Scouting out a trip to New Zealand--Middle Earth in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy--just got easier. The New Zealand tourism folks, who always seem to be ahead of the rest of the industry, created a layer for Google Earth with helpful visitor info and resources. No idea what Google Earth does? Check out our story on Google Earthhere.
Now, as you're viewing New Zealand from above using Google's satellite images, you can simultaneously check out local tourism info. Just go under Google Earth's Travel and Tourism layer and click on "100% Pure New Zealand." Icons for black feathers and blue hikers pop up, indicating spots for local tourism offices and recreations areas respectively. Click on these icons and you're given a thumbnail sketch of what's there, as well as links to activities, accommodations (including farmstays, B&Bs;, and other unusual places to stay), and scenic highlights--of which there are many in New Zealand.--Brad Tuttle, Senior editor.