Sounds attraction a world-beater
The Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sounds has been ranked among the world's most astounding backpacking trips.
The BuzzFeed Travel website named the track number five on a list of the best trips to add to your bucket list.
It came in ahead of the famed Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (seventh) and the trek from Lukla to Everest base camp in Nepal (12th).
The travel site said the track, regarded as one of the most popular tramping routes in New Zealand, offered "spectacular views of the glassy water and skyline ridges".
"It's a wonderland for those interested in New Zealand's greenery, offering access to the lush beech forest, nikau palm groves, and other native foliage," it said.
Stretching from Ship Cove to Anakiwa, the 71km Queen Charlotte Track attracts between 8000 and 10,000 visitors a year.
Barbara Faulls, chairwoman of Queen Charlotte Track Incorporated, which markets the attraction, said it was "incredible for Marlborough" to surpass the likes of the Inca Trail and be placed among the world's best backpacking destinations.
"My guests tell me they are blown away with the scenery and the beauty of the area," she said.
"People don't have to do a four-day walk, they can pick off parts of the track which makes it accessible for families to international visitors.
"I have travelled extensively around the world and I have never seen anything with the same amount of options.
"Part of the beauty of the track is you can tramp on it, mountain bike along it or kayak around its edges."
Its appeal reached all corners of the globe - one tourist had travelled from Uzbekistan to tramp it, Mrs Faulls said.
Sustainability was important, she said.
"If it gets too crowded it loses its appeal.
"If you are walking on a track and every five minutes you are saying hello to other people it no longer becomes the experience you had in mind."
Tourism New Zealand corporate affairs general manager Chris Roberts said the international recognition cemented the track as a "world-class product".
Speciality tourists pumped money into the Marlborough economy, Mr Roberts said.
"Visitors who come to New Zealand for speciality interests like walking and cycling offered by the track are valuable to New Zealand because they stay longer and spend more money than the average tourist."
The Marlborough Express