With three days in New Zealand’s capital, you can take advantage of almost everything on offer. Fly over the city in a helicopter, shop till you drop, sample plenty of local beer or wine, and of course, get out into nature. Here’s how to make the most of your time in Wellington.
Day 1: City sightseeing
Spend your first day getting a feel for the city. Options abound: take to the air on a helicopter flight and marvel at Wellington’s legendary landscape; catch the cable car up to Wellington Botanic Garden; or head to the Mt. Victoria Lookout for panoramic views of the city and harbor. Then, make your way down to the waterfront, and learn about the country’s indigenous Maori culture and history at the innovative Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. If you’re a fan of The Lord of the Rings, join a tour of local filming locations, or sign up for a Weta workshop. A hop-on hop-off bus pass makes it easy to get around town and explore at your own pace.
Day 2: Shopping and eating
Wellington is a fashion hub—all that wool from New Zealand sheep combined with a creative streak results in labels valued worldwide. Begin by strolling the area around Lambton Quay, College Street, and Cuba Street. Then, wander Wellington Underground Market, a maze of food stalls that also showcases local artisans. Stop for lunch there or at one of several Wellington restaurants that have won the national Best Restaurant Award—or go all out with a foodie tour, sampling some craft beer afterward. If you prefer wine, take a guided trip to the top boutique wineries in nearby Wairarapa, renowned for its pinot noir—or explore the vineyards by bike.
Day 3: Coastal treasures
To atone for all that spending and swilling, head for the great outdoors and experience the dramatic coastline by mountain bike, on horseback, or on foot. See the colony of fur seals near the lighthouse at Cape Palliser, or look for seals as you hike the trails of Red Rocks Reserve. Bird lovers won’t want to miss Kapiti Island, a predator-free bird sanctuary reached by boat from the Kapiti Coast. And if you’re moving on to the South Island later, hop aboard the Interislander for one of the world’s most scenic ferry journeys.