Summer Guide to Wellington and Marlborough

A New Zealand summer is like no other — days at the beach, epic BBQ’s, and fun with family and friends. But with so many activities to get up to around New Zealand, let’s focus on Wellington and Marlborough; the two great regions that connect the North and South Island. These regions, rich in culture and history, are the perfect place to plan your summer adventures. Make a weekend trip of it and take the Interislander Cook Strait ferry between the two, experiencing everything these magical parts of New Zealand have to offer.

With something for everyone, here’s our go-to summer guide for the best things to do in Wellington and Marlborough.

Wellington WOW800x480

Best things to do in Wellington

“You can’t beat Welly on a good day.” This is a saying you may come across during your stay in the cultural capital of New Zealand or possibly one you already know about. Chances are, if you’ve been around anyone from the Capital, you’ll likely have heard them utter these words. And during summer, this saying does indeed ring true — you really can’t beat Wellington on a good day. Wellington is rich in art, culture, and music, not to mention amazing food, and is your one-stop-shop for all kinds of fun summer activities and events, as well as one of the best places to visit in New Zealand.

With so many summer activities to choose from, we’ve made it a little easier and put together a few options of the top things to do in Wellington.

 

Pond at Zealandia

For the Nature Lovers

New Zealand is a country full of nature. Even in a larger city like Wellington, there are many options for anyone wishing to explore the picturesque landscapes around the city or to get up close and personal with native animals and plants.

With this in mind, the Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne By Day Tour is the perfect summer activity — not too far from the central city. Enjoy a day out in this unique sanctuary, seeing a range of native New Zealand birds, all while getting your steps in for the day.

Opened in 1999, Zealandia is the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary. Not a bad claim to fame. The sanctuary was created to help restore some of Wellington’s forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their state before human settlement.

  • Location: Located just over the hill from the main city, in Karori, Zealandia is incredibly easy to get to. Take a bus or uber from the Interislander ferry terminal and head straight there, or if you fancy a walk through the city, catch the Cable Car up to the Botanical Gardens and find your way while taking in the sights of the city.
  • What you can expect: The tour will take approximately 2 hours, leaving plenty of time to fit in other activities during the day. Zealandia has a diverse range of native species living in and around the sanctuary. There are over forty different species of native bird in the area. If you’re lucky, you will see a number of them, or even the rarest of them, the ​​Takahē.
  • Cost: Adult tickets are approximately $55 per person, with children aged 5-17 costing approximately $27.50. Tickets for children under 5 are free.
    Best suited for: Anyone. This summer activity is great for individuals and families alike.

Looking for something at a lower price point? Check out the Botanical Gardens. There are a number of walks to take which include native fauna and flora throughout.

 

Restaurant at night

For the Foodies

If there is something Wellington is well-known for other than the wind, it’s definitely got to be its food scene. Wellington restaurants are second to none and if you plan to visit the city in summer, Cuba Street is a must.

Whether it’s the funky Cuban-theme cafe, Fidel’s or Wellington food icon, Logan Brown, Cuba Street is a mecca for foodies and a part of Wellington AND New Zealand not to be missed.

  • Location: In the central city. Cuba Street bisects Manners Mall and Courtney Place, two central locations. The street is within walking distance of most Wellington accommodation options.
  • What you can expect: A vibrant street, bustling with activity, you can expect Cuba Street to be a hub of food and fun.
  • Cost: Free + the cost of whichever lunch, brunch or dinner you opt for. They’re all good choices. In fact, spend the whole day on Cuba Street and enjoy everything the cafes and restaurants have to offer.
    Best suited for: Anyone, but particularly great for couples. A day or night out on Cuba Street is the perfect summer date.

Top Tip: Keep an eye out on dates for the iconic Cuba Dupa Festival, an event filled with art, live music and amazing food.

 

For the Art Lovers

Art is everywhere in Wellington and the city is well known for its innovation in the area of art. With many colourful murals all over, and the host city of the World of Wearable Art, Wellington always has an arty summer event taking place. Our pick for art lovers is a visit to the City Art Gallery.

The gallery leans into the Wellington trend of innovation and showcases contemporary art from New Zealand and around the world. Escape the hot sun for a moment and charge upon the amazing art on offer.

  • Location: Centrally located in the picturesque Te Ngākau Civic Square, the City Art Gallery is the perfect spot to swing by on your way to exploring the Wellington Waterfront.
  • What can you expect: At any one time, the City Art Gallery is hosting a number of exhibitions. Enjoy viewing the art in the classic Art Deco building.
  • Cost: Entry to the gallery’s exhibitions is free, though charges may apply to special exhibitions.
  • Best suited for: Anyone. This is great for a short trip or even an activity to fill the gap between lunch and dinner.

Top tip: If you’re wanting to explore more of the city take a public art tour and check out all the amazing graffiti art. This is a great free summer activity that will help you explore and see everything Wellington has to offer. Make a checklist and see how many you can tick off.

 

Homegrown music festival

For the Music Lovers

As with many cities rich in culture, the Wellington music scene is vibrant and diverse. Our top pick for a great summer activity is a night out at the orchestra. Get back in touch with the original classics and have an experience to brag about.

Wellington is home to the national orchestra - New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO). Though they tour around the country, a large number of their concerts are based in Central Wellington.

  • Location: Concerts for the NZSO usually take place at Michael Fowler Centre, right near the waterfront but they occasionally perform in other venues around Wellington.
  • What you can expect: With the best classical musicians the country has to offer, you can expect a truly epic experience. You may have heard some of the iconic music played on the radio or in a movie, but nothing beats listening to a full orchestra live.
  • Cost: Tickets for a night with the orchestra can be as low as $15 for students. There is also a great ‘Pay Your Age’ scheme, making it a relatively affordable summer night out.
  • Best suited for: Music lovers who are after a unique experience and families with older children.

Classical music not your thing? Why not catch a gig at two iconic Wellington music venues - San Fran and Meow. Both these venues have a wide variety of music and it’s always a great night out.

 

Best things to do in Marlborough

Sailing through the Marlborough Sounds on the Interislander ferry is a special experience, even more so in summer when the sun is out and the stunning landscape is on full display. As the gateway to the South Island of New Zealand, Marlborough can sometimes be overlooked as a destination in and of itself. The region is full of great summer activities and events, whether you’re travelling solo, with a partner or with the whole family.

Marlborough is a great summer destination, take the Interislander across the Cook Strait and enjoy the scenic view while you sail through The Sounds, before landing in Picton and exploring the region. We’ve put together a summer guide to the top things to do in Marlborough in summer. There really is something for everyone.

 

Hector's dolphins

For the Nature Lovers

The South Island of New Zealand is well known for its rugged and untouched beauty, and the Marlborough Sounds are no exception. Not only is there a huge diversity in plant and birdlife, but there are also a number of marine reserves in the area. These reserves aim to preserve and protect the wide range of aquatic life in the Marlborough Sounds. From rare Hector’s dolphins to the much-loved New Zealand fur seals, you’re bound to see some amazing native creatures. In fact, you can even swim amongst some of them. This is why swimming with the dolphins in the Marlborough Sounds is our top summer activity pick for nature lovers.

These tours are compliant with Department of Conservation guidelines and regulations for swimming and viewing activities.

  • Location: Hop off the Interislander in Picton and walk straight to the E-Ko Tours office on the main waterfront. It’s only one minute’s walk from the main street. Just keep an eye out for the Dusky Dolphin outside the shop. You can’t miss it.
  • What you can expect: You can be sure this will be a once in a lifetime experience. The tour will take approximately 4 hours, so it’s a good idea to block out a reasonable chunk of your day. Not only will you get to see and swim with wild dolphins, but you’ll also be surrounded by the beautiful landscape of the Marlborough Sounds. Talk about a bonus!
  • Cost: One-off experiences can, understandably, have a slightly higher price point. Swimming with the dolphins will cost around $180 for an adult and $155 for children 12-15 years of age.
  • Best suited for: People who love the outdoors and families with older children. Spend a few days in Picton, there are a range of fun activities to take part in, especially family-based summer activities.

Top tip: Make sure you pack your sunscreen for this one. The sun in Marlborough can be strong in summer, and being out of the water, it can be easy to forget to reapply.

 

Marlborough Farmers Market

For the Foodies

Who doesn’t like a farmers market? The Marlborough region has a long history in agriculture and the produce from the region is some of the best in New Zealand. From fresh vegetables to seafood, there is an abundance of choice. During your summer visit to Marlborough, a real must-see, especially for food lovers is the Marlborough Farmers Market.

Held every Sunday between 9.00am-12.00pm at the A&P Showgrounds in Blenheim, explore the market in the morning. Pick up the freshest produce available, then go on to have a picnic in the afternoon; the perfect summer activity.

  • Location: Located at the A&P Showgrounds, you’ll need to make your way from Picton to Blenheim, a 25-minute drive by car, or take the bus straight after getting off the Interislander.
  • What you can expect: Not only will there be a wide range of fresh fruit and vegetable produce, you can expect to see locally crafted foods and goods. Keep an eye out for some delicious local cheeses and build out your ultimate picnic platter.
  • Cost: Entry into the farmers market is free. The cost is just whatever you wish to purchase there.
  • Best suited for: Families and couples. Blenheim isn’t just a great agricultural producer, it's also a mecca for winegrowers, so this area of the Marlborough region is the perfect place to make a stopover if you’re a lover of wine.

Top Tip: Make sure you bring a couple of reusable shopping bags or a picnic basket. You’ll be surprised about how many things you’ll want to pick up at the market, but you’ve got to have something to carry it all in.

 

For the Art Lovers

Known for its background in arts and crafts, the Marlborough region is a great place to visit for lovers of art. It’s even better in the summer when you can have a nice outdoor lunch before wandering to a scenic outlook and trying to hand at some painting. Marlborough and the Marlborough Sounds have been an inspiration to artists for hundreds of years. Ever wanted to give it a go? Summertime in Marlborough is the perfect time to. The light is bright, native flowers and plants are in bloom, what better activity to have a go at in summer than painting your first Marlborough landscape.

Pick up some art supplies, pack a picnic full of local delights and make a whole day of it.

  • Location: Your art can be anywhere you want it to be but a great place to start is in the Marlborough Sounds. Sail through on the Interislander from Wellington and get a feel for the dramatic landscapes before researching the perfect spot to paint.
  • What you can expect: Anyone who has sailed through the Marlborough Sounds will tell you how beautiful the winding inlets are,
  • Cost: This is a completely free summer activity and a great way to get back in touch with your artistic roots, or even try your hand at something a little bit different.
  • Best suited for: Anyone! This can be done solo, with a friend or even as a family activity. To reach some of the more remote viewing spots may require a hike though so make sure you’re prepared for a bit of a walk.

Don’t forget: It’s important to protect the beautiful New Zealand environment. Make sure if you are going to paint some landscapes that you don’t leave any litter behind and leave the area as you found it.

 

Couple with bikes looking over vineyard

For the Music Lovers

An outdoor summer music gig is one of the best things to do in New Zealand. Beautiful weather, great music and possibly a wine or two. Does it get any better? The Marlborough region is a world-renowned wine region, and vineyards are the perfect places for chilled out music concerts, not to mention the stunning scenery to enjoy while you listen. Forrest Wines has it all; great food, wine and music.

They host Sunday Sessions between 1.00pm-4.00pm at their Cellar Door. Sit back with some delicious local wine and food and enjoy the summer sun with live music to keep you entertained. This is a great summer activity for those seeking an afternoon of relaxation and seeking a truly Kiwi summer experience.

  • Location: Like many Blenheim vineyards, Forrest Wines is slightly off the beaten path. Located on Blicks Road, just out of the city and near State Highway 6, the best way to get there would be by car.
  • What you can expect: A beautiful vineyard setting, Forrest Wines has great outdoor hosting facilities. You can expect a relaxed and friendly atmosphere where you can enjoy a classic day out with music and wine.
  • Cost: Entry is free for Sunday Sessions but you can participate in a wine tasting and sample the wine produced at the vineyard.
  • Best suited for: Anyone. This is a very family-friendly venue. Take the family out to enjoy the live music in the summer sun.

Feeling romantic? Make this a summer date day. Take a self-guided winery bike tour and explore the Marlborough wineries on wheels.

 

Are you ready for your summer adventure?

Visit both of these inspiring regions by booking your spot on the Interislander ferry. Start in either Marlborough or Wellington and try out some of the fun summer activities above. Add the sailing across the Cook Strait to your list — the stunning scenery you’ll experience while travelling between the North and South Island is an absolute delight and is a must-do for your summer.