3 people standing waist deep in the ocean, surrounded by rocks peeking out of the water. One wears a wetsuit and diving gear with a catch bag, another has no shirt and a mullet, and the other is wearing a pink tulle dress with pink accessories, and holds

48 hours in Wellington

Wake up and smell the coffee

You’ll need energy to tackle the city’s sights so start the day with breakfast at one of Wellington’s top cafés. The coffee in Wellington is legendary. Many local roasteries keep cafés well supplied so a quality brew is never far away. If you want an ocean view while you plan your day, try the cafés around the harbour and along the southern coastline. Travelling for a view to accompany your eggs is worth it. If you don’t have a car for your weekend odyssey don’t fret. When you feel peckish it’s likely there will be a great café or restaurant around the corner. On Cuba Street, you could grab a seat in the window at Midnight Espresso or Fidels and watch the street life walk by. Alternatively, you can settle into the plush surroundings at Loretta’s or Floriditas. Cuba Street is well known for the bohemian style of its residents. It helps that a collection of second-hand and retro stores have set up shop there. You can get your thrift on by searching for a vintage gem or pre-loved treasure.

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Harbourside exploration

After breakfast and a spot of browsing you should take in the sea air. Wellington’s waterfront is magnificent, and a visit is obligatory for any weekend vacationer. Take a stroll and explore the water’s edge. There’s public art along the way, and galleries and museums to visit. Take a deep dive into history at Te Papa. The largest museum in the country takes pride of place on the waterfront. At 36,000 square metres and six stories high, it contains a vast repository of over 800,000 artworks, objects, and specimens. 

Just beyond Te Papa’s doorstep is Oriental Bay. If it’s not warm enough for a swim, you can walk along the sandy beach. The promenade leads to the Carter Fountain, play areas, and more cafés. If you want to roam further around the coastline then hire an electric bike from Switched on Bikes. You can catch the sites around the many bays beyond Oriental Bay.

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Head for the hills by Cable Car

Wellington’s historic Cable Car has been trundling up and down the hill from Lambton Quay to Kelburn for over 120 years. It serves many commuters and students needing a convenient way to avoid a steep walk home. There are several stops on the way, but you’ll want to stay on until the end where you’ll experience panoramic views of the city and harbour. 

The adventure doesn’t stop at the top. From there you can explore the 25 hectares of Wellington Botanic Gardens (the final stop on the Cable Car leaves you on its boundary), or you can catch a free shuttle to Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne. The fully-fenced predator-free ecosanctuary is a world-first conservation project. It has a 500-year vision to restore a Wellington city valley to a pre-human state.

Looking into the Cable Car tunnel, with green LED lights lighting the inside and the 2 Cable cars meet in the middle of the tracks side by side.

From wildlife to nightlife

After a day enjoying Wellington’s great outdoors, it’s time to head inside to enjoy its hospitality. It’s often the side streets and laneways that hold great options for food and drinks in the central city. There’s a clutch of great places within a few hundred metres of each other off Dixon Street. Leeds Street has brewpub Fortune Favours and Hannah’s Laneway has Pizza Pomodoro serving up authentic Italian takeaway pizza. Egmont Street Eatery is an award-winning restaurant. Its chic interior and well-considered menu deliver a wonderful dining experience. If you’re looking for a smoky mocktail then head to the bar inside Naumi Studio Hotel. More great bars can be found if you head one block over to Ghuznee Street. Puffin is hidden down the back of the Intrepid Hotel entrance. Across the road, Ascot rises three stories above the street. More culinary gems are found at Concord on Victoria Street, Mabel’s on Tory Street and the laidback luxury of Ortega Fish Shack on Marjoribanks Street. As the name would suggest, fish is big at this long-standing restaurant. 

After dinner, it’s time to check out the capital’s cultural venues. St James Theatre, The Opera House, and Michael Fowler Centre have a steady lineup of live performances and events. You can see everything from classical music and ballet to touring singers and bands. There’s plenty of live theatre at Circa Theatre, Hannah Playhouse, or Bats. Or if you prefer a more intimate setting then listen to bands at San Fran or Meow. 

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Movie magic and beachside bites

You can’t leave Wellington without a visit to Wētā Workshop. Travel 15 minutes out of the central city to Miramar and visit the Wētā Cave. The behind-the-scenes tour will show you how props, costumes, sets, and special effects have brought many blockbusters to life. From ‘The Lord of the Rings’ to ‘Narnia’, ‘Avatar’, and more. Explore 25 years of award-winning creativity.

Before you catch a plane, the nearby suburb of Lyall Bay has an excellent selection of eateries. From fish and chips at Fresko to vegan brunch at The Botanist. Whole food salads at Queen Sally’s Diamond Deli to fabulous sea views at Maranui. Have a local craft beer at Parrotdog in a 70s-style pub. Savour all the tastes of Wellington as you fly home.

Diners sit in Maranui Cafe, overlooking Lyall Bay and Pencarrow. A barista behind the counter makes coffee.

Hearty breakfasts come with a side of incredible views at Maranui Café.