Museum of New Zealand: You could easily spend all day at Te Papa, New Zealand's marvelous national museum. Six floors of interactive exhibits and displays are housed in an enormous contemporary building showcasing New Zealand's treasures. The exhibits tell the story of the nation's past (a Maori meeting house and the entertaining Golden Days junk shop) and present (the world's largest Colossal Squid) as well as New Zealand's national art collection. Be sure to ask about the daily guided tours, which showcase the best of what's on offer. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free admission except for short-term exhibits, guided tours and the earthquake house.

Cable Car View: For a spectacular overview of the city and harbour, ride the cable car from Lambton Quay (behind the downtown shops) up to the hilltop suburb of Kelburn. The cars move along a cable in the ground, not in the air. You can ride back to the city (NZ$5 one way, NZ$9 return), or spend an hour or more strolling back to sea level through the Botanic Garden and the gorgeous Lady Norwood Rose Garden. You could also catch a cab if you need one.

Nautical Museum: The excellent Museum of Wellington City and Sea, appropriately located right on Queens Wharf, is devoted to the city's maritime history. Modern technology brings Maori legends to life, while a short film relives the 1968 Cook Strait ferry tragedy. Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free admission.

Native Wildlife: If you're set on seeing New Zealand's unique native birds, Zealandia is the place to go. The protected sanctuary houses a growing number of flightless wonders, including the native kiwi (with no predators they have no need to flee), many of whom were endangered when less-friendly animals were introduced to the country. Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Foodie Walking Tour: Zest Food Tours spend three hours exploring Wellington's best culinary experiences, as well as the city's history and architecture. A guide takes you walking from shop to shop to sample gourmet products such as coffee, chocolate, cheeses and other specialties in top food venues you might never find if you're not a local. The three-hour nosh (NZ$199 per person, about US$135) begins at the Wellington i-SITE Visitor Information Centre at 9:30 a.m. and ends with lunch. Reserve in advance.

Shopping: Get a glimpse of history while you shop in the Old Bank Arcade on Lambton Quay. The building is Old-World beautiful, and the remains of an old-time ship can be seen through a section of glass flooring. Cuba Street is also a popular shopping location. Browse through top New Zealand designs, including Karen Walker and Kate Sylvester, and vintage clothing at Ziggurat and Hunters & Collectors.