Free or Cheap Activities in Wellington
Wondering what to do in Wellington on a budget? Whether you end up in Wellington to live the city life on a working holiday or are just waiting to catch a flight or the ferry to the South Island, there are a few things to do without busting your bank account. In between partying, discovering the art, and having a few great eats, you’ll want to check out these free things to do in Wellington.
You can make this an educational visit by going to the interactive museum of Te Papa or tour the parliament buildings. A couple of walks give a good vantage point of the city to add to your reams of New Zealand photographs. Wellington is also an essential destination for The Lord of the Rings geeks, as it is home to the Weta Cave the free part of the Weta Workshop and a filming location is on a popular walk here too.
So set out into the city and have a blast on a budget! (And if you just want to skip to the good stuff, have a look at the 10 Wellington Must-Dos).
1. Visit the Te Papa Museum
If there is one museum you are going to visit in New Zealand it has to be Te Papa. The national museum is about all things New Zealand, from land (step into an earthquake simulator) to sea (witness the colossal squid). Insider tip: don’t forget to check out the mini-exhibition under the Te Papa car park. Not a lot of people know it is there! For more information, check out 10 Reasons Why The Te Papa Museum is Simply Unmissable.
2. Check Out the Weta Cave
Movie buffs rejoice! This mini-museum and shop is the front of the Weta Workshop behind-the-scenes concept design and prop production. This is a must for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit fans. For more Middle-earth activities, check out our Guide to The Lord of the Rings in Wellington.
3. Walk Mt Victoria
Reach the lookout on Mt Victoria for views of Wellington city. Additionally, part of the walk was used in The Lord of the Rings when the Hobbits hide from the black riders outside of The Shire. To get there, you can start at the eastern end of Courtenay Place, cross Cambridge Terrace and Kent Terrace, walk along Majoribanks Street until you see the sign to the Southern Walkway. Follow the Summit Walkway to the lookout!
4. Shop on Cuba Street
Known as a bit of a hipster/hippy joint, Cuba Street holds quirky clothes stores, cafes, restaurants, and op shops. Take some photos, check out the sculptures and embrace the culture.
5. Free Parliament Buildings Tour
If you’re into your politics and architecture, then you are in for a treat. Learn about New Zealand politics and see the earthquake reinforcements on this free tour of Wellington’s Parliament buildings. With all the security restrictions attached to this tour, we consider it a must-do only if you are scraping the barrel of what to do in Wellington on a budget.
6. Take the Cable Car
Another one of the most popular Wellington activities. Make like the ultimate tourist by taking the cable car to the Botanic Gardens and lookout over the business district. The short journey is NZ$7 making it a darn cheap thing to do in Wellington! Find the Cable Car down Lambton Quay. At the top, the Cable Car Museum is free entry.
7. Have a Drink
Wellington prides itself on its craft beers, cocktail bars and comedy entertainment. But don’t worry, there are some affordable places for a pint too, just check out: 5 Awesome Bars in Wellington. If you ask the locals (especially the foodies) this is one of the favourite Wellington activities.
8. See Wildlife at Zealandia
Here comes one of our favourite Wellington attractions! New Zealand birds! So many New Zealand birds! For NZ$19.50 take a stroll through the sanctuary and exhibition, which is home to native birds and the tuatara lizard the only living ancestor from the dinosaur age. Learn more about Zealandia here.
9. Walk Along the Waterfront
This will take you past ice cream parlours vital nutrients needed to survive the walk along Oriental Bay and past many sculptures including hidden poetry in the concrete. And when you are done walking move onto #10 on our list.
10. People-watch on the Waterfront
There are heaps of places to sit along the waterfront. Watch as all kinds of people skateboard, longboard, scooter, cycle, run and walk on by. Believe us, this is one of the most iconic Wellington attractions.
11. Go to the Cinema
Wellington is known as the windy capital so the weather can rapidly change. If you find yourself in Wellington on a rainy day, check out one of the few cinemas in the city. The Event Cinema at The Embassy on Kent Terrace plays all the latest blockbusters and does a “Cheap Tuesday”. We also recommend a special trip to the Roxy Cinema in Miramar for a tiptop cinema experience!
12. Have Some Cheap Eats
If you are a bit of a foodie, then Wellington is the place to be! What’s more, you can enjoy the cuisine of Wellington while being on a budget. Take a look at our Cheap Eats in Wellington. This should pump you back up after all those other activities in Wellington you tackled.
13. Explore the Botanic Garden
One of the most popular places to visit in Wellington is the Wellington Botanic Garden. There are 25 hectares of beautiful gardens to enjoy right in the centre of Wellington with multiple entry and exit points. Go on bush walks, catch a free gig in summer, see water features and get views from the treehouse.
14. Check Out the Outer Suburbs
There’s more to Wellington that the city centre! Why not go on a day trip to the Hutt Valley, Wairarapa or Kapiti? There’s so much to see in the surrounding areas that we have put numerous guides together such as 10 Reasons to Stop By in Wairarapa, 10 Must-Dos on the Kapiti Coast and Hutt Valley – Guide for Backpackers.
15. Chill Out at Frank Kitt’s Park
It’s the hipster go-to park on the Wellington Waterfront with plenty of grassy areas to relax on a warm day. There’s an amazing children’s playground if you’re travelling with kids. Plus, head down there on Tuesday nights to see the fire jugglers practising their mesmerising craft!
Location: Wellington Waterfront.
16. Go to the Beach!
Wellington city is blessed with many awesome beaches. Whether you want to try out surfing or just feel the sand between your toes, you won’t have to travel far to find a good beach. Check out the beach on Oriental Parade with its waterfront just off the coast, head to Scorching Bay for a picnic, or walk along Lyall Bay followed by coffee and/or ice cream! For a full list see 10 Beaches in Wellington You Can’t Miss.
17. See the Seals at Red Rocks
The Red Rocks Walkway (40 minutes one way) is a popular walk along the rugged coastline with fascinating geological features, a Lord of the Rings filming location, and even seals between April and October! You can even get there by bus from the city centre if you take the Number 1 Bus to Island Bay. Find out more in our list of 10 Best Walks in Wellington.
18. Drive or Walk to the Brooklyn Wind Turbine
Who doesn’t love the sight of a huge wind turbine?! Plus, the views from the Brooklyn Wind Turbine give you an excellent perspective of Wellington city. It’s possible to either drive, walk or take the bus from the city centre. By bus, take the Number 8. By foot, make your way to the Polhill Reserve and Wind Turbine Trail just off Ashton Fitchett Drive. By car, you can take Hawkins Hills Road off Ashton Fitchett Drive all the way to the turbine.
19. Browse the Wellington Central Library
[UPDATE: Wellington Central Library is closed and will be moving to a new location.]
Bookworms will love Wellington for its array of bookshops, big and small. Start with the Wellington Central Library with more than 600,000 books! We also like Arty Bees Books, the largest second-hand bookstore in Wellington, to pick up some reads for the road. Find out more about Wellington’s best book stores in our 10 Wonderful Wellington Bookshops for Bookworms.
20. Walk Up Mt Kaukau
Mt Kaukau is the highest visible mountain in the Wellington city skyline, so naturally, it’s a fun mountain to conquer and get some incredible views! Either do the short version of the walk from either Woodmancote Road or Simla Crescent in Khandallah. Or go to the mountain as part of the Northern Walkway! Check out 10 Best Walks in Wellington for more information.
21. Visit the Otari Wilton’s Bush
This is New Zealand’s only public garden solely holding native plants and trees. It’s a stunning location to get a “wilderness” like experience with a short drive or bus trip from the city centre – (take the Number 14 Wilton Bus from Lambton Quay).
22. Visit the Wellington Museum
There are far more free Wellington museums than Te Papa, and another excellent choice is the Wellington Museum! Learn about the history of the city itself and the local stories through fascinating displays. Check out our list of museums and art galleries which are free-entry in this article.