Wellington Cable Car a must-do!
Waterfront sculpture

What to Do & Where to Eat in Wellington

Article submitted by holidayLOVER

July 23rd, 2008

I get to visit Wellington more than several times year, so I thought I would put together my own guide on "what to do" and "where to eat". I'm not a local, in fact I live in Nelson, so this is a really about what I have discovered to be good and some things that are mind-blowingly great.

The windy capital is a vibrant city and has so much squeezed into the downtown area. When I stay in Wellington I either fly there or take the ferry from Picton, minus the car. I don't bother hiring a car, as I found a lot of the fun things to do just a short walk away or quick taxi, provided you stay in accommodation in the downtown area.

You must visit Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum at least once. It's a fun modern museum with plenty to see and learn about. With just one visit to Te Papa, you'll be able to impress dinner guests with some fascinating tid bits of information about New Zealand's culture,history, flora and fauna. What's more, it's free!

Within easy walking distance of Te Papa Tongarewa is City Gallery Wellington another free of charge attraction. This is a good sized art gallery focusing on contemporary visual arts, architecture and design in Wellington through local, national and international exhibitions. Attached to the City Gallery is Nikau Gallery Cafe which does good food and really good coffee. I have had several breakfasts/brunches there and have found it great although it can be extremely busy.

If the weather is good then a walk around Wellington’s favourite beach and waterfront, Oriental Bay, is a wonderful couple of hours. It is Wellington’s own little slice of the Riviera. There's plenty of benches along the way to stop and enjoy your ice cream or fish and chips while soaking up the scenery.

If shopping is your thing, then the Lampton area offers an excellent variety of shops. Hit Lampton Quay, Featherstone Street area and you'll no doubt find a shop or two to spend your money. Plus it's so compact you're not going to end up with sore feet.

Before your arms get overloaded with shopping bags, while on Lampton Quay, check out the Wellington Cable Car, it is one of Wellington’s oldest & most popular tourist attractions. For about $2.50 you can ride the cable car up and enjoy the stunning views out over Wellington city and the harbour. If the weather is good then you should take the walk back down to the city through the pretty botanic gardens. The walk is very easy, only taking about 40 minutes and is down hill all the way. The gardens are unique mixture of plantings broken into different beautiful areas. With this in mind, The Wellington Botanic Gardens are an excellent spot for a picnic on a sunny day. My personal favourite area was the Japanese rock garden area. There is a large children's park, that the kids will absolutely love, less than 10 minutes from the top. And if you have kids then bring some bread to feed the ducks in the duck pond at the bottom of the hill. Also of interest on the walk down is Bolton Street Memorial Park, which is the cemetery for the Wellington Colony (1840-1892).

In the evening there is always something on. As to be expected, there are several theatres offering up a broad range of of ever changing shows and performances. Ask at your hotel lobby about what shows are on or check out Event Finder. Another real treat that I discovered on my last visit to Wellington was the Wellington Comedy Club. Located on Cuba Street, the club is host to local and international comedians, plus a hilarious occasional amateur night which we were lucky enough to catch last time in Wellington.

With more restaurants per head than New York, Wellington has plenty of choice when it comes to great places to eat. Below are the ones that I have tried and liked/loved. I eat all my meals out while I stay in Wellington so I have quite an ecliptic list; from those that make your eyes water when you see the bill, to cheap but tasty, from fine dining, to a sushi train.

I LOVE Citron. This is THE place to visit for those who truly love food and wine. Be warned it's not cheap but a great place to visit for a special occasion or a treat. You must order the 9 course degustation, although this is more of an evening than a meal. We were there for over three and a half hours! The wine matches are always sublime and the wait staff are exceptional. Really I can't express to you how great Citron is, you just have to try it!

Regal Chinese Restaurant
I go here for the Yum Cha lunch, which is really delicious. This restaurant has a lively atmosphere, so don't come here if you like quiet and peaceful. Oh and make sure you make a reservation.

One Red Dog
Great for a casual dinner and a few drinks. Tasty original pizza and the antipasto is superb to have while you wait for others or nibble over a few drinks.

Dockside Restaurant
A bit on the expensive side but you are paying for the location and views too. Great spot for brunch one day on your holiday. I recommend their Eggs Benedict.

Copita Eatery and Wine Bar
This place is fun. So many great wines by the glass, maybe 50+, I had more than my share and hence I can't remember the details. The food was excellent and the staff friendly and efficient. I'll be going back there next time I'm in Wellington.

A friend recommend this one and I wasn't sure if I would like it but overall it is a good casual spot for dinner. The food is a selection of very reasonably priced Asian dishes; Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and Indian. Perhaps a good choice if your not sure what you feel like eating.

Catch Sushi Bar
This place has a sushi train, and offers a good variety of fresh sushi. A perfect spot if you're by yourself or with one other and very reasonably priced.

Miyabi Sushi
Another one for fans of Japanese food. Nice spot for an inexpensive lunch or dinner. Great handy location too.

I hope you have found this article interesting and possibly helpful for your next visit to wonderful Wellington. If you are a Wellingtonian, or have recently visited Wellington, let me know of anything I might may have left out by using the comment form below.

Melissa Evans
Melissa Evans

Melissa Evans lives in Sunny Nelson, New Zealand. She divides her time between being Creative Director at SunRoom Web Design Nelson, writing for KiwiWise and being a Mum to Sophia & Nicky. In her spare time she loves to travel, illustrate and read.

Average Rating:   (40 votes)

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  • jade17 posted on August 16th, 2009
    Overall Rating: 9.0 / 10

    For a capital city Wellington is indeed a fabulous, compact place to visit. Te Papa is a must but be careful you can spend a lot of time in there! I would also agree that the cable car trip is worthwhile with stunning views over the city from the summit. For more great views take a stroll along the harbour front. Surprisingly you may find that the free guided tour of the Beehive is an enjoyable experience - and don't forget to go over the road to have a drink in The Backbenchers pub adorned with satirical Spitting Images of political figures!
    For a cheap place to stay try an ensuite room at the YHA - again you might be suprised at the high quality of a "backpackers"!

  • Wifey posted on October 23rd, 2008
    Overall Rating: 10.0 / 10

    Wellington is a fun compact city. If you are looking for a really good restaurant in Wellington then I'd recommend Logan Brown Restaurant & Bar. The restaurant is set in a beautifully restored 1920s banking chamber, and serves up incredible cuisine. Logan Brown is on the corner of Vivian and Cuba so very centrally located and easy to find! Last time I ate at Logan Brown there was a great deal for a 3 course meal if you ate a little earlier (you must finish by 7:30pm)...well worth it!

  • Wild About Wellington posted on August 7th, 2008
    Overall Rating: 8.0 / 10

    I enjoyed your article. I might also suggest for those who enjoy seafood and fine dining to check out Martin Bosley's Yacht Club Restaurant. It won Cuisine Magazine Restaurant of The Year 2007. Great location and fantastic menu.