51 Best Sights in Wellington and the Wairarapa, New Zealand

Brewtown Upper Hutt

Fodor's choice

This sprawling tipple-town is an embodiment of a sunny summer's afternoon feeling. Brewtown is conveniently within walking distance from Upper Hutt train station. On site are five award-winning breweries and a whisky distillery, spread around a large green of picnic tables on which to enjoy the vast menus of elevated bar food. Guided tours are available and are a great way to get a behind-the-scenes look and taste of the best in town. All five senses, not just taste, are stimulated at Brewtown: also on-site is a raceway, an ice skating rink, a ten-pin bowling alley, a large trampoline park, an indoor paintball field, and a multiplayer VR gaming station! Essentially a massive playground, Brewtown is incredibly family-friendly, so everyone can join the fun.

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Fodor's choice

Te Papa Tongarewa (the Māori translation is "container of treasures") provides an essential introduction to the country's people, cultures, landforms, flora, and fauna. Bringing together the latest technology, interactive exhibits, and storytelling, it shares New Zealand's past and present. Whether you want to enter a carved marae (Māori meetinghouse), walk through living native bush, be shaken in the Earthquake House, or see a colossal squid, there's inspiration for everyone. Don't miss the Toi Art gallery; spanning two floors, it features New Zealand, Pacific, and international works.

National Library of New Zealand

Thorndon Fodor's choice

Opposite the Parliament Buildings is the country's national library. The Alexander Turnbull Library, a "library within a library," specializes in archival materials about New Zealand and the Pacific. Its books, manuscripts, photographs, newspapers, maps, and oral history tapes are available for research. One special highlight, He Tohu, is an exhibition housing Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Treaty of Waitangi. This controversial 1840 agreement between the British crown and more than 500 Māori chiefs is considered the founding document of modern New Zealand. The oldest document on display is the Declaration of Independence of the Northern Chiefs, signed by more than 30 northern Māori chiefs on October 28, 1835, a confederation agreement that led up to the Waitangi treaty. Also on view is the 1893 Women's Suffrage Petition, which led to New Zealand becoming the world's first nation to grant women the vote.

Recommended Fodor's Video

Patuna Chasm Walk

Fodor's choice

Explore true backcountry New Zealand on a half-day trek. This four-hour hike starts with a typical Kiwi trail through native forest, before descending to the river floor. Here you'll discover the chasm's cathedral-like limestone halls and waterfalls. Be advised that most of the walk is in a river and can be steep or slippery. Pack a change of clothes and shoes for after the walk. Bookings are essential.

Poppies Martinborough

Fodor's choice

Wine-lovers flock to Poppies for the stunning wines, picturesque views, and relaxed ambience. Their wines, crafted by old-world techniques, celebrate the beauty of simplicity and tradition. Visiting the tasting room, you can expect to sip on delectable wines paired with excellent platters, all while admiring the vineyard vista. Bookings are essential.

Pūkaha Mount Bruce

Fodor's choice

Head 30 km (19 miles) north of Masterton for a fine introduction to the country's wildlife. An easy trail through the bush (one hour, round-trip) takes you past aviaries containing rare, endangered, or vulnerable birds, including the takahē, a flightless species thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1948. The real highlight, though, is the nocturnal habitat containing foraging kiwis, endearing little bundles of energy that are the national symbol. Here you can also view the only white kiwi in captivity; she glows in the dark, so you won't have to wait for your eyes to adjust to the gloom to see her. In addition to animal feedings and talks, Pūkaha offers a variety of tours and workshops that can be booked online.

Southward Car Museum

Fodor's choice

Housing the southern hemisphere's largest private car collection, this museum has more than 400 automobiles and 140 motorcycles, plus aircraft, vintage tools, and an old fire engine. Among the most popular are Marlene Dietrich's 1934 Cadillac Town Cabriolet, a 1915 Stutz Indianapolis race car, a gull-winged Mercedes-Benz, a 1950 Cadillac "Gangster Special" that had belonged to gangster Mickey Cohen, and an 1895 Benz Velo.

Staglands Wildlife Reserve

Fodor's choice

Staglands offers visitors the opportunity to feed and freely interact with animals in a beautiful natural environment. As you wander around its 25 peaceful acres, you'll follow its weaving trails around rivers, forests, and paddocks. Take a tip-toe through the aviaries, and you'll be rewarded with famously funny encounters with the native kea and kaka parrots. At the stables, you'll meet goats, highland cows, and native kunekune pigs, who are always happy to exchange more petting for feed. If you want the complete cozy homestead experience, you can take a tractor-trailer ride or roast marshmallows on the outdoor fire pit. Be sure to also explore the nooks of the re-created Old Bush Settlement. Here, you may just stumble upon the whimsical wonderland of the secret garden. Take a climb to the Deer Park lookout and finish your visit with stunning views.

The Wine Bank

Fodor's choice

For an all-weather, all-season exploration of Martinborough's vineyards, look no further than The Wine Bank. The Bank has an ATM-style automatic wine dispensary, a small kitchen, and a classy and comfortable lounge. The set-up makes for a relaxed experience, where you can select from over 60 local wines and try the ones you want, at your own pace.

1 Memorial Sq., Martinborough, Wellington, New Zealand
sights Details
Rate Includes: Free (you pay only for the wine you drink), Closed Tues. and Wed.

Weta Cave & Workshop

Fodor's choice

The innovative designers and effects wizards at Weta have brought many high-profile movies to life. At Weta Cave, you get a fascinating "behind the scenes look" detailing the characters and equipment used in special effects for the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit series, Avatar, King Kong, and many other award-winning films. Memorabilia (think models, limited-edition sculptures, books, posters, and T-shirts) is sold at the on-site shop. Departing from the Cave are your choice of two popular tours guided by industry experts. The workshop tour showcases original props, costumes, and the artists at work. The miniature effects tour explores how miniatures, lighting, and clever camerawork make for some of the most iconic shots in cinema history. You can also pre-book special interactive workshops to try your hand at sculpting, special effects make-up, and even making chain mail.


Karori Fodor's choice

Just minutes from downtown Wellington, more than 500 acres of forest have been transformed into a unique safe-haven for New Zealand's most endangered native species. A specially designed fence creates a cage-free eco-sanctuary for species that had disappeared from the mainland. Tuatara, New Zealand's unique "living fossil," are breeding, as are takahē and saddleback, which have both been brought back from the brink of extinction. Pick up a map and explore at your leisure, or join a 2-hour guided tour. The flashlight-led nighttime tour is very popular; departing about 30 minutes before sunset, it provides a glimpse into the nocturnal world—you might even spy a little spotted kiwi.

Archives New Zealand


History buffs should make a beeline here, as the national archives are a gold mine of documents, photographs, and maps. Records of New Zealand ancestry from as far back as the early 1800s trace the country's development, making this a great place for New Zealanders to research their family history.

Ascot Street


Built in the 1870s, the little doll-like cottages along Ascot remain the finest example of a 19th-century streetscape in Wellington. A bench at the top has been thoughtfully provided in the shady courtyard should you need to catch your breath.

Off Glenmore St. and Tinakori Rd., Wellington, Wellington, 6011, New Zealand

Ata Rangi Vineyard

This family-owned and -managed winery makes exceptional chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, and Célèbre. For her hard work on the vines, Helen Masters won the 2019 title of New Zealand Winemaker of the Year. Tastings at their cellar door must be booked in advance through their website.

14 Puruatanga Rd., Martinborough, Wellington, 5741, New Zealand
sights Details
Rate Includes: Tastings free (with advance reservation)

Bluebank Blueberry and Emu Farm

This property produces delicious blueberries and is home to several emus, a large flightless bird. You can enter to visit the emus for free; you pay for the blueberries you pick (at a great rate).

Cambridge Road

With its eco-ethical philosophy, this winery produces high-quality wines using organic and biodynamic techniques. Try these natural and delicious wines for yourself on their sun-soaked porch alongside their well-paired platters. Tastings can be booked for any day of the week, or you can just walk in on the weekends.

32 Cambridge Rd., Martinborough, Wellington, New Zealand
sights Details
Rate Includes: Tastings NZ$10

Cape Palliser

Cape Palliser

Named by Captain Cook, Cape Palliser marks the eastern end of Palliser Bay. You cannot miss its candy-stripe classic lighthouse, which was erected in 1897. Climb the 250 (the sign says 258) wooden steps for terrific views up and down the wild coastline. Below the lighthouse, splashing in the surf are members of the North Island's only fur seal colony. Don't get too close for photos though; these animals are fiercely protective of their young. Department of Conservation rules require you to keep 20 meters (22 yards) from seals, so don't get between seals and pups, or seals and the ocean. To reach it from Martinborough, start at Memorial Square and turn left into Jellicoe Street, this becomes Lake Ferry Road. After 30 km (18½ miles), turn left at the Cape Palliser road sign; from here it is another 35 km (21½ miles) to the cape itself. You will pass the Putangirua Pinnacles on your left; after this, the road deteriorates and is unpaved in places. It is a stark and dramatic drive, though not particularly hard if you take care. The travel time from Martinborough is approximately 80 minutes.

Featherston, Wellington, New Zealand
sights Details
Rate Includes: Free


An hour's drive east of Masterton along Te Ore-ore Road (which turns into the Masterton–Castlepoint Road), Castlepoint is perhaps the most spectacular site on the entire Wairarapa coast. Castle Rock soars 500 feet out of the sea, where below, in Deliverance Cove, you'll sometimes see seals playing in the surf.

Masterton, Wellington, New Zealand

City Gallery Wellington

This gallery is internationally recognized for its striking showcases of contemporary art. The ever-changing program is filled with works from local and international artists, events, and tours. Visitors can view sometimes challenging, but always captivating work.

Wakefield St., Wellington, Wellington, 6140, New Zealand
sights Details
Rate Includes: Free (but there are charges for some special exhibits)

Coney Wines

Have lunch here for a view over vines that produce a terrific Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris plus a rosé you can get only on-site.

107 Dry River Rd., Martinborough, Wellington, 5954, New Zealand
sights Details
Rate Includes: Tastings NZ$5 (refundable with purchase), Tastings Dec.–Mar., Fri., Sat., and Sun. 11--4; Apr.–Nov., weekends 11--4, Closed Mon.–Thurs., Aug., and Sept.


From Petone, a winding road leads south about 10 km (6 miles) to the suburb of Eastbourne. Have an alfresco bite in its tiny shopping area before driving on to where the road eventually transforms into a 4-km (2½-mile) walking trail, following the coast to Pencarrow Head and its lighthouse, with views across the strait. There's a kiosk where you can rent a bike, or for more adventure, The Boatshed has kayaks and stand-up paddleboards for hire.

Fell Locomotive Museum

The tiny town of Featherston is worth a stop for the Fell Locomotive Museum. Along with photos, models, and memorabilia, it has the last remaining Fell locomotive in the world. Built in 1875 and expertly restored, the engine is one of only six that clawed their way up the notorious Rimutaka Incline. The museum is open to the public on weekends, but tours can be booked for any day of the week.

Lyon and Fitzherbert Sts., Featherston, Wellington, 5710, New Zealand
sights Details
Rate Includes: NZ$6, Closed Mon.--Fri. (but tours can be arranged any day with advance notice)

Kaitoke Regional Park

From Upper Hutt, continuing north on State Highway 2 takes you to the Wairarapa region. But if you have time to spare, stop into Kaitoke Regional Park. Just beyond Upper Hutt, it's a great camping and picnic spot with pleasant walks by the river. Lord of the Rings lovers can check out the corner of the forest that stood in for Rivendell, the great homeland of the elves. Trails, varying from 15-minute ambling loops to 3-hour hiking routes, all follow sections of the crystal-clear river, flanked by towering trees and native birdsong.

Waterworks Rd., Upper Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand
0800-496–734-for rangers
sights Details
Rate Includes: Free

Katherine Mansfield House & Garden


The writer, born in 1888, lived the first five years of her life here. Katherine Mansfield (née Kathleen Beauchamp) left to pursue her career in Europe when she was only 20, but many of her short stories take place in Wellington. A year before her death in 1923, she wrote, "New Zealand is in my very bones. What wouldn't I give to have a look at it!" The house, which has been restored as a typical Victorian family home, contains furnishings, photographs, and videos that elucidate Mansfield's life and times.

Lady Norwood Rose Garden

On a fine summer day you couldn't find a better place to enjoy the fragrance of magnificent flowers. This rose garden is the most popular part of the Wellington Botanic Garden. Situated on a plateau, the formal circular layout consists of 110 beds, each planted with a single variety of modern and traditional shrubs. Climbing roses cover a brick-and-timber colonnade on the perimeter. Adjacent to the rose beds, the Begonia House conservatory is filled with delicate plants.

North end of Wellington Botanic Garden, Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
sights Details
Rate Includes: Free, Main gardens daily sunrise–sunset

Lake Ferry

The tiny settlement of Lake Ferry sits beside Palliser Bay, 40 km (25 miles) northwest of Cape Palliser. The lake in question, called Onoke, is actually a salt lagoon formed by the long sandbank here. Vacation homes, fishing spots, and remarkable sunsets bring in the weekend Wellingtonian crowd. If you’re coming from Martinborough, expect a 25-km (16-mile) drive through rolling sheep country.

Martinborough Fair

The town's signature event, held in the Square on the first Saturday of February and March, draws thousands of people and packs the place with crafts stalls.

Martinborough Vineyard

With their first Pinot Noir grapes planted in 1980, this fine regional winery was the first to convince the world of the Wairarapa's wine potential. Their Chardonnay is also exceptional.

57 Princess St., Martinborough, Wellington, 5711, New Zealand
sights Details
Rate Includes: Tastings NZ$5, Tastings daily 11–4

Martinborough Wine Merchants

For an overview of area wines, take an oenophile's shortcut and hit Martinborough Wine Merchants. The shop stocks a thorough selection of local vintages and wine accessories. Arrangements can be made to have your purchases shipped home.

Mount Victoria

Wellington Central

Placed atop a historic and trendy suburb is a stunning vantage point to watch the city both day and night. You can take a short, but careful, drive up to the lookouts and enjoy the vistas that sweep across the whole region. Alternatively, take a leisurely uphill stroll through the pine forest of the town belt. These trails are sporadically dotted with outlooks, mountain biking tracks, and creatively crafted playgrounds. Fittingly, its tall twisted trees were the backdrop to a number of scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which are signposted.

Lookout Rd., Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand