Over the coming months, Experience Oz + NZ is running a series of articles answering the frequently-asked question by many potential travellers: “When is the best time to visit…?” for some of Australia and New Zealand’s most popular regions. Here, we look at Wellington, the country’s capital located on its north island.
A brief summary of this article:
- The shoulder season bridging February – March labeled the best time to visit Wellington
- Season removes unpredictability of weather in other seasons
- Lack of school holidays mean less crowding, cheaper; daylight savings mean more exploration time
- Average temperatures during this season: Max – 20°C (68°F), Min – 13.5°C (56°F)
- Essential spots to visit in the region: Hutt Valley, Adrenalin Forest, Picton (via Interislander Ferry)
- Must-do attractions & activities: Carter Observatory, ZEALANDIA Karori Sanctuary, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Mount Victoria Lookout, Wellington Botanic Gardens, Wellington Cable Car, Wellington Zoo
When it comes to New Zealand travel destinations, poor Wellington falls alongside Australia’s Canberra in the relatively-unknown-capital-city rankings, and often sits towards the back of many people’s must-visit lists. This is somewhat of a shame, as the city and its surrounding areas have plenty to offer the prospective traveller, with a bevy of nature within easy reach as with many other NZ travel spots.
Wellington may be grouped in with Canberra in terms of being a political capital, however its natural surrounds put the Aussie capital to shame; the city lies in a picturesque spot befitting its origins as a port town and offers a wonderful blend of both green and blue to go along with all the cultural highlights that it offers. Lying on the south-eastern tip of the north island, Wellington offers one of the best and most balanced standards of living of any of the world’s capitals, striking a nice blend between cosmopolitan modernity and historical charm while lacking excess crowding or pollution.
Add the city’s inherent appeal – as well as famously friendly residents – to its number of unique attractions that range from quality wildlife exhibitions, to historic and cultural highlights, to simple, beautiful nature – and you’ve got a spot that’s well worth visiting a day or three during your New Zealand trip.
But if you’re planning to travel to Wellington – as well as much of the rest of New Zealand around its north / south island surrounding locale – when, exactly, is the best time of year to visit? We polled a variety of tour operators, regional tourism authorities and other locals in the know, and the consensus was that February – March (the shoulder season bridging summer and autumn) is the best time to visit Wellington. Let’s look at the reasons why.
Why Wellington in February – March?
Visiting Wellington brings along with it many of the same considerations that will come with planning a New Zealand trip as a whole. Given the country’s relatively compact nature, variations in the likes of weather, price and other conditions are fairly universal, although there are some regional differences – particularly when it comes to altitude of terrain. As Wellington is not a region that benefits much from snow nor sells itself as a wintersports-oriented destination, there’s not much appeal in visiting during the winter months as opposed to some south island destinations such as Queenstown, Fiordland, or the southern Alps regions.
Winter in Wellington also tends to be both wet and windy in addition to the cold (the city gets its unofficial nickname, “Windy Welly”, primarily from this period), and while the summer months are warmer and may even border on hot, their climate tends towards the unpredictable. Each summer day in Wellington can bring with it a completely unexpected change in weather conditions that make it seem like an entirely different season altogether. Strong winds and fairly random gales that pick up seemingly out of nowhere make dressing in layers a must, and when added to busier visitor numbers being holiday season, summer likewise brings along with it some pitfalls.
The period towards the END of summer, as the climate transitions into Autumn, however, does a lot to remedy most of this. The tail end of February and its crossover into March helps both avoid the heat and unpredictability of summer while still maintaining decent warmth – daily maximum temperatures sit around 20°C (68°F) while minimums drop to a cooler-yet-manageable 13.5°C (56.3°F) – that strike a nice balance between making outdoor exploration during the day enjoyable and sleeping at night comfortable and cosy.
The weather itself is also generally more settled and predictable during this time, and both rainfall and cloud cover are near their lowest in Wellington in this period compared to the rest of the year. Daylight savings in Wellington is also still in effect during the February to March crossover (it annual ends in April), which results in visitors gaining extended daytime hours with which to explore and sightsee. These clearer skies and idyllic conditions are also conducive to some of the best sunsets you’re likely to see in the Wellington region, which makes enjoying an evening meal or drink along the waterfront a delightful experience.
Lastly, the lack of school holidays during the February – March bridge means that plenty of accommodation is available and that it comes at a far more reasonable price than other parts of the year.
Things to do in Wellington in February – March
As with much of the rest of New Zealand, getting good weather on your trip plays a large part in making travel to Wellington enjoyable; while the city boasts more traditional “indoor” attractions on its must-do list such as museums, galleries, architecture and other such sightseeing items, it’s still the nature that NZ is famous for that helps round things out. This is particularly true in city highlights that you’ll want to visit such as the Wellington Botanic Gardens (a Garden of National Significance and a truly impressive display of floral beauty), the vantage point from Mount Victoria Lookout (the city’s best panorama), and enjoying the waterfront area of Oriental Bay are all outdoor-oriented attractions.
This combination of both inside and outside attractions and activities that can be enjoyed during February – March make longer stays in Wellington more feasible as you’ll be presented with a better cross-section of things to see and do; outside of this period if you’re restricted to indoor attractions only, you make want to spend only a day or two in the city.
The likes of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the Carter Observatory, and Wellington‘s various wildlife attractions provide plenty of entertainment, and when you add them to a dose of nature you come away with the best time of year to visit the city in general.
In addition, if you’re looking for all the top things to see and do in and around Wellington including activities, attractions and more, be sure to check out our main region section to browse and book online!