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Art & Heritage

Books, holidays, reading, where to go in New Zealand for a great book

  • 3 minutes

Ponsonby, Auckland

What to do while on holiday? Visit a bookshop, of course

Travel the slow lane with an actual book, Savour the scent of a newly opened book with its crisp, never touched pages and relax.  And our favourite independent bookshops are surrounded by cafes, shops. A great bookshop is a place to linger, while away the holiday. Yet family and friends have escape options. Leaving you in peace.



The Second Hand Bookshop, Ponsonby, Auckland, New Zealand
The Second Hand Bookshop, Ponsonby

And you thought Ponsonby was just about glorious yummy eateries, beautifully curated boutiques marketing New Zealand design homeware and clothing. Ponsonby is home to an artfully organised second hand bookshop. An entire Victorian villa’s rooms are furnished with comforty chairs, a piano, flowers, carefully chosen books and a sense of timelessness in the aged walls. A perfect antithesis to the busy street life bustling past the windows of THE OPEN BOOKSHOP.

What to do nearby – eat of course, you are in Ponsonby, opposite is a Ponsonby veteran Preggo (does not take forward booking, just turn up and wait in the patient queue to sample Italian cuisine) and Duck Island Ponsonby outlet.


Among the second hand clothing stores, organic grocery outlets, general retail is Thames’s claim to fame. CARSON’S shopdog, Carson, a beloved black labrador meets your well behaved pooch and can browse the books with you. [Check with the store before entering]. An excellent place for gifts from organically sourced felted planters to collectables and prints. Carson’s is one of New Zealand’s oldest continually operated bookshops with a focus on local history and non-fiction. The bestsellers are curated and you are sure to find a title that peaks your interest. A superb reason to linger in Thames, Coromandel

What to do nearby

Check out Coromandel Peninsula and remember to visit the Thames Shortland Street historic cemetery for superb views of the Firth of Thames




McLeods Booksellers is a 77 year old independent bookshop in the heart of Rotorua. Owned by David Thorp and Lynne Jones, the business has survived a world war, a major recession, and now a Covid pandemic.  A veteran bookstore with a treasure trove of delights ‘Cleo Crate, a surprise book with goodies delivered to your letterbox’ Books, food and your favourite beverage is a combination made for a wet weekend, a holiday read and the perfect gift for yourself.

What to do nearby

Rotorua, one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s premier visitor destinations is on everyone’s must-go list.


Books, reading the joy of the written word, run through three generations of owners. A bookshop where non-readers are going to find the perfect small gift. A wide range of bestsellers, books focused on the Wairarapa and New Zealand hard to find editions. There is a collection of rare and collectable books and photographic prints representing the best of Genesis Publications fine limited editions in Australasia.

What to do nearby

Explore Greytown’s main street with its Victorian era buildings brimming with contemporary homeware, clothing, gifts and, you guessed it, an up and coming bookshop, Mrs Blackwell’s Village Bookshop. For ideas what to do in the Wairarapa check out TOP-10 things to do in Wairarapa, trip guide, what to see: Best Bits




A Wellington institution residing on Lambton Quay. One of the first bookshops with a cafe has an outstanding online presence as well as a store in Auckland’s CBD. The well resourced kids section is a trove of good books for children. Unity Books is a place to find weighty tomes about Aotearoa New Zealand history or geography as well as recipe books by obscure cooks. Unity specialises in New Zealand nonfiction and fiction. The children’s section is very impressive with a wide range of titles for children from around the world and New Zealand.

What to do nearby

Packed with family friendly things to do from the Antarctic Centre to the Botanic Gardens and … lots more

Indulge in hot springs for the day – and take a book

Why not go camping in the Hurunui district and enjoy a weekend market – no cooking required and plenty of time for reading


Where a functional industrial Tannery is now a must-go destination for shoppers with a range of bespoke boutique stores, delis, cafes and the jewel in the crown SMITHS BOOKSHOP.  Woolston’ The Tannery has free parking making the trek to the suburbs easy.  The store specialises in second hand New Zealand non-fiction books as well as new titles. The store has been trading since 1894. Smith’s Bookshop also deals in rare and antiquarian books and ephemera.  With almost 20,000 books catalogued the business also has a significant online trade, fulfilling orders from within New Zealand and overseas. Visit the store, visit online. For serious bibliophiles let the experts source rare, out of print New Zealand books.

Another reason why Christchurch is on your bucket list




Five Lanes, The BNZ CENTRE, Cashel St

This is a must-go destination for parents who are encouraging the art of reading books in children. There is colour, dazzling sunshine yellow and lime green. The interior is a playground for a life sized tree sculpture, squishy cushions to sit on and sofas for parents. There are imaginative corners where kids can browse a newly found joy. Perhaps the Telling Tales team are narrating a story to an audience and everyone is invited to join in.


The South Island is a rich repository of bookshops with the resort town of Wanaka home to a treasure trove of books, quirky humorous greeting cards, small paper based gift ideas and great books. Next Chapter’s instagram feed is a visual feast of reading material enticing visitors to linger in an independent bookshop thriving in the vicinity of ski fields, vineyards, Lake Wanaka #thatwanakatree proving the adage that books are constant companions when we travel.

@Next Chapter Bookshop
@Next Chapter Bookshop

Next Chapter is part of the Cinema Paradiso complex.

This article is one of my favourites to prepare. The librarian in me is screaming with joy that the art of books is flourishing for visitors and locals alike.



Best Bits travel guide is published by Owned and managed by PacificJane Ltd.


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