Wellington Motorhome Holiday Guide

Wellington Motorhome Holiday Guide


Whether driving your motorhome straight off the Cook Strait ferry, or south from Levin or Masterton, a vibrant world of culture awaits on arrival in Wellington — New Zealand’s capital city.

Wellington from Mt Victoria Lookout

Image by WellingtonNZ


In this holiday guide, we highlight how to navigate Wellington by motorhome, what you can see, do and eat in the city, and what kind of yearly events and festivals are on.






Windy Wellington


Wellington is the southernmost capital on the planet — and was once labelled the coolest little capital in the world by Lonely Planet. It offers a small-town vibe in a big yet compact city. 


The capital is affectionately nicknamed Windy Wellington, and for good reason. Its location by Cook Strait often receives powerful gusts — such that you’ll need to be cautious while driving a high-sided vehicle like your motorhome hire.



The head of Māui’s fish


Māori legend tells of the demigod Māui who hooked a huge fish and hauled it out of the ocean. His catch was Te Ika-a-Māui — Māui’s fish, also known as the North Island.


The fish’s head (Te Upoko o te Ika-a-Māui) is said to be the Wellington region, while its eyes are Wellington Harbour and Lake Wairarapa.



Inhabited by early Māori tribes, including Ngāi Tara, Rangitāne and Ngāti Mamoe, Wellington was chosen by The New Zealand Company as its first organised settlement in 1839. Settlers soon cleared forest land and built nearby townships at Petone, Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt.


Wellington Sign

Image by Phoebe Mackenzie and WellingtonNZ


Wellington replaced Auckland as the new capital in 1865, mainly due to its location near the country's geographical centre. Surrounded by hills on all sides and edged by a sparkling harbour, it quickly became a centre for business and trade — and home to New Zealand’s parliament.


These days, Wellington is renowned for its colourful laneways, diverse food and drink scene, fascinating museums, movie culture, spectacular walks and coastal motorhome drives.



Wellywood and Wētā


Wellington is New Zealand’s film hub with design and special effects studios Wētā Workshop and WētāFX based in the city.


The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings trilogies, Avatar, King Kong and The Adventures of Tintin have all been partly filmed here. Don’t be surprised if you bump into some of Hollywood’s finest wandering down Cuba Street.




Getting around Wellington


Motorhome cruising around Wellington region


The majority of the city and surrounding region can be easily explored by motorhome — even if some of Wellington’s rural roads are narrow and winding.


Alternatively, park your RV near Te Papa and the waterfront at Barnett Street Car Park because navigating the CBD on foot is easy. If you need a break from driving and plan to spend a day in the central city, this may be your best option.


State Highway 1 (SH1) takes you north along the west coast while SH2 heads straight up the middle of the island over Remutaka Hill. If you’re heading further south by motorhome, you’ll need a ticket on the Cook Strait ferry.



Essential scenery — Mount Victoria Lookout


Make your way to the top of Mount Victoria either early morning after sunrise or late in the day after the wind dies down.


You can choose to walk, run, cycle or drive to the viewpoint. Multiple trails lead there, with the Mount Victoria Lookout Walkway being the most popular.


If you decide to drive your motorhome rental to the lookout spot, begin by navigating to Newtown, then take Alexandra Road as it’s easier for larger vehicles.


Incredible 360-degree views of Wellington City, the harbour, mountains and the ocean await.




Things to see and do in Wellington


Boasting a quirky charm, a thriving arts scene and a reputation for coffee that rivals its political clout, Wellington is worth a few days' exploration.



Wander up and down Cuba Street


Cuba Street

Image by WellingtonNZ


This bohemian-style pedestrian street was once a tram thoroughfare — but is now home to cafés, restaurants, bars, galleries, vinyl stores, op shops and even an apothecary.


Historic architecture and eclectic shops clash to create a real sense of anything goes. Cuba Street is a must if you enjoy travelling to people-watch and observe what’s happening around you.


Buskers create a lively atmosphere, and if you’re travelling with kids, they’ll love the iconic colourful bucket fountain — but expect to get splashed.



Experience Zealandia



Image by Camilla Rutherford


The world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary is home to many of New Zealand’s rarest and amazing wildlife. Take a trip 800 million years back in time to see:



There are several tours on offer at the 225 hectare sanctuary — by day, night, dawn and twilight. Zealandia doesn’t have available parking for RVs, but there is an overflow car park about 500m away on Birdwood Road. Alternatively, you could try parking on nearby Chaytor Street.



Hang out on Hannah’s Laneway


Hannahs Laneway Wellington

Image by Camilla Rutherford


Wellington is home to a host of fabulous laneways — and right in the heart of the city, Hannah’s laneway is a gourmet heaven where you can:




Spend time at Te Papa


Te Papa Wellington

Image by Camilla Rutherford


Open almost every day of the year, Te Papa is New Zealand’s national museum — and the best place to explore the country’s rich history.


This landmark building in the heart of Wellington is unmissable with three boulders on the forecourt symbolising Te Papa’s commitment to New Zealand’s land and people. At the main entrance, you can spin the ball made from 1.4 billion year old rock before exploring the multitude of collections of New Zealand-centric exhibitions.


A few attractions not to miss include the Treaty of Waitangi, Mana Whenua and the incredible Gallipoli exhibit — which was created by Wētā Workshop.



Inner city motorhome parking


Drive your motorhome into the city centre and park up at one of Wellington’s accessible car parks, such as the Barnett Street Car Park on the corner of Cable and Barnett Streets.


Freedom camping is allowed here six nights a week — excluding Saturdays because the area is used for the local Harbourside Market on Sunday mornings.



Make a beeline for the Beehive


Parliament Beehive

Image by WellingtonNZ


New Zealand’s iconic parliament is open to everyone if you wish to visit. You can:


  • Drop into the public gallery while the House is sitting
  • Take a guided tour and see art from Kiwi artists in the Parliamentary Collection.


Make use of the Cuba Street Motorhome Park and enjoy the short walk to the Beehive.    



Relax at Oriental Bay Beach


Oriental Bay Beach

Image by WellingtonNZ


Set in Wellington’s inner harbour near the CBD and Mount Victoria, Oriental Bay Beach is the city’s most popular — and a hotspot for swimmers, kayakers, walkers and cyclists.


In the centre of the bay is the iconic Carter Fountain. It’s controlled by a wind sensor, so it stops if the wind blows higher than 10 knots. On a calm day, the fountain can shoot water up to 16m high.


Take a brisk morning jog or a sunset walk along Oriental Bay Promenade and take in the majesty of Wellington’s stunning coastline.



Ride the Wellington Cable Car


Wellington Cable Car

Image by Graeme Murray


Go back in time on this five minute funicular railway journey in the city centre. It connects Lambton Quay in the CBD with residential Kelburn, a hillside suburb with terraced houses high above.


One of New Zealand’s only running funicular railways, this cable car gives you easy access to:



First opened in 1868, the botanic gardens feature 25 hectares of diverse plant collections, protected native forest, colourful floral gardens and walking tracks. Best of all, entry is free.



Stock up at Moore Wilson’s


Moore Wilson’s is where you can get a wide variety of food and drink to take your motorhome holiday to the next level. You’ll find everything from fresh produce to wine and beer, meats to pastries, and even kids' toys.


Having been in business for over a century, it remains a family operation.



A hub for musicians


Wellington is home to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Royal New Zealand Ballet. The city also has plenty of clubs and bars that feature live music — plus outdoor concerts and films that are part of regional summer festival programmes.



Taste a local craft beer


New Zealand’s capital has slowly developed a reputation for producing excellent craft beer so it would be a shame not to try some. A few of the best and longest-serving breweries here are Garage Project, Parrotdog and Panhead.


Park your camper at Barnett Street Car Park or the Cuba Street Motorhome Park. Take the Craft Beer Capital Trail to taste some of the country's best beer.


If you’re in town for a few days, you might want to download the trail map and visit some of the featured bars to claim a stamp with each purchase. Collect eight stamps and you can claim a souvenir.



Be inspired by Wētā


Wētā cave experience


If you’re a movie buff or a gamer, the Wētā Cave in Miramar is an essential activity. Only a 20 minute drive from central Wellington, come here to see and buy props, merchandise and collectables — made by the same artists who created the real film paraphernalia.


You can also book a Wētā Workshop Experience to learn more about this incredible world.



Take a scenic drive


Chocolate Fish Cafe

Image by Celeste Fontein and WellingtonNZ


Wellington offers some incredibly scenic motorhome drives and expeditions. Enjoy the twisting, rugged coastal route around the headland of Miramar Peninsula. Explore old army bunkers, visit Ataturk Memorial Park and stop at the popular Chocolate Fish Cafe.


For coastal coves, colourful cafes and interesting art galleries, drive around the harbour to Eastbourne. Stop at the Wahine Memorial commemorating the 1968 disaster — New Zealand’s worst maritime tragedy. If you have a half day free, consider walking or biking to the nearby Pencarrow Lighthouse.


You might also consider making some easy day trips to popular places like:



Your visit to Wellington may include travelling across Cook Strait on the ferry. Find out how to easily book ferry tickets for you and your motorhome.



Essential activity — Eat Drink Play Festival


Tantalise your tastebuds and celebrate dishes and drinks created by local chefs and mixologists inspired by the stars Matariki and Pōhutukawa.


Located at various locations around Wellington, the annual Eat Drink Play Festival features live music, social events and special restaurant and bar deals.




Where to eat in Wellington


Eatery in Wellington

Image by Pivot Photography


Wellington is a vibrant and exciting food destination. The city boasts a diverse culinary scene for every taste and budget.





You should expect the unexpected at Rita — which means a new three-course meal every night. Rita is known for its fresh, seasonal dishes, creative cocktails and warm atmosphere. Only the best local produce is utilised. You simply need to turn up and have a great time.



Ortega Fish Shack


Ortega Fish Shack

Image by Capture Studio and WellingtonNZ


An institution in the capital, the Ortega Fish Shack is a must if you love seafood. This fantastic little restaurant serves up tasty fresh fish, oysters, mussels, prawns and even octopus.


Ortega Fish Shack offers a more casual evening compared to dining at Rita. Be prepared for a warm and inviting atmosphere amongst staff who truly enjoy their work.



Mr Go’s


Mr Gos

Image by Phoebe Mackenzie and WellingtonNZ


If you’re looking for a place to go and share dishes as a large group, look no further than Mr Go’s. Elements from various Asian cuisines make this establishment an exciting dining experience.


Mushroom dumplings, duck salad, kung pao cauliflower and custard wontons are a few highlights from the menu.



Logan Brown


For enthusiastic service and food to match, Logan Brown has been a winner on the Wellington hospitality scene for many a year. Situated inside a heritage building which once had a life as the Bank of New Zealand, this restaurant is worth the price.


With dishes like pāua ravioli and cedar roasted hāpuku (groper) you simply can’t go wrong.



Shed 5


Park your motorhome in the Barnett Street Car Park and enjoy a slow stroll around the Wellington waterfront to Shed 5 — a popular seafood restaurant.


The setting here is an old, historic building contrasted with elegant dining. Aim to visit when the lights dim and the wharf lights up.



Harbourside Market


Harbourside Market

Image by Nicola Edmonds and WellingtonNZ


Not far from Te Papa is the city’s oldest market, which serves up an array of fresh produce. You’ll also find stalls selling baked goods, Asian food, European delicacies and local Kiwi favourites.


Harbourside Market is only open on Sunday mornings until the early afternoon.





It’s said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not start your day off with one of Wellington’s best breakfast environments. Olive dishes up hearty meals in a relaxing space.


Ask for a table in the rear outdoor courtyard that’s full of plants and a peaceful ambience.



Essential eatery — Boulcott Street Bistro & Winebar


There’s no shortage of amazing food in Wellington, but Boulcott Street Bistro & Winebar is a local icon.


Set in a Victorian cottage that was originally built as a wedding gift for his bride-to-be in the late 1870s, this fine dining bistro serves traditional dishes. It always delivers excellent food, atmosphere and service. The aged beef fillet is particularly delicious.




Where to stay in Wellington


Wellington Harbour at night


The greater Wellington area has several places to park up your motorhome or campervan hire for the night.



Paekakariki Holiday Park


If you prefer to stay overnight outside of Wellington and venture into the city by day, you can’t get much better than Paekakariki Holiday Park. A scenic spot on the west coast with views of beautiful Kapiti Island, it’s located right by the beach.


Facilities include covered outdoor dining areas, laundry and trampolines.



Wellington Top 10 Holiday Park


Only 15km from the city centre in the northern suburb of Petone, offering powered sites to plug in your motorhome, is the Wellington Top 10 Holiday Park.


It’s a wonderful spot for families because:


  • Kids will savour the playground, games room, air cushion and fun bikes
  • Adults will appreciate the open barbecue area and private spa.



Kaitoke Regional Park


Kaitoke Regional Park

Image by Mark Tantrum and WellingtonNZ


An ideal overnight stopping point if you’re crossing Cook Strait early the next morning or have just arrived from the South Island late in the day. If you like to walk, bike, hike, swim, kayak or just listen to the sounds of nature, Kaitoke Regional Park may be your best option.


This regional park is 45km north of Wellington amongst tranquil pools, bush-clad hills and a treasure trove of centuries-old trees. It was also a key filming location in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.



Freedom camping locations


The Wellington CBD is quite a compact space with very little room compared to most other New Zealand cities. However, if you want to park up overnight in the heart of the city, you can — in one of the few freedom camping sites, such as:


  • Evans Bay Marina Car Park — with more than 20 parks available, it’s a top option for a base in which to explore Wellington City




Events and festivals to go to in Wellington


CubaDupa Festival in Wellington

Image by Celeste Fontein and WellingtonNZ


A vibrant hub of creativity and culture, Wellington's compact size and passionate arts community foster a year-round calendar of events and festivals — catering to diverse interests and tastes.



World of Wearable Art


The hugely popular World of Wearable Art (WOW) festival is held annually in mid-spring. A visual feast that began in 1987, WOW features spectacular wearable artwork culminating in a huge theatrical performance. 


Get your tickets early if you plan to be in town, as it’s always well-attended.



New Zealand Fringe Festival


A show at the Fringe Festival


The New Zealand Fringe Festival is an innovative, open-access festival — anyone can join.


In recent years, the festival has featured over 900 artists from more than 22 countries, performing 590 times which includes 89 world premieres. It’s often referred to as the birthplace of brilliance.


Head along in late February to early March, and you might see the world’s next biggest star.



Japan Festival Wellington


A celebration of Wellington’s sister city, Sakai in Japan, this showcase of Japanese culture includes stage entertainment, exhibitions and food stalls.


Japan Festival Wellington has been on Wellington’s calendar since 2009 and takes place biannually every odd-numbered year.



Wellington Pasifika Festival


The annual Wellington Pasifika Festival usually begins with a kapa haka from the Kahurangi School. It features a colourful medley of art, music, food and culture from Pacific communities.


The festival, which lasts for an afternoon and takes place near Waitangi Day, is an opportunity to immerse yourself in Pacifica culture.





Homegrown Festival

Image by Phoebe Mackenzie and WellingtonNZ


Interested in hearing some authentic New Zealand-made music by a staggeringly wide range of Kiwi musicians? Look no further than Wellington’s Homegrown — where obscure local bands play alongside international artists like L.A.B and Bic Runga.


Expect the annual Homegrown music festival to be scheduled in March.



Matariki Puanga


New Zealand’s newest public holiday recognises the Māori New Year of Matariki. Matariki Puanga can involve a variety of events like:


  • A waterfront walk through fire, projections and performances
  • A series of indigenous short films
  • Learning about the Matariki constellation. 



Travelling New Zealand by motorhome lets you access parts of the outdoors you wouldn’t normally get to see. Consider carrying bikes onboard and check out our North Island bike trails itinerary — which includes the awesome Rimutaka Cycle Trail near Wellington.


where to go & what to do