An Ultimate Armchair Travel Guide to New Zealand

If you’ve been dreaming of visiting New Zealand but can’t travel there in person just yet, don’t worry – armchair travel is the perfect solution! With virtual tours, documentaries, films, and more, you can explore the stunning landscapes, rich culture, and friendly people of New Zealand from the comfort of your own home. In this ultimate armchair travel guide to New Zealand, we’ll share everything you need to know to plan your virtual journey. From Maori culture and natural wonders to local food and entertainment, we’ll take you on a virtual tour of this beautiful country. So grab your computer or phone, sit back, and get ready to embark on the ultimate armchair travel adventure to New Zealand!

Movies About New Zealand

The Piano (1993)

Ah, The Piano, a cinematic masterpiece that transports you to the breathtaking landscapes of New Zealand in the mid-19th century. Directed by Jane Campion, this award-winning film tells the story of Ada McGrath, a talented pianist who is mute and communicates only through sign language, and her journey as she navigates the complexities of love, desire, and power.

The film takes place in the wilds of New Zealand, where Ada and her young daughter, Flora, are sent to live with a husband, Alisdair Stewart, whom she has never met. As Ada tries to adjust to her new life, she finds solace in her piano, which is unfortunately left behind on the beach during their arrival. With the help of a local Maori man, George Baines, Ada negotiates a deal to retrieve her beloved instrument, but the price she must pay is much greater than she could have anticipated.

As the story unfolds, the natural beauty of New Zealand is showcased in all its glory, with stunning shots of rugged coastlines, verdant forests, and majestic mountains. The hauntingly beautiful score, composed by Michael Nyman and played by Holly Hunter herself, further enhances the film’s emotional impact and transports you to a different time and place.

But beyond the visuals and music, what makes The Piano truly special is the depth of its characters and the complexity of their relationships. Ada, Alisdair, and George each have their own desires and motivations, and their interactions reveal the power dynamics at play in a society dominated by men. Ada’s struggle to assert herself and find her own voice, both literally and figuratively, is particularly moving and resonant.

The Piano is a film that allows you to immerse yourself in the beauty and drama of New Zealand’s past, while also exploring universal themes of love, power, and identity. It is a cinematic experience not to be missed, and one that will leave you deeply moved and enriched.

Heavenly Creatures (1994)

Heavenly Creatures is a film directed by Peter Jackson and based on a true story about the intense friendship between two teenage girls, Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker, in 1950s Christchurch, New Zealand. Their relationship becomes obsessive and leads them to create a vivid fantasy world called the Fourth World, which they use as an escape from their reality.

The movie’s setting and cinematography showcase the stunning landscapes of New Zealand, from the green hills of the countryside to the vibrant city streets of Christchurch. The film captures the essence of New Zealand’s natural beauty and also depicts the country’s cultural heritage through the portrayal of its people.

The movie highlights the distinct New Zealand accent, and the characters’ dialogue often includes New Zealand slang, giving the audience an insight into the country’s linguistic and cultural quirks.

Furthermore, the movie also explores the societal norms of the time, specifically the societal pressure to conform to traditional gender roles and expectations. The two girls’ unconventional relationship challenges these norms, making the film a poignant commentary on the societal expectations of gender and sexuality in New Zealand during the 1950s.

Heavenly Creatures is a beautiful and haunting film that transports viewers to the stunning landscapes of New Zealand and immerses them in the country’s unique cultural identity.

Once Were Warriors (2002)

Once Were Warriors is a powerful and emotionally intense film that offers a raw and unflinching portrayal of life in New Zealand’s urban underbelly. Directed by Lee Tamahori and released in 1994, the movie is based on a novel by Alan Duff and tells the story of the Heke family, a Maori family struggling to survive in a hostile and impoverished environment.

I find the film to be a compelling exploration of the complexities and challenges of Maori identity and culture in contemporary New Zealand. The movie immerses the viewer in a world of poverty, violence, and addiction, offering a visceral and unvarnished look at the struggles and realities of life in some of New Zealand’s most disadvantaged communities.

One of the reasons I feel like I am virtually traveling to New Zealand while watching the film is because of the vivid and authentic depictions of the country’s landscapes, music, and culture. The film features an outstanding soundtrack of Maori music, and the stunning natural scenery serves as a backdrop for many of the film’s most poignant and memorable moments.

Once Were Warriors is a deeply affecting and thought-provoking film that speaks to the complex and often painful realities of life in New Zealand’s urban communities. It is a film that offers a powerful and authentic look at Maori culture and identity, and it is sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who watches it.

Whale Rider (2002)

Whale Rider is a heartwarming and culturally significant film that takes us on a journey through the traditions and beliefs of the Maori people of New Zealand. Directed by Niki Caro, this 2002 masterpiece tells the story of a young girl named Pai, who is destined to become the leader of her tribe, despite the patriarchal traditions that dictate only males can hold such a position.

Through Pai’s struggles and triumphs, we are transported to the stunning landscape of New Zealand and introduced to the Maori way of life. The film’s attention to detail in showcasing the customs, language, and beliefs of the Maori people makes for a truly immersive experience.

But what truly sets Whale Rider apart is its universal themes of family, identity, and perseverance. It is a tale of a young girl who defies societal expectations to prove her worth and claim her rightful place in her community. The emotional journey of Pai and her relationship with her grandfather, played brilliantly by Rawiri Paratene, will tug at your heartstrings and leave you feeling uplifted and inspired.

As someone who deeply appreciates cultural diversity and enjoys learning about different traditions and customs, Whale Rider allowed me to virtually travel to New Zealand and immerse myself in the fascinating world of the Maori people. Its themes and message resonated with me on a personal level, and I believe it is a film that everyone should see.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

This charming and heartwarming movie, directed by Taika Waititi, takes us on a journey to the rugged and stunningly beautiful landscapes of New Zealand. The story follows the adventures of a young orphan named Ricky Baker, played with infectious energy and humor by Julian Dennison, and his gruff foster uncle, played by the incomparable Sam Neill.

Together, they embark on a wild and hilarious journey through the New Zealand wilderness, pursued by a bumbling police officer and encountering a cast of eccentric characters along the way. The film’s blend of humor, action, and heart make it a true delight to watch.

But what really sets “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” apart is its deep appreciation for the natural beauty of New Zealand. From the misty mountains to the lush forests and stunning coastline, the film showcases the breathtaking scenery of this unique and awe-inspiring country.

Watching “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” allowed me to virtually explore the stunning landscapes of New Zealand and experience its unique culture and way of life. The film offers a truly immersive and entertaining journey that is sure to delight audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

Books About New Zealand

The Bone People (1984)

I can tell you that reading The Bone People by Keri Hulme was a transformative experience that allowed me to virtually travel to the beautiful country of New Zealand.

The novel is a powerful and moving story of love, loss, and redemption set in the rugged landscape of the South Island. Hulme’s prose is rich and evocative, capturing the beauty and harshness of the New Zealand wilderness with stunning detail.

The book’s three main characters – Kerewin, a reclusive artist; Simon, a mysterious mute boy; and Joe, Simon’s adoptive father – are complex and deeply human, each struggling with their own demons and traumas. Through their intertwined stories, Hulme explores themes of identity, belonging, and the healing power of connection.

But what really allowed me to feel like I was traveling to New Zealand was Hulme’s vivid portrayal of the country’s Maori culture. The Bone People is steeped in Maori mythology, language, and traditions, and Hulme’s deep respect and love for this culture shines through on every page. From the stunning descriptions of the landscape to the intricacies of Maori language and customs, reading this book was like being transported to another world.

I highly recommend The Bone People to anyone looking for a powerful and transformative reading experience, and especially to those interested in learning more about New Zealand and Maori culture.

Bulibasha: King of the Gypsies (1994)

I have to say that this book is an excellent choice for virtually traveling to New Zealand. Ihimaera’s vivid descriptions of the rural Maori community in the East Cape region make you feel like you’re right there, experiencing their culture and way of life. The book is so immersive that it’s easy to forget you’re not actually in New Zealand!

Bulibasha: King of the Gypsies is a captivating story about the rivalry between two Maori families, the Mahanas and the Poatas, over the title of the “King of the Gypsies.” At the heart of this rivalry is Tamihana, the son of the Mahana patriarch, Bulibasha. Tamihana is a strong-willed and rebellious young man who seeks to break free from the rigid traditions and expectations of his family and community.

Through the lens of this feud, Ihimaera explores complex themes of identity, tradition, family, and power dynamics. The book provides a fascinating insight into Maori culture and the challenges faced by Maori communities in contemporary New Zealand.

What I loved most about this book is how Ihimaera skillfully weaves together multiple perspectives and voices, giving a nuanced and multi-layered portrayal of the Mahana-Poata feud. Each character is unique and fully realized, with their own motivations and desires that drive the plot forward.

Overall, Bulibasha: King of the Gypsies is a beautifully written and thought-provoking book that immerses you in the rich culture and history of New Zealand’s Maori communities. If you’re looking for a literary escape to New Zealand, this book is an excellent choice.

Dogside Story (2001)

As someone who loves to explore different cultures and parts of the world, I highly recommend the book “Dogside Story” by Patricia Grace. The novel tells the story of a Maori community in New Zealand, exploring themes of identity, culture, and the impact of colonization.

Through the vivid descriptions of the landscapes, customs, and traditions of the Maori people, the book truly allows you to virtually travel to New Zealand and immerse yourself in a world that is both beautiful and complex. From the lush forests and rugged coastlines to the intricacies of Maori customs and beliefs, Grace’s writing paints a rich and fascinating picture of a culture that is often overlooked in mainstream media.

What I found particularly powerful about the book is the way it highlights the ongoing struggles faced by indigenous communities around the world. Despite the many challenges and injustices they have faced over the years, the Maori people continue to maintain a deep connection to their land, their culture, and their identity. Their resilience and strength are truly inspiring, and reading “Dogside Story” has given me a deeper appreciation for their struggles and triumphs.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about Maori culture and history, or who simply wants to experience the beauty and complexity of New Zealand through the eyes of a talented and insightful author.

Rangatira (2011)

As someone who enjoys traveling and exploring new cultures, I found Rangatira to be a fascinating and immersive read that transported me to the beautiful country of New Zealand. The book tells the story of a Maori chief named Parekura, who travels to London in the late 1800s to represent his people and learn about British culture.

Through Parekura’s eyes, we see both the wonders and challenges of life in London, as well as his struggles to maintain his own cultural identity in the face of colonialism and imperialism. We also get a glimpse into Maori culture and traditions, which are rich and complex, and which the author portrays with sensitivity and respect.

One of the things I loved most about Rangatira was the way it allowed me to virtually travel to New Zealand. The descriptions of the landscape, the people, and the customs were so vivid and detailed that I felt like I was right there with Parekura, experiencing everything firsthand. I also appreciated the way the book addressed important themes like identity, cultural heritage, and the impact of colonialism on indigenous peoples, all of which are relevant not just to New Zealand, but to many other parts of the world as well.

I would highly recommend Rangatira to anyone who loves historical fiction, is interested in Maori culture and history, or simply wants to explore a new and fascinating part of the world from the comfort of their own home. The book is beautifully written, thought-provoking, and deeply engaging, and I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to experience it.

The Luminaries (2013)

Firstly, I must say that this book is an absolute gem. Set in 19th century New Zealand during the gold rush, the story is full of mystery, intrigue, and unexpected twists and turns. As you read through the book, you’ll find yourself transported back in time to a bygone era, where life was rugged, lawless, and filled with adventure.

What I love most about The Luminaries is how vividly it captures the essence of New Zealand. The descriptions of the rugged landscape, the bustling cities, and the diverse cultural influences are all so rich and detailed that you’ll feel as if you’re actually there, experiencing it all for yourself.

Through the eyes of the characters, you’ll see the stark beauty of the countryside, the bustling streets of Hokitika, and the complex interplay of Maori and European cultures. You’ll also get a glimpse into the unique history of the country, particularly the role that the gold rush played in shaping its identity.

Overall, I would highly recommend The Luminaries to anyone who loves a good mystery, historical fiction, or just wants to experience the beauty and complexity of New Zealand. It’s a book that will take you on a journey through time and space, and leave you feeling both enlightened and entertained.

A Music Playlist to Virtually Travel to New Zealand

If you’re looking to experience the sounds and spirit of New Zealand from afar, look no further than this playlist. Each song offers a unique glimpse into the country’s vibrant and diverse music scene, spanning traditional Maori tunes to contemporary pop hits. Together, they provide a virtual travel experience that captures the essence of Aotearoa.

First up is “Ka Mate” by The Maoris, a traditional Maori haka performed at sporting events and other occasions. The rhythmic chanting and stomping in this song is an iconic sound of New Zealand’s indigenous culture, and is sure to transport you to the heart of Maori tradition.

Next, “Pokarekare Ana” by Pacific Paradise Players is a hauntingly beautiful love song in Maori. The soft guitar and vocals evoke the natural beauty of New Zealand’s landscapes, from rugged coastlines to rolling hills.

Moving into more contemporary sounds, “Six Months in a Leaky Boat” by Split Enz is a classic Kiwi rock song from the 1980s. The catchy melody and upbeat tempo perfectly capture the adventurous spirit of New Zealand’s seafaring history.

“Poi E” by Patea Maori Club is another Maori-language hit, blending traditional rhythms with modern pop production. This song was a massive hit in the 1980s and is still beloved by Kiwis today, making it a quintessential piece of New Zealand’s musical history.

“Land of Plenty” by OMC is a nostalgic ode to New Zealand’s natural beauty and laid-back culture. The song’s infectious beat and lyrics celebrate the joys of living in this stunning country, from its pristine beaches to its friendly locals.

“Not Many” by Scribe is a hip-hop classic that showcases the talent of New Zealand’s urban music scene. The song’s rapid-fire lyrics and driving beat capture the energy and vitality of the country’s urban landscape, from Auckland to Wellington and beyond.

“Heavenly Pop Hit” by The Chills is an indie-pop gem from the 1990s that exemplifies the unique sound of New Zealand’s alternative music scene. The song’s ethereal vocals and jangly guitar capture the dreamy, otherworldly quality of New Zealand’s landscapes.

“Team” by Lorde is a more recent hit that captures the spirit of contemporary New Zealand pop. With its minimalist production and introspective lyrics, the song speaks to the challenges of growing up in a small country on the edge of the world.

Finally, “Haere Mai Ra / Sway” by Bic Runga and “Kua Kore He Kupu / Soaked” by Benee are two more contemporary hits that showcase the diversity of New Zealand’s music scene. Bic Runga’s sweet vocals and gentle guitar evoke a sense of intimacy and warmth, while Benee’s catchy beats and playful lyrics offer a fresh take on pop music.

Together, these songs offer a rich and varied virtual travel experience that captures the unique spirit of New Zealand. From traditional Maori tunes to contemporary pop hits, they showcase the country’s diverse musical heritage and vibrant cultural scene.

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