Nuclear Free New Zealand

  

Nuclear Free New Zealand

In 1987, New Zealand declared itself a nuclear free zone. This law applies to both nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, and reduces the risk of any nuclear related accidents that could happen while maintaining a stance in international relations for nuclear disarmament. David Lange, the Prime Minister at the time that the legislation was introduced, said at the time of the law's induction that “there is only one thing more dangerous than being attacked by nuclear weapons and that is being protected by them.” In 2006, president John Key mentioned that the act would stand as long as he was in power, and with a current coalition between labour president Jacida Ardern and the green party adding a lot of weight to environmental issues, the law is not likely to change in the near future.
It hasn't been an easy ride. The law created a rift in the ANZUS alliance as tensions between the US and NZ grew as a result of the termination of nuclear-capable shifts in NZ waters, unless they carried an explicit declaration that they carried no nuclear weapons. The US refused to make an exception for a small ally such as NZ, and thus the alliance was split apart with Australia stranded in the middle politically between the two countries. While the tension has dropped off between the US and New Zealand, the nuclear free stance has become an integral part of New Zealand's identity. In an age where so many countries are armed with nuclear weapons and alliances and rivalries are formed, when a single digital security threat could potentially send the entire planet into a meltdown, it is brave and sustainably minded to stand against it.
The law came as a result of extensive nuclear testing in the pacific, especially on Mururoa Island, and also as a retaliation to the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. Many New Zealanders, amongst other Polynesians, sent yachts and boats towards Muuroa as a protest against the French nuclear atmospheric nuclear testings which had been prohibited by the International Court of Justice while a court case was active. Boats were rammed, protestors were beaten, and as a result, there was a large increase in anti-nuclear support within New Zealand's society. When the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior ship was sunk in Auckland harbour by French intelligence, which had taken part in some of the protests for Mururoa, this ideology was strengthened and contributed to the initiation of the legislation.
As well as banning nuclear powered ships or ships that carried nuclear weapons into New Zealand waters, and any aircraft in the airspace, this law also applies to nuclear power. While some governments think that nuclear energy is a possible solution to reducing carbon emissions, nuclear power generators are never safe, and when disaster strikes, it is devastating and fatal. While radioactive waste is minimal, it is still existent, and will be a problem that we essentially hand down to future generations. As the practice of creating nuclear energy is also banned in New Zealand, and due to it's location over tectonic plates, many forms of environmentally friendly energy are harnessed and the popularity is ever growing. Geothermal points at all of New Zealand's hot spots are being used, as is the notoriously windy weather and the countless sources of flowing water, to ensure that the population is maintaining a green image, protecting the environment, and sticking to the legislation.
In 1989, a survey conducted that 52% of New Zealand residents would rather break defence ties with America than to admit nuclear armed ships. In response to the anti nuclear legislation, the US introduced the Broomfield Act, which meant that New Zealand was downgraded from US ally to US friend in symbolic retaliation. While, since the start of the legislation in 1987, there have been tensions between the US government and and the New Zealand government, trade still continues to prosper between the two countries. In November 2016, the first US warship to enter New Zealand's waters marked a point of tolerance.
The anti-nuclear stance helps to promote New Zealand as a green and innovative, forward thinking country. Over thirty years strong, and now ingrained in the minds of kiwis, the legislation does not look to be dropped anytime soon, and so future generations can benefit from a nuclear free home.

 

The best surfing spots in New Zealand

  

New Zealand surfing

 

Sometimes, in New Zealand, it can feel like you're in the middle of the ocean. While this may sometimes be a problem, it can also be a blessing. Australia steals the top prize for surfing in Oceania, however, this does not mean that New Zealand is not a worthy contender. There are waves and breaks to suit all surfing abilities, dedicated surf camps for beginners and some adrenaline pumping challenges for the more seasoned surfer, and, unlike some places in Australia, absolutely no chance of being stung by an irukandji jellyfish. Here are a few recommendations for wave seekers travelling the land of the long white cloud.

Raglan
Raglan is arguably New Zealand's most famous surfing spot (in photo). Centred around a small, bohemian town on the West Coast of the North Island. Consistent conditions make it ideal and predictable, and the local surf culture is strong, so much so that it has become the go-to destination for beach bums and wave chasers. Being a surfing community, there are multiple board rental shops, surf schools and multi-day surf camps. Ngarunui Beach is an excellent place for beginngers; a black sand beach which serves as the main beach for the town. It is heavily patrolled by lifesaving crew so, should anything go wrong, you'll be in safe hands. For those looking for a bit more a challenge, Manu Bay and Whale Bay will present some wilder waves that will test your ability.
Piha
Also the location of a beach lifesaving documentary show, Piha Beach is a challenging break just north of Auckland which should be on every experienced surfer's to-do list. Be sure to check the rip currents here before you get into the water, as these are particularly strong and could land you in a spot of trouble if you're not careful. For those who aren't experienced, it is highly recommended taking a guide with you so that they can tell you how to look for currents and how to deal with the situation, should you accidentally find yourself inside one. This wild and windy area is also lush with greenery and stunning, scenic, subtropical forest which can be accessed through multiple tracks.
Whangapoua
Just across the ocean from Auckland is the Coromandel Peninsula, where you an find Whangapoua. Being away from the main city and a little bit of a hassle to get to, you can find some uncrowded and peaceful surfing spots where you won't have to contend with your fellow surfers for the next perfect wave. The beach is safe for swimming as it is protected by rocky headlands to the north and south.
Napier
Napier is absolutely not a surfing community as the water is usually completely flat or completely wild, and the rocky shore drops off quickly into the ocean, meaning conditions are not ideal. That said, strangely enough to the north of the container port, there is one narrow stray wave going from the ocean into the port of Ahuriri which attracts local surfers for a long and gentle ride. It is a particularly unique and weird thing to witness, and worth trying out for a one off novelty.
St Clair
On the South Island, close to the city of Dunedin is St Clair Beach. This is a fairly popular spot being close to one of the main cities on the island, so securing your personal space can be easier said than done, but the beach offers excellent breaks for consistent rolling waves and occasionally even hollow waves. There is a plethora of restaurants and bars surrounding the beach and so, at the end of the day, when you can't stand up on a board any longer, you can sit and relax with a glass of sublime Otago Pinot Noir. There is nothing between the beach an the antarctic, so be prepared in the winter for some cooler waters to say the least.
Farewell Spit
North of Nelson and further up than the Abel Tasman National Park is Farewell Spit. While it may be the site of an extremely unfortunate whale beaching in 2017, it is also a pristine location to escape the crowds and to hit the waves. The main surfing spot is called Pillar Point, and provides surfers with long and fast rides, as well as the possibility of encountering some spectacular coastal wildlife.

 

Napier Art Deco Festival

  

Napier Art Deco Festival

Home to one of the largest collection of Art Deco buildings in the world (second only to Los Angeles, bust still boasting the highest concentration), the peaceful town of Napier on the East Coast of New Zealand's North Island is a blast from the past. The colourful and vibrant coastal city exists as it does as a result of a large earthquake in 1931 which destroyed the existing town. The city was then rebuilt in the art deco style, and every year, around the anniversary date of the earthquake, the whole town dresses up in vintage fashion. As February is one of New Zealand's warmer months, most of the action can be found outside.
After two and a half minutes of vicious shaking, the 1931 earthquake took 250 lives and has been the most lethal natural disaster in New Zealand to date. 11 new buildings were erected in the downtown area between 1931 and 1933 in the art deco style which was the fashionable trend of the time. Not only is it iconic for it's simplistic and stylistic design, as the earthquake struck during the great depression, the stripped art deco style was fairly cheap to implement, killing two birds with one stone. It has become integral to the identity of the city, and if you ask international visitors to define Napier, the two most common phrases you will hear back are “wine” and “art deco”.
So what better way to combine the art deco style and the local wine scene together than a big street festival? This attracts tens of thousands from people all over the world. Hotels are fully booked the year before, restaurants are packed to the brim and have all their staff on hold ready for an onslaught of customers, and the whole city takes to the streets to celebrate everything about Napier that makes it what it is. Vintage cars cruise the streets and offer rides to the public. Old bi-planes take to the skies for impressive acrobatic displays over the festive town. The public dress up in vintage fashion and some even show off their costumes in retro fashion shows. Jazz music fills the air from every direction, from live concerts to the stereo systems of cosy cafes. Over 125 events happen over the weekend, ensuring there is something for everybody to join in with. And yes, there is plenty of world renowned Hawkes Bay wine to accompany everything.
The official art deco trust website (artdeconapier.com) details all of the events, information and road closures as a result of the annual event, so be sure to check out the website and the official Napier tourism page (napiernz.com) to help create an efficient programme for your art deco festival visit. The programme changes slightly every year, but you can be sure to expect a plethora of vintage and retro displays, old cars and plenty of positive vibes. New Zealander's don't need much of an excuse to have a party, and the Art Deco festival is the biggest party in Napier every year.
One of the staple events in the festival is the annual soap box derby organised by the rotary club. This style of event is largely forgotten in many parts of the world, beside a rather extreme version hosted by Red Bull, but the family friendly version held during the festival is a popular event that everybody can get involved in. Children and parents race home-made carts in front of thousands of spectators. Drivers are required to wear art deco fashion, to add an extra level of authenticity to the past time and to adhere to the theme of the festival. The cars must also be pushed a little at the start but finish the race unassisted. Prizes are awarded for the crew, the outfits, the design of the carts, and also the winners of the race.
If you intend to visit the festival, make sure to plan a lot in advance as often accommodation is booked well in advance as this is often booked the year before at the previous festival and any remaining places sell out fast. If you can find lodgings, prepare for one of the biggest and most surreal parties of all time.

 

More New Zealand Movies

  

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

With vast areas of untouched wilderness and breathtaking scenery and a booming filmmaking industry, many directors turn to New Zealand as a location for shooting movies. Some of the more notable and most famous additions include The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit trilogy and the Narnia movies. Here is a look at some other films made in New Zealand, some of which you may have already seen and not realised the filming location.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) - Directed by Taika Waititi, this charming comedy drama is based on the book Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump. The story follows two characters, “Uncle” Hector played by Sam Neill and Ricky Baker, a troublesome young boy without a family played by Julian Dennison, who become the targets of a manhunt after venturing into the wilderness, quickly spiralling out of control and escalating to an exaggerated yet hilarious chase scene towards the end. With plenty of stunning landscape shots and native New Zealand bush, as well as a plethora of heavy kiwi accents and slang, this movie has it's roots set deep in the land of the long white cloud. The movie scored 97% on the Rotten Tomatoes website and has become the highest grossing New Zealand movie, making over $12million NZD.
Black Sheep (2006) - Directed by Jonathon King, this over-the-top and utterly hilarious horror comedy film has gained a small cult following. Due to some genetic experiments gone wrong, the sheep of a family farm become carnivorous beasts who are capable of turning people into half human, half sheep monstrosities after administering a bite. The special effects were done by the people at Weta Workshop, who also contributed largely to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The film received largely positive reviews and multiple awards, including two prizes from the 2007 Gérardmer Film Festival, and the Best Dramatic Presentation at the 2008 Sir Julius Vogel Awards for New Zealand Science Fiction and Fantasy. The movie showcases some typical New Zealand countryside landscapes and farming culture, particularly among sheep, which greatly outnumber the human population of the country.
What We Do in the Shadows (2014) - Directed by Jermaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords and Taika Waititi, this mockumentary horror comedy film scored 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and is now listed on the websites top 100 comedies of all time. The story follows a group of vampires who live in the country's capital, Wellington, and scour the vibrant nightlife for their victims. The successful reception of the movie has resulted in director Taika Waititi planning a spin-off series based on two minor police characters in the movie in addition to a movie sequel, and an American TV adaptation ordered by FX and set to premier in 2019. The clever blend of traditional vampire values and the contemporary nightlife culture of Wellington shows the capital city in a new light.
The Last Samurai (2003) - Directed by Edward Zwick, this Hollywood movie featuring Tom Cruise has gained international recognition. The movie was actually not filmed in Japan, but in the Taranaki region of New Zealand. This is because Mt Taranaki resembles Mt Fuji as a stratovolcano, and also because there is dense forest surrounding the mountain which closer resemble ancient Japan than the towering metropolis cities that surround Mt Fuji today. While some shots were filmed in Kyoto and Himeji, the majority was filmed in New Zealand.
Whale Rider (2002) - Based on the novel of the same name by Witi Ihimaera and directed by Niki Caro, this movie dives deep into indigenous Maori culture. The plot follows a twelve year old Maori girl who wishes to become the chief of her tribe, but due to the tribe's traditions and her grandfather's beliefs, is denied the role due to her gender. The uplifting tale of family, determination and New Zealand culture has been well received, and it has a rating of 90% on the Rotten Tomatoes website. The novel is set in Whangara, which also became the filming location for the movie. After it's release the lead actress, Keisha Castle-Hughes, became the youngest nominee for the Academy Award for Best Actress, but was later surpassed.

 

Hawkes Bay Wine

  

Hawkes Bay Wine

In bars, restaurants and wine shops all over the planet, it is possible to find the highly demanded Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. It is a flavour that we have all become accustomed to and that we associate with the New Zealand wine industry. Marlborough may be the largest wine region in the country, but Hawkes Bay is the oldest, the second largest, and quickly building a reputation for the unique and diverse range of wines that it produces.

The first ever winery in the region, and in fact the whole country, was established in 1851 by French Roman Catholic missionaries. Aptly named Mission Estate Winery, the vineyard is still producing wine today, displaying a traditional yet sleek tasting room attached to the side of a fine dining restaurant, all within the historic estate buildings. Of course, not all vineyards are the same, and with a winery count surplus of 70, it is very easy to find a place that suits your style, and it is well worth exploring to have a taste of everything. Some of the larger and better known wineries such as Craggy Range and the award winning Elephant Hill are regarded for their fine dining and killer views, yet establishments such as Crab Farm present a more horizontal, bohemian and relaxed atmosphere while still providing high quality wine and cuisine.
Marlborough holds the crown for the Sauvignon Blanc, however Hawkes Bay celebrates a large palette of different grapes and flavours. Bordeaux style blends can be found at almost every cellar door, and the region is responsible for more than 80% of new Zealand's Syrahs. These are typically a little softer and more refined than Australian Shiraz wines, often a little dry on the tongue (as kiwis tend to prefer dry wines over sweet ones) with subtle undertones of pepper and red berries. Chardonnay and aromatic whites are also in abundance, as well as a few surprises you'll only encounter at the cellar doors.
The area is ideal for wine growing due to it's stable and warm climate as well as long sunshine hours. There is a plethora of soil types which means that a large number of different fruits and grapes can be produced. Hawkes Bay is surrounded by rolling hills that climb quite steeply, and also protect the vines from particularly high winds. The dry and warm weather allows for low alcohol varieties of grape to be harvested from as early as the middle of February, with the main harvest kicking off between the middle of March and the middle of April depending on how the weather has been throughout the year.
The changes in landscape also effect the wine growing. The rolling hills provide different daylight exposures and cooler temperatures at night which are perfect for red wines, whereas the coastal regions benefit from the gentle sea breeze and are ideal locations to grow the chardonnay grapes and some other white varieties. Furthermore, the alluvial plains provide some of the best conditions due to the Ngaruroro river's changing course, leaving traces of red metal, free draining soils, and gravelly terraces. Some wineries proudly bear the name “Gimblett Gravels” on their labels due to the distinctive characteristics of growing wine in this particular part of the bay. The name is even internationally recognised for enthusiasts with some deeper knowledge on the subject of wine.
Many of the vineyards are in close proximity to each other, and there are many different tours to help you experience a cross section of what the area has to offer. One popular method is a bicycle tour. For those who are intimidated by the prospect of hard exercise, relax; most of the cycling is on very flat terrain, and the diminished distances between cellar doors means that you will spend more of your time drinking than pedaling. You can also make your own tour, but be sure to have a designated driver. Most vineyards have a cellar door where you can taste and compare different wines, with experts on hand to talk you through the flavours of the harvest, as well as the history of the vineyards and the area. Vineyards will typically charge a 5,00$NZD tasting fee, which is wavered should you decide to purchase a bottle.

 

Sailing in the Bay of Islands

  

Paihia hub nz

North of Auckland, nestled on the East Coast and well on the way to Cape Reinga is Paihia. This little town has become a popular place to visit for several reasons. Firstly, a very short walk across the bridge will land you on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the birthplace of the new country as this is where the agreements between the Maori and the westernised colonisers were signed in 1840. It also is a great stopping point for those who want to go all the way to the top; to experience driving along 90 mile beach (which is not actually 90 miles long), to see the surreal sand dunes, the multiple isolated bays, and the famous Cape Reigna where two oceans meet. It also the access point to the Bay of Islands, a group of over 140 sub-tropical islands with isolated and undeveloped beaches, big game fishing, indigenous culture and endless sailing opportunities.

A trip to Paihia without going on the water is like a portion of pavlova without cream - sure, it tastes good, but something is certainly missing. There are plenty of ways to find yourself on the ocean, from luxury yachts to adrenaline pumping jet skis, and so a little research prior to your visit is worth your time.
For those who want to experience the sites and to frolic with the dolphins, there are multiple commercial cruises that will show you around the enclave. Most of these will take you out to the iconic “Hole in the Rock” which is, as the name suggests, a hole in a rock, but will sail you around the islands and enlighten you on the rich history of the area. Dolphins are common here, amongst other marine life, and the playful and promiscuous creates are often found chasing the cruise boats and pleasing the crowds with acrobatic displays and impressive leaps. Cruises leave regularly from Paihia and can last anywhere between a few hours and a whole day.
For those who want to become more intimate with the area, perhaps a slower sailing trip a little more optimal, and there are many different ways to do this. Firstly, you can charter a yacht and create your own trip and itinerary. Before doing this, check all the weather and water conditions, and speak to some locals about where to go, how long to spend there, and what to take. If you're not so confident to go alone, you can certainly book yourself in with an experienced leader and a group of other enthusiastic sailors and be guided around the picturesque landscapes while pulling the ropes and harassing the wind. Some sailing trips include short island stops where you can eat, hike, and dive into some Maori culture. Another popular activity is snorkelling and diving.
For those really keen sailors, there is perhaps no better way to have a unique experience of the bay than the CRC Bay of Islands sailing week. This happens annually towards the end of January, with participant applications beginning during the August prior to the event. This is one of the biggest regattas in New Zealand, running since 2002, and attracts participants from all over the world. Over three days, the town of Paihia bursts with iridescence, with parties and events revolving around the family friendly, fun, yet competitive event. The regatta is broken down into different divisions, depending on the size and type of your vessel, and each day is packed with sailing action. Since its initiation, the competition has been growing in size every year, with higher percentages of young sailors and female sailors participating every time.
If you wish to enter but have no boat, or if you have a boat and have no crew, the team behind the event have set up a “crew wanted and available” web page where eager sailors can build their teams. If you don't wish to participate but still want to witness the event, the town of Paihia will still be a great place to be and you can watch the battling boats from your own relaxed cruise. For information regarding the exact dates of the next event, applications, photographs and more information check out the official website at bayofislandssailingweek.org.nz.

Rocket Lab New Zealand

  

Rocket Lab New Zealand

New Zealand is probably not the first country you think of when you talk about rocket launches, but the California based company Rocket Lab has started sending rockets from New Zealand.The US spaceflight startup was founded and is owned by New Zealander Peter Beck, and has set up its main launching base from the Mahia Peninsula on New Zealand's North Island. After one partially successful launch in May 2017 of the Electron rocket, and a completely successful launch in January 2018, the company is now set to launch commercial flights in 2018.
The Electron is a two stage launch vehicle which uses specifically designed liquid engines on both stages, called Rutherford engines. For a space rocket, these engines are incredibly cheap to produce and are relatively simple, and by using the same engine for both stages, the whole process becomes less complicated. The engines are largely constructed using 3-D printers, and the main body of the rocket is constructed using carbon composite material.
It has been specifically designed to commercially launch satellites into space. It can carry between 150 and 225km of weight to a 500km orbit, and each launch will cost roughly $5 million USD. The Mahia Peninsula is authorised to launch rockets every 72 hours for the next 30 years, and has become the main launch site for Rocket Lab to operate from, declared open in September 2016. This is ideal for CubeSat launches, which are small satellites composed of cubic units and are often used to record information for various companies on the ground. Standing only 55 feet high, it is much smaller than potential competitors, such as SpaceX's Falcon 9, which optimises it for the small satellite market.
The first test flight, appropriately called “it's a test”, launched successfully and made it through the atmosphere and into space, but failed to enter orbit due to an error in communication equipment from the ground. The rocket was safely destroyed. The second test, called “still testing” was launched in January 2018, and successfully achieved orbit. It deposited three CubeSats into orbit as well as one additional satellite, the Humanity Star. Video footage of the launch is available online, complete with a countdown in a heavy kiwi accent.
The Humanity Star was essentially a large disco ball, roughly one metre in diameter, that orbited the earth every 92 minutes for just over two months. The satellite was expected to burn up in the atmosphere after 9 months or orbit, but instead it re-entered the earth's atmosphere in March 2018. While in orbit, it could be tracked using the Heavens-Above website which is used to tell stargazers what they are looking at in the night sky. While some people considered this an act of vandalism or a publicity stunt, others enjoyed spotting the artificial object as it passed over the earth.
The first commercial flight, named “it's business time”, and third flight of the Rocket Lab designed Electron rocket, is scheduled for 2018, with launches expected to increase in frequency over the next few years, with a nearly full manifest booked for the next two years. This opens up a lot of possibilities for development, and an exciting new age for science and technology in New Zealand. This also means that New Zealand is one of only a dozen countries to have successfully launched a rocket into orbit, and that Rocket Lab has become the first company to offer a technically advanced, commercially focussed launchpad and vehicle. Low air traffic and clear skies put New Zealand at an advantage for launching space vehicles.
The website rocketlabusa.com is active and provides information about how to book your satellite launch. Considering each launch costs around $5 million USD, they also offer a “rideshare” possibility, where customers can combine their satellite launch with other customers to reduce the price. The company will be well worth following in the next few years as they continue to develop and grow, and to provide opportunities for kiwi scientists as well as putting New Zealand on the map for space exploration. For now, the website proudly displays a counter of the number of satellites successfully launched, and with customers such as NASA interested in using the service, this number is likely to grow quickly.

Dunedin

  

Dunedin

Located on the East Coast of the South Island, Dunedin is a popular little university city that is well worth including on your South Island adventure. It is suitable for both shorter and longer visits, and accommodates those who are interested in both city life and the beautiful nature that New Zealand has to offer. The town is famous for it's Scottish and Maori heritage, Victorian architecture and the large university and student population that comes with it.
One of the first things to see on any list is the Otago Peninsula. This piece of land extends from the city of Dunedin straight out into the Pacific Ocean, and is a natural habitat for a number of rare and endangered species such as albatrosses, blue penguins, yellow eyed penguins, walruses and fur seals. There are a number of ways to see the peninsula, the easiest and most effective is by car. Most of the peninsula is easily accessed by car and there are plenty of parking spaces near the natural attractions, and as the peninsula is quite long, this is the easiest way to see as much as possible in one day, particularly if you want to venture to the end to see the albatrosses. There is also public busses, but obviously this leaves you with a little less flexibility, and they don't run too late into the evening so you run the risk of getting stranded. It is also possible to hire a bike or to cycle, but some of the hills are much stepper than they appear and you also probably won't make it all the way to the end.
As well as visiting the wildlife on the peninsula, there are a few really beautiful places to see as well. Allans Beach is popular amongst surfers and is a good place to spot some sea lions. Sandfly Bay is an excellent place to be at sunset as, while the sky turns from blue to red across some really striking natural formations, a couple of yellow penguins often make a slow and steady climb up the sand dunes. It is also worth noting there are no sandflies here, the name refers to how the sand flies through the air, and not the annoying little insect that you will encounter on the West Coast. If you time your return trip right and drive across the top of the peninsula on the way back, you will have a beautiful view of the city lights of Dunedin turning on one by one.
The Otago Peninsula is just one of many options. From Dunedin, if you drive in any direction, in less than half an hour you will stumble across something really fantastic to explore. Tunnel Beach is another example, showing off some unique and interesting rock formations at low tide. Aramoana is another beautiful beach worth a visit. It doesn't take long to leave behind the city and to immerse yourself in nature.
For those who prefer to stay in the city, Dunedin offers a lot more than many other cities in New Zealand. It is one of the few places in New Zealand that there is a decent nightlife scene that extends past midnight, due to the high student population, and nightclubs such as Suburbia and Carousel see crowds of young people dancing long into the early hours of the morning. For those wanting something a little more traditional, The Dog With Two Tails has weekly Jazz nights on a Wednesday where a rotating house band play classics, often with a nightly theme, to entertain swing and jazz dancers and spectators. The cafe has a good selection of local craft beers and a really carefully planned out menu of excellent standards.
Some of the more popular attractions include the Speights Brewery, which has a tour that concludes in the tasting room with several beers on tap, the Cadbury's Chocolate Factory which also has tasting and demonstrations on tempering and making chocolate as well as the history of the factory itself, the street art on display, the botanical gardens and Baldwin Street which is the steepest residential street in the world.
This is just the beginning, and if you spend some time in the city, you will find a whole plethora of things to explore and entertain yourself with. There are many reasons why everybody falls in love with this city, what will yours be?

 

Hitchhiking in New Zealand

  

Hitchhiking in New Zealand

A lot of travellers in New Zealand, in particular those who label themselves as “backpackers”, in an attempt to save some dollars will consider hitchhiking as a form of transport. While this is illegal or frowned upon in many parts of the world, in New Zealand it is perfectly legal and a perfectly acceptable form of transport. Here are some reasons why New Zealand is an excellent location to try hitchhiking in.

It's green - New Zealand prides itself on being a natural paradise, and there are many efforts in place to try to live a green lifestyle so that the residents can protect the natural beauty that surrounds them. The logistics are there - the car will already be going in the same direction, and, if you take out of the equation the extra fuel consumed from the little bit of extra weight in the passenger seat and the potential extra distance that your ride may be willing to take you to your destination, there are no more harmful emissions released into the atmosphere.
New Zealand doesn't have many roads - When you look at the South Island, most of the towns, most of which are very small and based around one large road, are all located on a large loop road that circles the Southern Alps. This means there is a high chance that everybody going in one direction on the road will be passing by the destination you are trying to reach. The drivers and the hitchhikers know this, and so drivers are more likely to stop to pick you up, and when they do, there is no awkward moment of “well actually I'm not going in that direction”. At the very least, they can take you further down the road where you can wait for the next ride. The North Island is a little more complex, but is still very easy to navigate by hitchhiking.
Kiwis are friendly - This is a bit of a stereotype, and of course there are exceptions to the rule and you cannot guarantee that your driver will be somebody that you get along with, but generally speaking, on the whole, Kiwis are friendly and talkative people. Sometimes they are too friendly and talkative that you miss some of the beautiful landscape rolling by out of the windows. Most hitchhikers will tell you stories about the wonderful people they have met, about some drivers who have become best friends, about people who have been willing to not only drive them but to take them into their homes and to feed and accomodate them, and of course of the amazing stories that these people have conjured up on the road. Most of the drivers who will pick up hitchhikers have been hitchhikers themselves before, and so there is a real sense of community amongst those who participate in hitchhiking.
Money saving - While it is courteous to offer your driver a small amount of money to offset the cost of fuel, most of them will turn down your offer. The cost of private transport in New Zealand is often expensive, and in some remote places services like Intercity don't run every day, but you can always guarantee there are cars travelling on the roads. These bus companies do operate at a very reasonable rate, but it doesn't compete with the diminished price of hitchhiking.
Waiting times - You will hear horror stories of people waiting for hours and hours on the side of the road in the rain, but, generally speaking, usually you will be picked up in under twenty minutes. Hitchhiking is very popular in New Zealand, so much so you don't really see people standing on the side of the road with their thumbs up because they have already been picked up and are making friends on the way to their destination. There are times when you will have to wait longer, and picking a good location where cars are driving slowly and where you are clearly visible makes a huge difference, but on the other end of the scale, sometimes people are offering to give you a ride when you haven't even begun to try to get a ride.
See the sights - if you don't get picked up by a local, chances are you will get picked up by an international traveller who will want to stop and to take photographs and to visit the locations. You shouldn't try to hitchhike if you are on a tight schedule, but if you have the time, you will most likely get a very thorough tour of the area you are in.

 

Napier - Hawkes Bay

  

Hawkes Bay

Often overlooked by the travelling and backpacking community in New Zealand, Napier is a beautiful town on the East Coast of the North Island. The original town was devastated by an earthquake in the 1930s, but has been rebuilt again in art deco style and is now a haven for foodies and wine enthusiasts, boasting some of New Zealand's best wine and cuisine.

The largest tourism draw to this little town is the wine. Hawkes Bay is the second largest wine region in New Zealand, and probably the most diverse. The area is a particularly good place for producing Syrah and Chardonnay, although a variety of different climates, soil conditions, and natural factors means that the area is producing almost every kind of wine you can imagine. New Zealand is most famous for it's Sauvignon Blancs from Marlborough, but if you would like to expand your tasting palette past this iconic flavour, then Hawkes Bay is the right place, and you will immediately know that you are in wine country as soon as you enter the region as vineyards spring up all around you. From historic vineyards with tasting rooms in old churches at The Mission, to modern contemporary oceanside wine tasting at Elephant Hill, there is enough variety to satisfy even the most stubborn wine hater.
And what better way to enjoy wine than with some fantastic food? Hawkes Bay is also a large agricultural area, producing a lot of high quality vegetables and stone fruits, and often you can buy your produce directly from the guy who grew it in his back garden. Because of the local supply of such fantastic quality food, many nationwide famous chefs have set up their restaurants in Napier where they compete as friendly rivals to put out the most interesting and delicious food. From a five course degustation prepared by the fantastic Maori chef Jeremy Rameka, completed, of course, with matched wines and detailed descriptions by the knowledgable staff at Pacifica, to top quality barista prepared and perfectly presented coffee at Georgia's on Tennyson, you really can't go wrong with eating in Napier. Not only is there a meal for every taste palette, but it is likely to really exceed all expectations.
For those looking for something a little natural, while Napier and Hawkes Bay may struggle to keep up with the rest of New Zealand's exceptional standards, there are some wonderful hidden gems to discover. Te Mata Peak looks over the whole region and provides unbeatable views of both the sunrise and the sunset, as well as a plethora of small walking trails to suit all abilities, and also offers the option to drive to the top for those who are feeling a little more casual. To the north of the town there are walking tracks at Tongoio Beach and Tongoio Falls, and slightly further away you can easily access Shine Falls in the Boundary Stream Reserve. There is also a particularly good lookout at Bluff Hill which can be accessed from walking from the town centre or by driving which overlooks the busy container port and towards the north of the bay,
The architecture of the town is particularly unique as it is in the Art Deco style, in fact it is the second largest collection of art deco buildings in the world after Los Angeles. There are multiple tours where the guides will describe the history of the unusual and interesting buildings and will show you all of the highlights of the town. Every year, around the anniversary of the earthquake in February, the whole town celebrates with Art Deco Weekend, where everybody dresses up in vintage fashion and celebrates everything about Napier that makes it what it is. Vintage cars take to the streets, bi-planes decorate the sky, and the whole town is bursting with vintage jazz music, food and wine.
If you're looking to add a unique flavour to your New Zealand experience, and to dig a little deeper than most tourists who follow the geothermal route down the middle of the North Island, a stop in Napier is well worth considering. While a little out of the way, it is filled with surprises waiting to be unearthed.

 

  
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