New Zealand's most important line of communication, State Highway 1, has been the subject of television programmes, inspired songs, featured in films and has been the source material of more books than pretty much anything on these shores outside of the All Blacks.

This latest collaboration from New Zealand Geographic photographer Arno Gasteiger and the magazine's founding editor Kennedy Warne follows a similar format to their previous book 45 South.

Warne sketches out an historical, cultural and personal view before Gasteiger's pictures paint another perspective that fires the imagination and brings memories to the fore: we've all travelled a part of this road at some time. How many of us, however, would know that the highway proper is less than 50 years old and that its route is more historical accident than by design?

Warne's informative and entertaining prose takes us on a journey of the mind interspersed with a few photographs from the archives that show a young, evolving country gradually forming the place we know today.


Gasteiger's view cements the contemporary narrative with his usual high standard. The photographs frame well-known views in cloud and rain as well as sun and often take side trips to expose those lesser-known spots that show the real New Zealand: we all have our own favourites and its great to see those unfamiliar against which we can compare.

But it's a book about the people who exist along our nation's backbone as much as the beautiful scenes that are afforded by travelling this route. Three women on a hikoi, cafe owners, truckies, farmers, tourists and even a guy who commutes to work on a motorised chilly bin: it's a place of life as well as an inanimate stretch of bitumen.

"A person travelling State Highway 1 could treat it as just a conduit for getting from A to B in the shortest possible time. Or they could regard it as a repository of stories, a portal to heritage and a springboard for adventure," writes Warne. I feel a bit like the former, wishing it would last a bit longer to explore the latter.

View From The Road
by Arno Gasteiger and Kennedy Warne

Penguin Books, $65