The scene: Nicknamed "Wellywood" for its starring role in The Lord of the Rings, the capital city is tucked between the harbour and the hills. The 360-degree views are beautiful, but Jacob Feenstra, director of sales and marketing at the fashionable Museum Hotel, says the city's vibe is the real attraction. "Wellington is young, positive, creative and vibrant," he says. "People from all over the country flock here for school, careers and inspiration."
Where to stay: Check into an elegant harbourfront room at the Museum Hotel, which showcases contemporary art from some of New Zealand's most avant-garde artists. (Don't miss the three-metre canvas by modernist painter Colin McCahon.) After exploring the city's galleries and museums, head back to the Museum Hotel for a glass of Riesling from Martinborough, the area's best-known wine region.
Where to shop: Barristers and baristas alike snap up stylish suits and dresses in local fashion designer Andrea Moore's shop. Check out other homegrown labels at Starfish and Voon. For fine wool, label hounds seek out Stansborough Grey; head to the showroom boutique for sinfully soft alpaca throws and scarves.
Wellington in a day: The city boasts more cafés per capita than New York, so a caffeine fix is always minutes away. Visit Fuel Espresso for a "flat white with trim" (a latte with skim milk). The high ceilings and Parisian-style wallpaper are just a backdrop to the menu: Grilled Asparagus Poached Eggs and Famous Cheese Scones. Stroll it off on Cuba Street - the city's bohemian quarter - which artsy types frequent for its second-hand bookshops and alternative vibe. Escape to the Chocolate Fish Cafe, a seaside favourite with gorgeous views and plenty of quirkiness: The eating area is across the road from the main building, so "Waiter crossing" signs dot the rocks. After brushing up on Maori art history at Te Papa, the national museum, visit facialist Margaret Hema. Actress Liv Tyler loves the intimate, boudoir-style space where Hema sells her hand-blended organic products.
Where to drink and dine: Start with dinner at the Matterhorn, a Wellington institution where every dish - like the Strawberry Shortbread with Chantilly Cream - is a sure thing. Try a cool cocktail, like the Bling Bling, a $100 version of Long Island iced tea. Then, visit Hawthorn Lounge, a swanky 1920s-themed spot where gentlemen are encouraged to pass handwritten notes to ladies. Prepare for a late night: Many of the bars stay open until 6 a.m.
Rachel Hunter has some swimsuit shopping advice: Stretch the stitching, know your style and "undo the light bulb," she says with a laugh. Last year, Hunter launched her swimwear label, Lola by Rachel Hunter, in her native land. "It's about being bold and different but keeping a feminine side," she says. "There are no fish and sea things here." Designs range from Pucci-inspired swirls to lace accents. Luxe microfibre material helps shape the skin. The line is for "women with boobs and bums - normal women," says Hunter. On her days off, Hunter heads to Karekare Beach, which is known for its wild waves, waterfalls and starring role in Jane Campion's The Piano.