The coolest capital city
Whether or not you pay much attention to Lonely Planet’s labeling as “one of the coolest little capitals in the World” the fact is that Wellington does have a lot going for it. It’s a pretty harbour city with a thriving cultural scene and a compact downtown area that’s easy to explore, filled with boutique eateries, cafes and markets. And yes, it also happens to be the capital of New Zealand.
But for many New Zealand visitors, Wellington is simply a place they pass through on their way to or from the South Island as they catch the ferry. It’s a shame but when you have limited time and are keen to see some of the big attractions like Aoraki/Mount Cook and the West Coast glaciers, we do understand.
Even if you aren’t visiting Wellington specifically, you should still take the time to stroll along the waterfront and have an ice cream in Oriental Bay. Along the way you should definitely stop in at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa with its many interactive displays.
So what does Wellington have on offer for outdoor adventurers? As you would expect, there are many scenic walks in an around the city. But if you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, you really want to head out of the city. Across Wellington Harbour to the east is Rimutaka Forest Park and to the north is Tararua Forest Park. These parks offer a range of tracks for adventurers of all levels.
Top things to do in Wellington
Looking for ideas to help you plan the ultimate New Zealand outdoor adventure? Here are some of the top things for active travellers to see and do in the Wellington region.
Explore Remutaka (Rimutaka) Forest Park
Filled with native birdlife, the 22,000 ha Remutaka Forest Park covers much of the Remutaka Range, the most southerly in a series a mountain ranges that run up the entire North Island. There are a number of half day and full day hikes in this park including a track to the summit of Mt Matthews, the tallest peak in the range. Most of these tracks require a good level of fitness and experience. If you’re looking for shorter, easier walks, Tararua Forest Park would be a better option.
Explore Tararua Forest Park
At 116,535 ha, Tararua Forest Park is the largest conservation park in the North Island managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC). There are 20 walking tracks, ranging from short walks of less than an hour to day hikes as well as 4 multi-day treks.
Visit Kapiti Island
Located approximately 5 km / 3 miles off the coast north of Wellington, Kapiti Island is a predator free bird sanctuary. Access is limited to approved tour operators. For a unique eco experience and a chance to see endangered birds like Little Spotted Kiwi, Takahe and Kaka you can book a day trip with Kapiti Island Eco Experience. Alternatively, you can stay overnight in a lodge with Kapiti Island Nature Tours.
Ride the Remutaka (Rimutaka) Cycle Trail
This 114 km / 71 mile trail is officially recognised as one of New Zealand’s Great Rides. Starting in Petone, approximately 10 km / 6 miles north of Wellington, there are four sections, each offering a distinctive experience from urban to forested mountains to lake shore and finally rugged coastline. Depending on your fitness and the time you have available, you can choose to cycle the trail over one, two or three days. All the details you need are on the Wellington website.