New Zealand has a rich tradition of literature and storytelling. Here are a few activities to ignite your imagination and unleash the wordsmith within.
"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort." (J. R. R. Tolkien, 1937)
Hobbiton Movie Set Tours offer visitors an exciting journey through the heart of the Shire. A must-do for Tolkien fans, Hobbiton is where you can visit Bag End, wander past the Green Dragon Inn and dance under the famous Party Tree.
Frank Sargeson is considered the father of modern New Zealand literature. Explore his home on Auckland’s North Shore – the very place where he wrote many of his finest works and mentored other great New Zealand writers. While you’re there, you might enjoy one of Auckland’s literary walks – choose from Devonport, Stanley Bay, Takapuna and Castor Bay. Download this booklet (PDF) for maps and commentary.
Long before Europeans arrived to New Zealand, Maori had established our country’s strong storytelling tradition. Maori legends and histories are best heard first-hand from the descendants of those they describe. You can listen to those stories on a guided cultural tour – walking in the forest, watching whales at sea, or sitting back in a Maori meeting house. Wherever you experience the world of Maori legends, you are sure to be left spellbound.
“It's true you can't live here by chance, you have to do and be, not simply watch or even describe. This is the city of action, the world headquarters of the verb.” (Lauris Edmond, 1999).
The Wellington Writers’ Walk is a series of text sculptures positioned – often in surprising and unexpected places – along Wellington’s picturesque waterfront. The installations quote well known New Zealand writers who have a strong connection to Wellington.
In nearby Thorndon stands the birthplace of Katherine Mansfield, New Zealand's best-loved short story writer. Wander around her meticulously restored home (built for her father in 1888) and enjoy the heritage garden. Here in the setting of her early inspiration, you'll soon find her stories coming to life.
"Over smooth grey stones
summer trickles away" (Shirley May, 2000)
If you’re looking for a few moments of tranquil reflection, make your way to the small town of Katikati in the Bay of Plenty. There you’ll find the Haiku Pathway, a meandering river stroll punctuated by 24 boulders engraved with poems. Beginning at the town centre, the Haiku Pathway is the largest collection of 'haiku stones' outside Japan.
Dame Ngaio, detective writer and legendary theatrical producer, lived in her Christchurch home from the age of 10 until she died at 86. Visit the house and you’ll see her extensive library, including the original editions of all 32 of her mystery novels. For a truly informed visit, read one of Dame Ngaio’s New Zealand-based novels before you go – like Colour Scheme (1943) or Died in the Wool (1945).
New Zealand offers a calendar full of literary events, including festivals, workshops, symposiums and poetry readings. Whether you want to sharpen your writing skills or expand your knowledge of local authors, there'll be a literature event for you.
And if you like poetry served with a glass of wine, head to a poetry night.
"King Robert, on your anvil stone
Above the lumbering Octagon,
To you I raise a brother's horn" (James K. Baxter, 1967)
Dunedin in the South Island was largely settled by Scottish migrants. No wonder then that in the city’s central Octagon you’ll find a statue of Robert Burns. Wander along the Octagon Writers’ Walk and you’ll see all sorts literary references to enlighten and entertain you – the plaques feature writers’ thoughts on Dunedin and its heritage.
When historical novelist Jenny Patrick chose a small settlement on the South Island’s West Coast as the setting for two of her novels, she had no idea the place would attract such excitement. Many who have read The Denniston Rose (2003) and Heart of Coal (2004) choose to embark on the Denniston Literary Trail, an adventure (complete with mobile app) to the historic coal mining site and other locations in this unique and remote part of New Zealand.
"In the hurry of everyday life, cooking is the one thing that brings us back to today. Living is about now.” (Annabel Langbein, 2012).
Cook books may not strictly be considered literature, but there’s no denying New Zealand is home to some talented chefs and unique recipes. Add a culinary twist to your literature tour and you’ll be richly rewarded with Pacific Rim cuisine which includes our world-famous lamb, mouth-watering seafood and fresh local produce, all matched with spectacular New Zealand wines. Look out for cook books by Annabel Langbein, Al Brown and Peter Gordon.