Best Winter Day Trips from Wellington

Trees lined up along the edge of a lake on a sunny day.

There’s more to a Wellington winter than staying wrapped up at home with Netflix and the heat pump on. Escape the winter blues with one of these easily accessible, fun-filled day trips from Wellington.

Words by: John Son

Photos by: Anna Briggs & Getty

We get it: Winter in Wellington can be rough at times. However, the middle of the year is also a great time to explore the capital and its surrounds. With the colder temperatures giving the days a crisp, fresh vibe and a lot of places more serene than usual, you can take the chance to see the city in a whole new light. 

So, embrace the cooler weather and beat the winter blues by venturing out to these neat places around and beyond the city. 

Dry hills and green trees on a sunny day.

Martinborough

Many a Wellingtonian’s favourite local escape, Martinborough is a true delight all year round, including in the coldest months of the year. There’s no hiding the fact the town’s wineries are its main drawcard and a long lunch paired with wine might just be the thing to warm up your winter. Poppies is always a winner, with its legendary platter, while award-winning Café Medici is an incredibly popular lunch spot. Don’t forget to stop by the institution that is the Martinborough Sweet Shop.

Red rocks sitting next to a bright blue ocean on a beach.

Red Rocks

The Red Rocks Coastal Walk is one of the best day walks in the Wellington region. Hugging a decent stretch of Wellington’s rugged south coast, it’s a good two- to three-hour return trip offering great views and plenty of sea breeze along the way. While it’s suitable at any time of year, winter is one of the best times to visit as you can check out the seal colonies, making it a perfect adventure for animal lovers - just don’t get too close!

A cold looking lake on a sunny day.

Whanganui

If you’re down to truly get out of town, a mini winter road trip might be what you’re after, and Whanganui is a great pick that’s only a couple of hours away. Don’t be fooled by the city’s relatively small size - Whanganui packs an impressive array of activities and experiences, from arts and crafts to beaches, winter gardens, museums, and more. Stroll along Virginia Lake or one of Whanganui’s stunning beaches to embrace the local scenery before getting your art fix at the Serjeant Gallery or New Zealand Glassworks. Take a cruise along the famous Whanganui River, and don’t forget to check out the local icon, the Durie Hill Tunnel and Tower.

A close up of a green hill with an ocean backdrop.

Matiu / Somes Island

Need to burn off some of that winter comfort food you’ve been indulging in? Matiu / Somes Island is only a short ferry ride from central Wellington but feels like a world away and a fantastic day trip for keen walkers. The scientific and historic reserve offers a range of easy walking tracks suitable for all fitness levels, plus splendid panoramic views and the chance to spot native birds and tuatara. Pack your lunch - while the island doesn’t have any shops, you’ll find some great picnic spots along the way.

Featherston

Another classic day trip destination just outside Wellington, Featherston offers the perfect winter getaway, especially for boutique shopping aficionados. Quaint specialty shops are one of the many things that put Featherston on the map: from the many charming bookstores to C’est Cheese, a true cheese lover’s paradise. Featherston is also the gateway to some of the most impressive natural wonders in the region - try the awe-inspiring Putangirua Pinnacles Track for a moderate challenge, or enjoy the scenic drive to Cape Palliser.

A street in a small town on a cloudy day.

Kāpiti Friday Food Tour

Staying on the topic of eating out on the Kāpiti Coast, a Friday food tour of the coast is a great way to kick off your weekend in winter. This time, head to Paraparaumu to check out the town’s offerings. The Montfoort pop-up is open every Friday, so head along in the morning to get your fix of poffertjes, stroopwafel, and other Dutch delights. A rich coffee from Dark Horse is the perfect follow-up, or if you’re after another kind of brew, check out Duncan’s Brewery - all three of these establishments are conveniently located on Sheffield Street. Dinner at the classy 50-50 restaurant, which serves up contemporary New Zealand fare, is the perfect way to end the day.

 

A reflective lake on a sunny day.

Waikanae

The sleepy beach town of Waikanae is as enticing in winter as it is in the warmer months of the year. That’s largely because you’ll find a surprising array of quality comfort food here. Olde Beach Bakery draws long queues on the weekends, no matter the weather, as its pies have a reputation for being among the best in the region - definitely give the beef and brisket pie a try. Salt & Wood is also a great spot for a hearty BBQ dinner, which you can walk off with a leisurely stroll along one of the finest beaches on the lower North Island.

Plates of sweet treats on a purple backdrop.

Porirua

Keen for a winter foodie day out a bit closer to home? Porirua is a perennially underrated spot that is only a short drive or train trip away and offers plenty of things to see and do on a day out. Your first stop is neighbourhood favourite Local Authority, where you can fuel up for the day with a coffee and a selection from the irresistible toastie menu. Make the short walk over to Pātaka Art + Museum to indulge in the local arts scene before a stop at The Regal Shortbread Co. to stock up on some delectable souvenirs.

Neat Wellington Places

The Merry Go Round

Retro posters on the wall, an old Space Invaders arcade game, and a vintage wooden table laden with retro crockery for sale at The Merry Go Around.
Place Hutt Valley
Fashion key icon.

Head to The Merry Go Round to find out why one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Mr Go's

Person Holding a salad.
Place Wellington
Restaurants key icon.

A happy mix of West meets East, pink meets green, and beer meets bao, Mr Go’s is proof that an eatery needn’t stick to one concrete theme.

LUCKY

Burger and fries.
Place Wellington
Restaurants key icon.

Keeping things simple, LUCKY takes its vibes from the West Coast skate scene, where doing your own thing comes with a hint of rebellion.

Small Batch, Ripe Coffee Roasters

Waiter putting coffee and muffin down on cafe table
Place Hutt Valley Lower Hutt
Cafes key icon.

This small but mighty Petone-based coffee roaster has well and truly established itself as a trusty local for many Hutt goers.