Best things to do for free in Wellington
There are plenty of things to do while you're in Wellington that won't cost a cent, so you can save your money for a gelato on the waterfront afterwards.
Mount Victoria Lookout
Lookout Road, Hataitai, Wellington
The best way to get your bearings of the city is by checking out the views from the top of Mount Victoria, or Mt Vic, as the locals call it. Rising 196m above the city, the Mount Victoria Lookout has stunning panoramic views of Wellington city, harbour and hills. You can drive to the top of Mt Vic or walk there via one of the many trails in the Town Belt. Take a picnic with you, settle in on the hillside and relax while watching ferries and cruise ships sail into the harbour and planes fly in and out of the airport. Mt Vic is also one of the best spots in the city for taking in a sunrise or sunset.
1 Weka Street, Miramar, Wellington
Get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into some of the world's most spectacular movies at Weta Cave, a mini-museum and store of the Oscar-winning Weta Workshop. Inside the cave, get up-close to some of the characters, props and displays from your favourite movies, read how they were brought to life and learn about the artists who created them – and make you sure you get a selfie with the trolls that stand guard outside the Weta Cave. A must-do for all of you who enjoy The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and Thunderbirds Are Go.
Wellington Waterfront Jervois Quay, Wellington
Wellington’s waterfront is like the city’s backyard, where everyone goes to hang out and do recreational activities. There’s a wide footpath that stretches from the Railway Station around to Oriental Bay and beyond, which is a great to walk, jog or cycle along. Along the way you’ll find many public sculptures, park benches and places to stop for a coffee or a gelato. On sunny days, stop by the Taranaki Wharf to watch as swimmers jump off a specially-designed eight-metre-high dive platform.
3 Jervois Quay, Wellington
Ranked in the Top 50 Museums in the World by The Times UK, Wellington Museum offers interactive exhibitions that will appeal to all ages. Housed in a significant heritage building on the waterfront, the museum offers a wonderful insight into the rich social and cultural history of Wellington, which is a great accompaniment to Te Papa's stories of the nation. Don’t miss The Attic exhibition on the top floor of the museum – it’s a raucous collection of Wellington artefacts, both new and old.
Gallipoli: The Scale of our war
55 Cable Street, Te Aro, Wellington
Explore New Zealand's involvement in WWI at Te Papa's powerful and moving exhibition Gallipoli: The scale of our war. Developed by Te Papa with creative direction from Sir Richard Taylor and amazing craftsmanship by Weta Workshop, this immersive exhibition features incredible larger-than-life 3D models of eight ordinary New Zealanders and tells their personal experience of the horrors they faced during the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign. Entry to this exhibition is free-of-charge.
City Gallery Wellington
Te Ngākau Civic Square, Wellington
City Gallery Wellington shows art that is sometimes challenging and always captivating from some of the world's leading artists. Located in the heart of Civic Square, City Gallery Wellington shows world-class exhibitions of contemporary New Zealand and international art across a range of mediums including painting, photography, sculpture and film. City Gallery Wellington’s exhibitions are generally free of charge and once a month, the gallery stays open for a special late night with admission by koha (donation). The gallery has an on-site café, Nikau Café and a fantastic gallery store.
Molesworth Street, Pipitea, Wellington
A visit to New Zealand’s capital city would not be complete without a visit to the beautifully refurbished Parliament Buildings. Consisting of three architecturally distinctive buildings, there’s the Edwardian neo-classical Parliament House, the Victorian Gothic Parliamentary Library and the unique 1970s-style Beehive building. Free guided tours of Parliament are available each day but need to be booked in advance. You can also book to dine at Bellamys by Logan Brown, previously exclusively for parliamentarians, this fine dining restaurant at Parliament is now open to the public.
Wellington Botanic Garden
101 Glenmore Street, Kelburn, Wellington
Beautiful all-year-round, Wellington Botanic Garden features over 26 hectares of stunning views, unique landscapes, exotic forests, native bush, colourful floral displays and specialist gardens. Visit the Begonia House, a heated glasshouse that’s home to lush and colourful tropical plants and stop by the award-winning Lady Norwood Rose Garden which has over 3,000 roses. Follow the Sculpture Trail and discover some of the stunning contemporary sculpture that has been placed around the gardens including a work by Henry Moore. The gardens are open every day and entry is free.
The Dowse Art Museum
45 Laings Road, Lower Hutt
The Dowse Art Museum is a leading contemporary art gallery in Lower Hutt with an international reputation for its high-quality visitor experiences. Entry is free to their regularly changing exhibition programme featuring contemporary visual art, fashion, jewellery, multi-media and ceramics. The Dowse has a dedicated children’s space providing colouring supplies, a puppet show and books, and on-site licensed café Bell Bird is a lovely place for coffee and lunch.
Pātaka Art + Museum
17 Parumoana Street, Porirua, Wellington
A short drive or train trip from the city, Pātaka Art + Museum is a lively hub of arts and culture in Porirua, one of the most multi-cultural cities in New Zealand. Across multiple galleries, Pātaka shows the best in contemporary Maori, Pacific Island, New Zealand and international art. Enjoy lunch and coffee at Kaizen, a café overlooking a traditional Japanese garden, and spend some time at the museum shop, Toi Store, which has a carefully chosen range of art and craft works made by leading New Zealand artists.
Old St Paul's
34 Mulgrave Street, Pipitea, Wellington
One of New Zealand's greatest heritage buildings, Old St Paul's is a stunning example of timber Gothic Revival architecture. Constructed in 1866 entirely from native timbers, the glowing interior is enhanced by stunning stained glass. Old St Paul's is a place of living history, a place that tells the stories - not only of the church but the people of Wellington and the historic suburb of Thorndon. Old St Paul's is currently closed for strengthening and upgrade work and is estimated to reopen January 2020.