From LAX, Air New Zealand offers connecting service (change of planes) and direct flights (stopover, no change of plane). Qantas and Virgin Australia offer connecting flights. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $1,328.
To call the numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (the international dialing code) 64 (the country code for New Zealand) and the local number.
WHAT TO DO
For a quick introduction to Wellington's gourmet scene, take a Zest Food Tour (http://www.zestfoodtours.co.nz) sampling locally roasted at Mojo coffee, New Zealand cheese and olive oils at Moore Wilson's fresh grocery (where local chefs source their produce), tea with scones piled high at Martha's Pantry, many-flavored shards at Schoc Chocolates (salted milk chocolate!), and snacks and libations at other local bars and restaurants. Zest also conducts tours of the nearby Wairarapa Valley region, Wellington's equivalent of Sonoma, with boutique winery and pocket-sized vineyards, reputedly the climatic analog of Burgundy.
WHERE TO EAT
Logan Brown, 192 Cuba St., Wellington; 4-801-5114, http://www.loganbrown.co.nz Entrees from $22. Try the house specialty of paua (New Zealand abalone) ravioli with lime beurre blanc.
Martin Bosley's Upstairs at the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club, 103 Oriental Parade, http://www.martin-bosley.com
Capitol, 10 Kent Terrace, Wellington; 4-384-2855, http://www.capitolrestaurant.co.nz Seasonal food with an Italian flavor. Entrees from $13.50.
The Ambeli, 18 Majoribanks St., Wellington; 4-385-7577, http://www.theambeli.co.nzEntrees from $23.
WHERE TO DRINK
Duke Carvell's Swan Lane Emporium, 6 Swan Lane, Wellington; 4-385-2240, http://www.dukecarvell.co.nz
Matterhorn, 106 Cuba Street, Wellington; 4-384-3355, http://www.matterhorn.co.nz
TO LEARN MORE
Positively Wellington Tourism: http://www.wellingtonnz.com