New Zealand’s Capital City is a fun and creative hub for both tourists and locals. Wellington is filled with cool stuff, like huge museums, beautiful parks, extensive walking trails, interesting art, and a million other things. As if that weren’t enough, a lot of this cool stuff is free!
Yes, that’s right. There are tons of free things to do in Wellington. Whether you’re into food, music, art, history, plants, beer, nature, exercise, sun, animals, politics…literally anything you’re into, there’s probably a free activity focused on it in Wellington.
All of the free things to do in Wellington is part of what makes it such a great city for travelers. You could spend days—an entire week—hanging out in Wellington just doing free activities and attractions.
19 Free Things to Do in Wellington, New Zealand
Te Papa Tongarewa is New Zealand’s National Museum. With exhibits covering history, geology, wildlife, WWII, and fine arts, spread out over 6 floors, this place is truly incredible. It’s hard to believe this place has free admission considering how much I’d be willing to pay for it (note: you can leave donations in the boxes throughout the museum).
Read Next: Place of Interest // Te Papa
The Night Market runs every Friday and Saturday night on Cuba Street from about 5-11 pm. Wander down the alleyway and take your pick from the local food stalls while listening to the live music. Pop into some of the permanent shops, like Pegasus Books.
More Info: Wellington Night Market
Wellington has one of the most beautiful botanic gardens in the country. Trails leading uphill take you through 25 hectares of gardens, including a rose garden, native forests, and succulent gardens. The rose garden and conservatory are of particular interest. There’s also a sculpture trail you can follow.
The Wellington Museum is another free museum worth a visit. Located right on Queen’s Wharf, the Wellington Museum covers the history of the capital city. Learn about some of the defining Wellington moments, or the tragic Wahine Disaster of 1968.
Read Next: Place of Interest // Wellington Museum
This weekly market is located in the parking garage (like, a cool parking garage, though) on the waterfront under Frank Kitts park. Every Saturday, local artisans set up stalls to sell their crafty and creative wares. It’s fun just to browse but it’s also a good place to pick up an interesting souvenir or two.
More Info: Wellington Underground Market
A hike up Mount Victoria for a 360-degree view of the city won’t cost you anything. The walk can be quite tiring, but if you happen to be in Wellington on a nice (i.e. not windy) day, there’s no better way to spend it. There are multiple starting and ending points. If you don’t want to walk, you can also drive up to the lookout point.
Wellington Chocolate Factory Tour
Wellington Chocolate Factory is an organic, bean-to-bar chocolate creator. Their factory is located just off of Courtenay Place, which is also home to their café. Public tours of the chocolate factory run every Saturday morning. Get a behind-the-scenes look at how they make their chocolate.
More Info: Wellington Chocolate Factory
One building you have to see while in Wellington is the parliament building, known as “The Beehive”. Get a look at the inner-workings of New Zealand’s government by taking a free parliament tour. The one-hour tour takes you through some of the buildings and gives you some basic insight on how things run in this country.
More Info: Wellington Parliament Tour
The Weta Workshop is home to some movie-making magic, where they create special designs and effects for world-famous films like Lord of the Rings. The workshop tours will cost you, but the Weta Cave is completely free. Wander around the shop, take a look at the museum, get photos with life-size sculptures, and watch the documentary. If you’re a movie and/or LOTR buff, this is a must-see.
More Info: Weta Cave & Workshop
The City Gallery is a wonderful space in Civic Square featuring rotating art exhibits. The exhibits last around three months each and often feature New Zealand artists. This is a great place to spend an hour, without spending any money.
Read Next: Place of Interest // City Gallery
Otari-Wilton’s Bush is a botanic garden and nature preserve solely dedicated to native New Zealand plants. It includes over 100 hectares of native forest, as well as native plant collections. Wander through the preserve on the 11 km of walking tracks and see the 800-year-old Rimu tree.
More Info: Otari-Wilton’s Bush
Cable Car Museum
Wellington’s famous cable car has attracted visitors for decades. Watch short films and read about the city’s iconic cable car system at the Cable Car Museum. While the cable car ride isn’t free, learning about its history is. The museum is located at the top of the Cable Car, but if you don’t want to pay $4 to ride up to it, you can walk uphill through the botanic gardens instead.
City Walking Tour
The best way to get to know a city is by exploring it on foot. Join a free guided walking tour to get to see some of the major sights and get your bearings. You’ll learn about the history of the city and find out where all the attractions are located.
Oriental Bay Beaches
The sandy beaches along Oriental Bay are the place to hang out on a warm, sunny day. Locals come here to swim and sunbathe, and it is 100% beach vibes. If the weather is a little too cool for a bathing suit, the walk along Oriental Bay is another option. This area is filled with beautiful houses and a great view of the skyline.
Read Next: Exploring Wellington’s Oriental Bay
The Harbourside Market is located in the waterfront next to Te Papa, and runs every Sunday morning. This farmers market is filled with stalls from local farms and local food producers, and also has live entertainment. Check out all the food on offer to start your Sunday morning.
More Info: Wellington Harbourside Market
Pukeahu National War Memorial Park
This park was created to commemorate the 300,000 New Zealanders who fought in World World I. The park is located near Massey University, and was built around the National War Memorial. Take a look inside the memorial or visit the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. Just in front of the Carillon Tower, you’ll find the Australian Memorial, which represents ‘ANZAC’ (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps).
More Info: Pukeahu National War Memorial
Sound & Vision
Nga Taonga Sound and Vision is New Zealand’s moving image and sound archive. Here you’ll find film and television footage, old commercials, and a range of audio and video records spanning New Zealand’s history. They hold regular screenings, sometimes free. In addition to events, you can visit the Sound & Vision archives free of charge during open hours.
More Info: Nga Taonga Sound & Vision
Walking from one side of the city to the other along the waterfront makes for a great activity. Start in Post Office Square, walk towards Queen’s Wharf, pass through Frank Kitts Park, walk over the City to Sea Bridge, keep on going past the Te Papa and Waitangi Park, wander past the marina, and continue all the way down the Oriental Parade. This is the best walk to really see the city and the harbor.
More Info: Wellington Waterfront Walk
Te Ahumairangi Hill Lookout
For another incredible view over Wellington and the harbor, walk up to the Te Ahumairangi Hill Lookout. Located in the town belt, on the north side of the city.
More Info: Te Ahumairangi Hill Lookout
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