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Wellington New Zealand Cruise Port Guide

Windy Wellington has made many best-of lists recently from places like Lonely Planet, who tout New Zealand’s capital as one of the world’s most livable cities. But Wellington is also a great destination for travelers passing through on a cruise for its abundant nature, informative and quirky museums, and its burgeoning film industry that makes for exciting tours of faraway, fictional lands.

Start your day in nature at the Wellington Botanical Garden or at protected animal sanctuary Zealandia, just two special attractions that highlight New Zealand’s commitment to green space and animal wellness. Learn the history of the Maori at Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum. Hike the walking trails to the top of Mount Victoria in the afternoon, where the overlook offers a seaside and cityscape view that’s hard to beat but easy to photograph. Wellington is a delightful, walkable city, and the way that locals care about their city will certainly stand out while you’re traveling on your New Zealand cruise.

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Top Sights & Attractions for Cruises to Wellington

Zealandia

Conservationists and animal lovers will rejoice when they go to Zealandia, a massive ecosanctuary dedicated to protecting endangered species that are native to New Zealand. It’s the only fenced-in eco-sanctuary in the world and the first of its kind. Take a guided tour to spot rare birds like the spotted kiwi or the tuatara. If you have time, a night tour is a must to see the nocturnal creatures there.

Wellington Museum

This former 19th century store is now a charming, small museum dedicated to the maritime history of Wellington and the history of the Maori living in the area. It’s a good way to see Wellington’s quirky personality in just one stop.

Wellington Botanical Gardens

Experience a full day in Wellington’s nature when you head to the Wellington Botanical Garden, a paradise in the middle of a compact metropolitan area. This is one of the most treasured green spaces in the area. See the Lady Norwood Rose Garden or sip tea at the garden’s café.

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Top Things to Do in Wellington

Lookout from Mt. Victoria

Mt. Victoria is one of New Zealand’s most memorable sights, and it’s a tradition for travelers to scale the nearly 650-foot mountain paths on the way to a panoramic view of Wellington’s skyline and the sea. For accessibility, look for the No. 20 bus, which takes passengers up to the lookout point and back to the foot of the mountain.

See a Show at the Embassy Theatre

Wellywood, as the locals call their version of Hollywood, is well within reach during your Wellington cruise, especially at the glamorous Embassy Theatre. This art deco style theater was built in the 1920s, and it’s still delighting movie goers today. Stay for a cocktail at the Black Sparrow bar in the back.

Tour Weta Cave

Weta Workshop is the birthplace of some pretty incredible movie magic, providing the special effects for films like Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and Thor: Ragnarok. You can learn their processes in a 45-minute tour and stroll through the grounds as you run into props and costumes along the way. It’s a must-do experience for movie buffs and Hollywood fans.

Top Food & Drink Spots Near the Wellington Cruise Port

Hippopotamus Restaurant & Cocktail Bar

Address: 90 Cable St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011, New Zealand

When you think museum bar, you don’t always imagine a trendy, high-end space for cocktails and shared plates, but Hippopotamus Restaurant & Cocktail Bar proves otherwise. Within the Museum Art Hotel, the Hippopotamus offers breakfast, lunch, high tea, and dinner with views of Wellington Harbor from the windows. French-inspired menu items, from seared salmon to le filet de bœuf, a 55-day aged beef dish, are must-tries.


Loretta

Address: 181 Cuba St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011, New Zealand

Head to Loretta’s on Cuba Street for a casual lunch featuring local flavors and delicacies you wouldn’t expect, like rabbit risotto or a wild boar ragu. They also serve breakfast items and standard oven-fired pizzas. Top off your meal with ice cream or gelato for dessert.


Logan Brown

Address: 192 Cuba St, Te Aro, Wellington 6141, New Zealand

Logan Brown is the spot where you’ll want to go for a special occasion or when you’re all dressed up. The menu is creative and cleverly executed, and you can choose from the chef’s choice menu of five courses or go a la carte, where you can enjoy shucked-to-order oysters, onion tartlets, or gin-cured salmon with charred beets.

 

Noble Rot

Address: 6 Swan Ln, Te Aro, Wellington 6011, New Zealand

This wine bar specializes in handpicked wines and the art of finding the perfect pairing. For wine lovers, this is a must in Wellington for its nearly 500 wines to choose from. The seasonally changing menu features charcuterie and cheese boards, oysters, or main dishes from wild venison to the comforting house lasagna.

Culture and History of Wellington, New Zealand

The Maori were the first residents in the Wellington area, dating back as far as the 11th century. Europeans colonized New Zealand in the early 19th century. Wellington became New Zealand’s capital in 1865, and the city was a bustling trade hub several decades before becoming the capital. Nearly half a million people live in Wellington today, and it’s grown in status and renown throughout the years. Beyond trade and international commerce, Wellington is also a center for the film industry in New Zealand. Today, Wellington consistently makes “top places to live” lists, and it continues to charm visitors despite its very windy weather.

Wellington Port Facilities & Location

Your Wellington cruise ship docks in Centre Port, sometimes at Queen’s Wharf cruise terminal or Aotea Quay. Bigger ships dock at Aotea Quay, and then travelers can take a free shuttle to Lambton Quay, or walk into downtown Wellington on foot, which is about a half hour’s walk away. The ports are typically equipped with standard amenities like Wi-Fi, an information desk, and an ATM.

Transportation in Wellington

There’s no shortage of ways to get around on your Wellington cruise. If you’re sticking to the city center, the major downtown destinations are walkable. Nothing is more than a 15 to 20-minute walk from one side of the city’s downtown to the other. The train system mostly caters to getting to the suburbs of Wellington, not for inner city navigation. Taxis are available and Uber operates in Wellington as well. There are also bike and car rentals for visitors. Bike tours are increasingly popular with tourists on a Wellington cruise.

Shopping Near the Wellington Cruise Port

Because the downtown area of Wellington only spans about a mile, shopping options in Wellington are easily walkable from one boutique to the next. From local wine stores to locally-made fashions, Wellington has a cosmopolitan shopping reputation. The best shopping in the area is called the “Golden Mile,” which includes the streets of Lambton Quay, Willis Street, Courtenay Place, and Manners Street. High-end fashions and international names rule the streets along the Golden Mile. For vintage digs, check out the independent shops and tiny cafes dotting Cuba Street.

Local Currency & Tipping Customs

In New Zealand, the official currency is the New Zealand dollar. Credit cards are generally accepted in most places. Carrying extra cash isn’t necessary, but it can be helpful to have a little cash on hand for small purchases. The practice of tipping isn’t customary in New Zealand, but you can feel free to round up to the nearest New Zealand dollar (NZ$) if you had great service. There isn’t typically a service charge on any of the bills you’ll get when docked on your Wellington, New Zealand cruise.

 

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Wellington claims to be the coolest little capital in the world. See for yourself on your cruise to Wellington. Get an overview of its geological, biological, and cultural history at Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand, just 10 minutes from CentrePort. The interactive exhibits pique your curiosity through innovative storytelling. Wander along Oriental Bay, the scenic waterfront that is highly walkable—and jog-able, skate-able, bike-able—and dotted with cafés, bars, and ice cream vendors. Hike up through a large central park to Mount Victoria for 360-degree photo opps of the city, airport, and harbor—including your Wellington cruise. At Wellington Zoo, a 10-minute drive south, you can play with meerkats, hand feed a giraffe, and stroke a cheetah. The zoo has 100 species of animals. Blocks west of the port, ride the iconic cable car up to beautiful Wellington Botanic Garden, with a cable car museum, observatory, and planetarium. Catch a shuttle out to the Zealandia ecosanctuary, a project to restore 556 acres of bush, where you can hike to the singing of native birds. On Miramar Peninsula, film fans off a Wellington cruise make their journey to Middle Earth—and beyond—to learn secrets of great film making. Weta Workshop is the design and effects facility behind big movies like Blade Runner 2049, Thor: Ragnarok, Power Rangers, Man of Steel, and several Hobbit properties. To taste your way through Wellington, start on Cuba Street, home to hipsters, artists, and lovers of all things vintage. Amid the city's creative craft beer scene, the street has colorful shops and street performers, as well as bohemian bars and cafés. For food and drink, look for Husk, café by day, beer bar by night; Olive, with big breakfasts, excellent waffles, and mimosas; Laundry, when you feel like a classic burger or tacos; Floriditas, famous for eggs and scones; and Midnight Espresso, the quirky place for coffee, snacks, and people watching.