Wellington (Photo:Victor Maschek/Shutterstock)
Wellington (Photo:Victor Maschek/Shutterstock)
2019 Top-Rated Australia & New Zealand Destinations
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

Cruise Critic
Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Wellington

You can't beat Wellington on a good day, so the saying goes. But New Zealand's cosmopolitan capital city, located at the southern tip of the North Island, rolls out the 'fun carpet' even when the legendary wind is blowing. Located in the centre of New Zealand, all roads lead to Wellington -- as do all ferries cruising over from the South Island, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) away across Cook Strait.

Shore Excursions

About Wellington


Easy to explore on foot, New Zealand’s capital city has more than 400 restaurants


Can get very windy, which some visitors might find unpleasant

Bottom Line

There is a lot to see within close proximity via a pleasant walk along the quay

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According to Maori legend, the two main islands of New Zealand are actually the great canoe of Maui (the South Island) and the giant fish he caught (the North Island). Wellington Harbour is the mouth of that huge fish. So where did the city's name come from? From Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington and British Prime Minster from 1828 to 1830.

Though a geographic hub, Wellington is surprisingly compact -- it's nestled between the harbour and steep, forest-clad hills -- and wonderfully walkable. The revamped waterfront area leads from the cruise dock at the eastern edge of town to the must-see Te Papa museum in the west. A stroll along the quay is filled with surprises. There's a grassy playground for kids, large-scale sculptures and fun wooden walkways. Cross the street, and you'll have your choice of cafes and shops.

Foodies will love Wellington for its wide range of dining options (there are some 400 restaurants and counting). Another thing Wellingtonians are obsessed with is coffee. Kiwis, as New Zealanders are known, have their own lingo for coffee drinks -- flat white (not a cappuccino, but similar), short black (espresso) and many more.

Where You're Docked

The big ships dock at Aotea Quay, between the Interislander Ferry Terminal and the train station. The walk to the city centre takes 25 to 30 minutes. Small ships dock at Queens Wharf, right in the heart of town.

Port Facilities

Aotea Quay cruise terminal is an industrial area. It's a 10-minute walk to the train station, which has cafes, newsstands and small shops.

If you're docked at Queens Wharf, you'll be a few steps from the Museum of Wellington City and Sea, recently named as one of the world's top 50 museums, not to mention a couple of blocks from all the downtown shops and restaurants.

Getting Around

Wellington is relatively small. You can walk to all the major sights from your ship, though you may want to grab the ship's shuttle or a taxi from Aotea Quay to the centre of town and walk from there.

By Taxi: You'll find cabs at the port. Wellington Combined Taxis accept debit and credit cards. They also have set rates around the city and back to the ship. You can also call them on 04 384 4444 (within NZ).

By Bus: Walk from the dock to the north end of Lambton Quay for frequent bus service linking one end of the harbor to the other. Go to the railway station for buses traveling beyond the city centre and harbour area. Bus fares are NZ$2.50 for a one-section ride and day passes are NZ$10, but this doesn't include the cable car.

By Rental Car: For out-of-town exploration, rental cars are available from the usual outlets -- Avis, Budget and Hertz. For more information, visit the Wellington i-SITE Visitor Information Centre in Civic Square.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The New Zealand dollar is about 1.48 to the U.S. dollar, which is good news for cruisers. The easiest way to get local currency is from an ATM, found at the railway station and at major banks. Shoppers using debit cards can ask for "cash out," the Kiwi term for money back. For current exchange rates, check www.oanda.com.


Everyone speaks English. A few handy, commonly used Maori phrases are "kia ora" for "hello" and "ka kite ano" for "see you again."

Food and Drink

Hint: Tipping is not customary in New Zealand.

Casual Cafes: As long as you're visiting Te Papa, you may as well stop for a bite at Te Papa Cafe. It's open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For a quick pick-me-up, try Mojo (182 Wakefield St.) for excellent coffee and Greek pastries. Head to Wellington's ethnic dining enclave, called Cuba Quarter, and window shop (or follow your nose) until you find your favourite foods. They're all there -- Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, Mexican.

Local Food: Floriditas (161 Cuba St.) offers great dining in casual surroundings. This smart, spacious caf? and restaurant is well known for its seasonal food, delicious baking, interesting wine selection and great service. Open daily 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Gourmet: Opened in 1991 in the historic Plimmer House, the Boulcott Street Bistro is regarded as one of Wellington's finest restaurants. Lamb shanks are the signature dish but the crayfish and prawn omelette is worth trying too. The food and atmosphere are award-winning and the service is slick. Open for lunch Monday to Friday from 12:00 noon; Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. and dinner from 6:00 p.m. seven days a week.


A bottle of wine, perhaps a Pinot Noir from the nearby Wairarapa region, or a pair of gloves made from a blend of possum fur and sheep's wool. Both will warm you up back home.

Wellington Awards

Cruisers’ Choice Destination Awards

2019 Top-Rated Australia & New Zealand Destinations
2018 Top-Rated Australia & New Zealand Destinations