1. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
One of the best museums we've visited, it's hard to sing higher praises than others before us of this monument of New Zealand's history. All of the many installations are wonderfully designed and described and they provide a wealth of knowledge. From the Māori buildings, weapons, and tools to the history of immigration to New Zealand, on to the art galleries and the colossal squid, it kept us fascinated for an entire day (minus a lunch break at Big Bad Wolf). Don't miss out on this museum.
2. Cafe Culture
Kiwis take their coffee seriously and nowhere more so than in their blustery capital. Located all over the city center and especially along Cuba Street, you'll find numerous cafes offering tasty coffee and their various interpretations of brunch foods. If you go on the weekend, you'll find long lines as locals love to chat over their flat whites and enjoy a leisurely meal.
There are tons of places to find good coffee in the city, and we tried a number of them, but our favorite was Flight Hangar Cafe. It was near the end of the day when we arrived, but the guys behind the counter were happy to prepare a couple delicious drinks and let us enjoy them past closing. For brunch, we'd recommend PreFab.
3. Botanic Gardens and Cable Car
Wellington has a storied gardens that are very much worth visiting and exploring on a sunny day. The grounds are split into various sections showcasing the flauna of the area and New Zealand in general and are a peaceful oasis away from honking horns and general city din. We saw plenty of locals using the paths for exercise and fun and we spent a few hours wandering from bench to bench where we would pause to enjoy the serenity of the gardens.
We had read mixed reviews of the cable car online but decided to try it for ourselves and used it to reach the top part of the gardens. Reading the displays they had was an enlightening insight into the expansion of a young Wellington. The ride itself was short and didn't provide incredible views, but it was fun to ride the same route commuters used to reach work some one hundred years ago.
4. Mount Victoria
We were CouchSurfing in the neighborhood that sits just below Mount Victoria so we hoofed our way past a Lord of the Rings filming location and made our way to the platform at the top. The hill provides picturesque vistas of the city and the bay it sits on.
5. Waterfront Walk
The waterfront area has been developed in a very thoughtful way, with restaurants and cafes, recreation areas, and even a shipping-container market. There is a footpath that takes you all along the bayfront and it was well used by tourists but mostly by locals, going to and from work, exercising, or just enjoying the beautiful views. People would congregate in the evenings at the restaurants and pubs or along the pier where the boat crews would set off from for their training sessions. We could see ourselves being a part of that daily massing - as long as it was a sunny day!
- We had an amazing first CouchSurfing experience in Wellington and are incredibly thankful for our great hosts. Thank you Malika, Amanda, and Jason!
- The cable car is cheaper if you ride it down instead of up - NZ$3.50 vs. $4.