Skip to Content

15 BEST Day Trips from Wellington, NZ (2024 Traveler Guide)

15 BEST Day Trips from Wellington, NZ (2024 Traveler Guide)

This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.

Wellington is one of my favorite places in New Zealand. It quickly stole my heart with its vibrant culture, stunning waterfront, and quirky charm. But although there are many things to do in Wellington, sometimes, you just need a little break from city-slicking. Luckily, there are many magical destinations just outside Wellington’s city limits.

Whether you’re a wine connoisseur, an adrenaline junkie, a nature enthusiast, or a culture buff, you have your pick of day trips from Wellington. The best part is that these destinations can easily be visited on your own or as part of a guided tour.

We live, travel, and road trip all over New Zealand, and we’re well acquainted with the Wellington area. We’ve taken many day trips from here and have discovered our absolute top choices. So if you’re considering escaping the city for a day, keep reading. We detail each destination with all the information you need to plan your getaway.

Don’t have time to read the full article? Our absolute favorite day trips from Wellington include:

  1. Going wine tasting in the world-renowned Martinborough region.
  2. Visiting LOTR filming sites and the Weta Workshop on a guided tour.
  3. Seeing rare birds and reptiles at the Zealandaia Ecosanctuary on this 2-hour guided tour.
  4. Cycling through Remutaka Forest Park on a pre-planned route.
  5. Exploring Whanganui’s charming historic district, beautiful beaches, and river attractions.

Day Trips from Wellington, NZ

1. Martinborough Wine Region

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie on a tour to the Martinborough Wine Region from Wellington
Cheers!
Two bikes at the vines in the Martinborough Wine Region
Such a beautiful area!
  • Distance from Wellington: 80 km (48 miles)
  • Time needed: 5.5 hours
  • What you need: Guided tour, car

The town of Martinborough is charming, with colonial-style architecture and a warm, welcoming atmosphere. We love sampling local cuisine at one of the many gourmet restaurants and grabbing a coffee at one of the cute cafes. However, this area is most well-known for its wine and is widely considered one of the most elite wine-growing regions in the country.

Martinborough is renowned for its world-class Pinot Noir, and you can spend the day hopping between the region’s boutique wineries. It makes for a great honeymoon activity in New Zealand, too!

You can certainly drive here – it’s only 1 hour and 15 minutes each way. However, with all the delicious wine available, I recommend taking this guided wine tour. This way, no one has to be the designated driver. You can all sit back, relax, and enjoy all the incredible Martinborough wines!

This tour gives you insight into a variety of wines from the region. You’ll stop at Muirlea Rise, Poppies Martinborough, and Moy Hall Vineyard, sampling multiple wines at each. We were happy we got to try some wines that were exclusively sold at the winery. Plus, we learned loads from our guide and local winemakers.

The day starts around 10 am and lasts for 5.5 hours. It’s a relaxing day spent tasting wine and enjoying the beautiful countryside. If you have enough time, you’ll also stop for lunch along the way (although any food ordered is at your own expense). The $164 NZD price tag covers your wine tastings and guide along with roundtrip transportation from your hotel. You can check availability and book your wine tasting in Martinborough right here.

2. Full-Day Lord of the Rings Tour including Weta Workshop

Troll out the front of Weta Workshop in Wellington, NZ
How realistic!
Rivendell in New Zealand
Rivendell in New Zealand
  • Distance from Wellington: 7.7 km (4.8 miles)
  • Time needed: 6-7 hours
  • What you need: Guided tour

Whether you are a LOTR fan or not, embarking on a full-day Lord of the Rings adventure is an absolute must when visiting New Zealand. It is the closest thing you will get to going on a Middle-earth day trip, and the scenery you encounter along the way is nothing short of magical. It’s perfect for both movie buffs and nature enthusiasts.

What makes this tour even more special is the inclusion of a visit to the renowned Weta Workshop. This workshop is the creative powerhouse behind the intricate special effects of the Lord of the Rings movies, as well as numerous other blockbuster films.

During your visit to the Weta Workshop, you’ll embark on a behind-the-scenes tour, where you’ll gain insight into the movie-making magic that brought Middle-earth to life. You’ll have the chance to marvel at authentic movie props and see detailed replicas from the films.

Apart from seeing one of the best prop houses in the world, we stopped in spots that represent Rivendell and River Anduin, but my favorite was the hiding spot where Frodo and the hobbits ducked away from the Black Rider. A true piece of cinematic history! But seriously, even if you aren’t familiar with all these movie details, these areas are just so picturesque.

There are a variety of start times between 8:45 am and 11:45 am, and you can expect the tour to last about 6.5 hours. This includes hotel pickup and dropoff, the Weta Workshop, and visits to multiple LOTR sites for $285 NZD. This tour requires a minimum of two per booking and sells out fast – so grab a friend and book your LOTR tour here!

Related Read: If you’re also headed to Auckland, check out our list of the best free and cheap things to do in Auckland.

3. Kapiti Island

A seagull on Kapiti Island near Wellington, NZ
A seagull on Kapiti Island near Wellington, NZ
  • Distance from Wellington: 55 km (34 miles)
  • Time needed: 7 hours
  • What you need: Ferry, guided tour

Just off the coast of Wellington sits Kapiti Island, an enchanting nature reserve that’s truly in a class of its own. Kapiti Island is a sanctuary for New Zealand’s native birdlife, making it a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the country’s natural beauty and conservation efforts.

One of the highlights of Kapiti Island is the chance to encounter the elusive kiwi bird. This flightless, nocturnal creature is a national icon and a symbol of New Zealand’s commitment to wildlife conservation.

To reach the island, you’ll need to take a ferry from Paraparaumu, but the journey is well worth it. Ferries to this small island depart from Paraparaumu Beach, which is a 45-minute drive from Wellington CBD. However, we suggest taking a guided tour.

Guided tours on the island provide a fascinating educational experience as you learn about the island’s history, flora, and fauna from knowledgeable guides. Plus, you won’t need to worry about the logistics of getting to the island.

You just need to show up at the Marine Parade for an 8:45 am departure. The tour covers ferry transit and entry fees to the island, which makes your day even easier. I also adored the Maori family that hosted the tour. They have been sharing stories of this land for generations, and their passion is contagious.

You’ll have a 1-hour guided nature walk, spotting all the wildlife and soaking up the scenery. Afterward, you’ll have one hour to explore the island independently. I think it was the perfect balance of organization and freedom! Finally, you’ll head to the Lodge, where you’ll enjoy a chef-prepared lunch.

Everything we mentioned, along with island fees and permits, is included in the $299 NZD price. The tour lasts roughly 5-6 hours, and you’ll be dropped off back at Paraparaumu Beach afterward. This tour has awesome reviews and sells out for good reason. So, secure your spot online in advance!

4. South Wairarapa

An NZ Fur seal in the South Wairarapa Regioin of NZ
How cute!
  • Distance from Wellington: 90 km (56 miles)
  • Time needed: 8-9 hours
  • What you need: Car, guided tour

New Zealand is wine country, and there is more than enough room for two wine-centric entries on this list! Plus, South Wairarapa offers more than just wine. It’s a delightful blend of wine country and stunning coastal beauty.

This area is the southernmost part of the North Island and is roughly a 1.5-hour drive from Wellington. But to fully take in those panoramic views, I recommend joining this guided tour through the region. You’ll witness the beautiful coastline, have the opportunity to visit a charming seal colony, and go wine tasting all in one day!

Tours start at 9:30 am and include roundtrip transport from your Wellington hotel. I loved taking this guided tour because we made several stops, seeing things I might not have known about if I was traveling alone. On this tour, we stopped at Remutaka Hill to take in the views. We also met a 5th generation beekeeper at Greytown Honey, sampled some delectable cheeses at C’est Cheese, and had a hearty lunch on top of it all.

My highlight of the day may have been visiting Poppies Martinborough, where we got to sample 5 different wines. This winery is famous for its rosé. When you try it, you’ll understand why!

After filling up on lunch and wine, we headed to Cape Palliser. Aside from the gorgeous coastline, this spot is known for its seal colony. I love watching the seals play and sunbathe on the nearby rocks. Just don’t skip leg day if you plan on climbing the 253 steps to the top of the lighthouse!

This is a private tour and prices depend on your party size. For 2-4 people, it’s $467 NZD a person. However, this is pretty much all-inclusive with all the food and drinks we mentioned. The whole thing lasted 8-9 hours and was a nice blend of walking, resting, and of course, wining and dining! For a private tour of South Wairarapa, check availability and book your spot here!

5. Whitewater rafting

Wellington Rafting tour in Wellington, NZ
Photo credit: Wellington Rafting
  • Distance from Wellington: 40 km (24 miles)
  • Time needed: 5 hours
  • What you need: Guided tour, car

We all need a healthy dose of adrenaline flooding our veins, and whitewater rafting in New Zealand offers just that. We went on this whitewater rafting trip, and it was a wild ride, to say the least! 

We joined our guides at the meeting point, which was roughly 30 minutes from Wellington CBD. From there, they drove us about 10 km/6 miles upstream to where we would take to the river. Then, we got suited up with wetsuits, life jackets, and helmets, everything we needed to wage a war against the raging river.

It took us just under 3 hours to conquer the 50 rapids, all the while winding through dense forest and past rumbling waterfalls. If you go just after the rain, this grade 3 river will be rushing, getting you downstream in around 2.5 hours. During drier times, it’s a slower ride, and it can take up to 4 hours. It’s honestly a win-win because you either get more excitement or extra time on the river!

After the thrilling experience, we enjoyed lunch by the river and had a moment to catch our breath again. But this tour is not just about the adrenaline. Our guide, Hamish, was super knowledgeable about the local plants and animals we passed by. He taught us tons about the Maori language and the naming of the rapids, which made the experience even more enjoyable.

The rafting tour starts at 9 am and lasts about 4 hours. It costs $220 NZD for the rafting, with all gear, lunch, and your local guide. If you’d also like transport from Wellington CBD, the rafting tour will cost $320 NZD in total, and you should plan extra time for pickup/dropoff. For adventure and gorgeous scenery, book this whitewater rafting tour online here!

Related Read: For another awesome activity, read about the best glow worm caves in New Zealand!

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

6. Cape Palliser

Cape Palliser lighthouse, New Zealand
Cape Palliser Lighthouse, New Zealand
  • Distance from Wellington: 120 km (75 miles)
  • Time needed: 5-8 hours
  • What you need: Car

The journey to Cape Palliser is as impressive as the destination itself, as you drive through the forest and then down to Palliser Bay. The last stretch is along a scenic coastal road that offers breathtaking views of the rugged shoreline (and I am a sucker for a nice drive).

The drive takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes without stops. But once you reach the area, there are some perfect places to stretch your legs!

The Palliser Lighthouse is a must-visit in this area. Constructed in 1897, it stands out with its striking red and white stripes. If you make up the 250+ steps to the top of the cliff, you’ll get insane views of the Cook Strait.

I also really enjoyed seeing the fur seal colony. When we went, we pulled into the little parking lot right by the road and immediately spotted the seals – who were quite active! Just make sure you don’t get too close since you’re technically in their home.

Another one of my personal highlights is the Putangirua Pinnacles, which requires a 2-4 hour roundtrip hike to reach. These jagged formations look like something from another planet as they were featured in the Paths of the Dead scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. These rock formations are 7 million years old, and seeing them still standing tall is so impressive!

Note: Unfortunately, due to landslides in the area, the trails to Putangirua Pinnacles are currently closed. You can check the national park’s websites for any updates.

7. Matiu/Somes Island

  • Distance from Wellington: 30-minute ferry ride
  • Time needed: 3-5 hours
  • What you need: Ferry

A short ferry ride from downtown Wellington takes you to Matiu/Somes Island, a hidden gem in Wellington Harbor. This unique island serves as a haven for wildlife and a place of historical significance. Its scenic beauty and educational experiences make it a great day trip from Wellington. When we visited, it felt like we were stepping into a time capsule of New Zealand’s natural and cultural history.

Matiu/Somes Island is not only a sanctuary for native birds but also a refuge for tuatara, a rare reptile species that dates back to the time of the dinosaurs. In fact, the whole island is predator-free! That being said, it’s definitely not pet-friendly so you’ll have to leave pups at home.

One of the best ways to explore the island is by taking one of the many walks, so wear comfy shoes!

I recommend the Matiu/Somes Island Loop Track, a 40-minute trail that gives you a great overall sampling of the island. If you’re a history buff, you’ll appreciate the lighthouse, the old quarantine station, and other WWII remnants. If nature is more your thing, you’ll have gorgeous coastal scenery, a 360-degree view of Wellington Harbour, and many chances to spot native wildlife.

It’s fairly easy to get to the island, but you’ll need to plan ahead. The Matius/Somed Island ferry departs from the Queen’s Wharf in Wellington and takes about 25 minutes. There are a few departure times, and each has a designated return time, so make sure to be back on the dock by then!

On weekdays, you can head to the island at 10 am or 12 pm, with options to stay 2.5 or 4.5 hours. Roundtrip ferry tickets for adults cost $30 NZD. However, there’s a limited amount, so we recommend getting to the ferry at least 30 minutes before departure to purchase yours.

8. Zealandia Ecosanctuary

Birds feed at Zealandia Eco Sanctuary in New Zealand
It’s a bird paradise!
Rare bird at Zealandia Eco Sanctuary, Wellington
These guys are rare!
  • Distance from Wellington: 4.2 km (2.6 miles)
  • Time needed: 2-3 hours
  • What you need: Car

Although technically within the city limits of Wellington, Zealandia Ecosanctuary offers a natural escape that makes you feel like you’re a million miles away from the urban bustle. This half-day trip is perfect for those looking to immerse themselves in New Zealand’s great outdoors without spending hours in a car or straying too far from home.

Zealandia is a groundbreaking eco-park that has successfully reintroduced many of New Zealand’s endangered native species into a protected environment. Here, you can spot kiwis, kakas, tuataras, and other rare birds and reptiles. The sanctuary is a testament to New Zealand’s commitment to conservation and offers educational tours and exhibits to help visitors appreciate the importance of protecting the country’s unique biodiversity.

The park is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, with the last entry at 4 pm. General admission costs $24 NZD for adults and can be purchased upon arrival. But although you can explore it on your own, I highly recommend taking this 2-hour guided tour.

Trust me, with a knowledgeable guide, you’ll see and learn so much more about New Zealand’s wildlife! The guide had me hanging on to his every word as he led us through the park. Plus, tours are limited to 10 people, so it still has that small-group feel.

This tour costs only $60 NZD, which includes entry to the park. You can meet your tour group at the park’s entrance at 10 am, 11 am, or 1 pm. Although it only takes 2 hours to walk around, you’re welcome to spend the whole day here if you’d like! And if you want to start that day with a tour, you can book it right here.

However, if you want an extra special experience, we suggest this night tour of Zealandia. Your guide will provide flashlights and take you through the park after dark. You can see all the nocturnal creatures, hopefully including the elusive kiwi, and learn about some extinct animals through lifelike models.

Tours last 2.5 hours and start as soon as the sun goes down (between 7 pm and 8:30 pm, depending on the time of year). It costs $95 NZD and includes admission fees, but you’ll need to make your own way to Zealandia. If you want to take advantage of this unique opportunity, book your night tour of Zealandia here.

9. Whanganui

Beautiful views over the Whanganui River
Beautiful views over the Whanganui River
  • Distance from Wellington: 115 miles (185 km)
  • Time needed: 8 hours
  • What you need: Car

Whanganui, a city located about 2.5 hours from Wellington, offers a delightful mix of heritage, culture, and natural beauty. A visit to Whanganui is a step back in time, as the city boasts a well-preserved historic district with charming Victorian buildings lining its streets. It’s actually one of the oldest towns in the country!

The Whanganui National Park, with its forests and dramatic landscapes, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. You can embark on hiking trails or simply relax and take in the natural beauty of the area. This area also has some of the best beaches on the North Island, and we love visiting Castlecliff Beach and heading out to the North Mole.

You can also pop into the Bason Botanic Gardens just outside the city for a green escape. The garden itself is open from 8 am to dusk and the conservatories are open from 9 am – 4:30 pm.

One of the highlights of Whanganui is the Whanganui River, which winds its way through the city and the surrounding region. You can explore the river by taking a heritage river cruise for scenic views of the lush landscape.

We cruised down the river on the Paddle Steamer Waimarie, a historic vessel used for transport in the 19th and 20th centuries. It’s such an authentic experience, and it’s the only coal-fired paddle steamer in New Zealand!

This 2-hour cruise leaves at 11 am and sometimes 2 pm. It costs $53 NZD per person, and you can buy tickets online.

Although it’s a completely different experience, this river is also where we completed the Whanganui Journey. It’s one of the “Great Walks” in New Zealand, but it actually isn’t a walk at all, but a multi-day canoe/kayak trip down the river. Mind you, the starting point is over 2 hours from Whanganui town, and the journey takes about 5 days to complete. But if you have the time, we definitely recommend it.

10. The Red Rocks in Owhiro Bay

Seals at Red Rocks Walk, Wellington
So cute!
  • Distance from Wellington: 13 km (8 miles)
  • Time needed: 2-6 hours
  • What you need: Car

Red Rocks in Owhiro Bay is ideal for taking in the beauty of the coast and spotting some wildlife! It’s also great if you’re short on time because it’s just a 30-minute drive from Wellington.

This destination is especially appealing during the winter months when a bachelor seal colony makes its home along the rugged shoreline. These male seals swim here after not being able to breed on the South Island.

I love this day trip because you can also hike the Pari-Whero (Red Rocks) Loop. It’s a challenging 8.5-km (5.3-mile) route that’ll take about 3-4 hours. It starts just past the Visitor Centre before heading up some steep inclines for awesome views. You’ll also walk along Sinclair Head Beach, where you can get up close to the seals as they sunbathe on the rocks and play in the waves.

For an easier route, park near the Visitor Centre and take the walking track west along the coastline. It’s still 7.4 km (4.5 miles) to reach Sinclair Head Beach, but it’s a super easy walk, not to mention beautiful.

Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring your camera to capture the stunning scenery and wildlife encounters. You’ll be sure to see seals on the beach, but make sure to keep your distance.

11. Picton

Marlborough Sounds
Picton!
  • Distance from Wellington: 3.5 hours by ferry
  • Time needed: A whole day, maybe 2
  • What you need: Ferry

While Picton is on the South Island, it’s still accessible as a day trip from Wellington thanks to a convenient 3.5-hour ferry ride. This cruise provides a unique perspective of both islands as you sail across the stunning Cook Strait, with the Marlborough Sounds as a backdrop. But … if you have time to spare, spend the night! Picton is an adorable town with tons of things to do.

The journey over is one of the best experiences in New Zealand and one of the prettiest ferry trips in the whole world! We recommend booking the InterIslander ferry because it has large boats with outdoor seating to soak up all those impressive views. There are also plenty of cafes and restaurants on board. There’s nothing like enjoying a glass of wine while sailing between islands!

There are about 3-4 departure times spread throughout the day, with more during the busy months. A one-way ticket to Picton costs $86 NZD and takes off from the Wellington Ferry Terminal. Just don’t forget to also buy the same-priced return ticket back to Wellington if needed!

Upon arriving in Picton, you’ll find a picturesque seaside town with a charming harbor, waterfront cafes, and boutique shops. We like to start our Picton days with a coffee at Toastie Picton overlooking the water and then a stroll through town.

If you want to learn more about the area’s history, check out the Picton Heritage and Whaling Museum. It’s open daily from 10 am to 3 pm and costs $10 NZD. From there, you can keep exploring Picton itself or continue on to nearby wineries for tastings and breathtaking views of the vineyards.

Picton is a gateway to the renowned Marlborough wine region, known for its crisp Sauvignon Blanc (I definitely recommend this on a hot day!). Whenever we visit, we love driving to the Saint Clair Family Estate Vineyard, which offers incredible food and wine. Try their beetroot waffles if you get a chance! They’re open Wednesday to Sunday 10 am – 5 pm, making it a fantastic lunch spot.

Despite the lengthy ferry ride, a day trip to Picton is worth it if you’re eager to experience the South Island’s beauty and culture without an overnight stay.

Related Read: To explore more of the South Island, read about the best things to do on the West Coast.

12. Levin

  • Distance from Wellington: 112 km (70 miles)
  • Time needed: 6 hours
  • What you need: Car

Levin, located about an hour and 15 minutes north of Wellington, offers a relaxed and leisurely day trip experience. It’s known for its beautiful beaches and great shopping opportunities (two things I love!).

The beaches in Levin, like Waitarere, are perfect for beachcombing and long walks along the shore. If you enjoy collecting seashells or simply basking in the sun, this is an ideal spot for a day of relaxation. It’s not the type of beach you’d swim or play watersports at, but we enjoyed watching the sunset here.

Additionally, Levin boasts a thriving shopping scene with a variety of boutique stores, art galleries, and markets. You can shop for locally made crafts, antiques, and unique gifts to bring back as souvenirs.

My favorite part of shopping here? Outlet stores! Most outlet stores are located on Oxford Street, the main highway running through town. It might be a good place to stock up on sports gear if you’re planning on going on any long hikes, like the Kepler Track in New Zealand.

For those who appreciate a slower pace and a chance to explore charming coastal towns, Levin is a delightful day trip destination. It’ll give you a taste of New Zealand’s laid-back coastal lifestyle.

13. Porirua

Adrenalin Forest NZ Wellington
Photo credit: Adrenalin Forest NZ Wellington
  • Distance from Wellington: 24 km (15 miles)
  • Time needed: 3 hours
  • What you need: Car

Porirua is just 20 minutes north of Wellington and is a great day trip destination for those who enjoy outdoor activities. It’s also a good choice for those looking to escape Wellington’s hustle and bustle.

One thing I love about Porirua is that it boasts an extensive network of walking and biking trails. These offer over 100 kilometers (62 miles) of trails for all levels of enthusiasts. We were pleased to see so many trails since Porirua is surrounded by natural beauty, including the nearby Belmont Regional Park. Here, you can explore native bush, enjoy picnics, and take in panoramic views of the region.

If you’re hoping to take a break from the outdoors, visit Pataka Art + Museum, where you can discover Maori and Pacific Island art and culture. The location is attached to the library and is open daily from 10 am – 5 pm. You can browse their galleries of local and international artists, buy an artsy souvenir at the gift shop, or visit the cafe for a light snack or even a full meal.

If you want a more action-packed day, head to the Adrenaline Adventure Park. This park features a forest adventure course with challenges such as rope bridges and ziplines, making it a fantastic place for thrill-seekers. You can visit Wednesday through Sunday, and there are multiple start times between 10 am and 2 pm. You can buy an entrance ticket for $48 NZD, which allows you up to 3 hours to get that adrenaline pumping!

14. Remutaka Forest Park

  • Distance from Wellington: 30 km (19 miles)
  • Time needed: 4-6 hours (depending on the activity you do)
  • What you need: Car, train

If you are hungry for fresh air and the great outdoors, you can drive just 40 minutes to Remutaka Forest Park. This is your chance to take in one of the most popular day trip destinations from Wellington. The park boasts a variety of walking trails, from easy strolls to more challenging hikes.

The standout attraction in Remutaka Forest Park is the historic Rail Trail, and to experience it to the fullest, consider booking this pre-planned cycle tour. The Rail Trail follows the path of an old railway line, offering a leisurely and picturesque ride through the forest. Along the way, you’ll encounter fascinating relics of the past, including tunnels and bridges.

These tours could not make your experience any simpler. We were picked up from the Wellington Train Station at 9:30 am and taken to the park. There, we were fitted with safety gear and got on state-of-the-art mountain bikes.

It’s a journey through both nature and history, making for a memorable day in the great outdoors. Our route was super easy to follow, and the staff were happy to answer any questions we had beforehand. Guides don’t go with you, but I preferred this as it allowed us to go at our own pace – and gave us lots of opportunities to stop and snap photos whenever we wanted.

Beginner riders can choose a trail that is between 18-28 km (11-17 mi) long, while more experienced riders can take on a mammoth 37 km (23 mi) ride. Whichever you choose, it’ll cost $170 NZD per person. Expect the route to take roughly 6 hours, and you’ll be dropped back off at the train station afterward. If you want to get active and explore this outdoor paradise, book your independent cycling tour online here!

15. Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre

front of Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre, New Zealand
Inside of the Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre
It’s a predator-free paradise!
  • Distance from Wellington: 128 km (80 miles)
  • Time needed: 4 hours
  • What you need: Car

Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre is an expansive unfenced reserve that provides a rare opportunity to see some of New Zealand’s most iconic and endangered species up close.

At Pukaha Mount Bruce, you can see the elusive kiwi bird, as well as other native birds like kaka, kokako, and tuatara. The center’s dedicated staff and informative exhibits make for an educational visit, highlighting the importance of conservation efforts in New Zealand.

My favorite part of this area was the Te Arapiki o Tawhaki Track which takes around 2 hours, meandering through dense forest. It’s a great way to venture into the forest and see what you can spot!

The center is located roughly 2 hours from Wellington. It’s open 9 am – 6 pm in winter and 9 am – 5 pm in summer and costs $24 NZD for self-guided entry. However, they also have guided tours and eel feedings, which kids love! You can check their website for more details and the full list of offerings.

Other Activities to do While You’re in Wellington

Mount Victoria Lookout, Wellington, New Zealand
Mount Victoria Lookout, Wellington, New Zealand

Day trips from Wellington are an awesome way to see the surrounding area. However, you should also take the time to explore the city. This place is full of fun activities, and there are plenty of cheap and free things to do in Wellington, too. To help you out, we’ve highlighted some of our favorite activities below.

  • Visit the Museum of New Zealand – This museum is also called “Te Papa,” which translates to “container of treasures” – an accurate description seeing how it houses some of New Zealand’s most important artifacts. It’s free to enter, but you can take this guided tour to learn even more about this country’s fascinating history!
  • Shop at the Pop-Up Village – The Pop-Up Village is a small market open throughout both winter and summer. It showcases local artists and small businesses that operate out of small sea containers along the waterfront. It’s also a great (and less expensive) place to buy jade from local carvers!
  • See the views from the Mount Victoria Lookout – Mount Victoria is the best vantage point over Wellington, with 360-degree views of the surrounding hills and ocean. and the best part is you can either drive or walk to the top. It takes 25 minutes to hike up Mount Victoria, or it’s a 5-minute drive.

Where to Stay in Wellington, New Zealand

A room at the Gilmer appartment hotel
The Gilmer Apartment Hotel. Not a bad place to lay your head!

After long day trips, you’ll want a comfy place to return to! We’ve stayed in several accommodations in Wellington and found some winners, from budget to luxury. So, if you’re looking for great places to stay in Wellington, New Zealand, here are our top choices.

Luxury – $$$

The Intercontinental Wellington is quite large and the views of the harbor are amazing. It also has an indoor heated pool, spa, sauna, gym, 3 restaurants, and 2 bars. It’s just a 5-minute drive to the airport and a 5-minute walk to the Te Papa Museum. It’s a luxurious choice that’s reviewed as one of the best places to stay in Wellington. There are plenty of options, from classic rooms to premium suites with walk-in rain showers. Room prices start at $310 NZD and can be booked here.

The Bolton Hotel is a top-reviewed hotel that comes with some really nice luxuries and is still very affordable. It’s super modernized but has that elegant boutique hotel feel. They have studios all the way to two-bedroom apartments in an ideally central location, and suites come with kitchens, living areas, and laundry. Prices vary depending on the type of room you prefer, but you can find rooms as low as $200 NZD when you book the Bolton Hotel in advance.

Mid-range – $$

During our visit, we stayed at the Gilmer Apartment Hotel (pictured above). The hotel was centrally located and only a 2-minute walk to some of the main shopping streets and 10 minutes to the Museum of New Zealand. The hotel room was actually a one-bedroom apartment complete with its own kitchen!

Overall it was a great place to stay to explore the city, and prices started at just $170 NZD a night. You can check prices for your dates and book your stay at Gilmer Apartment Hotel here.

Budget – $

The Marion Hostel is our favorite budget option in Wellington. It’s super central, and is just a few minutes walk to both Cuba Street and Courtney Place. They also have nice amenities like towels, toiletries, and a shared kitchen as well as a lounge and rooftop for socializing or relaxing after day trips.

Dorms start at $44 NZD, and private accommodations start at $134 NZD. If you’re on a budget, book the Marion Hostel on Booking.com or through Hostelworld.com.

Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand

Bailey takes a selfie with a JUCY campervan
Ready to hit the road!
Bailey stands infront of a JUCY campervan in New Zealand
JUCY is another favorite!

The first step to planning your New Zealand road trip is choosing your set of wheels! Most people rent a campervan or motorhome to get around, but you can also just rent a normal car and stay in hotels (as opposed to camping.)

You can search for rental cars online with Discover Cars in advance to compare car models and prices. We’ve used this website all over the world and if you want more details, read our honest review of Discover Cars for more details!

You can also do this with motorhomes and campervans on a website called Motorhome Republic. It shows all of the available campervans and motorhomes for your specific New Zealand road trip dates. You can compare prices and company reviews here too!

JUCY is our personal favorite campervan rental company in NZ. We love JUCY because they have such a range of both cars and campervans available, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something to suit your budget and travel style.

We’ve actually secured an exclusive discount code for our readers with JUCY. Just click here to browse their availability and use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off! What a good deal!

You can check prices, availability and book with JUCY online here.

Star RV is another company we personally recommend but specifically for motorhomes! They offer larger motorhomes (as opposed to budget campervans) at really reasonable rates.

Star RV has actually given us a discount code for our readers too! Use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off your motorhome rental! Note, this code is only valid for bookings made before June 21, 2024 with travel dates before Dec 21, 2024. Click here to browse availability, prices, and book with our discount code!

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie in Wellington, NZ at sunset
Thanks for reading!

Wellington makes a great base to explore the surrounding regions – and there are plenty of places worth visiting! We love our experiences wine tasting in Martinborough and visiting stunning parks, ecosanctuaries, and small towns. So, if you’re heading to Wellington soon, we hope you found a couple of day trips to add to your itinerary!

If you found this blog useful, check out our other articles about New Zealand. We’ve also written about many other destinations around the world. To get started, just click on one of the links below. Thanks for reading!

Complete Guide to Visiting Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

Where to Stay in Queenstown, New Zealand

COMPLETE Guide to Visiting the Moeraki Boulders in New Zealand