The Wellington City Sights Circuit Bus (tel. 09/583-5756; www.citysights.co.nz) is a convenient and fun way to see the best of the capital’s attractions. It departs daily every hour from Wellington i-SITE starting at 9:30am, with the last departure at 4:30pm. Each loop takes an hour and you can hop on and off at any of the 12 stops: Te Papa and the Waterfront, Courtenay Place, Basin Reserve, Wellington Zoo, Willis Street, Carter Observatory and Cable Car Museum, ZEALANDIA, Botanic Gardens, Parliament Precinct and Lambton Quay. It costs NZ$30 for adults and children are free with a paying adult.
Hammond’s Scenic Tours (tel. 04/472-0869; www.wellingtonsightseeingtours.com) offers another comprehensive tour of Wellington. Their 2 1/2-hour Wellington CityTour covers the financial and commercial area, Parliament buildings, and Botanic Garden; they also head up to Mount Victoria lookout and then around the coastal bays, returning to the city via View Road. It costs NZ$55 for adults and NZ$25 for children ages 4 to 14; tours depart daily at 10am and 2pm.
Flat Earth (tel. 0800/775-805 in NZ, or 04/977-5805; www.flatearth.co.nz) offers a range of excellent specialty tours, including very interesting Maori Treasures tours priced from NZ$229 per person for a half-day, and excellent Capital Arts Tours that immerse you in the city’s art and architecture for NZ$159 per person for a half-day.
Zest Food Tours (tel. 04/801-9198; www.zestfoodtours.co.nz) is a real hit with foodies. Its Walking Gourmet (daily 9:30am-1:30pm) costs NZ$255 per person and introduces you to the capital’s lively food scene and hard-to-find places. Taste Wellington (daily 9:30am-3pm) costs NZ$399 per person and includes coffee roasting, top specialty food stores, a wine-matched lunch at an award-winning restaurant, and a visit to the home of a local food writer. Chocolate Espresso (9:30am-noon) is a behind-the-scenes look into Wellington’s chocolate hot spots for NZ$135 for adults and NZ$99 for children under 12. Custom tours can be tailored to specific interests.
Wild About Wellington (tel. 027/441-9010 in NZ; www.wildaboutwellington.co.nz) has a fabulous Boutique Beer Tasting Tour, which is hosted by local beer expert/writer Neil Miller. The private 1-hour walking day tour for one or two guests is great value at NZ$190 (NZ$225 for two guests); and a 3-hour evening tour is NZ$190 per person. Fashion lovers should ask about their equally good City of Style Tour, which takes you to meet local fashion designers for NZ$125 per person.
Seal Coast Safari (tel. 0800/732-527 in NZ, or 04/801-6040; www.sealcoast.com) offers a completely different outing that departs daily from the visitor center at 10am and 1:30pm. For NZ$99 for adults (children 14 and under half-price), you’ll spend 2 3/4 hours taking the coastal road to the seals at Red Rocks. Walk Wellington (tel. 04/385-1675; www.walkwellington.org.nz), on the other hand, gives you a fabulous value introduction to the city. The Essential Wellington tour is NZ$20 per person and departs from the visitor center daily, rain, hail, or shine, at 10am. Additional afternoon walks are offered in summer at 5:30pm Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Wellington Movie Tours (tel. 027/419-3077 in NZ; www.movietours.co.nz) will give you a comprehensive overview of the Wellington movie scene, including visits to The Lord of the Rings locations, the Weta Cave, and a look at on-site movie clips, and movie props. Tours range from NZ$40 to NZ$120 per person.
Finally, Wellington Rover Tours (tel. 0800/426-211 in NZ, or 04/471-0044; www.wellingtonrover.co.nz) is another excellent company offering a wide range of interesting area tours. Their half-day Rover Ring Tour will take you to seven of the best Lord of the Rings locations in the greater Wellington area. It departs at 8:30am and 1:30pm and costs NZ$95 for adults and NZ$50 for children 12 and under. Their full-day Adventure Wairarapa outing includes a choice of horse-trekking, mountain biking, or high ropes (an exploration of risk-taking, trust, and coaching that involves harnesses, helmets, cables, ropes, and wooden beams strung 6-15m/20-50-ft. high among trees and poles) in the morning, followed by a hearty homestead lunch; in the afternoon you visit Martinborough village and nearby vineyards. It costs NZ$240 for adults and NZ$140 for children under 12.
On the Water
Take a Somes Island excursion with the Dominion Post Ferry. Simply take the ferry and stop off on the island, picking up a return ferry a few hours later. The island recently reopened to the public after 100 years of restricted access. In recent times, it has served as a quarantine station and before that as a prisoner-of-war camp. It has been replanted and developed as a wildlife refuge and has walking tracks and great views.