Wellington on a budget: the best things to do

You won’t blow your budget in Windy Welly with these travel tips.

Wellington city, buildings and harbour seen from Mount Victoria with a summer flowering Pohutakawa tree in the foreground, Wellington, New Zealand.
  • Jetstar
  • March 2022

Wellington is a happening city. It’s dynamic, fun, sophisticated and cultured. Even if you’re not flush with cash, it’s easy to have ball here in the Windy City, with plenty of free and low-cost things to do. There are museums and galleries galore and incredible landscape to explore. You can hang out on eclectic Cuba Street, fine dine at the city’s coolest food trucks, or lose yourself in the city’s movie-making scene. It’ll blow your socks off. But it won’t blow your budget.

Ride the Cable Car

Completely affordable and totally cute, a ride on the Wellington Cable Car, up through the hillside terraced houses to the panoramic peak, is an iconic Wellington experience. The cable car runs every 10 minutes from the city centre, and it’s a short but scenic trip to the top where the views are anything but cheap. If you want to save a little cash, buy a one-way ticket to the peak then enjoy an easy 40-minute walk back down through the hillsides of the Botanic Garden.

The red Wellington Cable Car on its hillside track with views of the city and harbour in the background, Wellington, New Zealand.
Cute and affordable, the iconic Wellington Cable Car.

Take in the views from Mount Victoria

Okay, you know Wellington is good looking, but if you want to see just how good looking it is, walk through pine forests and up to the top of Mount Victoria. The view from the lookout is an absolute knockout. You can drive up, but the walk is fairly manageable and way prettier with various lookouts along the way. The full loop is less than 5 kilometres. It takes roughly 90 minutes to walk up to the summit and back via Oriental Bay. Time it so you hit the peak at sundown if you want to double-down on the scenery.

View of Wellington harbour, city and mountains from Mount Victoria, Wellington, New Zealand. Image credit: Johnny Huynen/WellingtonNZ
Soak up this luxurious view. Image credit: Johnny Huynen/WellingtonNZ

Lose a day at Te Papa

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is an epic showpiece of all things New Zealand. It’s free to enter, and you will easily lose a day at this national museum with its interactive historical displays, art exhibitions, light installations, fashion collections, earthquake simulator and more. It also hosts a range of events from musical performances to workshops, talks, cultural days and parties after dark.

The modernist exterior of Te Papa Tongarewa (Museum of New Zealand), Wellington, New Zealand.
Te Papa’s modernist exterior sets the tone for this innovative museum.

Eat up at the markets

Wellington’s food and coffee scene is epic, and you can dive right into it without the fine dining price tag by chowing down at one of Wellington’s many markets. They’re an event in themselves, with a vibrant, creative atmosphere. Head to Cuba Street on Fridays and Saturdays for the sizzling street food and good times of the Wellington Night Market. On Sunday mornings, head to the Harbourside Market which is on the waterfront just near Te Papa. Besides all the local produce, it’s a global street food fiesta.

An aerial view of food stalls at Harbourside Market with Wellington Harbour in the background, Wellington, New Zealand. Image credit: Nicola Edmonds/WellingtonNZ
Al-fresco fine dining, market-style. Image credit: Nicola Edmonds/WellingtonNZ

Have a good time in the Gardens

Free to enter and gorgeous to hang out and enjoy, the Wellington Gardens are popular with locals and tourists alike. They’re in the heart of the city and stretch across 62 acres so you can find a spot for a lush picnic (with your market spoils) and relax. Go exploring (the Bolton Street Cemetery is fascinating), catch some free live music or go on a free, informative, guided walk. You’ll be amazed by what you find. In summer, the gardens are lit up in multicolours at night, with local musicians providing the soundtrack.

A sea of lavender flowers with a white gazebo in the background at Wellington Botanic Garden, New Zealand.
Spend the day exploring these gorgeous gardens.