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As the governmental and cultural capital of New Zealand, Wellington is a small city that packs in a huge amount of great attractions. If you’re looking for things to do in Wellington, here are our picks of the city’s best activities that will have you coming back to New Zealand’s vibrant capital time and time again.
Taking its name from a ship that carried European settlers to New Zealand in the early 1840’s, a visit to Cuba Street, with its colourful Bohemian vibe, is one of the must-do Wellington activities. Registered as a historic area in 1995 under the Historic Places Act, it’s a popular place to meet up with friends, shop, dine out or to just soak up some of this eclectic streets creative culture.
As one of the top free things to do in Wellington, Cuba Street’s huge variety of cafes, bars and restaurants cater for any taste (we can recommend Loretta!) Visitors can toil away for hours crawling through the art galleries and community exhibition spaces while shoppers can also find incredible deals on vintage items thanks to the plethora of second hand shop.
Te Papa Museum
Located on Cable Street in the city centre, New Zealand’s national museum and art gallery, Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa) is one of the most visited cultural activities in Wellington. Translating to ‘container of treasures’ in Maori, Te Papa Tongarewa is the perfect place for visitors to learn about New Zealand and its history, and is renowned for its large collections of Maori and Pacific cultural and historic artifacts. Te Papa also houses New Zealand’s national art collection featuring works from the country’s most important historic and contemporary artists. Other exhibits include Te Marae, which offers visitors to the opportunity to visit the marae (a communal meeting place) and large gallery spaces that hold leading temporary exhibitions from around the world.
For visitors with limited time, Te Papa offers the one-hour ‘introducing Te Papa’ tour that leaves from the information desk on level two throughout the day.
Visitors looking for things to do outdoors in Wellington should definitely take the time to climb up to Mount Victoria’s 196 meter summit. If you’re not in the mood for a climb there’s also car access up to the summit, and regardless of how you get there, the Mount Victoria lookout offers stunning 360 degree views of the Wellington central business district and the harbour.
According to local legend, Wellington Harbour was at one time a land-locked lake, home to two sea monsters, the taniwhas Ngake and Whātaitai. According to the legend Ngake forged its way to the open sea, thus creating the entrance to the harbour. However the second taniwha, Whātaitai tried and failed to make it through the opening and became stuck and later died. Mount Victoria was also featured as a setting in the the first installment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Wellington Cable Car
One of the most popular activities in Wellington since it opened in 1901, over the years millions have flocked to the historic Wellington Cable Cars for a ride. Beginning in downtown Wellington at Lambton Quay, it goes through the Kelburn suburb, passing through several of the cities notable landmarks. You’ll pass under large corporate towers called The Terrace, past Victoria University and over Kelburn Park. Riders can also learn more about the cable cars at the Cable Car Museum, or take a leisurely stroll through the Wellington Botanic Gardens.
The cars run from 7am to 10pm Monday through Friday, 8:30am to 10pm on Saturday, and 8:30am to 9pm on Sunday and public holidays.
For a fun-filled day at the beach, Oriental Bay is the best attraction in Wellington if you want to just soak up the sun. Located within an easy walk of the city centre, visitors are able to go swimming, cycle along the waterfront, or pack a picnic lunch and just enjoy the bay. Visitors also flock to Oriental Bay because it hosts major events throughout the year like the Sky Show fireworks display. For the kids, the modern playground at Freyberg Beach has been granted the Supreme Award by the New Zealand Institute of Landscape and Architects and is hours of fun.
If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, you should definitely make sure to check out Wellington. Whether you just want to relax on the beaches of Oriental Bay or immerse yourself in culture at the Te Papa Museum, Wellington is a vibrant city with something for any visitor. If you’re looking to get about the city, collect your Wellington rental car from one of Omega’s Wellington branches and enjoy the freedom to explore the vibrant city at your own pace.
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