Around New Zealand with Reed

Far away in the lonely South Pacific sun-sparkling ocean, lying athwart the track of the temperate trade winds, are the lovely islands of New Zealand...

To arrive in New Zealand is to step over the threshold of a gallery full of new delights, for nowhere else in the world is so much natural beauty and so many varied scenic splendours concentrated in so small a place.

From New Zealand: Land of Colour , Wellington: AH & AW Reed, 1964

Road trip!

Details from Reed's Kowhai Gold Colour BooksDetails from Reed's Kowhai Gold Colour Books.

You want to hit the State Highway and see this beautiful country of ours. But maybe the car needs some work. Maybe the country is covered in cloud and rain. Maybe, like me, you're already back at work. Why should that get in the way of a sweet road trip?

We of course know the magic of books, how they transport us to other places with the power of imagination. But you can save yourself a lot of effort by picking up the Kowhai Gold Colour Books, a series of small pictorial guides created by AH & AW Reed to sell New Zealand to overseas tourists with the power of colour.

Better than the real thing

From the mid 1950s the Reed publishing house began to develop a range of products for the new and lucrative tourist market, which had opened up through more affordable air travel.

At the time, cheap colour cameras were not available. Reed capitalised on a partnership with Japanese printing firm Kyodo that provided access to new colour printing technologies, allowing Reed to create a fresh range of lavish books, slides and postcards.

The 'Kowhai Gold Colour Books', small pictorial guides to regions of New Zealand, made perfect souvenirs. Box sets of 35mm 'Kiwi Slides' were sold at tourist resorts, bookshops and chemists. A 'Kiwi Folder' provided postcards to send to friends and family.

The New Zealand depicted in these products overflows with adjectives. The land and its people (especially Māori) are described as 'romantic', 'delightful' and, especially, 'colourful'. This New Zealand is a feast for the senses, a wonderland of exotic sights and experiences.

The products were designed to show off New Zealand in its best (if not its true) light. Reed Managing Editor Ray Richards explained to photographer B Hill (Ray Richards, Letter to B Hill, 17 April 1959):

We have learned by hard and long experience that the slide-buying public, as a whole, prefer an 'over-coloured' slide to one which is perhaps perfectly natural in its intensity or lack in intensity of colour.

This collection of images was created with the assistance of Reed Publishing NZ to accompany the 2007 National Library Gallery exhibition 'Good Books Make Good Citizens: 100 Years of Reed Publishing'.

Reed Publishing is now Raupo Publishing, an imprint of Penguin.


Kia ora, and welcome to the beginning of your tour.

Illustration from The Colourful New Zealand Maori showing a woman welcoming the viewerColour reproduction from The Colourful New Zealand Maori , Wellington: AH & AW Reed, c. 1964.

KIA ORA KOUTOU KATOA! Greetings to all of you! The Maori people welcome you to New Zealand – in their language Ao-tea-roa, the Land of the Long White Cloud.

A young woman, dressed in her colourful native costume, welcomes us at the gateway to a fortified village.

Romantic Northland

Surf and sunshine at Sandy Bay - welcome to the northern tip of New Zealand.

Illustration from Romantic Northland showing a woman looking out on a bayColour reproduction from Romantic Northland , Wellington: AH & AW Reed, c. 1965.

The 'Winterless North' is what they call this Northland. And it is one of the loveliest and most unspoilt areas of New Zealand... Subtropical climate, romantic beaches, spacious harbours, snug coves, and rich green undulating countryside set the scene for the beginnings of New Zealand’s recorded history... The Winterless North is the ideal choice for a wonderful holiday at any time of the year.

Auckland and the Hibiscus Coast

The Parnell Swimming Baths in Auckland, New Zealand's Queen City.

Illustration from Auckland and the Hibiscus Coast showing people at a swimming poolColour reproduction from Auckland and the Hibiscus Coast , Wellington: AH & AW Reed, 1965.

Auckland, 'Gateway to New Zealand'; busiest and most popular point of entrance for travellers by air or sea, most important commercial centre, highest industrial concentration, area with the largest population – these are some of the factors which make Auckland New Zealand's premier city...

The climate is sunny. Temperatures all year round are never less than moderate and in spring, summer and autumn, they are unusually warm. Swimming is everyman's relaxation. Surely nowhere else in the world can there be so many privately-owned small craft or so great a concentration of practical yachtsmen!

Waitomo Caves Wonderland

The 'Glow-worm Grotto', one of the many attractions of the Waitomo Caves.

Illustration from Waitomo Caves Wonderland showing a group boating through the cavesColour reproduction from Waitomo Caves Wonderland , Wellington: AH & AW Reed, c. 1965.

The magic panoply of light is broken only by down-growing stalactites that form strange patterns amongst the myriad lights. Here is an all-pervading peace in the midst of radiant loneliness.

The New Zealand glow-worm, shining and shimmering in its tens of thousands on the roof and walls of the Glow-Worm Grotto, presents a spectacle of beauty that cannot be rivalled anywhere. Outside this country the New Zealand glow-worm is rarely known, and indeed is never seen elsewhere in such magnificent array.


Citizens enjoy a weekday lunch hour on a lawn near town hall.

Illustration from Wellington showing Pigeon ParkColour reproduction from Wellington , Wellington: AH & AW Reed, 1969.

Wellington, New Zealand's capital city, stands on a rocky coastline commanding the stormy strait between the two main islands of New Zealand...

Wellington's citizens, with their homes and gardens patterning the slopes above the shore, soon learn to respect and to live with the capital's boisterous weather. They grow to like its everchanging mood, exhilarating sunshine and its fresh breezes. Theirs is a heritage they love to share, and up winding streets, steep footpaths, and stairwayed tracks they proudly bring visitors from many lands.

Haast Highway

The famous Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki, a favourite tourist destination.

Illustration from Haast Highway showing the Pancake RocksColour reproduction from Haast Highway , Wellington: AH & AW Reed, c. 1968.

A dramatic rock formation on the coast at Punakaiki, on the road between Westport and Greymouth. The contrast here between rough surf and wild bush has the added overtone of the strange sea rumblings at the base of the rocks. The pancake appearance has been formed by the erosion of sea and weather; 'blowholes' in the rocks send sudden jets of spray flying skywards.

Christchurch and Canterbury

This booklet sung the praises of New Zealand's 'garden city'.

Illustration from Christchurch and Canterbury showing the Avon RiverColour reproduction from Christchurch and Canterbury , Wellington: AH & AW Reed, c. 1969.

We have already seen the Avon in autumn. In spring the colours along its banks defy the imagination. How wise it was of the early pioneers to retain so much parkland and garden right in the centre of the city. Their generous legacy has not been squandered by those who followed, as a walk through the Botanical Gardens will show. In beautifully landscaped surroundings a rich variety of exotic trees and shrubs mingle with native ferns by the slow and gentle Avon.

Mount Cook and Southern Lakes

Happy landings on the eternal snows at Mount Cook.

Illustration from Mount Cook and Southern Lakes showing planes landed in a snow fieldColour reproduction from Mount Cook and Southern Lakes , Wellington: AH & AW Reed, 1965.

From the Hermitage airstrip, Mount Cook Airservices Ltd provides a unique and thrilling service. Their skilled pilots, flying efficient ski-equipped planes take visitors, young and old, by plane into the heart of the high peaks. The aircraft land high up in the mighty snowfields which feed the spectacular glaciers of the Mount Cook National Park. Not long ago only the highly trained climber or skier saw this glorious region and then only after arduous and often hazardous climbing. To fly in comfort through the mountains and above the Tasman and Fox Glaciers and land in this gleaming wonderland of snow is a never-to-be-forgotten experience.


An unusual summer view of the Coronet Peak ski lift.

Illustration from Queenstown showing people riding a gondolaColour reproduction from Queenstown , Wellington: AH & AW Reed, c. 1968.

The ski lift at Coronet Peak looks rather different in the summer, but the adventurous tourist is attracted just the same. For from the top of Coronet Peak can be seen a magnificent view of the Remarkables, the lake, and the fertile valley which heads past Lake Hayes to Arrowtown. There, outlined below in the green and brown shades of summer, is an area steeped in colourful and romantic history.


Goodbye, and haere ra.

Illustration from Rotorua: colourful wonderland showing a woman and man performing a hongiColour reproduction from Rotorua: colourful wonderland , Wellington: AH & AW Reed, 1965.

HAERE RA – Good-bye with a hand-clasp and a touching of noses. A visitor leaves fascinating Rotorua to take with him many pleasant memories.

And you've made it home!

Relive the memories of your trip by coming in and having a look through the books, or browsing through some of the gorgeous tourism posters in the collections.

By Aaron Lister

Aaron was the curator of the 2007 Reed exhibition, and is now at Wellington's City Gallery.

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