It is easy to get around the central city on foot, as is very compact and pedestrian-friendly. In addition, New Zealand's best public transit network with buses, commuter trains, and suburban ferries is available to take you farther afield.
- Metlink (Greater Wellington Regional Council - Transport), 0800 801 700. Provides full information about routes and fares about Wellington's public transport. Metlink also provides a text bus service - Text the bus-stop number to bus (287) from any NZ mobile phone to receive the times the next bus is timetabled to arrive.
The core of Wellington is notably compact and vibrant and is well-suited to exploration by walking. As dictated by geography, the core of the city is quite linear, with the classic commercial backbone known as the Golden Mile making for a diverting and pleasant walking route. This route runs from the Railway Station down Lambton Quay to its southern end at Willis Street. It then runs down lower Willis Street to Manners Street and the pedestrianized Manners Mall, and continues straight onto Courtenay Place. On the Manners Mall section, the route crosses Wellington's bohemian heartland of Cuba Street, which heads south into the core of Te Aro. While these streets mark the traditional core of the commercial city, the surrounding blocks also have plenty to be seen.
Another enjoyable and popular place to amble in the city core is the Waterfront, from the revitalized Kumutoto area in the north, past Queen's Wharf to Frank Kitts Park, and then through the Lagoon and City-to-Sea Bridge areas and on to the Te Papa museum and Waitangi Park. From here the waterfront curves northeastward along lovely Oriental Bay with its beach and promenade.
Wellington city itself has an extensive network of buses, including a significant number of routes served by electric trolleybuses.
Excellent and free network maps and route timetables and maps are available from locations throughout town, including the main visitor center in Civic Square, the Central Library, and many convenience stores. You can also access the timetables and maps online. While these maps can be quite useful if you desire to travel into the suburbs, they aren't generally necessary if you simply want to travel across the central city. Being a rather linear city, the heart of Wellington is heavily served by the central bus corridor between the Railway Station and Courtenay Place. Nearly all lines run along this section, so you rarely have to wait more than a few minutes to catch a ride. The route is approximately as follows:
- Out of the Railway Station bus terminal onto Lambton Quay.
- Lambton Quay to Willis Street.
- Willis Street to Mercer Street, where the route zig-zags by Civic Square and onto Cuba Street.
- Cuba Street to Manners Street, continuing straight to Courtenay Place.
- From Courtenay Place straight onto Dixon Street
- From Dixon Street zig-zags to Manners Street
- Manners Street to Willis Street
- Willis Street to Lambton Quay to the Railway Station.
You can always call the friendly hotline on 0800 801700 and they will tell you what buses to take and how much it will cost. Bus fares use a zone structure. While the metropolitan area includes many zones, nearly the entire city of Wellington (extending to the water's edge in the south, east, and west, and as far north as Johnsonville) exists within three zones. In addition, the core of the network between the Railway Station and Courtenay Place serves as a special fare zone.
If you plan to use the bus extensively, you can also buy an all-day central bus pass which allows unlimited trips after 9 AM on weekdays within zones 1 through 3. Check Metlink's website for current pricing.
In addition, electronic Snapper fare cards are available from most supermarkets and convenience stores, which provide approximately 25% discount off adult fares on Go Wellington buses. These cards can be topped up electronically at various agencies for a small fee. However, you need to remember to tag not only when you board the bus but also as you leave the bus, or you will be charged for the whole route.
By cable car
The Kelburn cable car is a Wellington icon. It provides a regular service between Lambton Quay and Kelburn. The Wellington city terminal is at the end of Cable Car Lane, just off Lambton Quay, near the intersection with Grey Street. The Kelburn terminal is at the end of Upland Road by an entrance to the Botanic Gardens. The cable car operates every 10 minutes and usually between 7 am and 10 pm, 7 days a week (though times may vary during weekends and public holidays). The Cable Car also makes stops at Clifton Terrace, Talvera Terrace and Salamanca Road (Victoria University).
The Eastbourne ferry service, which provides regular services between Queens Wharf and Days Bay in Eastbourne, also stops at Somes Island most trips. There are also limited ferry services to Seatoun and Petone during both weekdays and weekends.
The train is the best form of public transport between the central city and Johnsonville, as well as the Hutt Valley, Porirua or the Kapiti Coast - although you do have to walk from Melling or Western Hutt, or catch a bus from Petone or Waterloo (Hutt Central) stations to central Lower Hutt's CBD.
At Wellington station, the destination and departure time of the next train departing from each platform is displayed on the message board at the entry to each platform. Two announcements are made a few minutes before each train is due to depart. Tickets can be bought at the Wellington station ticket office or suburban ticket agents. Since most smaller stations do not have ticket offices, you can also buy single journey tickets, and day passes, with cash, from the conductor on the train, after you board and often once the train is moving. Monthly passes do need to be purchased from a station ticket office or suburban ticket agents in advance.
The easiest way to travel between the Hutt Valley and Porirua is by train via Wellington (it is no cheaper to change at Kaiwharawhara, not all services will stop there and the timetables mean there is generally no time-saving). Trains run every half hour on the Hutt Valley and Porirua lines, and more frequently during peak hour. Services generally run every half hour on Saturdays and Sundays.
A Day Rover pass allows unlimited trips on any of the four commuter lines on the same day (from first off-peak service departing after 9 AM weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday). This can often work out cheaper than buying separate tickets if you need to make two or more journeys. A 3 Day Weekend Rover pass is available for train travel from 4:30 AM Friday to midnight Sunday. If you have a group of people, a Group Rover pass allows up to 4 people to travel together on the same conditions as a Day Rover.
As in all New Zealand cities, taxi rates vary according to the company. There is a "flagfall" charge, then a per kilometer charge once the cab starts moving. Extra fees apply for things like airport pickup, phone booking, electronic payment, etc. Major taxi companies in Wellington include (alphabetically) Combined, Corporate, Green, and Kiwi. There are many alternate taxi companies and taxis are usually in plentiful supply.
Check the door of the taxi before you get in for the current approved fare rates. Wellington taxi charges are high on international comparisons.
As noted above, driving in the core of Wellington is generally not necessary or as convenient as walking. However, it is not particularly difficult once you learn the one-way system, nor is traffic a big worry outside of normal rush-hour periods.
Street and garage/surface lot parking is not particularly difficult for a city of Wellington's density, but as with any city, you may have to search a bit for a street spot. Street parking is generally metered in the center, often with a one or two-hour time limit. Multi-story car parks tend to be similarly priced, but you can generally stay for longer periods.
In the suburbs immediately surrounding the city, coupon parking zones exist in conjunction with Resident Only parking. In the Coupon Zones, two hours of parking are free. Beyond that, you must display a coupon to allow you to park for the entire day. Enforcement of the Coupon Zones is from 8 AM to 6 PM. Resident Zones are generally reserved for Residents (displaying a current permit) at all times, and you may be served with a ticket for parking there without a permit.
On the weekend, metered car parking is free, with a two-hour time limit on both days.