According to the readers of Conde Naste Traveler, Glen Innes is considered to the fifth least-best place to visit in New Zealand, beaten only by Huntly, Manuwera, Bluff and the centre of White Island. Many tourists and even New Zealanders avoid this suburb like they would an infectious disease or a jury duty, but the most intrepid of adventurers will be richly rewarded by this community’s appreciation of the arts, their deep culinary tradition, storied history and unique people*.
(WARNING: For your own safety, DO NOT interact or make eye contact with anyone on the streets of Glen Innes)
Prior to European colonisation, Glen Innes was known as ‘Reinga’ by local Maori population, who avoided the area due to massive amounts of Utu and general bad vibes. In the early 16th Century, Tamaki tribes tried to dig a massive ditch around Reinga in an attempt to push it into the ocean and inadvertently invented Trench Warfare. Historians have found Tamaki tribes often taunted their opponents by offering Reinga as an ironic gift. In the 18th Century, Four brothers of the Taylor family arrived in East Auckland. The youngest brother, William Taylor drew the short straw and was forced to build his farm in the area and named it ‘Glen Innes’, an onomatopoeia of the low, distressing moan that can be heard at night. Maori tribes didn’t warn Taylor of the cursed land because he was quote “kind of a douche”. The soil of Glen Innes is the least fertile in New Zealand, so the Taylor Beetroot farm failed. William Taylor lived the rest of his life on unemployment payments and pawning stolen goods and thus, started a Glen Innes Tradition. Over the next hundred years, Glen Innes remained a remarkably below average neighbourhood. The town experienced an economic boost in the 1970’s, when Government commissioned more state housing in the area so ambitious locals would have more variety when committing burglaries. In 2011, a group of Japanese Game Developers used Glen Innes as inspiration to create the world of the video game Dark Souls.
Glen Innes is an easy 20 minute drive or a hard, arduous two and a half hour walk from the Auckland Town Centre. If you’re driving, the town centre has ample parking. Be sure to keep all valuables and non-valuables safely locked up in a safe inside your trunk. Make sure to remove a small, but integral component from your engine or your car will be stolen as soon as you turn your back. Regular train services also pass through the town, but be aware, the trains do not physically stop at Glen Innes, but rather slow down considerably, you will have to be alert and jump to the station. The best time to visit Glen Innes would be before 1:00PM, while the local degenerates are still sleeping. It is highly advisable to stay as close to the township as possible. If you see any fissures or dark holes in the ground, stay away and DO NOT look into them.
Many believe that the highlight of many visits to Glen Innes is leaving Glen Innes, but the sights, sounds and odours of this community will keep the intrepid explorers wowed for tens of minutes. In between the township and the slums, you will see a building that looks like a Spaceship designed by Witi Ihimaera. This is the Te Oro, a community theatre that was recently built to keep urchins off the streets by distracting them with “artistic” workshops. Please pay no attention to any floor shaking, or whatever noise you think you hear coming from underneath the building. Te Oro holds regular shows of Dance, Performing Arts and similar low art forms. Visit the next door Glen Innes library and exploit the free WiFi for details on showtimes, (for an extra unique experience, swing by after 3PM on weekdays and listen to Pre-teens loudly chat). Lovers of visual art will want to examine the impressive black and white wall mural hidden behind the McDonald’s trash skips then take a walk down the once-beautifully refurbished Town Centre, filled with gaudy art projects and long abandoned stores. History lovers can walk through Maybury reserve and examine the backlots of historic 1970s State housing projects. If it is after 4PM and you start to smell burned dirt in Maybury Reserve, leave the area as fast as you can.
Like many low income New Zealand townships, Glen Innes’ commercial space is filled with back-to-back discount stores for no discernible reason, but bargain hunters rejoice! Glen Innes has the most Second Hand Stores per capita of any developed Nation. One of Glen Innes’ gems is a store called ‘Check this out’, a dark, hidden garage filled with top quality junk, crap, trash and garbage. Hidden underneath the abandoned Video Ezy, Check this out is run by a very enthusiastic middle aged Asian gentleman. The store owner is a persuasive wizard who has somewhat mastered the art of pressure sales. Ask about something as trivial as a table lamp, and he’ll tell you it once belonged to Genghis Khan and that he has seven buyers lined up for it. The store is filled with lots of lovely old trash at low prices… even if he does try and pawn off a 2000s era PC for $120. As with all enclosed spaces in Glen Innes, make sure you have a quick access to the exit and remain in well-lit areas.
Glen Innes is a hub for culinary delights for those not comfortable with expanding their horizons. McDonald’s and KFC are in close proximity to each other, but those willing to go further afield may dine at the Carl’s Jr next to the brand new Countdown. (Fast Fact! The Government passed regulation last year that required every New Zealand township to have at least one Countdown supermarket.) Older travelers will want to rest their prosthetics and dine at Roast World. While the store is small, do not worry about overcrowding, as it is rarely occupied. If you don’t feel like spending two hours breaking apart an obscure animal carcass to get at the bland, flavourless meat grilled in the style of the Great Depression, check out Hong Kong Kitchen, Glen Innes’ number one stop for authentic Chinese-ish Cuisine. If the vast menu is intimidating, I would recommend the 豬肉和牛with 辣米姆 or the 漂白奶昔. DO NOT eat the 漂白奶豬 under any circumstances.
Not unlike Chernobyl, Glen Innes is not the kind of place people stay for very long. As such, you will not be able find a motel, hotel or any other kind of accommodation in the town. It is highly recommended that you do not stay in Glen Innes for longer than 15 hours at a time. Full days of exploration in Glen Innes are encouraged, but make sure you have left by 6PM and no later. Residents of nearby areas report that all the lights in Glen Innes shut off at 6:02PM on the dot every night. The town goes quiet, aside from what sounds like chanting and the occasional loud bang. We hope your adventure into this unique, historic town will inspire you, and advise that you tell no-one of the details your visit.