Introducing guest blogger Maura from Travel Kiwis
The best family-friendly city in New Zealand must be Wellington, the “coolest little capital in the world.” The city has so many fun things to do for kids of all ages. Which makes Wellington city one of the most enjoyable places to visit with kids.
Even if you stop in Wellington for only 24 hours, you have plenty of choices like Te Papa. But if you choose a Wellington staycation, one of the things to do near the city centre is visit Zealandia.
And the great thing about visiting Wellington, is not everything has a price tag. There’s lot of free and inexpensive things to do in Wellington for families.
So, let’s get started.
This post is part of our Explore My City series – come and visit cities around the world through the eyes of locals
Explore Te Papa
Don’t be fooled thinking Te Papa is like any other museum, full of dusty old items. Because visiting TePapa comes with a warning, the kids might not want to leave,
Te Papa is the national museum of New Zealand on Wellington’s waterfront.
Here the family can explore the interactive exhibitions showcasing New Zealand’s natural environment. They can experience the rumblings of an earthquake or feel the heat of a volcano. And they can learn all about New Zealand’s history and Māori culture.
It’s opened every day from 10am-6pm (except Christmas Day) and is free to enter although some exhibitions do incur a fee.
Te Papa is perfect on a wet or windy day in Wellington. And if you are feeling a little peckish, you can try these places before exploring more.
Climb aboard Tug Boat on the Bay
Not far from Te Papa is the Tug Boat on the Bay. This large old boat once helped guide the ships into Wellington harbour and is now a unique dining restaurant. Perfect for a colder day.
But when you feel like a picnic lunch at Wellington waterfront try the Harbourside Market. Every Sunday from 7.30am, the oldest market in Wellington has fresh produce and baked bread for the picnic. Or street food from countries like Indonesia, China, Cambodia or Syria.
And if the younger ones need to burn off some energy, make a top at Frank Kitts park.
Climb the Lighthouse at Frank Kitts Park
Near Te Papa is a popular place for the youngsters, the colourful Frank Kitts Park.
Lots of smiles here with a play area with swings and slides. The surface is covered with safety rubber matting encouraging fun adventures. But it’s the Lighthouse slide that is the popular feature. Not only with views of Wellington for parents but descending through a tunnel to the bottom is fun.
However, if the kids are a little older, book an adventure at Ferg’s Kayaks?
Kayak, Climb or Skate at Ferg’s Kayaks
Ferg’s was started in 1990 by gold medal-winning Olympian kayaker Ian Ferguson. He designed a place where everyone can be adventurous. You have the choice of hiring a kayak, a paddle board, inline skates or a harness to go rock climbing.
As a family, you can do something together booking double canoes or a kayak tour.
But the highlight at Ferg’s is kayaking in around the harbour seeing a different side of Wellington. You can paddle out to the seaside fountain or into the sheltered lagoon.
And if the weather isn’t great, make a stop at the maritime museum, a must-see place of Wellington.
Visit the Attic at Wellington Museum
If Wellington does one thing well, it’s museums.
In the Old Bond Store on Wellington waterfront everyone can learn about New Zealand’s maritime history. There’s plenty of displays and even an old ships bell. But what is fascinating is the museum’s attic.
It has the feel of an old wooden ship where you can immerse yourself in the interactive films, get up close to displays or take a trip in a time travel machine.
And for more interactive things to do, stop in at Capital E.
Time out at Capital E
A great indoor and safe playground is Capital E on Queens wharf. A unique experience where kids can immerse themselves with interactive and educational technology.
They can design 3D digital models, try their skills at puzzles and experience creating music.
While the younger ones will enjoy the art activities, the older kids can create a 3D game design.
And when it’s time to step away from the waterfront, the cable car offers more unique things to do in Wellington.
Ride the Red Cable Car
Who can resist a ride in one of Wellington’s iconic features, the Wellington cable car? It has been here since 1902 transporting students to the university or workers to Lambton Quay.
At the top of the ride, is a small museum showing the mechanism that works the funicular railway. And spectacular views of Wellington harbour.
Adjacent to the museum is the Wellington Botanical Gardens. With paths through native bush, you may find the Kaka feeding on berries in the trees. There is also a playground or duck pond for the kids to enjoy.
And depending on time, you can take the FREE shuttle bus to Zealandia or see the stars at the Carter Observatory.
Get up Close to Wildlife at Zealandia
It can be said that Zealandia has helped bring many endangered bird species back to the trees around Wellington. A predator fence encloses an area of 225 hectares ensuring native species of bird’s, reptiles and fauna are protected.
For the kids, they can find species like the ancient Tuatara, or scary Wetas, even enormous Takahe. And if you come back for an evening tour of Zealandia, you will hear Kiwi and maybe even see one.
Zealandia is a unique Wellington experience.
Look up at Space Place at Carter Observatory
Anther unique experience, the Carter Observatory is only a short walk from the cable car. There has been an observatory here since 1924 where on four evenings the telescope is ready for you to see the stars.
But if you have younger kids, the digital planetarium is perfect for them. The interactive solar system will encourage them to learn more about the solar system.
But because the observatory has odd opening hours, you will want to check their website.
Visit the Weta Cave
If the kids have raved about the movies, King Kong, Lord of the Rings or even Avatar, you’ll want to add a visit to The Weta Cave Wellington.
The experience starts at the Weta Cave shop which is like a mini museum of movie props from all manner of movies. Outside the kids can have their photo with a large orc while inside they can listen to the documentary.
And depending on their enthusiasm, you have several Weta Workshop tours to choose from. These include seeing miniature effects, to visiting a movie set, to a hands-on visual effects experience.
It’s a great way to learn how a visual effects artist brings a character to life.
See Meerkats at Wellington Zoo
A bus ride away from the Wellington waterfront is the Wellington Zoo. Filled with all sorts of exotic animals and birds found in the world, and some of the rarer species of New Zealand.
Younger kids will love the farm animals. But everyone seems to enjoy the interaction with the animals roaming freely in the Aussie neighbour area. And the cute meerkats are always popular.
Wellington Zoo is a member of the World Association of Zoos and the Aquariums (WAZA). The zoo is designed to encourage everyone to learn about the welfare of the animals they visit. Make a stop at the zoo’s animal hospital where injured native New Zealand species are helped with medical care.
Walk the Beach at Rugged Red Rocks
On the southern coast of Wellington, with views across to the South Island is the Red Rock reserve. And depending on the weather, it is a good idea to bring a jacket and wear sturdy shoes.
The walk is a mixture of gravel and sand, with plenty of places to explore the shoreline of rocks. The kids can explore the marine ecosystems, learn about the loss of early European ships and maybe see a seal colony.
This dramatic coastline is perfect in all weather and it is only 15 minutes from the centre of Wellington city.
Spend a Day in Wellington with Kids
Wellington is a city where kids can have fun. There is something for all ages.
When you are staying for a short break, a lot of the fun things can be found along the Wellington waterfront. Most of them within walking distance of your hotel.
And there is plenty of things for kids to do away from the city centre, like Zealandia. They can hunt for Kiwis at night or go stargazing at Carter Observatory.
You can pay for some fun but there are plenty of free things to do in Wellington. The best freebie is exploring Te Papa.
With so many captivating fun things to do in Wellington with kids, you’ll want to stop and stay. Wellington is the “coolest little capital in the world” – for kids.
About the Bloggers
Hi we are Terry and Maura
Raising our three sons in New Zealand, we still enjoy our hometown visits to the family friendly city of Wellington.
We began our travel in 2016 through Asia and Europe to find inspiring destinations with Slow Travel. And we learnt you don’t need a large bank balance with our lifestyle option of road trips and housesitting. Because immersing yourself in a community is the best travel experience.
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