Ride the iconic Wellington Cable Car
For 120 years, the Cable Car has trundled up the Kelburn hillside making it one of Wellington's most iconic experiences
Originally steam-powered when it started over a century ago – the two red cable cars have trundled up and down the hill, through three tunnels and over three bridges, multiple times every day since – stopping only once for an upgrade break.
As you travel from the city centre to the Kelburn Terminal make sure you check out the LED light installations by Angus Muir. Each of the two tunnels have 60 arches of light strings, which are synchronised to a computer program. The program allows the Wellington Cable Car team to choose different patterns and put on special displays for events, such as the Pride Rainbow, Matariki stars, NZ Flag, and a lot more.
At the top, you'll find one of the more iconic views overlooking Wellington. If you time it right, you can have your own blue-skied panorama of the city with the red cable car sitting front and centre.
It’s not hard to see why it's one of Wellington’s most popular attractions for locals and visitors.
Cable Car Museum
After taking in the stunning panoramic views from the Cable Car Lookout, head into the Wellington Cable Car Museum. Housed in the original winding house for the cable car, the museum extends over two floors and tells the story of the cable car through original artefacts, photographs and interactive exhibitions.
Delve into the engineering skills, innovation and technology that allows Wellingtonians and visitors alike to travel up and down the hill with a visit the winding machine room that was operational from 1902 until 1978 shows the machinery once used to haul the cable cars up the hill to the summit in action. The winding machine was eventually replaced by a new Swiss-designed system which still remains in operation today.
Entry to the museum is free and the shop on-site features an array of New Zealand gifts. The complex is open from 9.30am-5pm daily. The return journey on the Cable Car completes the experience, but if you are driving you can park in a paid carpark just a short walk away from the museum.
Wellington Cable Car through the years
For more than a century the cable car has carried millions of passengers. On the Cable Car’s opening weekend in 1902 more than 4,000 passengers jumped on board, and by 1912 that number had grown to more than one million. Today passenger numbers total 1.17 million yearly.
Only two years after it opened there was so much demand the Cable Car needed to expand. In 1904 three old palace horse trams were purchased and converted into trailer carriages to increase passenger capacity.
The old cars that can now be found at the Cable Car Museum made their final run on 22 September 1978. The system was rebuilt with new cars, relocating the winding system, track re-gauging and control. The new Cable Car system opened in October 1979.
For the Rugby World Cup in 2011, Angus Muir's LED lights were installed into the tunnels.
In 2021, after a month’s trial, the Cable Car welcomed dogs permanently to travel on the cars.
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