The coolest little capital in the world, Wellington is bursting with fun activities and attractions. Discover all there is to see and do with our three day itinerary for family fun.
Whether you’re escaping on a mini-break for a long weekend or looking for a getaway during the school holidays, our itinerary will give you inspiration for an amazing family trip. Do as many or as few of the suggestions as you please.
Refer to our Wellington Destination Guide for more information on many of the attractions and activities.
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.
Situated at the bottom of the North Island, Wellington is central to both islands. By road the driving time is approximately 8.5 hours from Auckland, 9 hours from Christchurch (including ferry), and 6.5 hours from Hamilton.
You can fly into Wellington with Air New Zealand from 19 domestic destinations across the country. To find out more, visit www.airnz.co.nz.
Cook Strait ferries operated by Bluebridge and Interislander travel between Wellington and Picton and take approximately 3.5 hours.
Wellington has a good public transport system of trains and buses but you will also find that walking or cycling is an easy option between attractions in the city centre. As Wellington is a pleasantly compact city, you can easily base yourself in one place of accommodation and still take in all the sights. City centre hotels are right amongst the attractions while motels and holiday parks slightly further afield offer a quieter option. The Hutt Valley is only half an hour from central Wellington and is also serviced by train.
Your first day in Wellington takes in the sights and attractions of the Wellington waterfront – everything is in walking distance!
After breakfast at your accommodation, head out to Museum of New Zealand – Te Papa Tongarewa for an amazing array of exhibits and interactive features kids will love. Bush City is a particular favourite with the kids.
Walk the waterfront route past sculptures to nearby Karaka Cafe for a stunning spot for lunch with a Māori flavour influence. If it’s sunny, relax on the beanbags on the grass for lunch with a waterview.
Walk across the quirky City to Sea Bridge and it’s just a hop, skip and a jump along the waterfront to Frank Kitts Park where the kids can let off some steam on the playground while you take in the epic harbour views. Wellington Waterfront is where the locals love to hang out with options to hire bikes, rollerblades, kayaks or paddleboards.
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If you’re feeling adventurous, hire a bike from Switched on Bikes and explore Wellington’s waterfront, bays or lookouts. Alternatively, pop over to the Wellington Museum and explore an interactive history of Wellington.
Finish your day with ‘make your own’ pizzas at One Red Dog or try their delicious pasta and salad dishes.
The second day in Wellington takes you from city streets to nature adventures.
Enjoy breakfast at Seashore Cabaret on the Petone foreshore from 7am. You know an eatery is good when it’s frequented by the locals! Follow it up with a walk on Petone Beach.
Back in Wellington, budding politicians (and aren’t all kids?) will enjoy the 45 minute Kids in the House Parliament Tour that runs during school holidays.
Do a spot of shopping on Lambton Quay and then fuel up for the afternoon’s adventures at Lambton Square & Eatery with a range of foodie options. Then it’s time to head uphill the easy way thanks to the Wellington Cable Car. It’s only $22 for a family return pass for two adults and up to four kids! See the light displays in the two tunnels as you climb up to the panoramic harbour views.
An easy walk downhill will take you through the beautiful Wellington Botanic Gardens (don’t miss the great kids playground) then head down Tinakori Road and Bowen Street back to the Beehive.
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.
If you have time, travel just 10 minutes to the Zealandia ecosanctuary and take a ride on the lake boat before walking the fantastic bush trail to see native birds, weta, and tuatara and see the kākā feeding. There’s a free shuttle that departs from the top of the cable car multiple times each day (check the return times).
Dinner tonight is at the Southern Cross Garden Bar & Restaurant, a family-friendly eatery where there’s always something happening and the food is made from fresh, local produce wherever possible.
Today we venture out of the city centre to explore more of Wellington’s attractions.
Start your day at Maranui Cafe with a tasty selection of cafe food and watch the surfers at Lyall Bay as you sip your coffee.
First stop today is Wellington Zoo where you can see over 100 species from around the globe including African big cats, native animals, monkeys, penguins, meerkats and more. Don’t miss out on hand-feeding the friendly giraffes.
Drive past the airport to do a bit of plane spotting then head to the Chocolate Fish Cafe at Shelly Bay for lunch. This iconic cafe has indoor and outdoor seating with harbour views and flash sammies, plus salads, burgers and kids options.
Next up is a chance to discover the magic behind the movies with a Weta Cave Workshop Tour. See the artists at work from the creators of Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Avatar and more.
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Where to stay in Wellington
For family friendly stays, we recommend checking out the below. Or search here for holiday parks and campgrounds.
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.
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.
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.
Main photo credit: Graeme Murray
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Written by Kidspot New Zealand in partnership with Tourism New Zealand.