Iconic ways to get around: the Wellington Cable Car

Discover the story behind one of our most popular attractions. No trip to Wellington is complete without a ride on the famous Cable Car

Wellington Cable Car_People on board Wellington City background

Where

Lambton Precinct

Location

Cable Car Lane
280 Lambton Quay

Every 10-15 minutes, the historical bright red Wellington Cable Car departs from Lambton Quay and makes it way up into the hills of Kelburn.

On the five-minute journey upwards, the Cable Car rises 120m over a length of 612m, travelling through tunnels and offering spectacular views of the city below.

Originally steam-powered when it started in 1902 – the 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. 

While it may be one of the more interesting ways to get to work for some, there's art, too. Murals can be found at the terminal, while the journey itself is broken up with active light installations throughout two tunnels.

It’s one of Wellington’s most popular tourist attractions and it’s not hard to see why.

Wellington Cable Car
BE Cable car red cable car museum
sights and activities Cable Car transport attraction tourists travel tunnel lights flashing dark v2
Wellington Cable Car - Boy interacting with model

From the top, you'll find one of the more iconic images 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. 

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.

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, in 1912 that number had grown to more than one million, and today passenger numbers total 1.17 million yearly.

Watch a short film about the evolution of Wellington’s iconic transport system from the 1900s to the present day is also a must-see. If you’re looking for a keepsake, slot a $2 coin in exchange for a pressed cable car coin, the perfect souvenir.

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.

Grip Car No.3 at Cable Car Musesum
Overhead view of Zealandia and Wellington city

What to do at the top of the Cable Car

Visit an ecosanctuary named by Time magazine as one of the greatest 100 places in the world, take a trip to outer space or go back in time to 19th century colonial Wellington

Find out more

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