Want a winter escape with the kids? Try Wellington

When it comes to planning a trip with the kids, it can be tricky finding the right balance between exciting and hassle-free. Add that to chilly temperatures in winter and you might be in need of some inspiration. Luckily, we’ve got the perfect recipe. And it starts with Wellington. So here’s a plan for your perfect winter weekend away.

zealandia reservoir tower feature

Get outside in Wellington

Discover Zealandia

The capital isn’t known for its balmy climate, but visit on a good day and you can’t beat it. If you’ve struck it lucky, it’s worth checking out Zealandia – the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary. You and the kids will love getting up close and personal with species native birds, reptiles, insects and even amphibians. There’s a stack of family passes to choose from. And if you and the kids are game, there’s even an after-hours tour, which gives you the chance to spot creatures of the night – it’s been said that it’s one of the best things to do in Wellington.  

Kaka at Zealandia Wellington

Kaka at Zealandia

Explore Wellington Zoo

Next up is Wellington Zoo, which is home to some of the coolest creatures around. For just $69, you and the kids can enjoy an entire day getting up close and personal with cheetahs, chimps, lemurs, pandas, giraffes and everything in between. If you’d like to up the excitement, the zoo’s close encounter tours are a great way to see, smell and even touch your favourite wildlife. And if that’s not enough, zoo sleepovers give you exclusive access to all the behind the scenes action.

Bask in the Botanic Gardens

Just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of the city is Wellington Botanic Garden. Simply strolling through the array of gorgeous, colourful flower beds is a treat for the senses – think orchids, water lilies, magnolias and native flax. After something more? You’re in luck. Once you’ve smelt the roses (literally), you and the kids could explore the glowworm caves – a fun-filled evening activity.

Botanic Gardens in Wellington

Wellington Winter Sky Show

Matariki, otherwise known as Māori new year, is all about reawakening and renewal. And while celebrations can be found right around the country, the capital is home to Wellington Sky Show – a spectacular fireworks display on the waterfront. Throw on your warmest gears, grab a bite and watch the harbour light up. Admission is free, so we can’t think of a reason not to head along.

Matariki Fireworks in Wellington

Adventure indoors in Wellington

Te Papa

Looking for free activities in Wellington? Head to Te Papa. It’s the country’s most iconic museum, so it goes without saying that this should be high on your list. Exhibitions change year-round, but you can expect anything from the extraordinary tales of Gallipoli, through to conversations around nature’s toughest challenges today. Of course, there’s also plenty for the kids to enjoy – storytelling, discovery centres and even birthday parties, just to name a few. If you’re wanting to tick this off first, Te Papa is roughly ten minutes from the Wellington Ferry Terminal.

Te Pap

Capital E

For a few hours of non-stop thrills, Capital E has some of the best indoor activities in Wellington. Fill yourself with bottomless coffee while the kids explore the indoor playground, or try your hand at one of the free art-workshops. There’re even yoga classes which are open to kids from as young as three. No matter what you’re into, the magic of Capital E will have you and the kids wanting to come back again. And again.

Weta Caves Workshop

If you’re a LOTR or Hobbit fan of any sort, Weta Workshop is the best way to see all the behind the scenes magic. And while there’s a number of different tours to choose from, the Weta Cave Workshop Tour gives you exclusive access to the incredible, Academy-Award-winning design studio. We’re talking weapons, costumes, wigs and more. Grab a family pass and get exploring.

Inside Weta Cave Workshop

Space Place

For an out of world experience, head to Space Place and discover everything there is to know about astronomy. The interactive galleries will have you exploring black holes and what it feels like to be inside a spaceship, while telescopes give you the chance to star-gaze at the Southern Skies. Or if you’d rather kick back, there’s a stack of great astrology films to check out.

Space Place with the Milky Way

Image credit Mark Gee

Where to eat in Wellington 

Joe’s Garage

Of course, you’ll need fuel for the family to tick off each activity. And Joe’s Garage has you covered for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Located in the heart of Wellington, it’s a delicious, handy and affordable place to grab a bite in between all the fun. Fill your belly with the hearty jose burrito, or perk up with one of their many coffees available (the first one’s on them). Or, if you’ve got a hankering for something sweet, devour the pikelets with a big boy shake. Delicious.

Burger Liquor

 If you fancy eating with your fingers, look no further than Burger Liquor. Open from 11:30am till late, you and the kids can get your hands on one of their delicious burgers every day of the week. Meat lovers can enjoy options like the world-famous Smokey, with streaky bacon and buttermilk onions, while those wanting to get a dose of greens can swap their bun for lettuce – and their meat for pulled jackfruit. Extras include poutine fries, creamy slaw and a great selection of drinks – there’s even alcohol for the over eighteens. Too easy.

Outside Burger Liqour Wellington

One Red Dog

One Red Dog is an all-round family favourite, with a menu that offers pasta, pizza, salads, sweet treats and great beverages. Located on the waterfront, you and the kids can enjoy a warm smoked chicken and brie pizza while gazing out over the magic of Wellington’s harbour. And if you need your dose of five plus a day, the salad selections don’t disappoint – red quinoa, rocket, feta, basil and pumpkins seeds are just a few of the ingredients to be enjoyed.

Southern Cross Garden Bar

If you’re after botanical meets bohemian, Southern Cross Garden Bar fits the bill. The food is flavoursome and varied (there’s even a menu just for the kids), while the daily events will keep you entertained. Try your hand at pool, get involved in a music quiz, or check to see whether there are any kids’ activities on. Typically, there’s face painting, colouring and puppet making.

Grill meets beer outside

Grill Meets Beer

For a classic that’s done right, Grill Meets Beer has all your needs covered. And if you’ve had a day jam-packed with activities, you and the kids will need to replenish your energy. Food to share includes Japanese Fried Chicken, Garlic Bread and Popcorn Market Fish, while the chargrill section offers Spice Rubbed Pork Ribs, Sirloin steak and more. Add a hashbrown and some gravy for extra comfort, then wash it all down with a sweet s’mores sundae.

Family on the Interislander

Exploring your backyard with the Interislander

For those venturing from the South Island, the Interislander Ferry is a fantastic way to journey from Picton to Wellington. Not only will it get you from A to B, but there’s plenty to do, see and experience on board. We’re talking spaces for the kids to play, delicious cafes, a dedicated movie lounge and incredible viewing decks – there’s even an indoor one for the chilly months. Plus, with the ability to bring a car on board, it really is a great way to reach all the places to visit in Wellington. Sound good? Just check out the Interislander timetable, make an Interislander booking and you’re all set.

We look forward to seeing you in the capital!

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