Images From Small Town New Zealand

putaruru hotel small town new zealand

I try hard to publish stories regularly, but often I am overcome with bouts of laziness, uncertainty, lack of ideas or a combination of all three. Images from small town New Zealand is an attempt to get me back in the posting groove.

My latest excuse is that I have been off the grid for several weeks having left home in late February at the start of our latest motorhome adventure to the North Island, and only having our onboard internet connection activated in recent days.

I might also add that I recently smashed my cell phone so had to purchase a new one before leaving Wellington on our way north. My new phone is a Samsung-something-or-other with a 50MP camera, so I thought I would use it to capture these images of small town New Zealand.

Being a typical male I didn’t read the instructions – not that any were supplied – and it took me a while to realise that the 50MP resolution is only available in one mode – 3:4 (50MP). As a result many of the images you see here are not at the highest quality available from the cell phone camera as they were captured full screen, 16:9, and so on.

Small Town New Zealand

When I use the term small town New Zealand I do not mean it in a derogatory way.

In fact, to me small town New Zealand more often than not means a trip down memory lane – a nostalgia trip – visiting small places that I last visited maybe 50 or more years ago, and in some cases places I don’t ever recall visiting before.

Small towns of New Zealand were right at the heart of building this lovely country of ours – towns based around sheep and beef farming, dairy production, forestry, fishing, mining, and so on. By travelling roads less travelled – i.e. avoiding main highways and motorways – images of small town New Zealand offer us a glimpse into the past.

Unfortunately, often those glimpses show some of our small towns to be a little run down and neglected as changes to the New Zealand economy- and new highways – pass them by.

Anyway- that’s enough of the deep and meaningfuls – please just enjoy my wee nostalgia trip with my images of small town New Zealand.

small town new zealand otaki beach north bank
Otaki Beach – North Bank

First up is Otaki – actually, it is Otaki Beach, North Bank – our first overnight stop out of Wellington, and included here just to make a comparison over here with when we visited just over a year ago.

Not too far up State Highway One from Otaki is Waiouru – the home of New Zealand’s land based defence force (army), and home to the National Army Museum.

If you read and enjoy Lee Child’s Jack Reacher stories, you may, like me, visualise Waiouru as the sort of town where Jack (no middle name) Reacher might get off a night-time bus, in the middle of nowhere, and become embroiled in another of his exciting escapades.

Main Street, Waiouru
roadside motels waiouru small town new zealand
Roadside Motels, Waiouru

Instead of heading north, hang a left off State Highway One at Waiouru and a 20 minute drive gets you to Ohakune, the Carrot Capital of New Zealand.

Ohakune is also a popular jumping off point for skiers heading for the ski fields on Mt Ruapehu – when they are operating that is.

A further 30 minutes up the road is National Park – another small town whose reason for being in recent times was based on skiing.

National Park Railway Station
Abandoned cars, National Park
Chateau Tongariro

Once a hotel and resort complex located close to Whakapapa skifield on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu, historic Chateau Tongariro was recently closed suddenly and unexpectedly for good by its Singaporean owners after seismic inspections showed it to be in need of considerable upgrading and maintenance to meet current standards.

On the road to Chateau Tongariro

Abandoned garage, Ngongotaha

This is a real trip down memory lane for me! This old warehouse is located just along the road from my old school at Ngongotaha, near Rotorua.

If my memory serves me correctly (and I am talking about 65 years ago…) this was part of the main yard of Matt Henderson’s transport company. They also operated a large quarry on the side of Mt Ngongotaha.

Also from my memory banks, this used the be a “tuck shop” across the road from the main entrance to my old school – gone but not forgotten.

The old tuck shop
Bulmer’s Landing, Lake Arapuni

Bulmer’s Landing near Arapuni, about an hour west of Rotorua, is one of the many beautiful freedom camping spots alongside the Waikato River.

Pokaiwhenua Stream

And not far from Bulmer’s Landing is Duxfield Reserve, also a freedom camping spot, near Putaruru. This small waterfall is on the Pokaiwhenua Stream beside the reserve.

Evening sky near Putaruru
Colour in Princes Street, Putaruru
putaruru hotel small town new zealand
Putaruru Hotel

In its heyday, Putaruru was at the heart of the timber milling industry with commercial tree planting having been started in the area in the 1920s. The nearby New Zealand Timber Museum traces the history of this once thriving industry and town.

Oxford Bakery and Cafe, Tirau

To close off this first selection of images from small town New Zealand – a stop in Tirau, a town with a population of 804.

State Highway 1 runs right through Tirau, whose claim to fame in the past was as a farming town, but has now reinvented itself as a town of cafes catering for travellers on SH1 stopping for refreshments.

Tirau is a town of bright colours, corrugated iron art, and the ongoing thrum and rumble of heavy trucks and cars passing through.

Best pies and chocolate eclairs in Tirau.

Last but not least in this story of images of small town New Zealand is The Baker where you can get the best coffee and arguably the best pies and chocolate eclairs in Tirau.

Maybe I should have called this story Images From Small Town New Zealand Part 1 because there still so many back roads to travel and small towns to explore….so please watch this space for more in the future.

Click on an image to enjoy a slide show of all the images here…

2 Responses

  1. Rick – Thanks for these, I am a Kiwi and a photographer (amateur) living in France for many years. Your images of small town NZ are evocative and I know several of the locations from my younger years…. I am planning a trip to nz in June to see family and will be doing a road trip in SI looking for stormy weather and small towns!

    1. Hi there Peter..thanks for your comments. Too often we get from A to B on the easiest fastest roads and miss taking the lesser travelled roads that show us small town New Zealand. Sometimes it is sad seeing some of our older towns that have been allowed to run down and lack some TLC – but I’m with you – very evocative and a reminder of our past. Which part of France ar you in?
      Cheers – and safe and happy travels – Rick

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