A Traveller’s Guide to Anzac Day

If you’re travelling in New Zealand at the moment, you may have heard ‘Anzac Day’ mentioned. Perhaps you’ve noticed the locals wearing red poppy badges or spotted some tasty looking Anzac biscuits for sale. Here’s a visitor’s guide to understand what Anzac Day is and what it means to New Zealanders…

What is Anzac Day?

Every year on April 25th, the people of New Zealand stop to honour the men and women who served their country in war and remember those who died.

While Anzac Day is now a national remembrance day dedicated to all those who served in military conflicts, it marks the day in World War I when the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps – known as the ANZACs – landed in Gallipoli, Turkey on April 25th, 1915. The brutal eight month campaign resulted in over 140,000 fatalities, of which 8,500 Australians and 2,770 New Zealanders lost their lives. The first Anzac Day was held on the one year anniversary of the first Gallipoli landings and has been recognised every year since.

ANZAC Dawn Soldier
(Photo by New Zealand Defence Force from Wellington, NZ via Wikimedia Commons)

What happens on Anzac Day?

Most towns in New Zealand host a special service and/or parade on Anzac Day. It is most common for the services to be held either at dawn or very early morning by serviceman at their local war memorial or Returned & Services Association (RSA). Services usually follow a format involving a combination of prayers, hymns, the playing of the Last Post and the national anthem, in the tradition of a military funeral. Not all services are held at dawn, and some also incorporate a military parade that marches to the service grounds. Afterwards, many participants return to the RSA for time to reflect over refreshments.

(By New Zealand Defence Force from Wellington, NZ via Wikimedia Commons)
(Photo by New Zealand Defence Force from Wellington, NZ via Wikimedia Commons)

Where can you observe Anzac Day?

Anzac services are open to the public and held across the country in most town centres. Joining a service provides great opportunity to witness first hand a commemoration service that is very close to New Zealanders’ hearts. If you would like to join an Anzac Day commemoration, ask your Stray driver or one of the locals about Anzac Day events/dawn services in the area. Or search via the official RSA website: rsa.org.nz/anzac-day

Want to see and learn more?

Te Papa Museum in Wellington has joined forces with the world renowned Weta Workshop team (you know, the guys behind the Lord of the Rings films) to create an incredible exhibit called ‘Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War’. It’s free admission and on display year-round – definitely worth checking out if you’d like to learn more about the history! In addition, both Auckland and Wellington have notable Anzac celebrations happening throughout the week, including nightly illumination displays on their city War Memorials.

Auckland Museum illuminate
(Photo by Auckland War Memorial Museum)
Wellington War Memorial
(Photo by Pukeahu National War Memorial Park)

Note for Stray travellers: Wednesday 25th April 2018 is a NZ public holiday for Anzac Day. Most shops will be closed for a portion of the day. This will not affect Stray bus services, but may impact cafes and shops you visit. The Stray office will be open 8.00am – 5.00pm. The Fort Street Stray shop will be open 1.00pm – 5.00pm.

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