Destination Guide: Wellington

The coolest little capital in the world, Wellington is bursting with fun activities and attractions. Spend a day on the lively waterfront, get back to nature, or explore iconic locations for a great family holiday.

Whether you’re planning to head away over the school holidays or just want to escape on a mini-break, we’ve put together some of our favourite places to stay, eat and play so you can create some lasting memories with your family.

Please note: Venue information was correct at the time of publication. Please check with individual venues for the latest opening dates, times, prices, etc, before making plans. Regions and venues may have travel and access restrictions due to the Covid-19 Protection Framework.

Free family activities

Even if you’re travelling on a budget, there are still so many experiences you can enjoy with your family.

Wellington Waterfront – the waterfront is where the locals love to hang out. Explore the views, sculptures, bridges, lagoon, Frank Kitts Park playground, and Oriental Bay – a golden sand beach within the city. You can hire bikes, rollerblades, kayaks or paddleboards to get around.

Museum of New Zealand – Te Papa Tongarewa – hosting an amazing array of exhibits, many with interactive features kids will love. Don’t miss the colossal squid, the Treaty of Waitangi, the amazing Gallipoli exhibition, and Bush City with it’s tunnels, waterfall and fossil dig.

Wellington Botanic Gardens – take the Cable Car (small fee) up to the top and walk down through beautiful gardens, ponds, sculptures, and a great kids playground.

Become a Kiwi Guardian! Print off the Wellington Botanic Gardens adventure map before you head out, then find the Kiwi Guardian post and submit the special code word on it to receive a Kiwi Guardians certificate and medal.

Wellington Museum – be captivated by the sights and sounds of the 1800s Bond Store, the fantastical creations in the Attic, the opulent boardroom, the maritime captain’s cabin, and more as you explore an interactive history of Wellington.

Mt Victoria Lookout – for the best view in Wellington, head up Mt Victoria for a sweeping panorama of the harbour.

Hutt River Trail – walk or cycle along the easy riverside trail between Petone and Upper Hutt including parks, playgrounds, swimming spots and Lord of the Rings filming locations along the way.

Fun family experiences

Wellington has everything from nature adventures to quirky transport and cave trolls!

Cable Car

Wellington Cable Car

Take the Cable Car from the heart of Wellington through light displays in the two tunnels up to panoramic harbour views. At the top, explore the museum and get your photo taken in the original grip cars and dress up for some selfie fun.

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A fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary in the heart of Wellington. Walk the fantastic bush trail to see native birds, weta, and tuatara and see the kākā feeding. Get great views from the reservoir dam and lookout tower, explore the state of the art visitor centre, and ride the lake boat.

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Wellington Zoo

Wellington Zoo

See over 100 species from around the globe including African big cats, native animals, monkeys, penguins, meerkats and more. Bring a picnic and relax for a while at one of the playgrounds, take in the keeper talks, book an animal encounter, or hand-feed the friendly giraffes.

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Weta Cave Workshop Tour

Weta Cave Workshop Tour

Discover the magic behind the movies with a tour of the Weta Workshop. Learn about props, costumes and creatures from Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Avatar and more and see the artists at work.

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Switched on Bikes

Switched on Bikes

What better way to see the sights of the compact city of Wellington than with an electric bike – because it may be small, but there are hills to negotiate! Cruise the waterfront, take in the attractions, or head out to one of the bays with the best cafes.

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Family-friendly eateries

Wellington has more cafes, restaurants, and bars per capita than New York so when you need to refuel there are plenty of options.

Maranui Cafe – the best kept secret in Wellington for breakfast, brunch or lunch. Choose from stunning baking from the cabinet and a range of meals from the menu, or relax with a coffee while you gaze over the beach, watching the surfers at Lyall Bay.

Southern Cross Garden Bar & Restaurant – the ultimate in kid-friendly dining with facepainting, colouring, theatre and puppet shows and toys to keep the little ones entertained while you relax and enjoy the superb food made from fresh, local produce wherever possible.

One Red Dog – serving delicious pizza, pasta and antipasto as well as great options for the littlies. The kids can even make their own pizza at the table!

Fix & Fogg – makers of your nut butter fix, search out the Eva Street window for the toast toppings of your dreams.


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Chocolate Fish Cafe  – a favourite with the locals with indoor and outdoor seating taking in the views from the Miramar Peninsula. Serving breakfast and lunch with the flashest sammies around plus salads, burgers and kids options.

Joe’s Garage – just a few minutes from Te Papa and the waterfront attractions, Joe’s is the ideal spot for breakfast, lunch, or dinner to round off a perfect Wellington day.

Where to stay

For family-friendly stays, we recommend checking out the below.

James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor

James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor – stay in the heart of Wellington, just minutes from the capital’s attractions, shopping and entertainment in this well-appointed hotel with two restaurants, gym, 24 hour room service, and free Wi-Fi. Spacious family rooms feature a separate lounge.

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Capital Gateway Motor Inn

Capital Gateway Motor Inn – perfectly positioned if you’re hopping on the Cook Strait ferry and just 10 minutes from Wellington CBD. Family units can sleep up to six, many have a kitchenette for convenience and there’s also a campervan park on site. The licenced restaurant offers a good selection of affordable meals for breakfast or dinner.

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Wellington's Kiwi Holiday Park

Wellington’s Kiwi Holiday Park – escape the city and stay in the scenic beauty of the Akatarawa Valley in Upper Hutt, just 30 minutes from the centre of Wellington. Neighbouring Harcourt Park is great for kids with a playground, summer splash pool, bike track, wide open spaces and a frisbee golf course. Choose from eco-friendly cabins, motel units, tourist flats and cabins, park up your campervan or pitch a tent.

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Main photo credit: Ian Trafford

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Written by Kidspot New Zealand in partnership with Tourism New Zealand.

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