Wellington - for visiting SF folk
and the (pre-2010 Worldcon)
National New Zealand SF Convention
Wellington, New Zealand, has much to commend it to visitors.
This is an introduction prior to the 31st New Zealand national convention
being held just before 2010 World Con in Australia.
Quick links to below: Places to see in Wellington, Dining out & Shopping,
Con hotel & getting to it
NZ money matters,
Other places to see in NZ, and SF Fandom.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand, and the home of Au Contraire, the 31st annual New Zealand national science fiction convention in 2010. The convention is being held from Friday 27th to Sunday 29th August 2010, one week before AussieCon 4, the 2010 WorldCon. As such anyone going to the Worldcon from outside of Australasia might add significant value to their trip by coming earlier and making a short hop across to New Zealand prior to the 2010 Worldcon. Of course if you are reading this after that event then this article still serves as an introduction to Wellington, New Zealand and its national convention fandom.
Before you get to Wellington, if you are coming by air the chances are that you will arrive in Auckland with its international airport. Here you can either get a connecting flight to Wellington with the advantage of ease and speed and so giving you more time in Wellington to get over jet lag, or you can get the train (see below). The advantage of the train is that you get 12 hours of journey to see the North Island. The disadvantage is that it is a 12-hour train journey on top of an international flight and purchasing a return rail ticket as opposed to a return air ticket might be preferable bearing in mind that the 2010 Australian Worldcon is just a few days after the 2010 New Zealand national convention. This last is another big problem in that at this time it will be the off-peak season and the train only runs three days a week (Fri, Sat and Sun). Of course if you are wealthy, and quick to get over jet lag, then the best option would be to get a single train ticket rail ticket from Auckland to Wellington on arrival a week in advance of the convention and then a single air ticket the Tuesday or Wednesday after the convention from Wellington to Auckland and then on to Australia for the Worldcon.
Places to see in Wellington
Wellington is a hilly city but the central business district is flat. You can walk from Lambton Quay to Courtney Place in 30 minutes, with Cuba Street and the convention hotel being a halfway point. Generally speaking Lambton Quay is where the businesses and shops are, while Courtney Place is where the entertainment and restaurants are located.
Wellington City is the southernmost national capital in the World and has a population of around 180,000, with a mix of European, Maori, Polynesian, Asian and other residents. There are several reliable websites dedicated to Wellington, reflecting its capital city status. Greater Wellington has a population of around 360,000. New Zealand has three official languages - English, Maori, and NZ Sign Language. (New Zealand itself has a population of some 4.2 million.) Its time zone is 12 hours in advance of GMT.
Te Papa is New Zealand's premiere modern museum and art gallery. It offers a wide variety of displays ranging from art to science to archaeology. Displays rotate every few months. To have a good look at everything will take up to one day. Highly recommended. www.tepapa.govt.nz
Carter Observatory is currently closed for refurbishment but please expect it to open again soon. (Editor: it is now open again!) To see the stars you obviously need to visit in the evenings on a clear night, but it is worth it and especially if this is your first trip to the southern hemisphere and seeing the southern sky. www.carterobservatory.org.
Weta Workshop and Digital, the people who did many special effects for The Lord of the Rings' films, do NOT offer public tours for business confidentiality reasons. The nearest the public can get is the Weta Cave which is like a museum and shop. It is worth visiting especially if you want to buy something. www.wetanz.com.
The Karori (wildlife) Sanctuary located in the suburb of Karori in Wellington is really worth it, if you want to see native wildlife, birds in particular. It is probably the easiest way a visitor can have a good chance to see native wildlife in a natural setting. New Zealand does have some quite unique species of native wild life due to its physical isolation. Give yourself at least half a day, wear sensible walking shoes and bring a raincoat.
Currently the Number 03 Karori bus from Lambton Quay stops within 5 minutes walk of the Karori Sanctuary. You get off after the Karori Tunnel. A NZ$7.00 day-tripper fare will purchase you a return trip back to the city. Please ask your bus driver for further assistance. www.sanctuary.org.nz.
Dining Out and Shopping in Wellington - Cuba Street (near the convention hotel)
Wellington has many cafes and restaurants relative to the size of the city, most of them good or very good. It is simply a matter of what you are after and what price bracket you are comfortable with. Most New Zealand food that you find in the restaurants is European-styled, the difference is that the ingredients are locally grown and produced. So when you order your steak and chips, the steak will be New Zealand beef and it is likely to be a pretty decent size portion of meat too. Many restaurants in New Zealand display their menus and prices at the door. Tipping is strictly optional in New Zealand.
In terms of dress standards, most restaurants in Wellington expect clean and tidy, smart causal; the kind of clothes you wear to the office on Casual Fridays. Very few restaurants in New Zealand have a formal dress standard, though some may refuse access to people in jeans. Serious dressing up to dine out is fairly optional in New Zealand.
If you have any food allergies or sensitivities, please ask the waiter or waitress, or read the labels of packages for ingredients. New Zealand restaurants are very accommodating. Most restaurants offer at least one to two vegetarian options and there are a few halal restaurants in Wellington.
The restaurants right next to the Quality Hotel (the convention hotel) on either side are the Roxy for European food and the Kayu Manis which is a Malaysian restaurant. Both are very good medium-price restaurants. If you like Malaysian food, the Kayu Manis comes highly recommended, and they do a good range of authentic desserts as well. Rasa's Malaysian Restaurant is opposite the hotel and has been in business for a very long time. This is a very popular budget priced restaurant. It is not licensed so if you want an alcoholic drink you need to bring your own wine.
A little bit further away from the hotel, but still visible from the hotel entrance, is Fidel's. They do breakfasts and counter food, as well an offering a lunch and dinner menu. You can expect good Havana coffee here. Their iced chocolates and savoury muffins are also recommended. It has a cool kitsch interior as well as outdoor seating so is a great place to hang out and relax.
München Burgers is a budget diner that has also been here for a very long time. Their burgers are highly recommended.
Wellington Trawling Sea Market in sight of the convention hotel offers fish and chips.
On the corner, but still visible from the hotel, is Logan Brown. This is a superb up-market restaurant that offers a lunch and dinner menu. You will get a reasonable-sized meal at this place. The owners have their own cooking show on New Zealand television. If you need special culinary experience while in New Zealand, this is the place to go.
The other two places to go for a special occasion are Citron and Martin Bosley's - both up-market restaurants. You may need a taxi to get to Martin Bosley's from the Quality Hotel (1.5km), but it is not too far being on Oriental Bay parade. The view of the ocean from Martin Bosley's is quite romantic, and the restaurant is an ideal choice if you like seafood. They also offer non-seafood dishes, and the desserts are divine. www.martin-bosley.com.
Citron is my personal favourite; something about the décor of the place, the wine selection and the personal service stands out. The last time I dined here I had an entrée of kawakawa (a native herb) cured salmon and baby fennel with almond crumble and green olive paint, and a main of peppered cervena, wild mushroom gnocchi with mutton bird butter and crisp garlic chips. This is one of the few restaurants that I know of in Wellington that does what could be considered European-Maori fusion cuisine, and they do it well. There sometimes have a few items on their menu that are traditional to Maori food. Those wanting to try something that is NZ flavours, should consider Citron on Willis Street. It's about 300 metres from the convention hotel, if you know the local streets.
Back to Cuba Street; there are plenty of mid-priced restaurants that provide a good meal. There is Flying Burrito Brothers - good food, large helpings but not authentic. Café Istanbul offers good Turkish food. www.istanbul.co.nz. This place has been in business for a very long time. Floriditas offer the option of Italian food. Their menu changes very regularly and I have heard good things about the food. www.floriditas.co.nz. Another nearby Italian option is Caffe Italiano. The food here is very good and they also provide counter food to go.
Le Metropolitan is a mid-priced French restaurant. Portions are a good size, especially their version of steak and chips. The food is delicious. Tulsi is a nice mid-priced option for Indian food. Those into Indian food may find the curry heat ratings a bit light compared to Indian restaurants in the British Isles, but the local Indian restaurants are still worth a visit.
Going further down Cuba Street you have Aunty Mena's, which offers Asian vegetarian meals, and the A-Roy, which offers Thai food. There is also Oaks Satay Noodle House, which offers more than just noodles. I haven't dined at Aunty Mena's but the other two do very good budget meals.
For pub meals there is Murphy's Irish Pub. I have only eaten there when there has been a function on but the platters of food are lovely, so I am guessing the meals are of the same good standard.
Somewhere near here is Left Bank, a spacious arcade full of budget dining places. Currently we have Oriental Kingdom, Satay Kingdom, Sushi, Viva Mexico and La Kasbah. This part of Cuba Street is close to part of Victoria University so it caters to student prices. Viva Mexico, which is located at the back of Left Bank, is the place to try for an authentic Mexican taste. The cyber café is also down here to the right as you go in.
Cuba Street has a variety of boutique shops. The ones of possible interest are Carly Harris for a piece of New Zealand fashion, Graphic Magazines for the fans, The Body Shop for toiletries, and Gold Ore Silvermine for jewellery.
Somewhere along here as you are about to leave Cuba Street is the slightly hard-to-spot entrance to the Matterhorn. This is a bar and restaurant, and a popular night spot. They do not take bookings so arrive early at about 6pm or expect to wait 1-2-plus hours for a table. The food is excellent - they were the Supreme Winner in the 2008 Cuisine's NZ Restaurant of the Year awards.
On Victoria Street is Roti Chenai café. You can get a very substantial lunch here on a budget, and the food is lovely. This place has been in business for some years now, and it is always busy whenever I see it. www.rotichenai.co.nz .
As you head towards Lambton Quay (the financial quarter) you have the choice of The General Practitioner, on the corner of Willis and Boulcott Street - about 500 metres from the convention hotel. This mid-priced restaurant and bar also does New Zealand flavours, and is a very popular option for after-work drinks and dinner. The restaurant was the national winner of the 11th Annual Monteith's Beer & Wild Food Challenge 2008. I had the winning dish and it was really good. The competition occurs during July and August, so September visitors are going to miss out but it is a great way to experience wild New Zealand food and beer. www.monteiths.co.nz.
Butler's Chocolate shop is opposite The General Practitioner. For those wishing to try New Zealand made chocolate, I would suggest the Whittakers brand. It is extremely popular with local fans and is made locally. The factory does not do tours, but they have a wide range of flavours including a kiwifruit milk chocolate block. Please check the labels for ingredients as most brands of New Zealand chocolate contain milk. www.whittakers.co.nz.
The Balti House is a mid-priced Indian restaurant almost opposite Wellington City Library. They do a noticeably different style of curry from the other Indian restaurants in Wellington that is really worth trying.
On the corner of Lambton Quay and Willis Street is the BNZ Building. In its basement is the BNZ Foodcourt, which is ideal for a budget lunch. There are heaps of choices here, including sandwiches, cakes, pies, salads, kebabs, nachos, Asian, and sushi. It gets busy as the local workers all come here for lunch too. You will also find a games shop in here as well. Lush is also located here in the BNZ Arcade if you need to restock on toiletries, and other shops include Nature Unplugged, which deals in New Zealand made skin care products.
On and around Lambton Quay there are several pubs where you can eat and have a drink. These include The Featherston, D4, Occidental, the Leuven, and The 3 CCCs. There are more but these are the ones I have tried in recent times. All do good hearty pub-styled meals. The Leuven stands out for its selection of mussel dishes and chips, while the Featherston does an excellent steak in two size options. www.leuven.co.nz. There are several local New Zealand beer options to try - Emerson's, Tuatara and Epic, for example.New Zealand bars tend to serve beer closer to the continental European style.
There is plenty of choice as you wander down Lambton Quay, as this area caters to the central business district. Food places tend to be hidden in side streets and back shops or upstairs. At the back of the Harbour City Centre is the excellent BB's Orient Express for eat-in or take-away Chinese food. Chumeez Café is in a basement at the end of Lambton Quay, and offers large meals for a budget price. They do wonderful Singapore-styled food. If you go right to the end of Lambton Quay, you can see New Zealand's parliament buildings, including the executive wing, 'The Beehive'.
If you go in the other direction from Cuba Street you will reach Courtenay Place (the entertainment quarter), which is about 1 km from the convention hotel. The list of quality affordable places to eat here is endless, so I will only mention the ones that might be of particular interest to visiting fans. Catch Sushi offers a sushi train experience; they have a wide variety of sushi as well as other menu options. Cha offers very good Chinese food on a budget.
Restaurant 88, which is down Tory Street, offers mid-priced metropolitan Vietnamese fusion styled food. This place does very good food and you get a reasonable-sized meal. www.restaurant88.co.nz. Regal Chinese Restaurant is upstairs, and in my opinion offers the best Chinese food in Wellington for a reasonable price. Service is quick and efficient, and they do a very good yum char on Sundays for lunch.
Lone Star is also down Tory Street. They do European food in large helpings but, smaller servings are available for many of the dishes. This is a popular place to dine and I've heard the food is very good.www.lonestar.co.nz.
Kaffee Eis is a gelateria and boutique coffee shop. I have never had the coffee, but the gourmet gelato is just so delicious, and they do fruit sorbets. It's very affordable and they are often busy all year around. The gelato is European-styled but made with local New Zealand ingredients. It is an ideal option if you want dessert but maybe not too much dessert, as they serve by the scoop. A few restaurants offer Kaffee Eis gelatos on their dessert menus. www.kaffeeeis.co.nz.
If you go down Allen or Blair Street off Courtenay Place, you will find a very large New World supermarket. There is a smaller one on Willis Street near Lambton Quay and also one at the railway station. There are also several good restaurants down these streets with a choice of Thai, Chinese, Indian, Creole and Malaysian styles. The Tasting Room does innovative food in the mid-priced bracket. Reading Cinema Complex is also located here if you want to catch a movie. The food court has several good budget dining options. China Chow and Khmer Satay Noodle House offer good Asian options. Stellar is very good, offering meals or wood fire pizza or coffee and cake in the mid-price range. Hog's Breath Café upstairs offers a good assortment of steak meals. This is good for the hungry at a reasonable price.
Strawberry Fare down on Cambridge Terrace is Wellington's only dessert restaurant and they have been in business a very long time. On their menu they offer a large serving of pavlova. This is a New Zealand dessert made principally from egg whites and sugar, and dressed with cream and fruit. Their "small" mains are pretty big too. I would suggest starting with dessert first, otherwise you might NOT be able to fit in dessert. Highly recommended for people who like dessert! www.strawberryfare.co.nz.
The Con hotel
The convention hotel is the Quality Hotel on Cuba Street, Wellington. I checked it out and it is very clean with a spartan polish to it. A fan who attended an astronomy conference at this hotel very recently spoke very well of the staff and the service. To find out more about the hotel, go to www.hotelwellington.co.nz. Please note that this is one of a pair of connected hotels, one being the Quality and the other the Comfort. The Quality is the 4-plus star rated while the Comfort is 3-star rated.
Airport shuttle buses will stop at this hotel. Cost is about NZ$15.00. Conversely you can get a taxi for about NZ$20.
New Zealand also has the usual international fast food chains. This includes Kentucky Fried Chicken, MacDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Subway and Starbucks. We also have the local Hell Pizza chain which is very popular. For the benefit of European fans, New Zealand kebabs generally make for a very tasty, economical meal that includes fresh salad vegetables.
For anyone interested in Maori food, please check www.maorifood.com. They offer guided tours. At www.genuinemaoricuisine.com there is information about food and events.
If you happen to be at a local fair while in New Zealand and you see hangi food being sold, it is really worth trying, especially if you like smoked food. Hangi food is like a cross between smoking and slow-cook steaming. The food will come packaged in a standard aluminium takeaway container and wrapped in paper to keep it warm. For about NZ$10 you are likely to get a very generous serve of pork, chicken, potatoes, pumpkin, kumara (sweet potato) and an assortment of root vegetables.
New Zealand drinks
New Zealand has a reputation for fine local beers and wines, with many of the country's alcoholic drinks known worldwide. If you are keen on beer, you may already know such names as Steinlager, but many of New Zealand's smaller breweries have products which are also worthy of trying, including the likes of Monteith's, Tuatara and Emerson's. www.steinlager.co.nz and www.emersons.co.nz.
Wine is now becoming an important part of the New Zealand economy, and there are many fine vineyards around Auckland, Hawke's Bay, Martinborough, Marlborough, Canterbury, and Central Otago. New Zealand white wines in particular have a deserved fine reputation, with varieties such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Sauvignon Blanc being particularly worthy of note. New Zealand reds worth trying being of the pinot noir and merlot varieties.
If you prefer non-alcoholic drinks, a local variety of lemonade, Lemon and Paeroa, is worth a try.
Anyone coming to New Zealand at this time of year (August) should expect some wet weather. It is our spring. For Wellington, I would recommend a raincoat and sensible walking shoes.
Wellington is a windy city. Do not use umbrellas unless it is a very calm day, unless you want your umbrella inverted by the wind. New Zealand, including Wellington, has very changeable climate everywhere, all seasons, even in the space of a day, so do check the weather forecast. If it says 'rain expected', believe it and be prepared, no matter how good it looks right now. If it says 'Southerly winds' expect a chill wind - it is coming off Antarctica. Dress extra-warm for a southerly wind.
Local weather forecasts for all of New Zealand can be found at www.stuff.co.nz/national/weather.
Wellington is a safe city by international standards. As a guideline, exercise the same precautions as you would take in your home cities, stick to well-lit streets where there are plenty of people around and use a street map. A street map is very useful if you are a visitor to Wellington. The Cuba Street area where the hotel is located is a safe and busy part of town in the day-time. Have a good look-around during the day to familiarize yourself with the location. At night-time, if you are going out, go out with a group together.
As with all cities, do not leave valuables in your hotel room.
Risks to visiting Europeans can arise from participation in extreme sports but this is unlikely to affect fans attending NZ conventions and just doing a bit of additional sight seeing. What is of little concern is that road accidents are roughly twice that of the UK average per head of population. This in part is due to the shared single lane nature of most rural roads but it does have implications for those visitors wishing to hire cars (see transportation below).
To get in contact with police, ambulance or fire service dial 111 and give your name, the address and the city you are calling from. In a hotel, you need to dial out and then go 111. The dial-out prefix from hotels in New Zealand is usually 1.
As mentioned there is an airport shuttle bus to the Quality and the nearby Comfort Hotels. The cost is about NZ$15.00.
Most locals walk from Lambton Quay (the financial quarter) to Willis Street to Cuba Street to Courtney Place (the entertainment quarter).
Wellington has an extensive public transportation system utilising both bus and train services. There is a Discovery Pass ticket of NZ$13.00 that allows you unlimited use of public transport for ONE day. Buses and trains will accept cash. Please make sure you have a NZ$5.00 note or coins on you. Information on Wellington's Cable Car service is also here. Bus passes can be purchased at a kiosk at the Wellington Railway Station. Metlink in the phone book provides information on timetables where you can speak to a person and they have a website here at www.metlink.org.nz.
If you are planning to rent a car and drive around New Zealand, please make sure it is with a rental car firm that has an office in Wellington and Picton so that you can leave the car with one of the offices, board the Cook Strait ferry and pick up another car on the other side. The Cook Strait ferry is an expensive stretch of water, especially when you have a car. It can also be a rough stretch of water so crossings can get cancelled. If you need to be somewhere, give yourself a day's leeway. Visitors hiring cars need to be aware that Motor insurance is not a legal requirement in New Zealand. Even though some countries (such as Great Britain) have a reciprocal Healthcare Agreement with New Zealand, private accident insurance is firmly recommended. This is because New Zealand law has removed the right of accident victims to sue a third party in the event of an accident. Instead the Accident Compensation Commission (ACC) helps pay for your care if you are injured as the result of an accident. However, the ACC only covers the cost of treatment in New Zealand and delayed travel or loss of income in a third country is not covered.
Regarding driving, some European countries' driving licences are recognised (UK driving licences are valid for use for a maximum of 12 months). New Zealand drives on the left-hand side of the road like in Great Britain (allowing your sword arm access to the on-coming traffic). The main state highways are good roads, but because of the hilly nature of New Zealand, roads are rarely straight and flat for long stretches, and many of them are only a single lane in each direction in rural areas. You are advised to read a copy of the Road Code (the official guide to traffic rules and traffic safety) before driving. Particular attention should be given to the section covering the right of way rules, which are different from other countries. There are also lots of small towns that you need to slow down for. If you see livestock being herded across the road, please stop and give way to the - do NOT toot your car horn. Please stay in the car and be patient, it will only take 5-10 minutes. In some rural areas the roads can be narrow and very twisty. There may still be ice on the roads in spring in some places, especially in the inland South Island.
The Desert Road in the central part of the North Island is another spot to be cautious of, and they do close it due to ice. The Desert Road cuts across the New Zealand Army Training base so please stay on the road. This is well sign-posted. Aside from this, it is a very scenic route. The National Army Museum located along this stretch of road is worth a short stop and is an ideal place for a refreshment break. www.armymuseum.co.nz.
Most of the time in New Zealand the roads are, in terms of their condition, safe, but after heavy rains or a cold snap it pays to check road conditions before travelling. If you are driving along smaller off-the-beaten track roads, please make sure you know in advance as to the state of the road and drive as the conditions dictate. The New Zealand Automobile Association provides regularly updated reports on road conditions both on their website and from their branch offices. www.aaroadwatch.co.nz.
New Zealand money matters
New Zealand currency is the New Zealand Dollar, divided into 100 cents, though the smallest coin currently in circulation is the 10 cent piece. Though exchange rates fluctuate, NZ$1.00 is usually worth around 40 British pence, 80 Australian cents, or 65 US cents.
New Zealand is very big on ATM machines, and was the first country in the World to trial their use back in 1985. ATM machines can be found throughout the country, and use electronic-funds-transfer point-of-sale (eft-pos) swipe cards to enable money to be withdrawn. Many of the ATM machines in New Zealand have the 3-triangle Plus sign on them which means you can withdraw cash out from your credit card facility. Most shops accept eft-pos cards. The common credit cards used in New Zealand are VISA, Diner's Club and Mastercard.
There is a small fee when it comes to cashing travellers' cheques and this varies from bank to bank but otherwise the procedure is simple. The National Bank of New Zealand currently charges NZ$5.00 for this service. Their green cashpoint ATM machines, which are very common around New Zealand and in Wellington in particular, will accept Visa and Mastercard so you can withdraw cash from your credit card. If you are using a travel card from your own bank, it would pay to check before you leave your own country as to where it is accepted. www.nationalbank.co.nz.
New Zealand has good cell phone coverage over most of the country, though if you are planning to travel around the country be aware that some more remote areas are not fully covered. I've received text messages from as far afield as Russia and Canada and calls from Australia. If there are problems, there are plenty of businesses around Wellington and the other main centres that deal with mobile phone technology.
You can check your email from the cyber café located on the Left Bank area of Cuba Street. There are other cyber cafes around but this is the nearest to the hotel. The hotel has internet facilities if you are travelling with a laptop.
The Wellington Region has a dialling prefix of 04. The entire city and much of the surrounding area is regarded as a local calling zone, meaning you just dial the number without needing a prefix.
111 is the New Zealand emergency number for police, ambulance and fire services.
Other places to see in New Zealand
New Zealand has a huge number of tourist places and attraction - far too many to be listed here. All of the main cities and tourist centres have their own websites which will provide a lot of information for the general visitor. From a scientific perspective, New Zealand has a lot to offer for fans with interests in conservation, biological sciences (unique native plants and wildlife) and geology.
One question that visiting fans from overseas for the 2010 NZ national convention (Wellington) and Australian Worldcon, given that they will be arriving at Auckland International, airport will ask themselves is how much time to spend in Auckland and how much in Wellington? Auckland is a spread out city with much to see. However you do need a car to get around: this is a virtual necessity, and if you plan to hire one your time in Auckland will be well rewarded. As for Wellington, many of us work near enough to the Con hotel that we can walk from A to B to meet up with visitors: Wellington is a very compact city with a good public transport system.
As a general guideline, the North Island can be covered in a minimum of one week. The South Island needs two weeks minimum. This of course, depends on how fast you go, what you want to do while in New Zealand, how much time you want to spend here and your specific tourist destinations.
One way of seeing a bit of the North Island would be to travel by rail from Auckland (where the International airport is based) to Wellington. The journey takes about 12 hours and the train leaves after 7.00 in the morning most days of the week in the (southern hemisphere) summer. See www.tranzscenic.co.nz. Of course if you are coming for the 2010 NZ natcon and subsequent Australian Worldcon, there will be other factors to consider (see earlier information here).
Lord of the Rings
Both the Wellington area and much of the rest of New Zealand was used for many of the locations for the filming of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy (as well as several other notable films). Though the sets from these films have long gone, quite a few of the locations can be easily reached. They are scattered all around the country, from Matamata in the north to Manapouri in the south. The New Zealand Department of Conservation has detailed information about the locations on its website at www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-visit/lord-of-the-rings-locations.
The North Island
Auckland is the North Island's other main centre, and also the country's biggest city. It provides a wealth of tourist opportunities many of which are listed atwww.aucklandnz.com. If you wish to view Auckland City, I would recommend the Orbit restaurant located in SkyCity. It does a full 360 degree rotation in approximately 1 hour. The food and service is wonderful. Note - do NOT put your handbag besides the window - you will rotate away from it. www.skycityauckland.co.nz.
Rotorua (midway between Auckland and Wellington) is known for its geothermal activity. The entire region has a smell of sulphur about it. There are geysers, bubbling mud pools and hot springs. It's a unique town with many scenic small lakes scattered around the region and it really caters to the tourist. (NOTE: For safety reasons - do NOT stick your head underneath any hot pool or splash the water into people's faces.) www.rotoruanz.com.
The Rotorua region's history includes the legendary Pink and White Terraces that were destroyed in the 1886 Mt Tarawera eruption. The 1886 eruption led to one archaeological curiosity. An entire Maori village, Te Wairoa, was buried by ash and abandoned. It has become something of an antipodean Pompeii. www.buriedvillage.co.nz.
Rotorua's attractions include hot pools and traditional Maori entertainment with hangi food being served. I have visited Rotorua several times now over the years and am always being shown new places each time I visit. It has even got its own redwood forest which makes for a very pleasant relaxing walk. Geothermal attractions such as Whakarewarewa and Hell's Gate are well worth a visit.
South of the city of Hamilton (75 miles south of Auckland on the rail line to Wellington) are the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. These are well worth visiting if you happen to be going past, though it does need a detour to get to it. There is also the option of Black Water rafting.
Taupo is a good place to stop for the night if you are driving and want to break your trip up. It also has a few geo-thermal attractions and trout fishing, as well as scenic Lake Taupo. Slightly out of Taupo is the Huka Prawn Park with its Huka Prawn Park restaurant. I have heard people rave about the prawns, so please book for the restaurant if you do not wish to miss out. I do strongly recommend stopping somewhere over-night for safety reasons as the drive between Auckland and Wellington is something like 8 hours long.
For those who prefer something more energetic, the North Island has numerous world-class surfing locations, especially at Raglan (near Hamilton), Gisborne (in the northeast), and at several beaches west of Auckland itself. There is a lot of information about good venues at www.surfnz.com.
New Zealand is, of course, famous for its sparsely populated wilderness areas, and these are located throughout the country, even close to cities. The Coromandel Peninsula, southeast of Auckland, is one place which is well worth a visit if you like spectacular forest-clad countryside. New Zealand has some unique native trees and plants so it is well worth a look.
The South Island
Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island, and has many tourist attractions. One which is of particular note is the Antarctic Centre, which is located close to Christchurch Airport. New Zealand operates a scientific station in Antarctica, and Christchurch is also a major base for the United States' Antarctic operations. The Antarctic centre is well worth a visit for anyone interested in 'The Big Ice'.
North of Christchurch lies the small town of Kaikoura. This is not only a scenic place, with mountains rising straight out of the sea, but it is also a major site for whale watching. It is possible to tour via boat or light aircraft to see these massive marine mammals. Tours are open all year round and offer a high probability of a sighting during the trip. They are expensive, but really worth it.
If you are spending more than a few days in New Zealand, it is worth considering a trip down the South Island's west coast. This area has world heritage status as an amazing scenic wonderland, with rugged coastlines, glaciers, forests and mountains.
The southern South Island's main city is Dunedin. There are numerous unusual tourist attractions in this city, ranging from visiting an albatross colony to a guided tour of Cadbury's chocolate factory. The city has a vibrant culture and is perhaps the country's most historic city. A yellow-eyed penguin colony or habitat exists on the Otago Peninsula, near Dunedin. This is an endangered native species, so please go with a guided tour if you want to see them.
West of Dunedin lies New Zealand's adventure heartland. The area around Queenstown and Wanaka is known for its extreme sports. By September-October, the skiing season in the region will be drawing to a close, but there may still be some fields open, and there are many other activities for the adventurous year-round, including bungee jumping and white water jet-boating.
For the wilderness fan, we have saved the best until last. The south-western corner of New Zealand is Fiordland, one of the world's largest national parks, and an area of breathtaking beauty. I personally would recommend a guided tour as there is a lot of ground to cover and the driving can be difficult. The weather in this part of the country is often wet, and in bad weather some of the roads may be closed, but in some places the wet weather is actually a bonus, since it increases the number and flow of the waterfalls which cascade down the mountains.
The main access point to Fiordland is the town of Te Anau, beside the lake of the same name. There are lakes, bush walks, mountains, glow-worm caves, and astonishing scenery everywhere. If you have the time, a visit to Milford Sound is a must. Information is available on the New Zealand Tourist site www.tourism.net.nz.
Science Fiction Fandom
For general information on New Zealand fandom see the New Zealand SF fan website www.sffanz.sf.org.nz.
The Phoenix Science Fiction Society is Wellington's local science fiction club. It has been running continuously since 1989 when it was first founded. It started life as a club primarily for readers of science fiction but grew to cover fantasy and media as well. It is now a very general science fiction and fantasy club with about 50 members. New Zealand is too small to have specialised clubs.
General meetings are held at Turnbull House, Bowen Street, Wellington on the second Wednesday of every month, starting at 7.30pm - with the exception of January when the group goes to the pub instead. If you can see 'the Beehive', chances are you can see Turnbull House. The Society has the special interest groups. The Writers' group and the Board-gaming group meet once a month respectively. Then there is the monthly social night, where people bring food to share. We usually do a video night most months and the occasional movie night. Our newest group is the Biblios or book review group.
Most of the group's events take place in the first three weeks of the month. However, any visiting overseas fan is most welcome to contact the Secretary of Phoenix at secretary [-at-] phoenix [dot] sf [dot] org [dot] nz OR board [-at-] phoenix [dot] sf [dot] org [dot] nz and make contact. Things can be arranged. It is suggested e-mailing about 4 weeks in advance to let the group know you are coming to Wellington.
Stella Nova is Auckland's SF society. It was once known as the Science Fiction Modellers' Club of NZ. The name was changed in 1996 to reflect the society's changing focus. We now embrace a broad range of creative and social activities, including, but not limited to: writing, film making, model making (yes, it still happens), and attending (and sometimes running!) science fiction conventions. Principal monthly meetings are held on the third Wednesday of the month at The Auckland Horticultural Centre. The meeting for discussing books is also monthly, as is the social evening. There are also other satellite groups and activities. For details check out http://stella-nova.sf.org.nz.
June Young with contributions from James Dignan.
Concatenation has included some additional information from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. (The opinions expressed in this article are those of the contributors, and not that of SFFANZ as an organisation.)
To contact June and James, please email press [-at-] sffanz [dot] sf [dot] org [dot] nz.
Note: Concatenation is European-based, in part in England. Yet New Zealand, like N. America, has its own variant of English that is slightly different from European and English English. One key difference is that the word 'Maori' has a macron (a horizontal bar across the 'a'). Macrons are currently hard to reproduce in European html but some New Zealanders consider this an important part of the language so we mention it now.
Quick links to above: Places to see in Wellington, Dining out & Shopping,
Con hotel & getting to it
NZ money matters,
Other places to see in NZ, and SF Fandom.
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