While we love our home city, sometimes you want to get out and explore somewhere new for the day, if you’re feeling that then we’ve got you covered with 10 awesome ideas for day trips from Wellington.
A bunch of these day trip options are accessible by public transport so even if you don’t drive or have a car (that was us for our first few years in Wellington), we have a day trip for you.
We’ve also covered the budget spectrum so while none of these are complexly free, they range in price from around $20 per person to $100+ – or as expensive as you want to make it!
1. Matiu Somes Island
You know that island in the middle of the harbour? It’s actually really easy to get to and makes a great day trip from the city.
Called Matiu (after the daughter of a Māori chief) or Somes island (after some dead British dude), it’s a nature reserve that’s home to a whole lot of native plants and creatures.
You can take the ferry from Queens Wharf and spend the day exploring with hikes around the island and picnics.
There isn’t much else in the way of activities so it’s more of a laidback relaxing kind of day trip rather than full on but it’s a very peaceful place with lots of space for kids to run around, making it a great family day trip from Wellington.
Approximate cost: $25 per person for the return ferry plus whatever you want to spend on a picnic lunch (there are no shops on the island, so you have to BYO).
2. Seal Safari
The Seal Coast Safari is a truly unique experience on offer in wellington that makes for an awesome day trip. It’s an organised day tour, with no DIY option, so a bit different to the day trips on this list, but this does mean you get access to experiences that aren’t otherwise available to the public.
The seal safari takes you around the south coast by 4×4, crossing private farmland to get to the best spots for viewing the local fur seals.
Just make sure not to get too close, they’re not very friendly despite the cuteness!
Morning / afternoon tea is included and you’ll also get to visit a few famous lookouts for awesome city views.
Approximate cost: $150 per adult for the tour, book on Klook
3. Eastbourne / Pencarrow
There’s something about the eastern side of the harbour that feels summery so it’s one of our favourite places to head when the weather improves.
You can choose to catch the ferry from Queens Wharf or the bus from Wellington Station (number 81, 83 or 84).
You can choose to stay around the Days Bay area, where the ferry drops you off, or explore all the way down to Pencarrow Head at the southern end of the harbour.
The Days Bay pavilion is awesome when the suns out, there’s a big park opposite the beach with casual cafes and bean bags and pizzas. You can hire all sorts of rowboats, canoes and kayaks to take out on the water on a sunny day, and the rates are cheaper than the city beaches.
We love the walk out to Pencarrow Lighthouse. It’s around 10km return and you really want to wait for a calm day as it can be vicious walking into a headwind. You can get some pretty good photos with the lighthouse at the end although its looked so you can’t get inside.
There’s also a good inland hiking trail too called Butterfly Creek that follows the coastline but with a decent amount of uphill, it’s mostly sheltered so a good option on a windy day.
Approximate cost: $5-25 for transport out there plus whatever you want to spend on food and equipment hire
For a luxurious day trip from Wellington, Wharekauhau is our top pick. This stunning property isn’t the easiest to get to, it’s way out by Cape Palliser, but it’s worth the drive for the views alone and you can opt for a helicopter transfer instead.
Wharekauhau is a luxury lodge, it’s where Prince William and Catherine stayed on their last trip to New Zealand, but they offer packages for day guests too.
Their offering includes a spa package which includes a massage or facial at the onsite spa for those looking to pamper themselves or an ‘Adventurer’s Day Out’ with a two hour quad biking tour of the estate. Both packages include a Trust the Chef dining experience. Other activities like archery and target shooting are available on enquiry.
It’s not the cheapest day trip at all but it’ll be an experience you won’t forget for a while, the perfect short getaway for an anniversary or birthday.
Approximate costs: the cheapest day package is $285 plus your own petrol getting out there
5. Kapiti Island
While it might seem hard to justify two islands on this list, once you see Kapiti Island, you’ll understand why it deserves a spot. In fact, the only reason it’s not number one is because bookings can be hard to secure, what with weather causing boat cancellations and a small number of guests on island each day.
Kapiti Island is, unsurprisingly, off the Kapiti Cost and you can get there by boat from Paraparaumu Beach. There aren’t many operators offering trips to the island, and they don’t run in winter, so you’ll want to book well in advance.
Kapiti Island is a nature reserve and one of the few places in New Zealand where you can see kiwis in the wild. Although fair warning you’re much more likely to spot these shy birds if you stay overnight on the island (there’s a glamping option).
There are also plenty of hiking options on the island, including the summit Rangatira track. The day tours include guided walks with an expert to help you learn about the nature and wildlife you see plus lunch.
Approximate cost: return ferry transport is $82 per person (make your own way to Paraparaumu Beach) while the full package day tour from Wellington costs $320.
Another awesome Kapiti Coast day trip option form Wellington is Paekakariki. Specifically, we’d recommend doing the Escarpment track between Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay and then spending some time at the beach.
The hike is one of Wellington’s best walks and is 10k one way, taking 2-4 hours. With some swing bridges and lookout pints along the way to keep things interesting.
It’s easiest to take the train to Pukerua Bay and walk one way form there rather than trying to do a return hike in one day.
Paekakariki is a very pretty small beachside town with a couple of options for food. You can go for fish and chips and ice-cream on the beach (much needed after the hike!) or a nice meal at Beach Road Deli, one of our favourite cafes in the area.
Paekakariki is a good beach for swimming too, the surf is usually very flat.
Approximate cost: around $10 for train fares plus whatever you want to spend on food
7. Lower Hutt
We love the Hutt for hiking, art and food. While Petone is well known for its foodie scene, the rest of the Hutt has some great options too.
Make sure to visit the Dowse Art Museum, it’s a smaller gallery with a really strong Kiwi flavour that does a great job of showcasing Māori art. And their inhouse restaurant is very well-regarded.
Brunch or lunch at Seashore Cabaret is a must too. They do awesome coffee and bagels and its right on Petone beach. Perfect for walking off the food afterwards.
If you’re up for a fitness challenge, Te Whiti Riser is a serious uphill hike, but you’ll get views of both the Hutt Valley and harbour from the top. Once you’re finished, refuel with some ice-cream or a milkshake from Zany Zeus in Moera.
Approximate cost: just the bus or train trip out here and food costs, entry to Dowse is free
Porirua might not spring to mind for a day trip, but this town has a lot to offer, and you can easily get a taste of the highlights in a day.
We love Adrenaline Forest for something a bit adventurous, it’s a high ropes course up in the forest with a 6+ different levels of challenges.
For the outdoorsy types, try a hike around Colonial Knob, it’s a peninsula in the Porirua inlet with both a scenic track running around the shoreline or a summit track with views back towards Porirua.
For food, the Cobham Court area has lots of casual dining options, meaning your group can pick and choose whatever looks good.
Approximate cost: $47 per adult for Adrenaline Forest (book ahead with Viator) plus whatever you spend on food
9. Lord of the Rings scenes
Since its New Zealand, we have to have a Lord of the Rings option. There are so many filming locations around Wellington to visit and of course we have Weta Workshop in Wellington too.
You could choose to bundle these into a DIY day trip itinerary or book yourself onto one of the awesome Lord of the Rings day tours from the city. There are city focused half day options or full day tours that go to further afield locations.
Our top picks of filming locations within the region are the Putangirua Pinnacles (Path of the Dead), Fernside Historic Home (Lothlorien), Kaitoke Regional Park (Rivendell) and Mount Victoria (woods around Hobbiton).
If you’re looking for a family friendly day trip out of Wellington, Staglands in Upper Hutt is a great option.
This wildlife reserve has tons of animals that kids can get up close to and interact with like horses, pigs, goats and of course deer. You can buy feed to handfeed the animals or go on one of the lunchtime feeding tours or tractor rides. There’s even a café on site to make it easy.
While you’re in Upper Hutt, you could also check out the Kaitoke Regional Park which has tons of hiking trails through serene native bush. Or for the adults there’s BrewTown, a craft beer hotspot perfect for whiling away a lazy afternoon.