Ultimate guide to things to do in Wellington with kids

New Zealand’s pretty capital, Wellington, is a great destination for family getaways. The scenic city wraps itself around the picturesque Wellington Harbour and is overlooked by lush mountains that are bona fied movie stars, having doubled as Hobbiton and other locations in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. 

The city’s incredible interactive and educational museums include the innovative national museum and art gallery, Te Papa. And the Wellington Museum has been voted amongst the best in the world with amazing, interactive exhibits that kids will love.

The city of Wellington enjoys an average of 2000 hours of sunshine a year.

Take a ride on the historic Wellington Tram between Lambton Quay and Kelburn. Hire skates, bikes, or simply troll along the vibrant waterfront where you’ll find awesome playgrounds, cafes and inspiring artworks. Jump in the water to paddle around the inner harbor by kayak, SUP or pedal boat. 

Get up close with exotic animals at Wellington Zoo, see some of New Zealand’s most unique native wildlife at Zelanadia or head to Staglands Wildlife Reserve to feed and pat farm animals.

If you feel like a dip head to Oriental Bay, a safe swimming beach that is ideal for families, the small but perfectly formed Scorching Bay or popular surfing spot, Lyall Bay beach. If you’ve a hankering for some mountain air, get out of the city to trek one of Rimutaka Forest Park’s well-trodden hiking routes. And at Upper Hutt, you’ll find a series of easy riverside trails as well as excellent fishing and mountain biking. 

Top things to do in Wellington

Wellington has a fantastic range of family activities for every age and every budget. Here are ten of the best.

  1. Meet the prehistoric tuatara lizards at Zealandia.
  2. Cuddle the farmyard critters at Staglands Wildlife Reserve.
  3. Get up close to the exotic beasts at Wellington Zoo.
  4. Take the eight-metre vertical drop at H²O Xtream.
  5. Surf the waves at Lyall Bay.
  6. Visit the national museum, Te Papa.
  7. Unleash your inner hobbit on the Weta Studio Tour.
  8. Get interactive at the Wellington Museum.
  9. Take a hike in Rimutaka Forest Park.
  10. Go on a guided tour of Middle Earth.

Things to do in Wellington with...

View of the Wellington Cable Car in Wellington, New Zealand

Best time to visit Wellington as a family

Though Wellington is a lovey place to visit all year around, its overall climate tends to be on the mild side, with temps rarely topping more than 25 degrees Celsius. The best time for visiting Wellington is from November through to April when the weather is at its most comfortably warm. But book ahead to nab the best family-friendly accommodation and campsites. 

You will need to beware of Wellington’s wind whatever time of year. So windy that the wind turbine that overlooks the city regularly sets world records, its exposed location on the Cook Straight funnels wind from the ocean to the city whatever the season, though spring sees winds at their peak and generally the winds are moderate enough to not be an issue.

In June and August, things get a lot chillier and layers will be required. However, it’s the best time of year to bag a bargain.

Wellington is the world's southernmost capital city.

Family-friendly places to eat in Wellington

Brimming with amazing restaurants, cool cafes, colourful markets and laneways serving up incredible produce grown by local producers, the city of Wellington is a great place for foodies. Families are spoilt for choice with kid-friendly cafes and a choice of international cuisines.

Given its harbourside location, fresh seafood is a specialty with local favourites including fish and chips and whitebait easy to find and a must to try. Head to the Wellington Trawling Sea Market for the freshest seafood cooked fresh on the spot the way you like it. If you’re prepared to queue, the Mt Vic Chippery is another local favourite.

There are many food markets including the Wellington Night Market on Friday and Saturday nights, the Wellington Underground Market on Saturdays, and City Market and The Harbourside Market on the waterfront for fresh produce and local artisanal creations.

Tangi-te keo is the traditional Māori name for Mount Victoria

Things to do for free in Wellington

  • Wellington is a great city to explore for those on a budget with loads of free activities for all ages.  At the national museum, Te Papa, there’s a free permanent collection which will have visitors enthralled. Kids will especially love the earthquake simulator and the colossal giant squid with its soccer ball sized eyes. At Wellington Museum, which ranks among the world’s best, there are interactive exhibits showcasing the culture and tradition of the city.
  • Weta Cave offers free access to a mini-museum for a behind-the-scenes documentary and displays of high-end sculptures, prop replicas, art prints and apparel designed by Weta artists. However, the Weta Studio Tour, where props from the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are on exhibit, does come at a cost. 
  • Outside, soak up the sensational views from Mount Victoria Lookout and Te Ahumairangi Hill Lookout. Or download the free Welly Walks iPhone App to explore the Wellington waterfront and its playgrounds.
What’s on?

The best annual events for families in Wellington

February/March - New Zealand Festival

New Zealand's leading arts festival celebrates the world of art, performance and music.

March - CubaDupa

A two-day festival of food, music and community on Wellington’s hippest street.

September – Artsplash

This festival for young people brings together primary and intermediate school students to celebrate dance, music and visual art.

September - Spring Festival

This annual festival of flowers at Wellington Botanic Garden includes guided walks, workshops and a kids’ day out.

October -HighLight: Carnival of Lights

Riddiford Garden will be transformed into a family friendly wonderland of immersive displays, live performances and interactive light during this four-day carnival of lights.

October/November - Kāpiti Arts Trail

The Kāpiti Arts Trail sees more than 100 artists showcase works across a range of artistic mediums.

November – Wellington Sky Show

Head to Wellington harbor for this spectacular annual fireworks display.

December to March – Summer City

A massive festival with 100 free music and fun events under the stars.

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