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New guide gives Godzone a dose of personality

Media Release

00:01 Tuesday 12th September , 2006

New Lonely Planet guide gives Godzone a dose of personality

Lonely Planet’s new edition New Zealand guidebook, released today (Tuesday 12th September), says New Zealand’s most attractive feature is not only its “outlandishly beautiful scenery”, but its people.

According to Errol Hunt, the Commissioning Editor for the new guide, “the fascinating mix of Maori, Polynesian, and Pakeha culture, as well as the nation’s quirky eccentricity and genuine community vibe, is the recipe that makes New Zealand’s personality so attractive.”

As the guide says, “In recent years, New Zealand has been punching well above its weight and demanding to be noticed. Its movies, music, wine, progressive politics and clean green image have been kicking goals around the world, and people have been paying attention in ways the country never dreamed possible.” (p.4)

While New Zealand’s natural wonders rightly receive high praise throughout the guide, the book also notes that, “… a pretty backdrop is not all NZ has going for it. Genuine friendly locals go out of their way to ensure visitors feel welcome. There is a vibrant Maori culture too, for this is a country that recognises and respects its indigenous people.” (p.4)

The guidebook features an increased focus on Maori tourism, with regional Maori ‘highlights’ sections offering information on how travellers can respect and immerse themselves in Maori culture.

“New Zealand’s strong indigenous culture – both traditional and contemporary – is something very unique about this country. With this guide we’ve tried to show travellers how to seek out and experience the multi-faceted, ‘living’ culture of Maori New Zealand, rather than see it as ancient history,” said Errol Hunt.

Eccentric New Zealand is also fully embraced in the guidebook. Bizarre, tacky, or just downright strange tourist attractions include Stratford’s Shakespeare-spouting Glockenspiel (p. 270), the big L&P bottles in Paeroa (p. 226), Owlcatraz in Shannon, Palmerston North (p. 289), Ohakune’s Big Carrot (p. 322), and Auckland’s Sky Screamer: “Should you hurl, rest assured, you can get a video of it.” (p. 116) Charmingly eccentric personalities such as Napier’s Art Deco ambassador, the unfailingly debonair Bertie, also feature (p. 369).

“When they think of New Zealand, most potential visitors think: landscape, sport and the haka. But until they go there, they often don’t realise how incredibly quirky New Zealanders are, with a wicked sense of humour. At the same time, Kiwis are also increasing their reputation for being stylish and modern,” said Hunt.

“Hip, energetic city” Wellington gets a great rap for “its thriving café and entertainment scene, and serious dedication to the arts” (p.402). Auckland’s blend of the social, the natural, the cultural, and edible – along with great local fashion designers – personify the city’s cool (p. 140). While Christchurch is described as a “thoroughly modern NZ city” behind its picturesque Englishness (p. 527).

The new edition of the guidebook doesn’t pull any punches and contains the trademark honesty and opinion Lonely Planet is renowned for. But praise is also lavished when due. For example on “bright, attractive” Nelson as “one of NZ’s most liveable cities”, Queenstown’s “atmospheric restaurants, laid-back cafes and excellent boutiques” combined with “spellbinding views” (p. 622), and Dunedin, an “increasingly cosmopolitan city” (p. 589). Other destinations don’t fare so well, such as Kaitaia, “the highlight of no-one’s trip to NZ” (p. 177), and “shabby little Bluff” (p. 679).

For the latest edition of New Zealand, Lonely Planet’s team of five expert authors spent a total of 26 weeks on the road, or about 1,820 hours of research – a third more than the previous edition. During that time, the authors personally visited thousands of hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, galleries and more. Lonely Planet authors are independent, and never take freebies in exchange for positive coverage.

The new guide also includes contributions from expert Kiwis such as author and television maker Professor James Belich on history, prolific journalist Russell Brown on culture, food writer Julie Biuso on food and drink, ex-All Black Josh Kronfeld on surfing, and dreadlocked Greens MP Nandor Tanczos on the environment. And Gandalf himself – Sir Ian McKellen – writes on the perils of sandflies.



“Behind historic shopfronts, Ponsonby Rd’s many restaurants, bars and cafés are abuzz with sociable chatter of caffeine fiends, fashion hints from the city’s swishest sales assistants and the incessant tones of mobile phones and text messaging.” (p.114)

“Christchurch is often described as the most English of NZ’s cities … But for all its self-consciously inherited charm, Christchurch is also a thoroughly modern NZ city, as exemplified by the Kiwi art that has pride of place in the city’s modern gallery, the wildlife reserves teeming with native animals, and a multitude of great cafés, restaurants and bars. (p. 527)

“It’s a great, quintessential getaway spot, with an old-fashioned holiday feel and plenty of opportunities to get back to basics. After all, some of the more remote communities in these parts are still accessed by gravel roads, and an aura of rugged individualism hangs like mist over this compact and special region.” (p. 206)

“Dunedin is becoming increasingly popular as a mellow city nurturing a strong artsy side. If you can unglue yourself from the city’s café scene, the raggedly shaped Otago Peninsula lies practically in Dunedin’s backyard and is teeming with wildlife and outdoor activities.” (p.590)

“Southland is the New Zealand many of us dream of; expect to wear holes in your boots, go through countless rolls of film and capture vistas in your memory that will stay with you for a lifetime.” (p. 656)

“With a dogged up-and-comer’s approach, Gisborne has morphed itself from redneck backwater into progressive, ebullient town with sassy restaurants, classy motels, million-dollar Wainui Beach houses and an apartment-lined harbour bobbing with expensive yachts.” (p. 375)

“Hastings is a utilitarian agricultural town with tractors on the streets and little of the chutzpah Napier manifests so readily. A random scene: a shirtless young renegade drives his ember-red utility around and around Hastings’ main block, The Doors’ Light My Fire stuck on repeat, blaring from open windows, an unlit cigarette dangling from his lip… The question is, will Hastings light your fire?” (p. 394)

“Five kilometres southeast of Hastings’ rural toil, Havelock North is a different kettle of fish (or vat of wine) altogether. Range Rovers and BMWs cruise the streets as bleached-blonde 50-something wine wives sip lattes in a prosperous village atmosphere. The towering backdrop of Te Mata Peak keeps egos in check.” (p. 397)

“Invercargill rarely scores high marks with travellers, something that the city is working hard to rectify. Boy racers in souped-up cars and girls with souped-up hair-dos hint at the fact that there’s not much to do around here. Nevertheless, … if you’re willing to explore a little, there are a few gems in the way of architecture, museums, parks and galleries that are worth calling on. The city is a little rough around the edges but it certainly won’t be swamped with other tourists.” (p. 674)

“Unless you’re a passionate fan of the kumara (sweet potato), which is the dominant vegetable of the rolling farmland, your main reason for coming here will be to marvel at the magnificent kauri forests – one of the great natural highlights of NZ.” (p. 168)

“Martinborough, with its many vineyards, is a prime ‘minibreak’ destination and the center for tourism in the Wairarapa. At weekends, Gucci replaces gumboots as gourmands dine in the excellent restaurants, sniff the pinot, and lap up the luxurious boutique accommodation.” (p. 434)

“A dignified, sunny, composed city, there’s the air of an affluent English seaside resort about the place. The focus rests squarely on Napier’s urban virtues: its much-vaunted Art Deco architecture is milked for every tourist dollar, while good-looking middle-agers who’ve had too much sun glide between cool cafés.” (p. 386)

One of NZ’s most liveable cities, Nelson is a bright, active place ... It’s noted for its fruit-growing, wineries and breweries and its energetic arts and crafts community.” (p. 461)

“At first glance, it might not look like there’s a lot going on in Oamaru. Tourists saunter, locals languish and even the traffic seems mellow. But with countless penguins, gorgeous public gardens, a historic precinct and an excellent gallery – as well as some slightly less conventional sights such as a rustic jazz bar, upmarket cheese factory and penny-farthing races – this slightly eccentric, wonderfully friendly town will keep you engaged.” (p. 614)

“Ohakune leads a double life as the North Island’s top ski destination and, strangely, NZ’s Carrot Capital. Expect the orange vegetable to creep into burgers and appear on pizzas, especially during July’s annual Carrot Festival.” (p.322)

“Otorohanga (often called ‘Oto’ by locals) is a friendly, easy-going farming community and the perfect example of the Kiwi icon that is the one-street town … decorated with murals and displays of other kiwiana, including the All-Blacks, sheep, Maori carvings, gumboots, Anchor butter and pavlova.” (p. 247)

“Palmerston North, Manawatu’s main city, is a town of two peoples: laid-back country fast-foodies and caffeinated Massey University literati, coexisting with none of Cambridge’s ‘Town versus Gown’ sabre-rattling. Easy-going and unaffected, ‘Palmy’ people walk around whistling and go barefoot on the grass.” (p. 247)

“The size of a small town but with the restlessness of a city, Queenstown has mountains of things to do. … Keep in mind that Queenstown is undeniably a big-budget resort town and draws more than a million visitors each year.” (p. 622)

“On the coast, 48km west of Hamilton, is the small, delightful community of Raglan …It’s the sort of charming place that sees you inevitably shuffle your itinerary as you make plans to extend your stay and the time spent in your jandals.” (p. 238)

“Maori culture is a major drawcard in Rotorua and, although some find it heavily commercialised, it’s a great opportunity to learn more about Aotearoa’s (Land of the Long White Cloud) original culture.” (p. 332)

“In its early days Russell was a magnet for rough elements such as fleeing convicts, whalers, prostitutes and drunk sailors. Charles Darwin described it in 1835 as full of ‘the refuse of society’ and it also picked up the chirpy nickname ‘hellhole of the Pacific’. Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and the town is now a bastion of cafés, gift shops and B&Bs.” (p. 194)

One of the most relaxed towns in NZ, Takaka is the centre for the Golden Bay area and the last town of any size as you head towards the northwestern corner of the South Island. It’s a bustling place in summer, with a local community of ‘Woodstock children’ and artistic types. (p. 483)

“… people in the ‘naki (as locals call it) are proudly independent, with healthy dairy industries and off-shore mining creating enough prosperity for their own locally funded bank.” (p. 257)

“With a real-estate boom since the 1990s, Tauranga is one of NZ’s fastest-growing cities. … with a swell in holiday-home buyers the workhorse has become a show pony.” (p. 348)

“Solitude is easy to find here. Turn off the highway and you’re alone beneath a rainforest canopy or standing on a tumultuous shore – your face reflected in a mirror lake – or your feet kicking through the rusted waste of century-old mining abandon. This is a place where people aren’t particularly important; where dreams aren’t easily realised.” (p. 489)

“With rafts of casual Huck Finn sensibility, Wanganui is a come-as-you-are, raggedy historic town … Old port buildings are being restored and the town centre rejuvenated.” (p. 277)

“If, until now, your travels in NZ have been about small towns and the great outdoors, stop in Welly to dose up on big-city treats like art-house cinemas, designer clothes stores, sophisticated wine bars and late-night cafés.” (p. 402)

“A stop at Whangamomona is compulsory, mostly because of the border guard. This quirky village became an independent republic after disagreements with local councils. (p. 271)


New Zealand is one of Lonely Planet’s highest-selling guidebooks globally. Now in its lucky 13th edition, Lonely Planet has been publishing this definitive guide to Godzone for 29 years.


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