How to see Wellington in a day or two

from a Hop-on, hop-off bus


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Wellington hop-on hop-off bus tour is one of the best ways to explore New Zealand's capital

Yes, New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, is as charming as you’d expect. Nestled along a picturesque harbor on the southernmost side of the North Island, it’s full of scenic beauty and numerous breathtaking sights. But that’s not all. Wellington is also the artistic and cultural centre of New Zealand, and boasts some of the island-state's best art galleries and museums.


Proudly holding the distinction of being the world's southernmost capital city, Wellington gives you the chance to find out all about its many cultures, including the Maoris and the Polynesians, who live here. You’ll also be able to taste the exquisite food that is produced by New Zealand’s multi-cultural society, and learn about the country’s history.


Locally nicknamed "Windy Welly", due to the strong winds it often gets, Wellington is, indeed, a refreshing change from other major cities.  Here, every sight you see will be a new adventure, and will give you a better understanding of New Zealand’s unique personality. Wellingtonians have embraced all the changes that make them stand out from the crowd, and they proudly show off their differences in every single attraction you’ll see while you’re visiting here.


There is a lot to see in Wellington, which is why the best way to explore this special city is on a hop on hop off sightseeing bus. We suggest you take the entire 2-hour tour first, to familiarize yourself with the city. After that, you can choose which of the sights you’d like to explore in depth. Then all you have to do is hop off the bus at each of your chosen sights to explore, and hop on again when you’re done.


How much does it cost?

At the time of writing tickets cost $39 for an adult and $20 for a child aged 14 and under, and are valid for 24 hours from your first hop-on point (you can book online).


Departure times

There are five departures a day, from the Wellington i-SITE Visitor Centre, at 10am, 11am, 12 noon, 1pm and 2pm. 


Hop on and off at leisure at any of the 18 stops along the route, then hop on the bus an hour later, at the same stop. Or stay on board the bus for the full 2-hour tour.


Places to see and things to do along the route


1. The bus takes off from Wellington’s i-SITE VISITOR CENTRE.


2. Hop off at the stop at the Embassy Theatre, on Courtney Place. You’ll find the area great fun to explore, as it’s full of theatres, art galleries, trendy cafes, lively bars and some of the city’s best restaurants. With such a choice of entertainment on offer, the nightlife is also lively and fun. But no matter what time you visit, you must sample New Zealand’s best coffee here.


A short and beautiful video-travel-guide of Wellington, by Lonely Planet



3. For a panoramic view of Wellington, hop off at your next stop, Mount Victoria Lookout. From here you will have breathtaking 360-degree views of the city below, as well as the ferries sailing into the Cook Strait, the pretty South Coast and onwards to the Hutt Valley. From here you will have a better perspective of what Wellington is all about, and you’ll be able to familiarise yourself with the city and its surroundings.


4. Try and get to your next hop off point around lunchtime, because, at Wellington Zoo come 1.15pm, you’ll be able to see one of the city’s most famous personalities, the one-legged Kiwi bird. Aside from the Kiwi, there are 500 other animals on display, too, so take your pick and visit cheetahs, red pandas, giraffes and much more. If you like, you can visit the Nest, the Zoo’s new animal hospital, or you can book a Close Encounter with a selection of the zoo’s inhabitants.


5. Hop off at Weta Cave in Miramar, the next stop on the route, where you can learn all about the making of blockbuster movies like King Kong, The Lord of the Rings and the Adventures of Tintin. You can also explore the site’s little museum to see some of the characters, props and displays from the movies and you can purchase some movie merchandise at the shop.


6. The bus takes you along Wellington’s scenic harbour to the next hop off point, the Sheepskin Warehouse, where you can purchase an excellent range of sheepskin products, from rugs and hats to gloves, slippers and car seats.



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7. Next stop is at picturesque Oriental Bay in the heart of Wellington. This upmarket residential area is circled by a promenade and offers a safe swimming beach. Here you can catch your breath, soak up the sun on the beach, stroll along the pretty harbour or enjoy a refreshing drink at a sidewalk café.


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8. Cuba Mall is your next hop off point. Comprising Cuba Street and the Cuba Mall, this is one of Wellington’s most lively pedestrianised areas. It’s an interesting combination of historic old buildings, fashionable boutiques, noisy coffee shops, beautiful art galleries and excellent restaurants.


9. You must take time to explore the next stop at 68 Nairn Street. Here you’ll find the Colonial Cottage, a beautifully restored cottage that gives an insight into life in 19th Century Wellington. Built in 1858, this charming little wooden Cottage with its lush garden is not only the oldest building in the city, but also an excellent example of the late-Georgian architectural style.


Wellington Cable Car and City Panorama


10. The next hop off point is at Wellington’s famous landmark, the Cable Car. Built in 1902 to link Wellington’s CBD with Victoria University in Kelburn and the beautiful Botanic Garden, the cable car is still one of the city’s major sights. These days you’ll ride a modern funicular railway to the top, as the ancient cable car is no longer in use, and when you get to the top, you’re in for a pleasant surprise – aside from enjoying scenic views of the city and its pretty harbour below, you can also explore the small Cable Car Museum, where you can learn all about the cable car, and what life was like in Wellington in Victorian times. You can also visit Carter Observatory, the country’s longest serving observatory and planetarium. It’s a joy to explore, with some fascinating interactive displays plus exhibits of ancient telescopes and astronomical items.


11. Next hop off point is at Zelandia where you can find out all about Zealand’s wildlife. Here, you’ll find Sanctuary Valley, the only fully fenced urban eco-sanctuary in the world, where you will be able to see some endangered species up close, including the saddleback, Kiwi bird and the prehistoric tuatara.  Zealandia also boasts a multi-media exhibition that gives information on the country’s natural history.


12. If you’re ready for some quiet time, hop off at the next stop, at Wellington’s Botanic Garden. This vast 24-hectare garden paradise is filled with beautiful trees, plants and flowers, including over 26,000 tulips that bloom in springtime. In the Lady Norwood Rose Garden you’ll be in for another treat – a spectacle of more than 3,000 types of roses. If you are crazy about orchids, head for Begonia House, where you will see an unbelievable display of these magnificent flowers, including primula and cyclamens. Look out for the Garden’s charming waterlily pond nearby; it’s full of brightly coloured fish.


Wait! Make the most of your visit to Wellington with our range of exciting activities and day-trips! Click here to see them all...


13. Next stop along the route is at Katherine Mansfield Birthplace, the family home and birthplace of New Zealand’s most famous author, Katherine Mansfield. The site is also part of the Wellington City Heritage Trail, and it’s a charming place to explore, as it’s been magnificently restored to its former Victorian splendor.


14. A must-see along the route is at your next hop on, hop off point. It’s Old St. Paul's, one of New Zealand’s greatest heritage buildings. This old church was originally built in 1866 entirely out of wood and it’s still famous today for its magnificent interior full of exquisite stained glass and wooden carvings.  Old St Paul’s is a fine example of 19th Century wooden Gothic Revival architecture and it’s great fun to explore. While you’re here, you can also visit the multi-media exhibition called "Read this Building", where you can learn all about the church’s history.


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Wellington Hop-on, hop-off, The Beehive, New Zealand's Parliament

15. Hop off at the next stop for a free tour of the country’s Parliament and a chance to relax in the Parliament Buildings’ lush grounds. The complex was built in 1865 and is made up of three buildings, each with a different architectural style. There’s the Victorian Gothic Parliamentary Library, the Edwardian Parliament House and the modern "Beehive", or Executive Wing, which was built in the 1970s. When the House is sitting, you can also watch Parliament in action.


16. Next hop off point is at the fascinating Museum of Wellington City & Sea on Queen’s Wharf. Set in a heritage listed building, the museum’s comprehensive displays explain Wellington’s rich social and cultural history. The building may be old, but some of the displays are ultra-modern, so don’t miss out on the holographic displays that recreate important historic events in the city’s history.


To discover some Maori legends, take a Ship ‘n Chip Tour around Wellington Harbour to Matiu/Somes Island, with its unique plants and animals.


17. Te Papa is a highlight of any visit to Wellington. The bus stops here so you can hop off on the Waterfront to explore this innovative, interactive museum that is full of historic treasures and compelling stories about New Zealand. The museum’s 6 floors are filled with fascinating multimedia adventures, including the Discovery Centre, OurSpace gallery and 3D Animation. You won’t want to leave!


18. Next stop is the last stop on the route, at Wellington’s City Gallery in the centre of Civic Square.  Here you can explore a variety of enthralling art treasures created by international and local masters, including Maori and Pacific artists. Here, visitors get to experience art in unique and inspiring ways – it’s an unforgettable experience.



And here is something worth knowing about: Taking a hop on hop off bus tour is one the best ways to see any large city, as it saves you plenty of precious holiday time and takes you EXACTLY where you want to go... (Not to mention the great cityscape views you can enjoy on the way...). Our "Hop on hop off guides" cover quite a few cities across the world, including SingaporeHong KongSydneyThe Blue MountainsPerth,  CanberraAuckland and many other destinations..... (Click on the links to go directly to the city-guide of your choice, or click here to go directly to our world hop-on, hop-off guide).


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