Affordable Day Trips from Wellington, New Zealand
Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, sits near the North Island's southernmost point on the Cook Strait. A compact city, it encompasses a waterfront promenade, sandy beaches, a working harbor, and colorful timber houses on surrounding hills. From Lambton Quay, the iconic red Wellington Cable Car heads to the Wellington Botanic Gardens. Strong winds through the Cook Strait give it the nickname "Windy Wellington." The multilayered city streets are jam-packed with treats. For starters it's lovely to look at: gorgeous Victorian timber architecture laces the bushy hillsides above the harbor. It has hill-top lookouts and craggy shorelines to the south. Downtown, the compact center vibrates with museums, theatres, galleries, boutiques, and bars. The look here is artsy-yet-a-tad-depleted like you've been up all night creating something. These vibes are fueled by a caffeine and craft-beer scene. With so much to see, do, and taste, Wellington is a great place to experience and use as a base for seeing nearby areas, and there are several options for exciting day trips from the city to help you make the most of your time here.
Channel your inner Gandalf or Frodo as you explore the natural features of Middle-earth surrounding Wellington. Choose a 4-hour or 8-hour tour of The Lord of the Rings outdoor filming locations, traveling to each North Island site by comfortable coach with your small group. Morning or afternoon tea is provided during each tour. On the half-day tour, enjoy a convenient hotel pickup in the morning or afternoon. Set off into the countryside and listen to entertaining commentary from your guide, a knowledgeable Middle-earth enthusiast. Glimpse the outskirts of the Shire, the River Anduin and the Gardens of Isengard, and view the quarry featured as Helm's Deep in Rohan and Minas Tirith in Gondor. You'll visit the site of Rivendell, the riverbank where Aragorn washed up after the Warg attack and the spot where Gandalf rode to see Saruman. End your half-day itinerary with panoramic views from Mt Victoria lookout before hotel drop-off in Wellington. The morning of the full-day tour includes the same Middle-earth sites from the half-day option, including morning tea and lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon, your guide takes your small group to Fernside Lake, aka Lothlorien and the Gladden fields. LOTR fans will recognize the lakeside where Deagol and Smeagol fought for the ring. Your guide points out the white bridge featured as Lothlorien Bridge before continuing on to Miramar. Here, appreciate a behind-the-scenes look at the region where director Peter Jackson, along with many of the stars and crew, lived and worked during film production. Finish on a high note at Weta Cave, where you can watch an interview with Peter Jackson and a video on the making of the LOTR trilogy.
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See the real New Zealand during this 3-hour Seal Coast Safari in Wellington. Travel through New Zealand's stunning wilderness as you make the exciting trek from Wellington to Tongue Point, famous for its colony of native fur seals. To get to Tongue Point, you'll travel through private land, not accessible to the public, in high-powered off-road vehicles. Along the way you'll see animals including ostriches, deer and wild goats. Marvel at the snow-capped mountains in New Zealand's south, and take in stunning views of Wellington. Once at Tongue Point, you'll see the beautiful seals in their natural environment. You can relax, enjoy tea, coffee and a muffin, and listen to the waves crash against the rocks. You can also check out the famous leaning lighthouse and hear stories from the locals who know the region best. The return journey includes a trip around the nearby bays and the spectacular Red Rocks, all part of the tour's exclusive access to the best scenery in Wellington.
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After pickup from your Wellington hotel, relax in air-conditioned comfort as your coach rounds Wellington's scenic harbor and takes you through the Lower Hutt Valley just north of the city. Travel through the scenic farmland of Pauatahanui before making your first stop at historic Battle Hill Farm Forest Park, where fighting between Maori and British forces took place in 1847. Learn from your guide about the region's history as you take in views of snow-capped mountains. Then head to nearby Paekakariki Hill Summit and soak in panoramic views over Kapiti Island and the South Island. Driving north along a pretty coastal route to Queen Elizabeth Park, stop to see the former Camp Russell, the base for the US Marine Corps during World War II. Continue through Paraparaumu, the main town of the Kapiti Coast, to the restored colonial homestead of renowned chef Ruth Pretty. Enjoy morning tea inside the house or on the verandah, surrounded by lovely gardens. Nearby, have time to explore Nga Manu Nature Reserve where you can see New Zealand's protected kiwi bird, more than 50 different bird species, and approximately 700 different species of native plants. In the town of Otaki, marvel at the historic Rangiatea Church, built in 1851. Rangiatea incorporates both English and Maori styles, with spectacular Maori designs adorning the interior. Have a light lunch at a beach cafe then make your next stop at Southward Car Museum. Admire the collection of more than 400 rare automobiles, including Marlene Dietrich's Cadillac and Chicago gangster Mickey Cohen's armor-plated limousine. Then enjoy an afternoon snack of delicious local cheeses and coffee before returning to Wellington.
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On a scenic day trip to Cape Palliser Bay, discover a Lord of the Rings filming site located right at Wellington's doorstep. After hotel pickup, listen to fascinating facts about Wellington's history and enjoy the scenic drive into the Lower and Upper Hutt valleys. Continue on to find Middle-earth's Great River Anduin and visit Kaitoke Park, aka Rivendell. See where Frodo recuperated from his sword attack by the Ringwraiths and, if you're feeling adventurous, cross a swing bridge suspended over the rushing river below. Your guide remarks on the area's natural landmarks as you journey through the Rimutaka and Tararua ranges and the country towns of Featherston and Martinborough. You'll have time for lunch in Lake Ferry, provided at a waterfront inn. Then continue your tour through the lovely coastal scenery of Cape Palliser Bay, where you'll get up close to the largest fur seal colony in the North Island. If you wish, huff up the 250 steps to Cape Palliser Lighthouse for more spectacular views. Then relax on the return drive to Wellington, stopping for wine tasting at a Martinborough winery, including the region's prized pinot noir, before hotel drop-off.
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