Family Vacations to Wellington, New Zealand

Picture of Maori carving
A Maori carving on New Zealand's North Island (Image Source/Getty Images)

Wellington, New Zealand, Family Travel Tips

  • Wellington has a rich Maori history and you don't have to visit a museum to find it. The city's earliest recorded name was a Maori one, Te Upoko o te Ika a Maui, which translates as "The Head of Maui's Fish." Maori legend claims that the fish caught by Polynesian navigator Maui became New Zealand's North Island.
  • Wellington summers are pleasantly warm, with average highs in January just over 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Winters are much colder, with high temperatures around 43.
  • Wellington is a compact city that can easily be covered on foot by older children. Families with young children might want to use the city's public transit system to give tired little legs a rest. Buses, trains, and ferries operate in the city, and a trolley takes you to the suburb of Kelburn and the Wellington Botanic Garden. If you are going to use lots of buses, consider buying a Snapper card.

A Chicago of the Southern Hemisphere, Wellington deserves its reputation as a windy city. But when it is not blowing a gale, this graceful city's spectacular location offers a profusion of things for families to do and vies with Auckland for the title of cultural heart of New Zealand.

Wellington may not be the biggest city in the country (Auckland takes that honor), but it is New Zealand's capital and home to a thriving student community and cultural scene. Thanks to the global success of the Lord of the Rings films, it sports many hobbit-size attractions that will intrigue young visitors.

Wellington is a city replete with museums and galleries, which work well for older children. Te Papa Tongarewa/Museum of New Zealand is perfect for kids of all ages, and families can easily lose a day in this national museum that delves into the central pillars of New Zealand identity and culture, such as its Maori past and its geothermal foundations. The "discovery zones" keep even the youngest visitors engaged.

Wellington's setting is undeniably spectacular. It perches on the tip of New Zealand's North Island, tumbling down from rugged peaks to the wild waters of the Cook Strait on slopes that make for dramatic vistas all around, not least from the Wellington Botanic Garden. Half the fun of going there is taking an unforgettable ride on a cable car that stretches up the hillside, while the gardens themselves offer an impressive array of both indigenous and imported flora.

If fauna are more your children's thing, head to Wellington Zoo. Here they can feast their eyes on everything from lions, tigers, and chimpanzees to native animals like the national symbol, the hallowed kiwi.

In Wellington Harbour, you'll find Matiu or, in English, Somes Island. This unique ecosystem is now protected as a natural and scientific reserve and offers a retreat from the busy city with great views, too.

Wellington's weather is not all about its famous wild winds. It boasts many sunny and warm days when you can join the locals at the beach. Scorching Bay is a popular family beach that was revamped in 2008 to make it more child-friendly, a sign of a city that takes families seriously.


Published: 29 Apr 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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