This guide to Wellington, New Zealand is filled with all of my favorite restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, things to do, and more. I spent weeks throughout my time in the country wandering around Wellington in order to find the best spots. I hope this Wellington guide can help you explore the city and plan the best trip ever!
Within a few minutes of stepping foot in the city of Wellington, New Zealand, I was reminded of Seattle, Washington. The weather, the hills, the cool cafes, the people, the location on the water…Two cities over 7,000 miles apart, on opposite sides of the world, but they couldn’t be more similar. I immediately felt at home in Wellington, and perhaps that’s why I fell for the city so hard.
I’m not from Seattle, but I did live there for a short period of my life. It was the first place that felt like home to me, where I felt like me and things just went together. Wellington is now the second city to make that claim in my life. Needless to say after this sappy intro, Wellington holds a special place in my heart, which is maybe why it took so long for me to put this guide together.
What You Need to Know About Wellington
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand (despite many people assuming it’s Auckland), and it is the country’s cultural epicenter. Located on the very Southern tip of the North Island, it’s essentially in the center of the country, easily accessible from most points. It is not the largest city–Auckland is home to over 1.5 million of New Zealand’s 4.6 million residents, while Wellington’s population sits just above 200,000 (close to 400,000 if you include the surrounding region).
The city was voted as the “Coolest Little Capital in the World” by Lonely Planet, and that title couldn’t be more accurate. There are more restaurants, bars, and cafes per capita than New York City, which makes going out an easy and obvious choice while visiting. There are endless options for food and drink, cool restaurants abound, and you will find some of the best coffee in the world.
Yup, Wellington is a coffee capital if there ever was one. Just another reason it reminds me of Seattle, I guess. New Zealand as a whole is home to more independent coffee roasters than almost anywhere else in the world, and Wellington is the city that best represents that fact. You can find great coffee shops on just about every street, and you’ll get a good cup of coffee at even the most casual of places.
Beyond the food and coffee, Wellington is generally a great place to visit. The city is home to many cultural institutions, museums, galleries, etc. that put other cities to shame…and a lot of it is completely free! You might spend a pretty penny on accommodation and food while here, but you can spend almost nothing on attractions and still see so much.
The one thing that puts some people off of Wellington is the weather…its nickname “Windy Welly” might tell you why. It’s actually the windiest city in the world (this place wins a lot of superlatives), something that can take getting used to. The city sits right on the Cook Strait, the narrow waterway that separates the North and South Islands. As winds “squeeze” through the strait, they bombard Wellington with extreme winds. You’ll also encounter a lot of rainy days here, but they are worth it for the coveted sunny days.
So now that you know a bit about the coolest little capital, let me give you all my recommendations for where to eat, where to drink, where to get coffee, what to do, and more with this Guide to Wellington, New Zealand!
Please Note: these are my recommendations based on my personal experience traveling in Wellington. This is not an exhaustive guide, or all of the “best” in the city. These are the places I enjoyed most!
Wellington, New Zealand Guide
Where to Eat in Wellington
A trendy Mexican fusion restaurant perfect for eating and drinking with friends. Their menu is creative and changes every few months, so it’s not traditional Mexican food.
This is just a little walk-up counter on the street where you can get some super tasty (and cute) waffles. Pick something chocolatey, something fruity, or a little bit of both.
Great spot to grab tea drinks and coffee, but they also serve ice cream, bubble waffles, and other fun snack foods.
A simple but beautiful bakery with light meal options and good coffee.
Kebabs on Queen // 89 Courtenay Place
There’s nothing better than a Kebab after a long night and this is a great place to get one. It’s located on Courtenay Place, one of the main nightlife areas of the city.
This place has an Irish pub feel with a bit of an upscale twist. You can get a nice meal here, but the atmosphere is still quite casual.
Where to Drink in Wellington
This bar has a happy hour/after work drinks kind of vibe. It’s casual, but still quite nice. You can get good food here too!
Four Kings & Five Stags // 7-11 Dixon St
This place is two different bars. Five Stags is on the street level, and it’s a trendy pub with great drinks. Four Kings is more of a sports bar, located downstairs. (It’s possible I’ve mixed up the two names, but they’re in the same spot!)
Mac’s is a craft beer bar right on the harbor. There are locations in major towns across the country, so it has a bit of a “chain” vibe to it. This is a good spot to grab cider, beer, and snack food.
I ended up here a few times because a friend I was with is from Wales. It’s small, but it’s a good casual drinking spot.
Where to Get Coffee in Wellington
Mojo has 19 locations to choose from in Wellington (plus about 13 in Auckland). I went to the one on the waterfront, a convenient location to stop into while exploring the city.
One of the most well-known coffee shops and roasteries in the city. This is a really cool cafe, worth spending some time here to hang out, get some work done, or just grab your coffee to go.
Another trendy coffee shop with locations around the country.
Memphis Belle // 38 Dixon St
Memphis Belle has a retro, grungey feel about it. It’s a really comfortable cafe to hang out in for a couple of hours.
Havana is another popular cafe in Wellington, one not to miss on a coffee tour of the city!
Read Next: 26 Best Coffee Shops Around New Zealand
Where to Shop in Wellington
This adorable shop is filled with cute gifts, stationary, books, party supplies, and more. It’s a great place to grab something fun to bring back for friends. There’s another store in Auckland, and you can shop online too!
A well-curated streetwear shop for men and women. They have a mix of well-known brands and indie brands.
This shop is filled with handmade goods from local makers around New Zealand. You can find all kinds of art, clothing, jewelry, stationary, and more.
One of my favorite book shops in the city (possibly the whole country). Find all kinds of used and rare books here, and the staff is really helpful.
Another great book store worth checking out, with used and antique books. It’s tucked away in the alleyway off Cuba Street.
So Wellington has a lot of cool book stores…this one has new books, with a lot of New Zealand authors. There is another location in Auckland as well.
A beautiful little shop on Cuba Street that stocks herbal remedies, aromatherapy, oils, and skincare items.
What to See & Do in Wellington
Te Papa Tongarewa is New Zealand’s National Museum. It’s easy to spend hours and hours in this place, exploring the history, the culture, and the geology of New Zealand. Admission is free, so this is a must-do in Wellington.
The Wellington Museum is another great free museum. This one focuses on the capital city’s history.
The City Gallery is a contemporary art gallery in Civic Square with rotating exhibits. There is a focus on New Zealand artists, but they also feature international artists.
The beautiful Wellington Botanic Garden is set on the hills of the city. You can take the cable car up to the top and follow the path down to the city center, or you can walk up from the bottom. This is another free attraction, and one of my top recommendations.
The historic Cable Car takes passengers from the city center, up into the hills of the Kelburn neighborhood. It’s a fun experience, and an easy way to access more attractions. A one-way ticket is $5.
This sanctuary is a large natural area in Wellington. It’s filled with wildlife and plants that are native to New Zealand. The intent is to protect and restore the natural biodiversity of the country. General admission is 19.50.
Mt Victoria // Website
Hiking up Mt. Victoria is my number one MUST DO in Wellington. Get some fresh air and exercise in the middle of the city. You’ll get the best views of the city here.
Parliament // Website
Take a free tour of the Parliament buildings and see how New Zealand’s government works. Tours run throughout the day.
Waterfront // Website
Simply walking along the Wellington waterfront will give you plenty to see and do (for free). Museums, parks, restaurants, and more are located along the harbor, and there are plenty of events taking place here as well. Walk from Queen’s Wharf all the way down the Oriental Parade to the beaches.
Read Next: 19 Free Things to Do in Wellington
Where to Stay in Auckland
I spent most of my time staying at the YHA Hostel and really enjoyed it. It’s a very large hostel with a wide range of room options, from large dorms to private rooms. I like that it felt a bit more like a hotel, but still had a hostel atmosphere. Also a really great location in the city!
AirBnB // Browse Wellington Rentals
Find short-term rentals in Wellington with AirBnB. There are lots of options for all budgets, in all areas of the city. I stayed in a studio off Courtenay Place during one of my visits to the city, and definitely recommend it.
Use my link to get $40 USD off your first booking with Airbnb
Wellington, New Zealand Guide – Map
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