So my husband had this silly idea to drive straight to Wellington from Auckland with two kids and several adults in the car. It was not easy! We had to stop several times so what would normally take 8 to 9 hours took around 12. I’d have to say it really was worth it.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand — often called the “coolest little capital in the world.” We really enjoyed our trip here. And we discovered why they call it Windy Welly! It is literally so windy and cold, even in the peak of summer. If you’re visiting, make sure you check the weather and bring warm clothes and jackets.
There’s a lot to see and you’ll enjoy just walking around town — a 30-minute walk will have you seeing the Beehive on one end and the very boho Cuba St on the other.
Our itinerary for our 3-day stay after the jump:
27th Dec, Wed
1. 9-hour drive with beautiful New Zealand scenery
2. Check in to Rydges Wellington (more on this later)
3. Wellington Cable Car
280 Lambton Quay, Wellington
(Open from 8:30am to 9pm)
Child (5-15) $3.50
The Wellington Cable Car has been around for over a hundred years. The 5-minute descent from the heart up the city centre up the hillside terraced houses to Kelburn terminus offers dramatic views of our growing cityscape. The top of the cable car gives access to the Cable Car Museum, Wellington Botanic Garden, Space Place at Carter Observatory and Zealandia (which can be reached via a free shuttle).
4. Wellington Botanic Gardens
(access from the top of the Cable Car, Kelburn Terminus)
Rose Garden is a 20-minute walk from there
The 25 hectare garden is classified as a Garden of National Significance by the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture and is an Historic Places Trust Heritage Area. It is a massive place with a lot of hilly parts (so it may be difficult to explore it all with kids). There’s a lot of walking involved and you may want to spend an entire day just here. There’s also a playground on the Cable Car Track.
5. Dinner at Cuba St.
Cuba Street is a popular strip named after an early 1840’s settler ship (not the Carribean island). It is home to great restaurants, vintage shops, coffee shops, graffiti-filled alleyways, community exhibition spaces, art galleries and buskers who liven up the street. On most Fridays and Saturdays, this is the scene for Wellington Night Market (too bad it was closed when we were there). It has a very bohemian vibe that is definitely unique in New Zealand.
28th Dec, Thurs
1. Mt Victoria
Lookout Road, Hataita, Wellington
Take Oriental Parade along the waterfront up Carlton Gore Road
Mount Victoria sit 196m above the city and is definitely an experience you shouldn’t miss. It offers panoramic views of the city, the Eastern Harbour bays, Tinaroki Hill, Hutt Valley, Matiu/Somes Island and the Miramar Peninsula. It is located right next to the central business district. You can spend a few hours walking up the Town Belt or you can also drive all the way up. Tourist buses and commuter buses can take you to the top.
2. Weta Cave
1 Weka St (cor Camperdown Road), Miramar
Weta Cave – Free
Weta Cave Workshop Tour – $28
*Limited parking so go earlier
*Check-in closes 20 minutes before tour
Get a closer look at how cinema magic is created at the popular Weta Cave ( movies like LOTR, Thor Ragnarok, Avatar, Ghost in the Shell and so much more get their props and cityscapes scenes from Weta. Visiting the cave and the shop are free, but if you want to learn more about how props are made and see bits and bobs that were actually used for games and movies, then the immersive workshop is a must. They also have combo tours to see the miniature stage of Thunderbirds Are Go. Other tours are available from the Weta Workshop
3. Waterfront Walk
When it comes to waterfront locations, Wellington has so much of them. Frank Kitts Park, Queen’s Wharf, Customhouse Quay — if you’re staying in the CBD, you’re bound to be 5-minute walk from any wharf or waterfront. So go out there and spend time look at the beautiful harbour views.
29th Dec, Fri
1. Te Papa Museum
55 Cable Street, Wellington
Open everyday (except Christmas) from 10am to 6pm.
The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is the national museum and art gallery of New Zealand — it houses the most amazing collection of everything that defines the culture and history of the country. We loved that it’s free and that there’s so much to explore for kids. Almost every floor in the 6-storey building has an area for kids — the 6th level is a viewing terrace. When we visited, one level was closed for renovation (the 5th level).
2. Shopping on Lambton Quay
Lambton Quay and other streets such as Wellis have an array of high-end shops. Of course, there are also boutique shops along Cuba St, which is the perfect place to go to if you want vintage and unique items. Since it’s still boxing day season when we went there, the discounts on items are massive.
3. Writers Walk or just take a stroll and enjoy the architecture
The writers walk was the brainchild of the New Zealand Society of Authors in Wellington. It has been around since 2001. There are 23 sites which meanders from Chaffers Marina to Frank Kitts Park and the City and Sea Bridge. There are pamphlets available to guide you, but just taking a stroll through the city will let you spot several of them easily.
If you have time to spare, you may want to catch the latest movie at Reading Cinema — tickets are affordable at $10 per person plus they close late (last show is at 9:45pm when we went there).
We loved this easy-going itinerary. We were able to enjoy a lot of things that Wellington had to offer and the kids got the rest they needed in between activities. We weren’t able to go to Zealandia, but chose to visit Te Papa instead. Others who have more time on their hands should add it into their Wellington family trip itinerary.
Are you from Wellington or have you ever been there with young kids? Let us know what you’d add to this itinerary that we might have missed. Tell us about it in the comments section of this post.