Don't Miss in Wellington
Museum of New Zealand or Te Papa Tongarewa: 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, both Maori and colonial, and its present, including natural history. Te Papa also houses New Zealand's national art collection. Be sure to ask about the themed 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 and guided tours.
Cable Car View: For a spectacular overview of the city and harbour, ride the Wellington Cable Car from Lambton Quay (behind the downtown shops) up to the hilltop suburb of Kelburn. The cars ascend 120 metres over a 612-metre journey and 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 NZ$3.60 each way with Snapper), or spend an hour or more strolling back to sea level through Wellington Botanic Garden and the gorgeous Lady Norwood Rose Garden.
Wellington Museum: The excellent Wellington Museum is housed in a 1892 Heritage building right on Queens Wharf and is devoted to all aspects of the city's history, including maritime. Modern technology brings Maori creation legends to life, while a short film relives the 1968 Cook Strait Wahine 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, the 555-acre eco-sanctuary Zealandia is the place to go. The protected sanctuary houses 24 endemic bird species including that flightless wonder, the kiwi. With no predators, the kiwi had no need to flee but became endangered when predatory animals were introduced to the country. Open daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m in summer and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m in winter.
Foodie Walking Tour: Zest Food Tours spend three and a half hours or more 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$205 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.
Karori Cemetery: While a cemetery may seem an unusual attraction, even if it is the nation's second largest, this one is a place of pilgrimage for Antarctic enthusiasts. It is the burial site of the carpenter from Shackleton's Endurance expedition, Harry McNeish. You can ask cemetery staff for directions or wander around until you recognise the grave as, on top of it, there's a life-sized statue of Mrs Chippy, the much-loved cat belonging to the famous carpenter.