Best Summer Day Trips from Wellington

A view of a white light house at dusk at Castlepoint in New Zealand.

Got nothing planned for the weekend? There are plenty of options for an impromptu day trip from Wellington - here are some of the best.

Words by: John Son

Photos by: Getty Images 

You can’t beat Wellington on a good day - or can you? New Zealand’s capital city is undoubtedly glorious in summer, with its glistening beaches and lush walking tracks drawing flocks of cooped-up Wellingtonians. The city is the envy of the lower North Island.

But if you’ve explored this beautiful backyard plenty of times and want to hit the road on your next day off, there are plenty of local escapes that are only a matter of hours away. Jot down the following spots for your next-day trip from Wellington.

Kapiti Island

One of the Wellington region’s most iconic islands, a trip to Kapiti Island is a must for any wildlife lover. The nature reserve is home to a diverse range of birds, including some endangered species, that are curious and keen on investigating visitors to their abode. Walking tracks take you through the dense forest, while a hike to the peak will reward you with stunning views across the coastline. As a treasured sanctuary, visits to the island are available only through approved tour operators.

A beach on a sunny day at Castlepoint in New Zealand.

Castlepoint

A leisurely drive through the Wairarapa will take you to Castlepoint on the East Coast - a fantastic place to be on a good summer day. Make the short trek up Castle Rock to admire the lighthouse and soak in the dramatic views as giant waves crash against the rock face. The sprawling beach is great for swimming or simply lounging around, and two walking tracks of varying lengths will keep you busy.

A red and white light house at dusk at Cape Palliser, New Zealand.

Cape Palliser

Just over a two hour drive from central Wellington, Cape Palliser offers an action-packed day out for those who want a bit of everything - nature, wildlife, history, and a bit of exercise thrown in for good measure. The drive there is a journey in itself, hugging the rugged coastline and treating you to splendid views. Once you’re there, work off your breakfast by climbing the 250 steps to the majestic lighthouse, and check out the fur seals from a safe distance (from November to January).

Bright green trees in front of brown rolling hills in Martinborough, New Zealand.

Martinborough

Not just a wine-lovers haven - although the panoply of world-class vineyards is certainly one of Martinborough’s drawcards. It’s worth dedicating an entire day to exploring this charming town, as there’s so much to see and do. Hop on a bike and tour a pick of the vineyards, each with its own distinct character. Stroll through the leafy town centre, do a chocolate tasting at the Martinborough Sweet Shop, and dine at one of the award-winning caés and restaurants.

Greytown

A quaint little town that effortlessly fuses the historic with the modern, Greytown offers far more than initially meets the eye. Most things to see and do are concentrated on its main street, but there’s plenty of it - from eccentric local shops selling all sorts of wares to trendy cafés and a diverse range of restaurants. Shoppers will love a day out in Greytown, and it’s virtually impossible to leave without a souvenir.

The view of the ocean from the top of a hill at Somes Island in New Zealand.

Matiu/Somes Island

Conveniently accessible from central Wellington by way of a cruisy ferry ride, a day trip to Matiu/Somes Island is a great adventure for the whole family. The walking tracks across the island will test your fitness while offering great views, and there are handy spots to stop for a lunch break along the way. For a relatively small island it’s steeped in history - look for the information signs packed with fascinating stories.

A view of the township in Picton, New Zealand, on a sunny day.

Picton

If you want to take a break from the North Island altogether, hop on an early morning ferry to Picton and spend the day on the tip of the South Island. The ferry ride there and back is in itself an adventure, but don’t sleep on Picton - there is plenty to explore in the picturesque gateway town, from walking tracks to shops and a superb toastie spot, Toastie Picton. Indulge in a drink and soak in the sunset from one of the bars with a view before making the journey back home across the strait.

Neat Wellington Places

Shoe School

Students busy around the shared table at Shoe School, Wellington.
Place Wellington
Stay and explore key icon. Fashion key icon.

A school teaching you to make your own shoes from scratch.

Enjoy Contemporary Art Space

Lucy Meyle, Soft Spot, 2020.
Place Wellington
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With a regularly rotating schedule of work on display in Enjoy's two separate exhibition spaces, you will always find something new and exciting to draw you in.

Maranui Café

People chatting at tables at Maranui cafe Wellington.
Place Wellington
Cafes key icon.

A café housed in a heritage surf lifesaving building that once had a close call with a fiery fate

RUBY Wellington

Dresses on hangers at RUBY, Wellington.
Place Wellington
Fashion key icon.

A New Zealand favourite brand is well at home in Old Bank Arcade.