Cheap and Free Things to do in Wellington

The cable car is one of the best free things to do in Wellington

This a guide to the best cheap and free things to do in Wellington. It also includes recommendations on accommodation, bars and restaurants to help plan your trip! 

Cheap and Free things to do in Wellington

Wellington is my favourite big city in New Zealand. Located on the very south of the North Island, this small but vibrant city is New Zealand’s capital. Its city centre is a real drawcard and it’s an atmosphere I haven’t witnessed in any of New Zealand’s other cities. It was young, vibrant, full of life, and most importantly, was filled with friendly Kiwi faces. In comparison to most cities, it’s a completely different world and one I think everyone would love!

One thing that makes Wellington such a hit is all the amazing and cool cheap and free things to do in Wellington. These activities offer a wide range of perspectives into both Wellington and New Zealand and without spending a dollar you can truly explore and discover New Zealand’s greatest city! After visiting Wellington a few times I managed to come up with a list of my favourite 7 cheap and free things to do in Wellington and here it is!

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1. Museum of New Zealand or Te Papa

Both Bailey and I have travelled to over 50 countries and it’s extremely rare that the National Museum is ever free. In New Zealand however, it is! The Museum of New Zealand is home to some of New Zealand’s most important treasures and the name Te Papa literally translates to “Container of Treasures”. From Maori culture to New Zealand’s history, the museum is constantly updating its exhibitions in the highest quality.

Te Papa is interactive, interesting, and impressive even to people who aren’t overly into museums. To date, the Museum of New Zealand or Te Papa is the best museum I have visited and it’s hard to believe this place is completely free! In my opinion, Te Papa is not only the best free thing to do in Wellington, but is the best thing to do in Wellington in general!

Cheap and free things to do in wellington
Some life-like wax sculptures from the Gallipoli exhibition.

2. Mount Victoria Lookout

Wellington is built on the ocean but its backdrop is large steep hills that provide the best vantage points in town! Mount Victoria is arguably the best of those vantage points. From the top, you get 360-degree views of the area and the best part is you can either drive or walk up. If you’re walking it takes around 25 minutes from the bottom, or the drive is 5 minutes. If you get clear weather, be sure to make it up for sunset for what could be the best one you ever see!

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3. Take a ride in the Cable car

As mentioned above, Wellington’s steep hills make walking around tiring for locals who live on them. So the government decided to build a cable car to help locals get where they’re going. These days though, the cable car has become more of a tourist attraction and most carts pack up with visitors wanting to give it a go.

At the end of the cable car, you’re over 120m above Wellington giving you amazing views of the city below and there’s even a cable car Museum that tells the history and importance of cable cars around the city.

The cable car costs only $5 one way or $9 return. If you want to save the $4 you can always walk back down. Also at the top is the Botanical Gardens which brings me to my next cheap and free things to do in New Zealand…

The cable car is one of the best free things to do in Wellington
The views from the top of the cable car!

3. Botanical Gardens

Wellington’s Botanical Gardens are certainly not its finest cheap and free things to do, however, after checking out the cable car you might as well explore a little. There are a few trails at the top that loop around back to the cable car. These take around 25 minutes to explore. Along the way, you can find a garden from Australia as well as lots of New Zealand native plants.

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4. Wellington Museum

Yep, that’s right, Wellington is home to another museum! The Wellington Museum is another cool place to check out that’s completely free. This museum (as the name suggests) is about the history and cultural importance of Wellington. From its transformation from the 1900s to its interesting Maritime history, the Wellington Museum is well worth checking out. In fact, it was recently voted one of the top 50 Museums in the world. However in my opinion, if you only have time for one then Te Papa is my choice!

The Wellington Museum is a best things to do in Wellington!
The Wellington Museum!

5. Explore the vibrant city centre (Cuba Street)

Wellington’s city centre is a great place to walk around and see the city’s true heartbeat. Cuba Street is a walking street in the centre and is home to many restaurants, bars, and shops. Along these streets, you can find amazing deals for food and drinks and score some bargains at some of the many clothing retailers. Wellington is actually a really well-priced capital city in comparison the others!

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6. Oriental Parade Beach

For some people, big cities aren’t their favourite place to be due to the lack of natuure and scenery. However, in Wellington, you’re only a short walk to a really nice beach on Oriental Parade. Oriental Parade is a really nice area that sits west to the city centre. Its walking distance from the centre and the small beach area is a great place to get some sun and enjoy the water.

There is a small pontoon you can swim out to and toilets at the beach. This is in no way New Zealand’s most beautiful beach, but its certainly worth checking out and another great option for free things to do in Wellington!

Wellington Beach is a great thing to do in Wellington!
Not a bad beach for a city beach!

7. Wander the waterfront Pop-Up Village

The Pop-Up Village is a small market open throughout both winter and summer. It showcases locals artists and small businesses who operate out of small sea containers along the waterfront.

We took a short walk through the market and checked out lots of unique shops and food vendors. One thing to mention, in particular,  is the local jade carver who’s pricing was cheaper than we had seen anywhere else in New Zealand!

The waterfront stores in wellington is a best thing to do in wellington
A few of the stores on show!

Our Top Picks for Wellington (to help plan your trip!)

Accommodation

During our visit, we stayed at the Gilmer Apartment Hotel. The hotel was centrally located and only a 2 minute walks 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 (which was another great way to save some money on our trip.)

The room was gorgeous, the staff were very friendly and helpful, and it was a great value for money! We highly recommend Gilmer Apartment Hotel and really enjoyed our stay!

Book your stay in Wellington here!

Not a bad place to lay your head!

Restaurant

We ate out a few times in Wellington, but one place really stood out in price and quality. That place was a little Chinese restaurant called Rams Restaurant. This place was literally packed with people when we walked by so we decided to give it a go. Well, it turned out to be a great choice and the meals here were delicious with huge portions. The average main dish was around $15 and came with rice. We ordered 3 dishes and had tons of leftovers (for three people!)

You can find Rams Restaurant at 171 Cuba St right in the ehart of downtown!

The restaurant! Looks simple on the outside, but it was incredible!

Drinks

During our stay we had one afternoon where the weather was perfect so we decided to get a drink. We ended up finding this cute ar called POP Bar. This place was vibrant and seemed to be the place to be in Wellington. They offered a few $10 cocktails and a range of locally brewed New Zealand beers!

You can find POP Bar at 100 Willis St in the city centre.

Get a drink in Wellington is a best thing to do!
Bailey and her mum enjoying some drinks at the bar!

Wellington has earned New Zealand’s best city in my eyes. It’s culturally rich, filled with life, and overall an affordable place to visit. This guide on the cheap and free things to do in Wellington only scrapes the surface, nonetheless, this small taste of Wellington is the perfect taster to help plan your trip next time around!

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Where to next

South Island

West Coast – See all our blogs from our time travelling New Zealand’s beautiful West Coast including the Marlborough Sounds

Queenstown – Check out all our blogs on the stunning Queenstown where we lived for 7 months!

Mount Cook – Check out some great travel tips and advice for New Zealand’s most popular national park!The Catlins – A beautiful region filled with amazing waterfalls.

North Island

The Coromandel – From hot water beach to Cathedral Cove, the Coramandal Penisula is beautiful!

West Coast Beaches – These include Piha and Bethels Beach

-Daniel

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