Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire: The moa peril, and other tips for tourists in NZ

In Wellington tell the locals you love their little city and that their coffee is almost as good as Auckland's. Photo / Thinkstock
In Wellington tell the locals you love their little city and that their coffee is almost as good as Auckland's. Photo / Thinkstock

Visitors, hello. Welcome, haere mai. Or, as an ordinary New Zealander might say, "Blow on my pie."

In the spirit of German raconteur Gerard Hoffnung, who in 1958 at the Oxford Union volunteered a string of tips for visitors to London - among them, "Every brothel displays a blue lamp" and "Do try the famous echo in the reading room of the British Museum" - what follows is some insider local advice for your visit to these South Pacific islands.

On arrival at Auckland's international air terminal, you may find a charming beagle takes an interest in you or your baggage. Do not be alarmed. Simply undress to your underwear and proceed through customs. If you have a sense, however vague, of how the haka goes, now is the time to perform it. You'll be amazed by the response.

Proceed along the dirt track into Auckland city via hire car, tuktuk, or by asking for a lift from one of the friendly Campbell Live reporters who stalk the airport day and night. In the city, most hotels will offer discounts, upgrades and mystery prizes if you request the "Len Brown special".

Should you be especially lucky, you could win a night in the Town Hall's resplendent Ngati Whatua room.

Visit the Southern Hemisphere's largest contraceptive emporium, the oversize prophylactic Cloud, on the waterfront. Order a punnet of ghost chips at the White Lady caravan. Play sevens in the Mt Eden crater. British visitors are warmly encouraged to plant their national flag atop One Tree Hill. In fashionable Grey Lynn, capture a chicken and cook it up in a berm hangi. Seek out a three-way handshake.

Take a short trip north to the opulent Coatesville mansion, home to Governor-General and hip-hop personality Kim Dotcom. Enjoy a late-night pool party and free downloads of all the latest Hollywood films.

But enough of Auckland. Head south. Drive carefully at all times, but especially in Hamilton, where drunk children routinely stumble about the streets.

Lavatories are available at roadside service stations, but you will need to ask for a key. It is customary to approach attendants good-humouredly, saying, for example, "I've got to go," or even better, "I'm a pee-addict."

Possums are considered tapu, or sacred. Should you encounter any of the animals' corpses along the way, please collect them, wrap in cling-film and hand in at Immigration as you depart.

Should you need specialist advice along the way, ask for directions to the nearest Tourist Information on Nearby National Interestingness, more commonly called a "Tinnie House". If a local uses the Maori term Jy-na (sounds like "yeah, nah"), this is an invitation to strip off and perform a haka. You'll be amazed by the response. Alternatively, approach a member of the Black Power group, the official All Black supporters club. They'll be happy to advise on local highlights.

The first essential stop south of Auckland is the world-famous Matamata attraction of Hobbiton (on Tuesdays from July, Avatarton). The New Zealand Parliament meets here most weeks, and the Prime Minister, Peter Jackson, is usually at the gate selling tickets and pouched raincoats, or playing golf with a US President. In our unique electoral system, members of Parliament fall into one of two categories: constituency MPs, elected in geographical areas, and lust MPs, elected for sex appeal.

To Wellington! The capital is famous for being the dyeing city - so named for the food colouring poured daily into the famous bucket fountain. The charming Cuba Mall landmark is the most authentic and lively of the city's vast outdoor urinal trail, the Southern Hemisphere's largest (see also the Beehive, Te Papa). Try them all, but beware the wind.

After relieving yourself in the buckets, tell the locals you love their little city and that their coffee is almost as good as Auckland's. Try approaching someone with facial hair and asking if they're from the Flight of the Conchords.

Travel across Cook Strait on the inter-island ferry (the bridge is a bore). Pack a fishing rod to dangle off the side. There are only three general supermarkets (and little electricity) in the South Island so any catch is useful. Stop for a night or two in charming Hamner Springs. (Be sure to pronounce it "Hamner" - they hate it when tourists say "Hanmer".) Guarantee improved service by thunderously asking waiters, "Do you know who I am?"

Continue on to Christchurch. The city is rebuilding after the recent devastating earthquake, and most locals now speak with a charming Irish accent. Ingratiate yourself with the plucky residents by commending their resilience, and pledging your friendship - in local dialect, "let's get munted".

In Dunedin, avoid eye contact. In Queenstown, toss a dwarf. Don't be fooled by Bluff - it's a trick. In Invercargill, try that haka for one last time, outside local businessman Louis Crimp's house. You'll be amazed by the response.

Don't leave New Zealand without sampling our delicious jelly sweets, which come in the shape of jet planes, islands, and tigers on a gold leash. And, whatever you do, never, ever attempt to feed a moa. The domesticated varieties might only bite you. The feral roadside moa, however, can be deadly.

- NZ Herald

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Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire is a Wellington bred, Auckland based journalist. He writes a weekly column for the NZ Herald, the NZ Listener's Internaut column, blogs for, and contributes to the Guardian. From 2000 to 2010 he worked at the Guardian in London, and edited the 2012 book The Arab Spring: Rebellion, Revolution and a New World Order.

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