Kiwi secrets: New Zealand experiences you’ve never heard of

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It may be synonymous with adventure sports, epic scenery from the Lord of the Rings films and the spine-tingling haka of the All Blacks rugby team, but New Zealand has plenty of unique but lesser-known experiences for travellers. That isn’t so surprising, really – this far-flung country adrift in the South Pacific has a long history of invention and innovation.

Admire flappers in Napier and steampunks in Oamaru

Art deco fans with eyes on Miami and Mumbai’s architectural heritage should also set their sights on Napier on New Zealand’s North Island. Rebuilt in the 1930s after a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake, the city centre bursts with pastel colours, graceful buildings and geometric designs. In February each year, usually around Valentine’s Day, Napier townsfolk pull out the stops for a weekend-long celebration of all things ’30s – vintage cars, flapper fashions, speakeasies and brass bands. Any other time of the year, stop by the Art Deco Centre on the beachfront and book a walking tour to appreciate the detail you would otherwise overlook.

On the South Island, the once-neglected seaside town of Oamaru remained relatively unchanged after its 19th-century economic heyday, leaving most of its Victorian buildings intact. Over the last decade or so, an influx of creatives and bohemians has transformed the town into the ‘steampunk capital of the world’. Steampunk, which grew from a sci-fi subgenre to encompass fashion, film and other arts, reimagines modern technology against the backdrop of a steam-powered Victorian England. Begin your exploration of this fascinating subculture at the Steampunk HQ, a gallery in the 1830s-era Meeks Grain Elevator Building. The town’s Victorian Precinct is also home to antiquarian bookshops, vintage stores and artisan shops.

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