Arts and Culture

The Ultimate Itinerary For 72 Hours in Wellington

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With so many laneway cafes to visit, waterside walkways to explore, and craft beer bars to indulge in, it’s only too easy to fill 72 hours in New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington. Bustling, lively, and compact, Wellington is a weekend traveller’s dream getaway, as it offers the perfect blend of city living and outdoor adventures, all of which are extremely accessible. To help make your getaway as easy as possible, here is our itinerary for what to do in Wellington over one action-packed weekend.

Friday Night

Arriving on Friday evening, no doubt the first thing you’ll be searching for will be places to eat in Wellington. Thankfully, fine dining restaurants, quirky eateries, and top-notch gastropubs are not in short supply. Wellington International Airport (WLG) is only 20 minutes’ drive from town, so drop your bags off at your hotel and head out for a bite to eat. If you’re feeling fancy, stop by Logan Brown, a unique fine dining experience housed in a grand old bank. Ortega Fish Shack and Bar is another exciting option, offering creative steak and seafood dishes in an upscale setting.

After dinner, you’ll probably want to stretch your legs before retiring for the night. One of the more fun things to do in Wellington is to wander around the urban eco-sanctuary of Zealandia. Occupying 225 hectares, this sanctuary is the site of a conservation project that aims to reclaim the biodiversity that existed in New Zealand before humans arrived. As such, the forest and reservoir are home to some extremely rare native species, with an evening visit providing a much greater chance of setting eyes on New Zealand’s most elusive creature: the kiwi. You will also have a chance to wander through a tunnel of glow worms, which is best appreciated through your eyes, not a camera lens.

Zealandia, Wellington. Credit: Howard/Harriet Greenwood | CC BY-NC 2.0

Saturday Morning

Breakfast time in Wellington is an absolute treat, so be sure to arrive hungry. Cuba Street is a favourite destination, home to diners such as Olive and Loretta, which both specialise in dishing up the best local produce. If you need a little more caffeinating to properly shake the early start off, Prefab and Flight Coffee Hangar are both specialty coffee roasters serving up first rate cups of joe.

Once properly fuelled up, it’s time to get moving. Hire an electric bike from Queens Wharf and head for the summit of Mount Victoria for sweeping views over Te Aro. Trust us, you’ll need the added power from these motorised bikes, as Wellington is notorious for its aggressive weather – the average wind speed is more than 26km/h, which is more than enough to make peddling up the hill unassisted even more challenging.

If you want to save your legs altogether though, the Wellington Cable Car provides you with another view of the city, running straight from Lambton Quay in the city up to the top of the Wellington Botanic Garden.

View of downtown Wellington and Lambton Harbour from Mount Victoria, New Zealand. Credit: Remko Tanis | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Saturday Afternoon

After a tasty lunch in town, head over to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. This harbourside museum and art gallery provides information about the country’s ecological and environmental history, with a display showcasing the founding document of modern Aotearoa New Zealand: the Treaty of Waitangi. This agreement between Queen Victoria and the chiefs and tribes of New Zealand confirmed sovereignty as well as rights to land ownership and British citizenship. It’s a fascinating museum in which you could easily spend many hours, and as an added bonus, it’s free to enter.

Other Worlds and Te Papa, Wellington. Credit: Virginia McMillan | CC BY-NC 2.0

Saturday Night

Wellington’s craft beer game is incredibly strong, so take some time this evening to sample some quality brews. Garage Project and Black Dog Brewery are known for their experimental offerings, while Malthouse is a great spot to taste a number of Wellington’s beers in one place, with 29 rotating taps at the ready. If you’re not feeling the beers this evening, Wellington also has a number of cocktail and wine bars to explore, including Hawthorn Lounge, The Library, and CGR Merchant & Co, all of which can be found up hidden staircases.

When you’re ready to eat, it’s time to settle into one of the best restaurants in Wellington. On level three of the QT Wellington, you’ll find Hippopotamus, a fine French restaurant and bar complete with impressive harbour views. Dragonfly, on the other hand, offers some of the best modern Asian cuisine in the area, while Charley Noble is a haven for meat and seafood lovers.

Golden Hippopotamus, QT Wellington. Credit: Michael Coghlan | CC BY-SA 2.0

Sunday Morning

There’s no better way to spend your second and last morning in Wellington than with a bacon and egg roll and a fresh juice from the Harbourside Market, which kicks off every Sunday at 7.30am. It’s early, we know, but the sparkling water views and fresh local produce make it well worth the effort. And if you’re still hungry afterwards, wander a few hundred metres down the street to Egmont St Eatery, a light-filled laneway cafe that’s incredibly popular with locals for weekend brunch.

Once you’ve had your fill, perhaps join a three-hour bay tour to get another perspective of the city. Your guide will take you around the seafront to Oriental Bay and Evans Bay, and highlight landmarks such as the bronze sculpture Solace in the Wind and the brightly coloured beach huts along Wellington Parade.

Oriental Bay, Wellington. Credit: Mark in New Zealand | CC BY-SA 2.0

Sunday Afternoon

If you want to have one last feast before boarding your flight home, head out to the suburb of Miramar and the casual eatery, The Larder. This unassuming restaurant boasts an innovative menu, with the team dedicated to sustainable nose-to-tail cooking – so don’t be surprised to find offal on the menu! If you have the time, go for a stroll around the neighbourhood after you’ve paid your bill, then pick up your bags and head on back to the airport.

And just like that, the weekend’s over. Wellington is an often overlooked city, and unfairly so. Here you’ll find incredible food, a rich history, and an exciting outdoor scene, and all within a few hours’ flight from Australia.

Ready to jet across the Tasman for the ultimate weekend in Wellington? Book your flights and accommodation with Webjet, or snap up a holiday package to save even more. Plus you can also book a rental car if you plan on spending some extra time in the New Zealand capital and want to see parts outside the city limits.

Feature image: View from Mount Victoria, Wellington. Credit: Pat Ho on Unsplash.

Maddison is a freelance writer specialising in adventure travel. She has written for titles in Europe, Asia and North America, and is currently planning her next escape to somewhere mountainous.

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