Wellington the capital of New Zealand also the capital of wind and rain! In June 2019 we arrived in New Zealand just in time for winter. By the way, when I refer to ‘winter’ I mean New Zealand winter not European or US winter. I’m talking June – August time. It might be the heat of summer back on the other side of the world but in New Zealand, those rainy days and cold nights are rolling on in. We quickly found out that Wellington is full of culture, surrounded by beautiful scenery and an abundance of hikes to conquer! However, we also quickly learnt that Wellington in winter can be very wet, windy and cold! But don’t write it off, there is so much to get your teeth stuck into come rain or shine. So here are some of the best things to do in Wellington in the winter!
Things to Do in Wellington in Winter – Indoors
Winter in Wellington can come equipped with frosted sidewalks and glorious sun rays beaming down making the ground sparkle. But it can also come with gale-force winds and sideways falling rain! Even though I always try to explore the best of a city come rain or shine sometimes you just want to be inside! Exploring in the rain is no fun if you can’t see in front of you, keep your feet dry or even get your camera out! So here are some of the best things you can in Wellington in Winter indoors – a bit of a mouthful that!
Te-Papa National History Museum
The national history museum of New Zealand also known as Te Papa is located on the waterfront in Wellington City. ‘Te Papa Tongarewa’ is the Maori name for the museum which translates to ‘container of treasures’ and that it certainly is. The Te Papa Museum prides itself on being one of the best National History Museums in the world. In 2015 it celebrated welcoming 25 million visitors over the years. The museum dedicates itself to educating locals and visitors about New Zealand and we certainly learnt a lot during our first visit! The exhibitions will suit everyone’s needs from young children to the older generation. My favourite is, as always, learning about the different species of animals that roam and once roamed New Zealand. I also found the earthquake simulator very interesting and educational!
The Museum is completely free and has all the facilities you could need. Clean toilets, cafes, play areas and plenty of volunteers to ask your burning questions too! A great place to take cover for a windy day in Wellington. There are parking facilities at Te Papa for cars and camper vans but it’s pay and display and it doesn’t come cheap!
The Weta Cave
Weta Cave is located just outside of the centre of Wellington on the other side of the Harbour. It takes around 20 minutes to drive from the CBD or via public transport. When were hunting for things to do in Wellington in winter we were so impressed that we could visit this place for free! The Weta Cave is where you can let your imagination come to life. Richard and Tania started their incredible journey in film from their flat in Miramar in the ’90s. As the years have passed they now design and create costumes for some of the worlds biggest blockbuster movies! If you’re a movie lover then Weta Cave will become your haven in Wellington.
The guys at Weta Workshop have worked on films such as the Lord of the Rings, King Kong and Avatar. I enjoyed this place so much more than I than first anticipated because though I enjoy films I’m not a big movie buff. But the passion and dedication into the work at Weta Workshop is evident in every corner you turn during your time at the Weta Cave. Learn about how it all began by watching a behind the scenes documentary and pose with life-size sculptures.
You can either visit the Weta Cave for free or you can book a tour of the workshop at a cost. Find out more about The Weta Workshop Here! There is free parking on the street but it’s a popular spot to be there in good time and don’t be surprised if you have to drive around for a little while!
Cafe Hop on Cuba Street in Wellington in Winter
Who doesn’t love to hop from cafe to cafe trying out all the different coffees or hot chocolates! Yes, I’m an avid hater of coffee, love the smell just detest the taste! Well, Cuba Street is the perfect place to do so. As well as having great coffee shops Cuba Street also has a lot of history here in Wellington. Cuba Street has been one of the most popular places to shop since the 19th century. Despite its hip feel the street isn’t named after the country but in fact the ship which brought some of the earliest settlers to New Zealand.
After the settlement, the street thrived opening shops and bringing a lot of business into Wellington and eventually a tram system. Unfortunately for the capital and sadly for all the local businesses many of the buildings were destroyed in a blaze during the year of 1879. Luckily it was restored and still has some historical buildings present today!
Hide Away from Wellington in Winter in the Underground Markets!
Did someone say markets? Rummaging through markets is one of the best things to do in Wellington in winter. It’s even better when they’re underground so you can keep warm and dry! The underground markets in Wellington aren’t the biggest in the world but they have some great stalls. From food vans, artists, handmade jewellery and soaps you can pick up some great gifts for your loved ones or of course yourself. On the way into the markets walk over the bridge where you’ll find lots of love padlocks. It doesn’t seem like a special thing to anymore because you can find a lock bridge in almost every city but I’m still fascinated reading the dates and some even have heartfelt messages on them.
Find the timetable for the underground market here, if you happen to be visiting Wellington in summer then they are on more during the run-up to Christmas.
Visit the Cable Car Museum
At the top of the Wellington Botanical Gardens, you’ll find the famous cable car and cable car museum. Would I recommend taking a ride on the cable car? not really. It’s a $9 return ticket and the ride takes about 5 minutes if that. It’s not worth it. Most of the journey is in a tunnel so you don’t even get the views from the window – call me a cable car Scrooge! But you can visit the Cable Car Museum at the top for free which is pretty cool to learn about the history of the cable car and its relation to Wellington.
Drive Through The Mount Victoria Tunnel
This one is just for fun but I’m still including it all the same! One of my first memories of Wellington will always be this tunnel. As we drove through the tunnel after a windy five-hour drive down to Wellington from Ohakune I was ready for a rest. As we went through the tunnel, to make our way to Evans Bay Marina, I’m met by all these idiots tooting their horn at me?! I’m like what have I done?! I had done nothing. Turns out that on a Friday the Welly locals beep their horns as many times as they can as they go through the tunnel to celebrate Friday!! I love it and think it brings a great sense of community. It makes me smile every single time we drive through. Originally the beeping only happened on a Friday but I’ll be honest there’s someone getting happy on the horn every day.
Indoor Climbing in Wellington
If you’ve been following my journey for a while, especially on Instagram, then you’ll know I’m an avid climber. As I write that wonder if you, my readers, do know that I don’t know how much I actually talk about climbing! Anyway, Dave makes it his mission to find a great indoor climbing gym in every city or country we visit so we have found two pretty cool walls here in Wellington. Climbing is brilliant fun and great exercise without even thinking of it as exercise – win-win! Both gyms are reasonably priced starting at $13 per adult for a session which is as long or as short as you like. Not very cultural but it’s a great way to spend an afternoon in Wellington in winter and also a great place to meet new people. As a couple, we often stay in private rooms and Air BnB’s making it a little hater for us to meet people at times so at the gym we turn into social butterflies hoping to find some friends, total losers.
If I were to pick the best indoor activities in Wellington in winter I’d choose:
- Te Papa Museum
- The Weta Cave
- Cafe Hopping on Cuba Street
- Indoor Climbing
- Mount Victoria Tunnel Beeping – it just makes me smile!
Things to Do in Wellington in Winter Outdoors
Since I’ve made Wellington out to be all wet and windy I best share some great news. It isn’t always like that! Of course, there are the rubbish days like everywhere in the world but Wellington is also blessed with glorious winter sunshine. There are some awesome things to do outside in Wellington in winter too.
Red Rocks Coastal Walk Owhiro Bay
This is one of the best winter walks to do in Wellington. The walk itself is 6 km taking 2 – 3 hours to complete but the track is flat except for one hill so it’s fairly easy even if the weather isn’t on your side. There is some beach walking required and the track surface is a little rocky in parts so just be aware. As you make your way around the coastal walk you’ll come to Red Rocks which are very obvious, all of a sudden the rocks that line the coast turn red! After the rocks you’ll walk onto Sinclair head which is the star of the show and the best part of the walk. During the months of May-August Sinclair head is home to some very special visitors. Male Fur Seals! The males are our breeding during the rest of the year but they head back to Sinclair Head every winter to feed and relax.
The colony here in Wellington is home to over 400 seals and I’m not kidding when I say you will probably see more than 400! We saw one huge seal chilling on the rocks just before Sinclair Head. We stood and watched him for ages wondering if we would see anymore. As we turned the corner it began and we saw hundreds of fur seals before us, it was magical.
Obviously this is the seal’s natural habitat, not ours so please be ethical when taking photographs/getting close to them. The signs located on the walk state to stay 20 metres away at all times but I must admit some of the seals were sleeping on the track – just walk straight by slowly. I’m so thankful for these moments.
Walk the Waterfall Track at Belmont Regional Park
This may be one of the more unique things to do in Wellington but it’s a lot of fun especially in winter! Belmont Regional Park is located just outside of Wellington and takes about 25 minutes to reach in a car. In the summertime, the waterfall track is also known as ‘wet foot track’ is popular with Wellington locals and families. People are known from stripping down and walking up the stream to the waterfall and enjoy a cool refreshing splash around.
However, in winter it is just as fun! We decided to put on our wellington boots and head for the walk and spent the 2 hours navigating our way across these streams to keep our feet dry! It was hilarious and we stayed dry – Isis I have to admit my toes were wet and cold when we got back to the van! We counted that we crossed the stream 27 times navigating over stepping stones and branches! I wouldn’t recommend this in the winter if you’ve got kids because the banking is steep and can get slippery but its great fun with a travel buddy or some mates! If you do go alone make sure you tell someone where you’re going.
PS I take no responsibility for any slips or trips into the stream by recommending this in this post!
Hike Mount Victoria
This is one of the best hikes to get fantastic views of the city! The hike/walk is fairly easy with some steeper inclines at times. You can walk to Mount Victoria from numerous different points in the city or from Haitaiti. You can drive but where’s the fun in that? The views are supposed to be great for sunset but I’m yet to venture up there at that time of day.
Walk Around Oriental Bay in the City
Oriental Parade/Bay is one of my favourite little spots in the city. The small beach is great for a stroll along the harbour. There’s a yacht club on the water. I love watching the boats bobbing away, I always wonder, what if anything, is going on inside. In the winter dogs are allowed on the beach and what’s better than watching happy doggies running in and out of the ocean?! If it’s a little cold out head down to the little coffee shop at the public swimming pool and grab a coffee 2 for $10 on a weekday and 2 for $8 on weekends! There’s parking all along the from of Oriental Parade which is free for the first two hours then you need to have a parking coupon or pay at the machine.
Explore The Botanical Gardens
No matter where in the world the Botanic Gardens are always beautiful and Wellington is no exception. On a sunny day in winter enjoying the Botanic Gardens is a lovely to spend an afternoon. As I mentioned before you’ll find the cable car museum, an array of flower displays, playgrounds for the kids and glorious views of the city. Even if the cable car or museum isn’t high on your to-do list, make sure you head over to them because the view is wonderful from next to the station. There’s also a cafe for tea and cake too!
If you’re freedom camping in Wellington in winter then you can also find some free hot showers in the Botanic Gardens too which can always come in handy – it’s a little too cold for beach showers during the winter months!
Wellington is an amazing city. It’s full of culture, food, friendly people and just has an all-round cool vibe to it. We fell for the city on our first day here and it was chucking it down which says something! This list is by no means exhaustive at all but I hope it gives you some inspiration for finding things to do in Wellington in winter especially those indoor activities!
What is the Weather like in Wellington in Winter?
As I’m writing this it’s getting colder by the day but one things for sure is that Wellington does get a fair amount of rain and wind! The iconic Wellington sign on the way to Miramar (another great thing see in Wellington) shows the ’N’ being whisked away by the wind and there’s some impressive street art in the city dedicated to ‘windy wellington’. If you’re travelling to Wellington in winter you’ll need a waterproof and perhaps a windproof coat, waterproof shoes maybe an umbrella but the chances are it’ll just get blown about!
I hope that you enjoyed this post and if you did I would be so grateful if you could share it!
Happy and Healthy Travels,