Welcome to my new series, “Let’s Go!” In this series, I will post mini-guides to cities around the world I have visited and lived in. I will still write posts on other topics, too, but I will contribute to “Let’s Go!” regularly. I want to help people make the most of their time traveling and to help people figure out if visiting this city is the right decision for them.
Heads up–This is meant to be a quick and comprehensive guide. I’ll be including links to more in-depth guides on certain parts of Wellington throughout this post. Just click on one if you want more help planning your trip!
Let’s get started!
Wellington, New Zealand, will always have a special place in my heart. When I went to college back in America, students were required to live in dormitories. When I graduated, I moved back in with my parents for six months to save money for the big move to Wellington. My time in this city was my first time ever truly being on my own as an adult. My first time paying rent, covering all my own bills, and finding my own way around.
I lived in Wellington for a little over six months, and it was the perfect fit for my personality.
Give me a rundown of Wellington, New Zealand.
New Zealand has two main islands, the North and South Islands. Wellington is on the North Island, along with Auckland, Taupo, Whanganui, and Hamilton. Wellington is the country’s capital. It’s a small city, with a population of just under 500,000. It’s on the coast, and you can enjoy views of both the ocean and surrounding mountains from various spots in the city. If you love hiking, beaches, water sports, coffee, brunch, and museums, you’ll love Wellington!
Where should I hike?
- Want a quick hike with a great view of the city? Hike Mount Victoria. You can walk to the peak in about half an hour, with a 360-degree view of Wellington at the top.
- Want a gorgeous coastal hike? Go to Red Rocks Reserve. This trail is flat, and the walk takes about 1-1.5 hours round-trip. If you want to see seals, this is the best place to go in Wellington!
- Want a longer hike with a view? Check out Mount Kaukau. I hiked here a few weeks into my stay in Wellington, and that was the day that New Zealand stole my heart. Although the 360-degree view at the top is stunning, my favorite part was walking through the green hills on the way back to our car. The walk to the top is short, maybe 1 hour, but you can spend time wandering through the hills on your way down.
Which beaches should I visit?
- If you’re into water sports, hit up Lyall Bay Beach. This beach is gorgeous, usually has great waves, and is close to the airport. I lived in the Lyall Bay neighborhood and always saw locals surfing, sea kayaking, and snorkeling here.
- If you want to relax with a nice view, go to Scorching Bay Beach. Most Wellington beaches have stunning views, but the mountains across the water from Scorching Bay make for the most beautiful beach scenery I’ve witnessed.
- If you want a romantic sunset, visit Makara Beach. You need to take a car or taxi because it’s more remote than the other beaches. Watching the sunset here is one of my favorite Wellington memories.
What free things are there to do?
- The aforementioned beaches and hikes are free. However, you should take into consideration that if you want to rent a surf board at Lyall Bay Beach, you will have to fork over a little cash.
- Wellington is home to New Zealand’s official museum, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, better known as Te Papa. The museum has six floors. You can learn about everything from earthquakes, to native animals, to New Zealand’s civil rights movement.
What/where should I eat?
Cafes and Brunch
I think Wellingtonians’ obsession with cafes and brunch was one of the main reasons this city fit my personality so well. I have yet to find a city with such a strong cafe culture. At most places, you’ll find a ton of vegetarian and vegan options. But if you’re like me, don’t freak out! There’s always bacon, too. Here are some of the best places to find brunch and an amazing cappuccino.
- Maranui Cafe is a place right next to Lyall Bay Beach, with a great view of the area. Order the pancakes! The line is often down the stairs and out the door, but don’t be deterred. The line moves quickly.
- Fidel’s Cafe is probably my favorite place for a cup of coffee. They serve Cuban coffee. Breakfast has never disappointed me here, either.
- Midnight Espresso Bar is on the famous Cuba Street. Their pastries are great, but seating is limited. Order a pastry and walk around Cuba Street, soaking in Wellington culture.
- Courtenay Place is one of the most popular streets in Wellington. Grab an outdoor seat at Sweet Mother’s Kitchen to experience Courtenay Place while you munch on gumbo, enchiladas, and pie.
- Foxglove is a restaurant and bar on the waterfront. It has a balcony so you can have drinks overlooking the water. Foxglove serves fish, steak, and lamb.
- Pretty much any place on Cuba Street. Honestly, you can set aside an entire afternoon to only spend on Cuba Street!
Wellington has awesome seafood! Honestly, I’ve never been to a seafood restaurant that has sent me over the roof. The Crab Shack is good and on the water, but it’s also pricey and you will probably have to wait for a long time.
However, many restaurants include seafood in their menus, including the aforementioned Sweet Mother’s Kitchen and Foxglove.
What/where should I drink?
To be honest, a couple of my favorite bars have closed down since I left Wellington. But here are a few more places I loved!
- Want beer? Try The Malthouse or Hawthorn Lounge. My favorite local beer is Tuatara, but if you’re on a budget, try Tui.
- Want to be classy? Go to The Library.
- Want to be silly? Go to Dakota Bar, a Western-themed bar. I don’t mean Western as in “French fries and hamburgers.” I mean Western, as in … they give you cowboy hats when you walk in. I love Dakota, but as a native Arkansan, I’m a little worried about what they think of us southerners.
- Many restaurants on the waterfront also have solid bars.
- BYOB (“Bring Your Own Bottle [of wine]”) is very popular in Wellington. Some restaurants partake in this, others don’t. Just stop by or call ahead to ask!
Which tourist spots are worth the hype, and which aren’t?
- When I think about Wellington tourism, I think about the Wellington Cable Car that takes people to the Botanic Gardens. I don’t think the cable car is worth the hype, but I do think everyone should go to the gardens. You can get to the gardens via bus, if it’s easier than going to the cable car first.
- I’m not really a fan of the parliament buildings.
- Te Papa is worth visiting.
- Mount Victoria is worth hiking.
How do I get to Wellington?
Your best bet is probably to fly in from Auckland, Christchurch, or Sydney.
- Taxis can get expensive quickly, so I recommend taking the public bus. Buses are frequent, easy to use, and cover the city extensively.
- The currency is the New Zealand Dollar.
- The best time to go is probably summer or autumn. But remember that their summer is in December and January!
- Wellington is very safe. Of course, you should always be aware, but I never felt in danger when I walked alone at night.
- Wellington is the bomb.com
More travel guides:
Let’s Go to … Tokyo, Japan!