72 hours in Wellington

Three days of eating and drinking, arts and culture, biking around vineyards, and nature encounters, with enough time to relax and have a sleep-in

The first thing to know about Wellington is you can walk almost everywhere. The city fits a lot into a small space, so nearly everything you need will be within strolling distance. Pack some comfy shoes and get ready to stumble across all sorts of wonders en route to your next destination.

Friday evening: sample some craft beer

Check-in at your hotel and head out to explore the city. Friday night in Wellington is all about good food and delicious beverages. 

Let’s get started with a taste of Wellington’s famous craft beer. Ghuznee Street boasts a fantastic line-up of brew bars including Whistling Sisters, Fortune Favours and Choice Bros. and Aro Valley is home to Garage Project, one of Wellington’s best-known breweries, and you can get a taste of their boundary-pushing beer and wine at their cellar door or taproom.

Grab some dinner on Cuba Street - with an array of dining options from relaxed to fancy, you'll definitely find something to suit your taste. Go for chilli oil dumplings at Rams Restaurant, burgers at Ekim, beef rendang at Rasa or Venetian-style tapas at Ombra. 

Saturday

After a sleep-in and maybe a gentle stroll or jog around the waterfront, start your day with a coffee before heading out to discover some of the capital's top attractions.

Saturday morning: brunch by the sea

If your mornings usually start with a strong cup of coffee, you're in luck. Wellington is known as the coffee capital for a reason. The city's baristas take their flat whites as seriously as their long blacks, and you'll find the best cup of your life around every corner.

If you like something more solid to start your day, head to one of Wellington’s top cafés. Enjoy your breakfast with a side of views at one of the city's seaside cafés, and soak up the harbour scenery while you enjoy your eggs done just the way you like them.

Ride the Cable Car

Take a ride on the historic Cable Car all the way to the top to check out the panoramic views of the city and harbour from the lookout at the top. Once you're there, pop into the Cable Car Museum next door to learn about the 120-year history of the iconic red cars. If you've still got energy to burn, the Botanic Gardens wind their way down the hill from Kelburn, and have a world of natural wonder to explore.

Explore a world-renowned ecosanctuary

From the top of the Cable Car you can catch a free shuttle to Zealandia, a predator-free ecosanctuary, the first of its kind in the world.

Go for a guided walk around with one of their knowledgeable hosts and find out more about their extraordinary 500-year vision to restore a Wellington valley forest and freshwater ecosystem as closely as possible to their pre-human state.

Check out Cuba Street

Ride Zealandia’s free shuttle back into town and take a stroll along Cuba Street. Known as Wellington’s most colourful street, here you’ll find the iconic Bucket Fountain sculpture, as well as some of the city's best and most vibrant vintage and unique shops.

Around the corner is Hannahs Laneway, a culinary hotspot that can feed you for every meal in one day (it's been done before). It's home to artisan peanut butter makers Fix & Fogg, Wellington Chocolate Factory and more. For lunch, head to the next laneway over for Egmont Street Eatery’s seasonal menu with a strong emphasis on local ingredients. The restaurant has won awards for its food and the stunning interior fit-out.

Wander the waterfront

Stroll around the beautiful waterfront, stopping to check out the public art along the way and to get a scoop of locally-made gelato at Oriental Bay, Wellington’s golden-sand, inner-city beach. If you're feeling adventurous, hire an electric bike from Switched On Bikes, an effortless way to explore Wellington’s coastline and bays.

If walking is more your pace, check out Wellington's extensive tracks and trails - find your wild and enjoy Wellington's regional trails.

Saturday night

Wellington has a big appetite, so it's lucky there's a new café, restaurant or bar opening every other week. Head to the newest spots to sample the freshest flavours around. If you want to go where the locals go, head to one of the city's old (and new) favourites.

The culinary capital offers a range of dining styles – from fun, casual eats at Mr Go’s, 1154 and Burger Liquor, to the laidback luxury of Ortega Fish Shack and Rita or go try some of Wellington’s favourite Malaysian eats at Little Penang or Rasa.

Sunday

Wellington's big backyard is full of wide-open space, from the sweeping Kāpiti Coast to the scenic Wairarapa - which happens to be on today's agenda.

Sunday: day trip to Martinborough

Catch the morning train from Wellington Station on a one-hour ride to Featherston, where you’ll be met by a bus that will take you to Martinborough, the village at the heart of the wine-making district. This compact village is surrounded by vineyards and country roads, making it perfect to explore by bike. Hire bikes from Green Jersey – there’s a range of options from two-wheeled to four, and they’ll happily collect your wine purchases from the vineyards for you. Enjoy a couple of hours of biking between wineries, stopping off for tastings and lunch along the way.  

Try a local drop

You'll fill a good part of the day exploring the local vineyards, sampling varietals from the more than 20 cellar doors around Martinborough.

Start at Ata Rangi, a small organic winery just a few minutes from the village. The family-owned business is famous for its pinot noir, but try any of the wines at Ata Rangi and you're in for a treat. Their founder, Clive Paton, was one of the small handful of people who pioneered wine growing in the area.

Up the road is Palliser Estate, one of Aotearoa's exceptional wine brands. Land that was once used for farming sheep now produces acclaimed wine that is enjoyed around the world. Their cellar door is open year-round and pours tastings of their wines – their pinot noir and chardonnay are particularly delicious. If you're hungry, you can grab a bite to eat from their cute food truck, Nara, and sit outside on the beanbags.

 

 

A platter at Poppies

Poppies is a vineyard with a bit of a cult following by Wellingtonians, and it's easy to see why.

Run by husband and wife team (Poppy is the winemaker, Shayne is the viticulturist), Poppies’ romantically rustic cellar door and restaurant is known for their simple but beautiful antipasto platters. Sit inside in the cosy restaurant or outside under the pergola with an unencumbered view of the vines that have produced the wine you’re enjoying.

One last winery

After lunch, there's still plenty more wineries to stop by. Luna Estate has beautiful spaces both indoors and out to sample their wines, while Colombo is casual cool with incredible wood-fired pizzas to pair with their wine flights.

If you're looking for something a little different, the Wairarapa is good at producing more than just grapes. Olivo makes international renowned olive oils and offers tree to table tours (bookings required), as well as olive oil tastings so you can taste like a professional. If beer is your brew of choice, Martinborough Brewery is in the square and makes small-batch, handmade beers full of flavour. The village also has many shops, second-hand stores and cafés, as well as Karahui Wine Bar & Eatery. Housed in a historical converted bank, the bar and restaurant offers sharing plates paired with beautiful local and Aotearoa wines.

Monday

It's your last day in Wellington, but there's still plenty left to explore, great coffee to drink and delicious things to eat. 

Monday morning: Wellington's top toast

Sometimes simple is best, and toast for brekkie can be just what you're after. Wellington has a bit of a thing for toast, so pop into a café in the city for this simple but delicious breakfast staple.

Customs by Coffee Supreme serves particularly excellent toast that pairs perfectly with their freshly brewed coffee. If you're in the mood to chill, grab an iced coffee instead and get your people-watching on in the super-hip Ghuznee Street

Visit Te Papa

From Customs, it’s a ten-minute walk to Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum and art gallery. Known for its cutting-edge approach to telling the stories of Aotearoa New Zealand, it's a treasure-trove of history, art, culture and learning. One of the best ways to get around Te Papa is to take a guided tour – there’s a range of choices from behind-the-scenes at the museum experiences to informative tours of the exhibitions.

Lunch at Maranui

Head to Maranui Café in Lyall Bay for a lunch that's quintessential Wellington.

The seaside café is equally popular with locals as it is with visiting royals - Meghan Markel and Prince Harry came to Wellington in 2018 and enjoyed a laidback morning tea while watching the surfers from the ex-surf lifesaving club. Order one of their famous thickshakes and pick something delicious from the cabinet or menu to fuel your afternoon's activities.

Movie-making magic

You can’t leave Wellington without a visit to Wellywood at Wētā Workshop. Visit the fascinating Weta Cave and take a Studio Tour which will have you journeying from Middle-earth to Tracy Island and beyond as you explore 25 years of award-winning creativity and get a behind-the-scenes look at movie-making magic.

Where to stay

Wellington is an incredibly compact city so no matter where you choose to stay, you’ll find that nothing is too far away.

  • QT Wellington - a creative and enchanting hotel that has art and luxury at the centre of everything it does.
  • West Plaza Hotel - Spacious rooms in a central location with laneways, boutique shopping and the city's attractions on your doorstep. 
  • The Intrepid - Located on trendy Ghuznee Street, The Intrepid carefully fuses luxury, local and convenience to create the perfect home base for travellers while they explore Wellington. 
  • CityLife Wellington - One and two-bedroom suites with everything you need for a long weekend including kitchenette, washing machine and dryer. 
  • Ibis Wellington - A three-and-a-half star hotel that's close to Lambton Quay and the waterfront with secure parking and a fantastic on-site restaurant. 
  • James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor - With two in-house restaurants, a day spa and gym, live piano performances and a high tea experience, you might be tempted to spend your entire long weekend at the hotel. 
  • Mercure Wellington - Abel Tasman Hotel - Affordable, quality accommodation with free Wi-Fi and an in-house restaurant.

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