Wellington provides a scintillating range of things to do and places to go for all members of the family throughout the year. Here’s our list of 31 Things to do in Wellington with Kids.
Wellington is a very popular family holiday destination in the North Island, with an amazing variety of attractions, activities, accommodation and dining experiences, catering for all family ages and stages.
Wellington prides itself as being not only our political capital, but also the cultural, artistic, and culinary hub of New Zealand. You can easily spend a day, a weekend, or a week exploring the nation’s capital city and the surrounding region.
Wellington is centrally located for New Zealanders, an interesting scenic drive for most North Islanders. As a driving guide, Wellington is 640km from Auckland, 320km from Napier, 370km from Taupo, and 350km from New Plymouth, so you may wish to have an overnight stopover along your journey.
When should we go?
Wellington is an international and domestic tourism and event/convention “hot spot”, so we recommend that you plan and BOOK AHEAD for your preferred accommodation in order to avoid disappointment. Accommodation is usually comparatively priced. But when major events like Wellington on a Plate or World of Wearable Art are on, prices can be very, very premium.
The Wellington climate is temperate, with daily maximum summer temperature between 19°C – 24°C, and daily maximum winter temperature between 10°C – 14°C. Remember to wrap up warm in the cooler months, particularly if a chilly Southerly wind comes blasting through from the Antarctic. It is known as “Windy Wellington” for very good reason!
Things to do in Wellington with Kids
Whether you are into walks, swims, adrenalin-pumping action, sightseeing, cultural insights, a combination of many different activities, or a family day out, Wellington has so much to offer for family fun and adventure.
In fact, there is such a mind-boggling array of wonderful attractions and activities, that we have divided them up into themes to help you plan your holiday. The themes include:
- Swimming — let the kids burn off some energy
- Action Aplenty — for the speed & adventure freaks
- Relaxing — for a calmer experience
- On The Water — experience a world class harbour
- Guided Tours — access local knowledge of expert guides
- On a Budget — free and very low cost activities
- Short Walks
- Mountain Biking
1. H2O Xtream
Let the school-age kids burn off some energy at H2O Xtream —the place to swim, hydroslide, body surf the wave pool, or experience the adrenalin rush of the rapid river ride.
All children under the age of 5 must have a swimming adult with them at all times. All children 5 – 8 years must have an adult within arms reach of them at all times.
H2O Xtream has lots of attractions for the kids:
- Toddlers (34C heated) pool
- 3 Hydroslides
- a Wave pool (30C)
- the Rapid River Ride (after 1:30pm weekdays & after 10:30am on the weekend)
- “Teen Time” (between 1-5pm Saturday & Sunday, Public Holidays and School Holidays)
- Lots of different huge inflatable pool toys
- Waves Cafe — for meals, snacks or tasty beverages.
Meanwhile the parents can do some serious swimming in the 25m lane pool (28C); or adults & kids over 15 years can try the Spa, Sauna or Steam room. Kids over 8 can check out the Spa on Friday & Saturday nights from 7pm.
H2O Xtream is located at corner Blenheim and Brown Streets, Upper Hutt, with plenty of car parking available. Why not take the train, with the Upper Hutt Railway station just a short stroll from H2O Xtream? Check out their fantastic Family Pass options (4 people — either “1 adult & 3 children” or “2 adults & 2 children”).
2. Kapiti Tenpin
Kapiti Tenpin in Paraparaumu is the only tenpin bowling centre between Porirua and Palmerston North, providing 14 lanes with automatic pinsetters complete with a computerised scoring system, and a family friendly atmosphere.
The kids (or anyone else!) may use “bumpers” to stop the ball going into the gutter, so all members of the family can enjoy a fun night’s entertainment.
Weekend nights involve ‘glow in the dark’ bowling — dim the lights, thereby turning the centre into a party atmosphere! The lanes, carpet and balls glow under UV light and the lanes showing a pattern of highways or cobwebs not seen under normal light.
The Tucker Bowl cafe is fully licensed and provides excellent food from an extensive menu. Dine in or step out onto the deck area to marvel at the views of Kapiti Island!
3. Camping at Kaitoke Park
Camping at Kaitoke Regional Park is open 365 days a year and there’s no need to book, you can camp anywhere in the designated camping area, because there’s always room.
There are two buildings in the centre of the campground with basic facilities including:
- Treated drinking water
- Covered seating
- Power sockets
- Electric BBQs at no extra charge – please clean them after use
You can also bring your own portable gas BBQ for cooking. Coal BBQs are not allowed due to the fire risk.
4. Nga Manu Nature Reserve
Nga Manu Nature Reserve covers approximately 13 hectares, containing the largest remnant of original lowland coastal swamp forest on the Kapiti Coast, over 700 different plant species, wildlife ponds, bush walks, lookout tower, and a diverse range of native animals such as tuatara, kiwi, morepork, fantail, kea, kaka, tui, and woodpigeon.
All facilities are designed for wheelchair and pushchair access. Family enjoyment is catered for with many picnic areas, plus a gas operated BBQ.
Schedule your visit to include the 11am Bird Feed-out tour and/or the 2pm Eel Feeding or feeding the ducks.
On The Water
5. Matiu/Somes Island and Eastbourne
Catch a ferry to Matiu / Somes Island and then on to Eastbourne – half day adventure/picnic on this DOC reserve; capture 360 degree views of Wellington harbour; spot endangered plants and animals; access via recreational boat or East By West Ferries.
6. Kapiti Marine Reserve
Experience some fascinating scuba diving in clear water, but above water, at the Waikanae Estuary and Paraparaumu Beach, you might spot wading birds, such as banded dotterels, variable oystercatchers, and Caspian terns.
7. Kapiti Island Nature Reserve
Kapiti Island is one of New Zealand’s most valuable natural treasures; the only large island sanctuary for birds between Hauraki Gulf in the north and New Zealand’s southern outlying islands.
Plan a day trip; start by buying a mandatory DOC permit (book 1 month in advance), and then arrange transport for the 5km trip each way via either Kapiti Marine Charter (0800 433 779) or Kapiti Tours Ltd (0800 527 494)
8. ZEALANDIA: Karori Sanctuary
Located adjoining the suburb of Karori — on old Karori Reservoir valley land — is a beautiful safe haven for native wildlife, consisting of 225 hectares of regenerating lowland forest and wetlands, fully encircled by 8.6 km of predator-proof fencing to keep out all pests.
Formerly the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, “Zealandia” refers to the land (and it’s unique native flora and fauna) that broke away from Gondwanaland 85 million years ago. This sanctuary includes 34 km of attractive bush walking tracks, with the option of guided tours day or (by torchlight) night. See if you can spot our mainland’s only wild population of tuataras, and endangered birds such as little spotted kiwi, saddleback, stitchbird, and kaka.
Facilities include a Visitor & Education Centre, with a cafe, and hireage of baby buggies and backpacks. Entrance fees apply, but children under 5 yrs are free.
On A Budget
The Wellington region has a wide range of things to do and places to go for very little cost, whether for an hour or two, a half day or full day of recreation and adventure.
9. Te Papa – Museum of New Zealand
Experience the whole of New Zealand in one building! Te Papa is New Zealand’s bold, innovative and interactive national museum.
Explore the great treasures and stories of this country, its unique natural environment, Maori culture and taonga (treasures), dynamic art heritage, and its fascinating history. Te Papa is located on Wellington’s spectacular waterfront. Open 10am to 6pm every day except Christmas Day.
General admission is free.
10. Wellington Cable Car
11. Parliament Buildings
12. Weta Caves Workshop
2.5-hour Weta Cave Workshop guided tour and shuttle transfer, from central Wellington. Meet people from the creative teams that make the magic happen for movies such as Avatar and The Lord of the Rings.
This is one of the newest tours available in Wellington and is wildly popular. Almost 100 travellers on TripAdvisor have rated this tour 5 stars.
13. Wellington Waterfront
14. Catchpool Valley
The Catchpool Valley is the most popular entrance to the Rimutaka Forest Park, and is located 12km south of Wainuiomata, on the Coast Road, 45 minutes drive (30km) from Wellington city.
- Catchpool Loop Track – a 45 minute return walk.
- Nature Trail – a 40 minute return walk in Catchpool Valley.
- Tawa Grove Walk – a 30 minute easy return walk through a very flat bush trail.
- Tunnel Gully – Drive 5km north of Upper Hutt, turn off S.H.2 onto Plateau Rd at the Te Marua Store, then drive to the end of Plateau Rd. Walk Tane’s Track among mature podocarp, tawa and beech forest, and explore the historic Mangaroa tunnel, which is linked to the old Rimutaka Railway line.
15. Hutt River Trail
16. Belmont Regional Park
- Stream Walk – Park at the end of Stratton Street, and enjoy a gentle 15 minute walk (plus a picnic) by the pond and over several footbridges upstream and back around to the carpark.
- Waterfall Track – a 1 hour moderate walk which follows Dry Creek from the park entrance through native bush, several times crossing the stream, and up towards a small waterfall and back again.
17. Kaitoke Regional Park
- Loop Track – an easy 15 minute return walk over the swing bridge and through the Kaitoke rainforest to help the kids build their knowledge of native trees and plants.
- Swingbridge Track – an easy 1 hour return walk; cross the swing bridge and follow the Hutt River downstream through rimu and rata forest. Snatch terrific views of the Hutt River gorge. Return via the Flume Bridge and along the road.
- Terrace Walk – an easy 30 minute return walk along a river terrace through mixed podocarp-broadleaf forest.
- Weir Walk – follow the sealed Hutt River access road to the Kaitoke Weir for an easy 15 minute return walk. This dam-like structure is the collection point for over half of Wellington’s water.
18. Queen Elizabeth Park
- Wetland Walk – a 45 minute return walk through low dunes, wetland, kahikatea forest remnant and bush.
- Coastal Track –a 2 hour gently graded return walk follows the seaward dunes from the Pickle Pot at Paekakariki to Raumati South with another main entry point at Whareroa Beach. There are terrific views to Kapiti Island and into the surrounding park. Marked accessways link to the beach.
19. Wellington Wind Turbine
20. Mount Victoria Lookout
21. Paekakariki Escarpment
22. Hutt River Trail
A scenic 29km trail runs along the eastern side of the Hutt River (from Hikoikoi Reserve, Petone to Birchville, Upper Hutt). The entire Trail is an easy cycling path, at which you can start and end at many points.
23. Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park
An outstanding park on Council land … currently 8km of 4WD track and 24km of custom built single track. The single track routes have been designed for a wide range of abilities – from beginner to expert. The southern half of the park is covered in regenerating native bush, mostly over 3 metres tall. To get to the park’s carpark: travel all the way down Karori Rd, and then 1 km down South Karori Road: carpark on the right, including Noticeboard. Beginner course: up “Koru”, down “Lazy Fern”. www.makarapeak.org/tracks
24. Pencarrow Coast Road
Experience a 20km flat return ride, starting south of Eastbourne and around to Fitzroy Bay to observe sea birds and plant life thriving on the exposed (i.e. windy!) coastline, and spot the black backed and red billed gulls, shags, white fronted terns and oyster catchers, plus eels and fresh water fish in the DOC-managed Lakes Kohangapiripiri and Kohangatera.
25. Pencarrow Heads
From Burdan’s Gate carpark (at the southern end of Eastbourne) follow the flat gravel 7km track along the harbour to the decommissioned Pencarrow Lighthouse. Around the Pencarrow Lakes are many secluded picnic spots and walks with awe inspiring views of Wellington’s dynamic coastline, harbour, and cityscape, and out to Cook Strait and the snow-capped Kaikoura ranges.
26. Rimutaka Rail Trail
A 2 hour ride (18km, including the steep Rimutaka Incline)) each way from Kaitoke to Cross Creek carpark. Turn off SH 2, 9km north of Upper Hutt, the turn off is signposted to Pakuratahi Forest. The carpark is 1km along a metal road.
27. Pukaha Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre
About 2 hours drive from Wellington city (located on S.H. 2, 30 km north of Masterton in northern Wairarapa); experience some of New Zealand’s most endangered wildlife up close and in the wild. This outstanding facility includes a visitor centre, café, education programmes, audio visual and static displays, and wheelchair access tracks through native bush. Entrance fees, except children under 5 years are free. www.mtbruce.org.nz
28. Waiohine Gorge
Turn off S.H.2 just south of Carterton into Dalefield Rd, heading toward south eastern Tararua Forest Park. The road-end car park is about 15km from S.H.2. Waiohine Gorge offers camping, picnicking, kayaking, rafting, abseiling, fishing, short walks, one of New Zealand’s tallest and longest suspension bridges, and swimming in crystal clear water … in summer.
29. Waikanae Estuary Scientific Reserve
At Waikanae Estuary, freshwater from the Tararua Ranges meets and mixes with the saltwater of the Kapiti coast, thereby creating an environment of rich plant and animal communities. More species of coastal and aquatic birds visit Waikanae Estuary than any other site on the Wellington coast.
30. Karori Wildlife Sanctuary
No charge for preschool children, plus family discount to take a self-guided tour of this special wildlife sanctuary, home to endangered animals, including little spotted kiwi, tuatara, saddleback, stitchbird, and kaka. Entrance located at the end of Waiapu Rd, Karori.
31. Wellington Botanic Gardens
Located off Glenmore St are over 25 hectares of splendid views, unique landscape, protected native forest, exotic forests, native bush, colourful floral displays and gorgeous specialist gardens.
Now that you know what our favourite 31 Things to do in Wellington with Kids are, make sure you check out more expert travel advice in our Grown ups: Family travel section.