty of options for you to choose from.
Wellington: Top 5 Tourist Attractions