Top 12 Day Trips From Wellington, New Zealand - Updated 2024

| 5 min read

Aside from being the political capital of New Zealand, Wellington also has many scenic attractions. It even earned the moniker “Wellywood” after a number of its picturesque spots were featured in “The Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit”. When in Wellington, be sure to take a ride on the historic cable car to enjoy panoramic views of the city center and marina. Visit sanctuaries and nature parks to see many bird species. Who knows, you might spot the elusive Kiwi bird. Climb atop Mount Victoria for a spectacular view of the sunrise or sunset. For accommodation, you will find many hotels with a pool. If you would like a homier abode, a Bookabach holiday home is your best bet. If you don’t have a full week in Wellington, consider embarking on a day trip from the city. Continue reading for the top day trips from Wellington, New Zealand.

1. Turakirae Scientific Reserve

Rimutaka Range with Turakirae Head
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ulrich Lange, Boc... used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Turakirae Head located in North Island New Zealand is a scientific reserve and seal colony. The colony which started in 1950, is home to over 500 New Zealand fur seals. During winter, a large number of juvenile male seals flock to the reserve to prepare and build up fat before they transfer to breeding colonies. It takes about 45 minutes to reach Turakirae Head and about two hours for a return journey. Camping is not allowed on the track. The reserve is also home to many bird species, sheep, cattle, and rabbits that inhabit the forested part of the area. Parking is allowed only at the main public car park. Visitors are advised to walk from the car park along the road and over to Orongorongo River Bridge.

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2. Paekakariki Escarpment Track

Paekakariki from the Hill Rd look-out - panoramio
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user DB Thats-Me used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The total distance of this track is 10 km or 6.2 miles. It takes roughly three to four hours to traverse the entire narrow walking track that has a road margin. Motorized vehicles, as well as bikes, horses, and dogs, are not allowed on the track. Be aware that despite having an easy tramping surface, it is exposed to elements — sunlight, wind, and cold weather. There are no available water stations or amenities along the track so bring your supplies such as a jacket, sunscreen, water, and walking stick. While walking, you can admire the spectacular views. Guests can start at the Pukerua Bay train station and walk towards the trail. The ascent to the summit of this trail is often called “1,000 steps to heaven” but it is actually 1,192 steps in total. The track is located 30 minutes away from Wellington City.

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3. Akatarawa Valley

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

The picturesque Atakarawa Valley, located just 30 minutes north of Wellington, is abundant with blueberries. Several farms in this area offer blueberry picking tours for customers. Blueberries are available in plenty during the peak season every February to March but ready-to-harvest by the end of April to mid-May. Pick a farm and plan a picnic and picking trip. Guests are advised to arrive early morning which is the most suitable time for blueberry picking. Some farms offer baked goods, ice cream, and sorbet made from blueberries.

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4. Otaki

Otaki River Tokiwabashi bridge
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Qurren used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Your itinerary of New Zealand is not complete until you have scheduled a visit to Otaki, which is situated in the coastal district of North Island on State Highway 1 and Palmerston North near the Main Trunk railway. It is the northernmost point of the Wellington region. This small agricultural town also leads to Tararua Forest Park. There are many outdoor activities to enjoy in Otaki — kiteflying, swimming, river rafting, kayaking, walking, and trekking. Guests can also visit the market gardens and farming communities near the town. Among the top attractions in Otaki are the Otaki River Walks.

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5. Wairarapa Moana Wetlands

Stewart Island Halfmoon Bay from Moturau Moana Native Gardens
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user AlasdairW used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The adjacent lakes of Wairarapa and Onoke, which are linked by the Ruamahanga River and surrounding wetland areas, are known as the Wairarapa Moana. Considered as the largest wetland area in the southern part of North Island that covers over 9,000 hectares or 22,239 acres, this area has a high social and cultural value, especially to the tribes of Kahungunu ki Wairarapa and Rangitane o Wairarapa. It is home to over a hundred bird species, indigenous plants, and animal communities of national and international significance. The wetlands consist of wildlife and scenic reserves, and protected areas managed by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation.

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6. Martinborough Vineyard (from USD 101.0)

What’s a tour without a trip to the local winery? Guests will find this luxury wine tour experience in Martinborough as both educational and pleasurable. Martinborough vineyards are located in the picturesque countryside where guests can enjoy the local cuisine, and culture, and spirits. A half-day is enough for guests to try a sampler of locally aged fine wines. A full-day tour includes diverse activities and a visit to the local olive oil producer. A private wine and food tour treats guests to cheese and wine pairing, wine-matched lunch, and vineyard platters while getting to know about sustainable winegrowing. Martinborough also offers group tours and exclusive private tours.

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Half Day Martinborough Winery Tour from Wellington

Duration: 5 hours 30 minutes

285 reviews

7. Auckland (from USD 126.0)

Taking the North Explorer Train is one of the best ways to travel from Wellington to Auckland. This almost six-hour train ride offers extraordinary views and sceneries. Sit back comfortably in the train coach while admiring the farmlands of Waikato, county towns, snow-covered plains, beech forests, and the pristine Kapiti Coast. You will cross Tongariro National Park and three volcanic mountains in the Central Plateau namely Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu. The train will depart at Wellington City. The stops are at Palmerston North, Ohakune, National Park, and Hamilton.

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Full-Day Wellington to Auckland Scenic Train Ride

Duration: 11 hours

435 reviews

8. The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit sites (from USD 78.81)

day trips from wellington | the lord of the rings and hobbit sites

Lord of the Rings and avid Tolkien fans definitely have “Wellington” on their bucket lists. Wellington or “Wellywood” gained popularity for being the filming location of the said blockbuster movie franchise. It comes as no surprise that New Zealand was chosen by LOTR director Peter Jackson who hails from Pukerua Bay near Wellington City center. Interestingly, Mt. Victoria, a forested hill in Wellington Central, also appears in the movie “The Fellowship of the Ring”. The Weta Cave and Workshop, where the actual costumes, props, and special effects for the trilogy were made, is now a mini-museum and specialty shop for LOTR fans and hobbyists. Other locations include several known parks — Kaitoke Regional Park, Harcourt Park, Elizabeth Park, and the Hutt River. The now-iconic Putangirua Pinnacles rock formations were featured prominently in the movie “Return of the King.” If you want to have a glimpse of Middle Earth, visit Wellington.

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Lord of the Rings Half-Day Tour from Wellington

Duration: 4 hour

38 reviews

9. Kapiti Island (from USD 54.61)

day trips from wellington | kapiti island

A day-trip at Kapiti Island or Ko te Waewae Kapiti o tara Rua ko Rangitani takes about five hours. This predator-free reserve brings you as close as possible to nature. The trip starts with an orientation with the tour host and guide at Kapiti Boat Club Paraparaumu. Afterward, visitors go on a 20-minute jet board trip to reach the island. At the island, enjoy the close-up experience with rare birds – this reserve has over 1,200 bird species. You can spot kiwis or just walk to the island’s summit to get a 360-degree view. The guides are very knowledgable and enthusiastic. The day trip comes with a delicious lunch.

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From Wellington: Kapiti Island Nature Reserve Day Trip

Duration: 5 hour

109 reviews

10. Taranaki

Mt Taranaki
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ppe42~commonswiki used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

A day tour from Wellington, New Zealand, to Taranaki promises a fun time. Taranaki is a picturesque destination defined by its iconic mountain, Mount Taranaki, which stands tall amidst lush forests and rolling farmland. Embark on thrilling hikes through Egmont National Park, where you can summit Mount Taranaki for awe-inspiring panoramic views or explore the network of scenic trails that wind through the pristine wilderness.

Visitors can also explore the rugged coastline with black sand beaches, dramatic cliffs, and hidden coves. Experience the thrill of surfing world-class waves or unwind on the golden sands as you soak in the tranquil coastal vibes.

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11. Whanganui

Whanganui River to Dublin Street Bridge
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ang Wickham used under CC BY 2.0

Whanganui is one of the best places to visit near Wellington and is a charming city nestled along the banks of the majestic Whanganui River in New Zealand. This vibrant destination perfectly blends rich cultural heritage and breathtaking natural beauty.

Immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant arts scene as you explore the numerous galleries, studios, and theaters that showcase the talents of local artists and performers. Embark on a scenic journey down the Whanganui River, either by kayak or on a traditional paddle steamer, and soak in the tranquil surroundings of lush forests, towering cliffs, and hidden waterfalls. Spend your afternoons in the tranquil gardens of Virginia Lake or explore the nearby Whanganui National Park, home to diverse flora and fauna, rugged landscapes, and the mystical Bridge to Nowhere.

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12. Cape Palliser Bay (from USD 201.0)

Cape Palliser Bay offers dramatic sceneries that you thought you’ll only see in movies. This heritage site that has a rich history of early Maori occupation is near the fishing village of Ngawihi. The bay takes pride in Cape Palliser Lighthouse as its landmark attraction. The lighthouse erected in 1897 has a total of 250 steps, so climbing up this tower is both an experience and a workout. The renowned fur seal colony is also located near the bay. Other attractions and activities that are near the bay area include walks at Putangirua Pinnacles, Martinsborough’s Pinot de Bay, birdwatching at Onoke Spit, and fishing around the Wairarapa coast.

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Full-Day Small-Group Tour in Palliser Bay with Lunch

Duration: 9 hours

10 reviews

Capture great moments and images in Wellington

One would describe Wellington, New Zealand as ‘instagrammable’ for its numerous scenic spots. When you’re traveling around during your weekend getaways from Wellington, remember to take out that camera phone and capture wonderful memories and superb images of the abovementioned locations.

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Frequently asked questions about day trips from Wellington

1. Which day trip destinations around Wellington can be reached by train?

If you would like to explore some of the nearby destinations around Wellington by train, you can consider keeping Auckland in your itinerary of sightseeing. A scenic train ride makes the journey every bit worthy of your time.

2. Where can couples go for a romantic day out near Wellington?

If you are a couple visiting the city of Wellington on a romantic getaway and would like to explore some of the places around it for quality time together, a good option is Kapiti Island.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
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Maui Hermitanio is a Manila-based content writer. She is most interested in writing about international cuisines, popular food stops, and destinations with beaches and outdoor sceneries. She has...Read more

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