FREE & CHEAP THINGS TO DO WHEN BACKPACKING WELLINGTON
FREE & CHEAP THINGS TO DO WHEN BACKPACKING WELLINGTON
If you’re backpacking Wellington you’re in luck – despite being a capital city, we found so much free and cheap things to do on our modest backpacker budget. Whether you’re the outdoorsy type, into art or a foodie there is something for everyone. This is the only guide you need for free things to do in Wellington and the top Wellington attractions without the tourist trap prices!
Wellington was our first stop on our North Island road trip and we absolutely loved it as there was so much affordable (and free) activities. If you’re wondering how much we spent touring New Zealand in a campervan our guide covers everything you need to know from how we found the cheapest rental to routes and campsites!
Probably the reason Lonely Planet voted Wellington the coolest little capital city in the world and we have to agree. One of the best free things to do in Wellington is wander up Cuba Street – the vibrant hub of all things “Welly” including funky vintage shops, quirky cafes and hipster lil’ bars. For a little treat we recommend Fidel’s – a Wellington institution with insanely good milkshakes, coffee and cake with friendly staff to match.
Whilst wandering Cuba Street you may notice a mural or two, leading us to a highlight of our time backpacking Wellington – the street art scene. It is INCREDIBLE! As you may have guessed from our time backpacking Hawaii and Bucharest one of our favourite *Free* things to do is hunt down good street art and Wellington did not disappoint. A favourite would be the David Bowie mural on the side of Jam Hair Co on Ghuznee Street. Created by artist Xoë Hall it even had sparkly eye shadow!
One of the most popular Wellington activities, although in true Loz and Daz fashion we read the directions wrong and ended up at the top of the hill and taking the cable car down rather than up. Regardless, it is a definite must do when backpacking Wellington as for only NZ$4.00 you get a fantastic view and a fun lift up (or down) the hill!
SPACE PLACE / CARTER OBSERVATORY
Nearby the cable car stop (at the top of the hill) you cannot miss the Carter Observatory. Inside is the museum known as Space Place where anyone star obsessed can learn about New Zealand’s sparkling skies. It is open until 11pm on Tuesdays, Fridays & Saturdays so this would be the best time to go for a view of the evening sky through the historic Thomas Cooke telescope. There are also interactive galleries and a digital, full-dome planetarium. Ticket prices are NZ$12.50 per adult, so although not a free thing to do in Wellington, it is affordable on a budget!
MOUNT VICTORIA LOOK OUT
If you are the outdoorsy type like we pretend to be, this is one of the best free things to do in Wellington for the most amazing view of the city. You can start the hike from Cuba Street like we did, which will take you around 40 minutes one way. Alternatively, if you are limited on time, you can actually drive to the top. If the weather is on your side, expect stunning views of Tinakori Hill, the Hutt Valley and Eastern harbour bays, Somes Island and the Miramar Peninsula.
WINDY WELLINGTON SIGN
Not exactly the Hollywood sign but a close second and a fun photo stop during your time backpacking Wellington. As the windiest city in the world due to it’s location along the Cook Strait, you can photograph the Windy Wellington sign at 10-16 Miramar Avenue.
THE WETA CAVE
One of the best free things to do in Wellington if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan is visit The Weta Cave. Although essentially a LOTR mecca, there is something for all film fanatics including props and costumes from King Kong, Spiderman and Avatar to name a few! A full studio tour of the Weta Workshop costs NZ$30.00 however if backpacking Wellington on a budget we recommend visiting the Weta Cave anyway as you can pose with some of the crazy props, watch the documentary and visit the gift shop which is basically a mini museum all for free!
PENGUINS – SHELLY BAY
Our Wellington camping ground not only offered stunning views of the city, but one of the best free things to do in Wellington was mere minutes from our campsite – penguin spotting! We were so, so excited when we saw the road signs and read reviews of other backpackers witnessing them waddle across the street but unfortunately the only penguins we saw were on the signs and none in real life. If you have time, head to Shelly Bay as even if penguins don’t pop up it’s a funky little area with the most beautiful sunset.
MUSEUM OF NEW ZEALAND TE PAPA TONGAREWA
If the weather is not on your side whilst backpacking Wellington (or even if it is) we cannot recommend the National Museum (Te Papa) enough! Not only is it one of the most popular free things to do in Wellington but on the whole North Island. Sharing artwork, artefacts and stories from New Zealand’s fascinating history and the opportunity to learn about the country’s Maori culture, wildlife, geographic activity and more! No wonder it’s one of the best Wellington activities if it’s raining as you could literally spend hours here and never get bored!
TOUR THE PARLIAMENT BUILDING
Whilst on the topic of rainy day Wellington activities, the Parliament building (also known as the bee-hive) runs free tours 7 days a week.
WELLINGTON’S WRITERS WALK
This was an unexpected find and one of the best free things to do in Wellington – the Wellington Writers Walk. In total there are 23 quotations from New Zealand’s most famous poets, authors and playwrights both past and present. The quotes are displayed as contemporary concrete blocks dotted along the waterfront, although they don’t all look the same so it can be quite challenging to spot them all!
FRANK KITTS PARK
Whilst finding the quotes along Wellington’s Writer Walk, you will likely pass Frank Kitt’s Park. Stop for an hour or two to admire the sculptures such as “The Albatross” by Tanya Ashken, “Water Whirler” sculpture by Len lye and “Sundial” by Charles Stone. If you are backpacking Wellington over a weekend, head to the Underground Market which is located under Frank Kitts Park. It takes place each Saturday 10am until 4pm and showcases local artists, street food and small businesses.
MT VICTORIA TUNNEL – BEEP HORN
Whether on your way in or way out of the city during your backpacking Wellington trip, you will be forgiven for thinking the locals are mad as they all toot their horns driving through the Mt Victoria tunnel. We too, were very confused the first time we drove through but apparently, it’s in memory of 17 year old Phillis Symons who was murdered and buried within the walls of the tunnel back in the 1920s. The toots apparently keep her ghost away and pays respect in her memory!
We hope this guide has armed you with enough info and activities to ensure your backpacking Wellington trip doesn’t break the bank! Let us know if there are any free things to do in Wellington we have missed or if you managed to do a few things from this list!
For more photos of our adventure, please take a peek at our New Zealand gallery.
Pin This Post
Please note this post may contain affiliate links, which add no extra cost to your purchase but earns us a small commission.