Wellington, New Zealand cruises
Wellington port guide
Located on the southern tip of New Zealand’s North Island, Wellington may be small by some capitals’ standards but it’s every bit as vibrant, picturesque, and culture filled as cities double its size. Within the Central Business District and along the waterfront you’ll find galleries and museums of every persuasion, including New Zealand’s acclaimed national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa.
If outdoor pursuits are more your speed, you’ll also be among good company in Wellington. Along with the chance to try out sea kayaking, the city’s waterfront and surrounding hillsides offer beautiful walking trails, perfect for stretching your legs in the fresh New Zealand air.
A port call to Wellington also opens up the opportunity to ride the city’s iconic red Cable Car, join the locals for a spot of sunbathing at Oriental Bay, or embark on a quest for the perfect pint amongst the city’s excellent craft beer breweries.
Top landmarks and sights in Wellington
You’ll spot one of Wellington’s most famous landmarks the moment you arrive in port. Standing at an elevation of 196 meters (643 ft), the green covered hills of Mount Victoria are an unmissable feature of Wellington’s skyline, where you can drink in 360-degree views of the city and harbor below. Busses are available to take you to the summit from Alexandra Road, or you can walk to the top (roughly 30-minutes) from the tracks starting at Oriental Parade and Majoribanks Streets.
Another iconic symbol of Wellington is the city’s pillar-box-red cable car, which has been in operation since 1902. Departing from Lambton Quay every 10-15 minutes, a ride on this cable-pulled funicular will take you on a vertical ascent of 120 meters (394 ft) and promises some breathtaking scenes as you climb.
Once you’ve experienced the journey, devote a little time to exploring the Cable Car Museum, housed in what was once the gondola’s original waiting room. Free to enter, and with an impressive two floors of exhibits, the museum charts the cable car’s evolution through the ages. You’ll even be able to enter into the former cable room to see the mechanics behind how this impressive pulley system moves its cars up the mountain.
Things to do in Wellington
From cultural pursuits to adventurous endeavors and countless sightseeing opportunities, a day in Wellington opens up a slew of possibilities for how to pass your time.
One place you’ll definitely want to seek out on a cruise to Wellington is Cuba Street. Home to the city’s famous Bucket Fountain (a Wellington landmark since 1969) Cuba Street is a vibrant blend of art galleries, independent boutiques, quirky cafés, and fine dining restaurants. It’s one of Wellington’s best-known streets, loved by locals and visitors alike. Just be sure to step back from the fountain to avoid being splashed!
Another highly recommended Wellington attraction is Te Papa Tongarewa. Rated as one of the top 500 places in the world by Lonely Planet, New Zealand’s national museum is a six-floor treasure trove of artefacts and interactive exhibitions that delve into science, culture, and history. Highlights include a room where your mood alters the lighting, and a series of larger-than-life human figurines that have been sculpted at 2.4 x human size.
Sunny days in Wellington can be spent enjoying a relaxing stroll on the city’s manmade sand beach in Oriental Bay, while the beautifully manicured gardens of the Parliamentary Grounds are also open to the public. It’s here that you’ll find the Parliamentary building that locals affectionately call the ‘beehive’. Designed by Scottish architect Sir Basil Spence, its distinctive domed design is hailed as a fine example of Brutalist architecture.
Eating and drinking in Wellington
New Zealand is world-renowned for its lamb so it’s little surprise that this home reared delicacy is a staple on many Wellington menus. Another favorite is fish and chips (also beloved by Brits) and typically served in New Zealand with white bread and a side of ketchup.
If eating ashore appeals whilst you’re in port Cuba Street offers an eclectic mix of cafés and restaurants that vary from cheap eats, like Chinese dumplings, to some of the city’s most distinguished high-end dining experiences.
Nearby Leeds Street (also known as Hannah’s Laneway) is described as a hidden foodie gem and has been hailed as one of the best food streets in the world. Located within a former industrial area, the mix of eateries here take inspiration from around the world, with everything from bakeries and pizzerias to native New Zealand style home-cooking. You’ll also find a few of the city’s best craft beer bars situated in this trendy neck of the woods.
Shopping in Wellington
If you’re looking to shop in Wellington, Lambton Quay Street should be your first port of call. You’ll find the city’s two main shopping centers here, along with a host of original New Zealand brands, including many fashion labels.
Cuba Street also offers a broad choice of shops, ranging from thrift and record stores to independent boutiques. Perfect Wellington souvenirs include a bottle of locally produced wine or some organic skincare made with New Zealand sourced ingredients, both of which you’ll find liberally stocked in Wellington.
Getting around: Wellington transport
Wellington is serviced by an extensive city-wide bus network, as well as the last remaining trolleybus system in Oceania. For travel further afield there are regular trains departing from Wellington Railway Station, housed in a beautiful 1937 Neoclassical building. If you do plan on traveling independently by public transport in Wellington, be sure to check the schedules so you leave plenty of time to return to port before your ship departs. Most of central Wellington is easily walkable, however, you may find it preferable to take the bus up to Victoria Mount if you don’t feel up to the 30-minute walk on foot. Busses in Wellington accept cash or local pre-loaded payment cards.
Wellington port facilities
Cruise ships docking at Wellington call at either Aotea Quay (a 20-minute walk from the city center) or at Queen’s Wharf, conveniently located just a stone’s throw from all the main sights in the heart of the city. Where you dock will depend on the size of the ship you’re sailing on and whether any other cruise ships are in port on the day of your scheduled arrival.
Local tour operators and city ambassadors will be there to welcome you into both terminals and provide you with maps so you can easily get your bearings. The cruise terminals are also equipped with telephones, Wi-Fi, and public toilets. A tourist information kiosk, known as the Wellington i-SITE Visitor Information Centre, can be found in Civic Square in Wellington’s town center.
Top tips for Wellington
The local currency in New Zealand is the New Zealand Dollar. Should you need to change money on arrival just ask in port for directions to the nearest bureau du change.
ATMs are also available throughout the city, although most establishments, including bars, shops, and restaurants, will accept payment by card. If you’re hoping to hop on a local bus, you’ll either need to pay for your fare by cash or an accepted pre-payment card.
Tipping in New Zealand is not automatically expected and servers don’t work for tips as in some countries. If you’ve experienced good service and feel you would like to leave a tip to thank your server, around 10% is the normal average.
The weather in Wellington is typically hot and sunny in summer and wet and cold in winter, in a weather pattern that mirrors many other parts of the world.
Wellington is also quite a windy city, which is why it’s a favorite destination for water sports in New Zealand. Many days can also be overcast, with average temperatures typically ranging from 7-20 degrees Celsius (45-68 Fahrenheit) across the year.
January through March are usually the warmest months of the year and the best time to visit.