While growing up in small-town New Zealand certainly has its benefits for my daughter, we sometimes want a dose of the big city (well, a medium-sized city!). On those days, we hop over the Cook Strait to Wellington. Having visited the city with her as a baby and a preschooler, I’ve found it to be a fun, interesting, and easy destination for kids and parents alike.
Although my daughter doesn’t remember visiting when she was a baby, at the time she really enjoyed the iconic cable car. On our last visit, she was almost four years old and loved the interactive exhibits at Te Papa; we visited more than once. Here’s how to spend three days in Wellington with kids.
Wellington is notoriously blustery in all seasons. Bring a raincoat (umbrellas don’t stand up well to Wellington’s wind) and hold on tight if you’re arriving by air.
If you only have time for one thing, make it the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
Start your first day with a stroll along the waterfront area. You’ll get great views of the city, and kids will like the boats and sculptures. End your stroll at the large Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa for short). Parents will enjoy learning about New Zealand’s history, art, culture, and nature, and kids will love the many interactive exhibits.
In the afternoon, if the weather’s good, walk around to Oriental Bay for some beach time. If it’s not, head to the Cuba Street Mall. The boutiques and restaurants here will keep adults happy, while the famous Bucket Fountain and nearby playground will amuse younger kids.
Wellington is famous for its food, and in my experience, kids love to eat! See chocolate being made at the Wellington Chocolate Factory and sample New Zealand cheese on a private food-focused walking tour.
Movie buffs won’t want to miss a tour of the Weta Workshop, the studio responsible for the props, costumes, and fantastical technology behind The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies as well as other blockbuster films. This might be a bit scary for younger kids; families with little ones could head to the Wellington Zoo instead.
Wellington is the center of New Zealand politics, and even if that doesn’t interest the kids much, the quirky Beehive (New Zealand Parliament) will. Swing by on your way to the Lambton Quay Terminal, then take the cable car to its upper terminus, Kelburn Station. From there, walk directly into the Wellington Botanic Garden for a picnic lunch.