You know you've successfully created a fictional destination when people start asking for directions on how to get there. Since the screening of the Aussie-New Zealand coproduction 800 Words, starring Packed to the Rafters lead Erik Thompson, staff at the Arataki Visitor Centre in the Waitakere Ranges have been getting tourists asking how to get to Weld, the fictional town in which the series is set. 800 Words was a huge ratings success for Australia's Seven Network, with more than a million viewers watching each episode, and also rated well in New Zealand during its first season last year.
Called into use as the Weld Holiday Park was the council reserve at Kaitarakihi Bay, on the Manukau Harbour between Cornwallis and Huia. The sandy beach looks out towards Manukau Heads and is a bit of a "best kept secret" for locals (although maybe not now). There is no campground here -- what you see on screen is the creation of the set dressers -- but that doesn't stop Aussie and local tourists wanting to stay there, says locations manager Rick Waite.
"In the series it's on a beautiful beach reserve -- and actually it is a council reserve which we set up as a campground. The art department came in and did a fantastic job putting up tents and making it look believable."
But unfortunately, even though you now know where it is, "real people" aren't allowed to camp there -- overnighting is not permitted.
Waite says while many of the exterior and beach scenes in the series are filmed at Piha, locations at Titirangi, Henderson Valley and as far afield as Warkworth and Helensville were also used. Then the elements as "sewn together" to create the fictional location.
"We were trying to create a little seaside community with a quirkiness to it, and show off a bit of New Zealand's natural beauty," Waite says. "[The series] has definitely had an impact -- visitors are coming over on holiday and visiting these spots. They're probably wondering why it's not like that in real life."
Where: Kaitarakihi Bay, near Huia
As seen in: 800 words (TV One, 2015)
Starring: Erik Thompson, Melina Vidler, Benson Jack Anthony
Created by: James Griffin (Outrageous Fortune, Westside) and Maxine Fleming
Series 2 of 800 Words is currently filming in and around Auckland. Series 1 is available in a DVD box set.