The Wellington Cable Car is one of the city’s most popular attractions, moving close to 1 million passengers per year. The cable car draws in a lot of visitors, but it is also used daily by locals to commute into the city.
Access to the cable car is via Cable Car Lane. This is located just off of Lambton Quay, Wellington’s central business district and main shopping hub. Here at the lower terminal, passengers can buy their tickets and board the cable car. From there, the cable car will make the 5 minute journey to the top of Kelburn Hill, making a few stops along the way.
The Wellington Cable Car is a funicular railway, traveling 120 meters from the city center, up to the top of Kelburn Hill. At the top you’ll find a lookout point, a café, gardens, and other attractions. Kelburn village is just a short walk away.
History of the Wellington Cable Car
The cable car was originally envisioned as a convenient way to transport Wellington residents into the city. Shops and businesses were located near the waterfront, but the hills surrounding the city made commuting difficult.
The first cable car ran in 1902, and by 1912 the cars were carrying a million passengers per year! These cars made their final runs in 1978, before the line was upgraded and redesigned.
The Wellington Cable Car has undergone many changes since the beginning, but it is still used regularly by locals to get into the city. You can learn more about the history of the cable car in the Cable Car Museum.
Riding the Cable Car
Riding the cable car from Lambton Quay is so much fun! Maybe it’s just me (it can’t just be me), but I love riding any type of tram/train/gondola/etc. It makes me feel like a little kid again.
The Wellington Cable Car is particularly fun as it moves uphill, allowing you to see out over the city as you go higher and higher. The cable car also travels through two light-filled tunnels. Colorful LED lights line the tunnel walls, and it makes for a beautiful show as you ride through.
The cable car ride is only a few minutes long, but it’s still a must-do in Wellington—plus it’s the easiest way to get to the top of Kelburn hill, and there are so many cool things to do up there.
What to Do at the Top of the Cable Car
Once you reach the top of the hill and step off the cable car, the fun has only just begun! The cable car terminal is centered at an incredible lookout point, and from there you’ll find lots of other things to do.
Cable Car Museum
Start with the Cable Car Museum. You’ll see it as soon as you get off the cable car. In the museum, you’ll learn the history of Wellington’s cable car system, and you can check out two of the original cars that were in use 100 years ago.
Admission is free
The Kowhai Café is located just next to the Kelburn terminal. Grab a coffee or a bite to eat. Sit outside and get an incredible view of Wellington.
Wellington Botanic Gardens
Just around the corner from the terminal is the entrance to the Botanic Garden. Here you’ll find the start of the downhill path, which is the main pathway through the gardens. This is the easiest way to see the main gardens, and it’s a beautiful walk on a sunny day.
Admission is free
Zealandia is Wellington’s wildlife sanctuary, and it is the “world’s first fully-fenced urban sanctuary”. The goal of Zealandia is to protect and conserve New Zealand’s native wildlife. Visitors can walk through native bush, see native wildlife exhibits, and hike further afield. A free shuttle runs from the Cable Car terminal
Adult Admission is $18.50
Space Place is housed in the Carter Observatory, just a short walk from the Cable Car station. In this planetarium, you’ll find exhibits about the southern skies. You can also see the stars up close through the Thomas Cooke telescope.
Adult Admission is $12.50
Location: Cable Car Lane, 280 Lambton Quay (map)
Price: One-way Ticket $4 / Return Ticket $7.50
Timetable: Cars run each way every 10 minutes
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