Things to do in Wellington

Itineraries for Your Trip to Wellington

Wellington locals share their perfect days.
Find your Wellington

3 Days in Wellington for First Timers

Curated by Elen Turnera travel writer who lives just across the Cook Strait from Wellington (in Nelson).

As a long-time resident of New Zealand, I’ve visited its capital city, Wellington, many times. But there have often been long gaps between my visits–sometimes years–which means I’ve encountered the city through fresh eyes again and again.

Between staying with friends and family in local suburbs to playing tourist in central city hotels, I’ve enjoyed a breadth of Wellington’s experiences. Three days is a good amount of time to experience the city’s museums, galleries, restaurants, and outdoor attractions–when the weather’s fine, that is! Here’s what I would recommend.

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.

Day 1

Spend your first day getting your bearings. Active travelers will like a cycle tour of the city, especially on an e-bike. The waterfront area is flat, while the suburbs rise into the hills, so you’ll get some exercise. Whether you join a guided tour or wander independently on foot, you shouldn’t miss the Beehive (the New Zealand Parliament), the Mount Victoria Lookout, and the waterfront area.

In the afternoon, head to the unmissable Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa for short). It’s a great introduction to New Zealand history, culture, geology, and geography.

Day 2

Whether or not you’re a fan of The Lord of the Rings, a tour of the Weta Workshop is a fascinating experience. This special effects studio has created the props, costumes, and fantastical technology behind many blockbuster films. Weta Workshop is on the Miramar Peninsula, east of the central city.

Spend the afternoon getting to know Wellington’s dining and drinking scene, famous in New Zealand. The local cuisine is multicultural, with a good mix of Asian- and European-inspired foods, and dozens of tasty craft brews are produced in the capital. Don’t drink? Spend the afternoon browsing the quirky boutiques around the Cuba Street Mall.

Day 3

This morning, head about an hour north to visit the quaint town and vineyards of Martinborough, known for its pinot noir.

In the afternoon, if the weather’s fine, head to one of Wellington’s lovely beaches for some down time. Island Bay, Lyall Bay, and Princess Bay are all popular spots. Alternatively, stick closer to the city center at Oriental Bay, which often hosts beach sports events in summer.

Want to make sure you experience vineyards and coastline? Some tours will take you to both.

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