3 people walking through the Harbourside markets holding bags of vegetables. People in the background can be seen purchasing fresh produce.

48 hours in Wellington

Time for food

You’re going to need energy to tackle the city’s sights so start the day with breakfast at one of Wellington’s top cafés. The coffee in Wellington is legendary. There are many local roasteries that keep cafés well supplied so a quality brew is never far away. If you want an ocean view while you plan your day, try the cafés around the harbour and along the southern coastline. Travelling for a view to accompany your eggs is worth it. If you don’t have a car for your weekend odyssey don’t fret. When you feel peckish it’s likely there will be a great café or restaurant around the corner.

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The city is compact and walkable, so there’s always something tasty nearby. Cuba Street is a great example of this. Known as Wellington’s most colourful street there are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore when you’re hungry.

The side streets and nearby laneways hold options for every palate and budget. Leeds Street has Shelly Bay Bakery, and over in Hannah’s Laneway, Pizza Pomodoro serves up authentic Italian takeaway pizza. Egmont Street Eatery nearby has transformed a former industrial car park into a chic restaurant.

Back on Cuba Street, you could grab a seat at Fidels Café. Or, watch the street life from the front window of Loretta’s. Heading towards the business end of the city offers more award-winning restaurants, or head down to the waterfront for food with a sea view.

Two people sitting on the front steps of Pizza Pomodoro eating pizza.

Pizza Pomodoro on Hannahs Laneway offers authentic Italian pizzas to takeaway.

Harbourside walks

Speaking of the waterfront, taking a stroll and exploring the water’s edge is a required experience for any weekend away. Check out the public art along the way, or if you want a deep dive head to Te Papa. The largest museum in the country takes pride of place on Wellington’s waterfront. At 36,000 square metres and six stories high, it contains a vast repository of over 800,000 artworks, objects, and specimens.

Oriental Bay is on Te Papa’s doorstep, and it provides your first waterfront opportunity for a swim. If you haven’t packed your togs then hire an electric bike from Switched on Bikes. You can explore much further with a bike and enjoy the many bays beyond the inner-city Oriental Bay.

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Head for the hills by Cable Car

Wellington’s historic Cable Car has been trundling up and down the hill from Lambton Quay to Kelburn for over 120 years. It serves many commuters and students needing a convenient way to avoid a steep walk home. There are several stops on the way, but you’ll want to stay on until the end where you’ll experience panoramic views of the city and harbour.

The adventure doesn’t stop at the top. From there you can explore the 25 hectares of Wellington Botanic Gardens (the final stop on the Cable Car leaves you on its boundary), or you can catch a free shuttle to Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne. The fully-fenced predator-free ecosanctuary. is a world-first conservation project. It has a 500-year vision to restore a Wellington city valley back to a pre-human state.

Looking into the Cable Car tunnel, with green LED lights lighting the inside and the 2 Cable cars meet in the middle of the tracks side by side.

From wildlife to nightlife

Once you’ve brushed off your shoes head back into town for dinner at one of Wellington’s many restaurants. The culinary capital offers anything from casual dining at Mr Go’s, 1154, and Burger Liquor, to the laidback luxury of Ortega Fish Shack, Concord, or Koji. There’s also an excellent selection of restaurants from Asia. Try Malaysian at Little Penang, Vietnamese at Apache, or Burmese at Mabel’s.

After dinner, it’s time to check out the capital’s cultural venues. The St James Theatre, Opera House, and Michael Fowler Centre have a steady lineup of live performances and events. You can see classical music and ballet, to touring singers and bands. There’s plenty of live theatre at Circa Theatre, Hannah Playhouse, or Bats. Or if you prefer a more intimate setting then listen to bands at San Fran or Meow.

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Movie magic and beachside bites

You can’t leave Wellington without a visit to Wētā Workshop. Travel 15 minutes out of the central city to Miramar and visit the Weta Cave. The studio tour will show you how props, costumes, sets, and special effects have bought many blockbuster movies to life. From Lord of the Rings to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Avatar, and more. Explore 25 years of award-winning creativity.

Before you catch a plane, the nearby suburb of Lyall Bay has an excellent selection of eateries. From fish and chips at Fresko to vegan brunch at The Botanist. Whole food salads at Queen Sally’s Diamond Deli to fabulous sea views at Maranui. Have a local craft beer at Parrotdog in a 70s-style pub. Savour all the tastes of Wellington as you fly home.

The bar staff at Parrotdog pouring a drink while laughing with a customer.

Parrotdog Bar and brewery in Lyall Bay, on Wellingtons south coast