What to do in Wellington Cruise Port 2024

What to do in Wellington Cruise Port 2024

Welcome to Wellington, New Zealand’s vibrant capital, where culture, history, and nature meet to create a destination like no other. Nestled between rolling hills and a stunning harbour, Wellington’s charm extends far beyond its picturesque landscapes. For those arriving via the sea, the Wellington Cruise Port opens up a world of adventure, serving as your gateway to exploring everything this lively city has to offer.

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You can take a city tour to tick off key sights such as Wellington Cable Car, Mt. Victoria Lookout, and Wellington Botanic Gardens. Or travel to beauty spots such as the Taputeranga Marine Reserve, the Kāpiti Coast, and the Hutt Valley.

In this guide, I’ll share the top things to do in and around Wellington Cruise Port, from visiting world-class museums to sampling the culinary delights that have put Wellington on the map. Plus, I’ll offer practical tips to help you make the most of your visit, whether you’re here for just a few hours or a few days.

We stopped in Wellington as part of our Australia New Zealand Cruise on Celebrity Solstice, and there are lots of things to do in New Zealand’s capital, depending on interests and budget.

Where do Cruise Ships dock in Wellington New Zealand?

Most cruise ships dock at Aotea Quay, which is approximately 2 km from the city centre.

Facilities at the Port

As soon as you step ashore, you’ll be warmly welcomed by locals ready to assist you. They’ll provide you with maps and essential details, including directions to currency exchange services. Inside the Wellington cruise terminal, you’ll have access to visitor information, along with phone, internet, and restroom facilities.

Cruise Ship Shuttle from Aotea Quay to Wellington City

The Port Authority provides complimentary shuttle buses from Wellington Cruise Terminal to Lambton Quay. The travel time is about 15 minutes.

View from Cable Car Kelburn Hill
View from Kelburn Hill

Wellington Ambassadors & Maps

These volunteers are at the drop-off points and will provide maps and directions and answer any questions you may have. They are easy to spot in their yellow and black clothes.

Wellington Tours

There are plenty of options for tours in Wellington if you don’t want to do your own thing. We like Viator with its flexible cancellation and lowest price guarantee policies.

This half-day Wellington Sightseeing Tour takes in the city highlights, including Weta Cave, the historic Old St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Wellington cable car, and Mount Victoria. If you’re at a hotel or on a cruise ship, pick-ups and drop-offs are provided. Find out more here.

The half-day Cave to Coast Wellington Highlights Tour takes you to Mount Victoria for panoramic views of the city and Weta Cave. After lunch you’ll visit Te Kopahou Visitor Centre to learn about the local history, geography, flora and fauna then Wellington Wind Turbine, which has an amazing vantage point above the city. You have the option to take the Wellington Cable Car from Lambton Quay to Kelburn. From the top of the Cable Car you have the option to take a 20 minute walk down through the Botanical Gardens to the Lady Norwood Rose Garden (weather permitting). The driver will pick up guests at the Lady Norwood Rose Garden and continue the tour to Old St Paul’s.

For the ultimate way to see Wellington, take a Scenic Helicopter Flight over the city. Have aerial views of the Museum of New Zealand, Parliament House, and the forests and trails surrounding the city. You can see Marlborough Sounds and the Southern Alps on the horizon on clear days, then fly across Wellington’s Queen Wharf as you head back to the helipad. See photos of the tour here.

John at Capital Personalised Tours has a Private Kapiti Coast Full Day Tour where you’ll travel in luxury to the Kapiti region, just north of Wellington. John can customize the tour to suit your needs.

Best Things To Do in Wellington for Free

Te Papa Tongarewa

New Zealand’s National Museum showcases the country’s history, geography, culture, and people. The innovative exhibits make it very interesting and you can learn a lot from here. Our favourite part was the Te Hau ki Tūranga – an exceptional meeting house at the heart of the iwi (tribal) exhibition. It was fascinating to hear about the meaning behind the house and what it represents. 

For a deeper look at Maori cultural heritage and colonial history, take this 1-hour guided tour, which provides an overview of the museum’s interactive exhibits, artifacts, fine art and natural history displays. The expert guide will share insights and offers suggestions for galleries that might suit your interests.

Read about the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa: Small Group Guided Tour here.

Te Paps’s Opening Hours

Te Papa is open from 10 am to 6 pm every day except Christmas Day and is free to enter – apart from some short-term exhibitions.

Te Pap Museum

Walk along the Waterfront

It’s a beautiful walk along the water’s edge from Te Papa and past Whairepo Lagoon. Here you can cross the City To Sea Bridge into the main city area. There are also some beautiful art installations across the bridge.

City to Sea Bridge and whairepo lagoon
City to Sea Bridge Wellington

The Old Bank Shopping Arcade

The Bank Of New Zealand opened its Head Office here in 1901. Unfortunately, this beautiful building fell into disrepair once the bank moved premises until the late 1990s. It was then restored by the company that renovated the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney.

It can be found at 233 – 237 LAMBTON QUAY.

Old Bank Shopping Arcade building Wellington

The National Mutual Life Association Building

Thomas Turnbull designed this building, and construction started in 1883. It is one of Wellington’s oldest masonry buildings and a great example of Victorian Classical Commerical style.

The National Mutual Life remained here until 1963, when the premises became too small. It was then sold to the Bank of New Zealand and became the last of the Lambton Quay/ Customhouse Quay/Hunter Street block purchased by them.

The bank moved to its new Head Office in 1985, which subsequently led to a long battle to save this beautiful building from being knocked down. Thankfully, in 1997, work began to convert the buildings into a shopping arcade and offices. After that, they were listed under a Heritage Order.

Mutual Life Assoc Building Wellington

Cuba Street

This is the place to eat, grab coffee, shop and listen to the buskers. Cuba Street is actually named after a settler ship and not the island. In 1995, it was registered as a Historic Area under the Historic Places Act.

Botanical Gardens

This inner-city garden was established in 1868 and is, therefore, one of the oldest Botanical Gardens in New Zealand. It consists of over 25ha of flora, including native forest, specialised plants, and stunning floral displays.

floral display in the Botanical Gardens Wellington

We took the Cable Car (see below) up to the lookout and then walked downhill through the gardens. It’s an easy walk that starts at the top where you get off the cable car and ends by Parliament House. You should allow about 45 minutes for this walk.

The gardens open daily from sunrise to sunset and are free to enter.

what to do in wellington cruise port botanical gardens

Parliament Buildings and The Beehive

The Beehive is an interesting building and instantly recognisable. Construction on it commenced in 1969 but did not finish until 1980. It is the Executive Wing of the Parliamentary Complex and where the Cabinet meets.

The Beehive
The Beehive Wellington

Parliament House features an Edwardian neo-classical design and dates back to 1922.

Parliament Buildings Wellington
Parliament Buildings Wellington

You can take a guided tour of Parliament which runs on the hour from 10 am to 4 pm. The tour size is limited, so it is advisable to book ahead.

Old St Paul’s

This quaint wooden church was built by the Anglican Church between 1865 and 1866. Old St. Paul’s is made of native timber, and the inside is simply stunning with elegant arches and beautiful lighting. It is free to enter, but a donation is requested.

Old St Pauls Wellington

Mount Victoria

I’ve put Mount Victoria in the free section as it doesn’t cost anything to walk up to the lookout. However, if you are short on time, grab a taxi or catch the number 20 bus. If walking, be prepared that it will take approximately 1.5 hours to climb to the top. Alternatively, hire an electric bike and cycle to other attractions such as the Weta Workshop, Te Papa Museum, or Pencarrow Lighthouse.

The view from the 198m high Mount Victoria is one of Wellington’s most photographed. It takes in the waters of the Cook Strait and the panorama of the city.

view of a city from mount lookout

The Weta Cave

Entrance to just the Weta Cave Shop is free, and a behind-the-scenes documentary is played every half hour. There are artifacts from films displayed in a mini-museum, and this is where you can book tours for the workshop.

Wellington’s Beaches

We didn’t have time to visit any of the beaches in Wellington but my good friend at Coconutlands has written a fabulous post on the best 11 beaches in Wellington.

Things To Do in Wellington Cruise Port – Paid

Historic Cable Car

Buy a ticket from the ticket booth at Lambton Quay; you can choose one way or return. The journey only takes 5 minutes and, before you know it, you are at the top of Kelburn Hill. It is 119m above the city, so it has some fabulous views. There’s an indoor and outdoor viewing platform as well as telescopes (coins required).

If you’re feeling peckish, the Cabletop provides food, drinks, and snacks and is also fully licensed if you want a wine or beer.

Work on this tramline began in 1899 but became operational in 1902. If you are interested in the cable car’s complete history, you can read more on the Wellington Cable Car website.

Wellington Cable Car
Wellington Cable Car

Wellington Cruise Terminal to Cable Car

If you’re arriving in Wellington via cruise, it’s important to know that walking directly into the city from the wharf isn’t an option, nor can you be picked up at the port by a private car or taxi.

To ensure a smooth transition into exploring the heart of Wellington, including making your way to the iconic Lambton Quay cable car, planning ahead is key. Your options include booking a shore excursion through your cruise provider, arranging an independent accredited tour, or utilising the cruise shuttle services provided.

The cruise shuttle drops off at Lambton Quay.

Opening Hours and Prices

Monday to Thursday7:30am – 8:00pm
Friday7:30am – 9:00pm
Saturday8:30am – 9:00pm
Sunday & Public Holidays8:30am – 7:00pm
Adult
Child (5-15)
$11.00 Return
$5.50
$6.00 One Way
$3.00

There are also family tickets available for return journeys only.

Zealandia

This completely fenced ecosanctuary is a 10-minute drive from the city. Alternatively, you can take the Wellington Cable Car to the top of the Botanic Gardens and hop on the free ZEALANDIA shuttle. General Admission can be booked direct through Zealandia.

The Small Group Daytime 2-Hour Eco Wildlife Tour at Zealandia guided walking tour will introduce you to native birds such as kakariki, tui, and bellbirds; rare species like takahē; and unique reptiles including green gecko and tuatara.

wetlands

Free WiFi Location

Free Wifi can be found along the waterfront, in Te Papa, and some cafes and McDonald’s.

Wellington Weather

The city is windy year-round, hence its nickname, Windy Wellington. The best weather is from October through to April, with temperatures ranging between 17C and 21C. However, we were there in January, and it was cool and rainy. It didn’t stop us from enjoying this port of call, though.

a tall waterfall gushing into the fiord from the cliff top
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