West Coast nabs spot in travel top 10

UNIQUE: The Punakaiki Rocks, one of the West Coast's most recognisable attractions.
UNIQUE: The Punakaiki Rocks, one of the West Coast's most recognisable attractions.

The West Coast has got a big thumbs-up from an international backpackers' travel guide as one of the world's top 10 regions to visit next year.

Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2014 book, released today, ranked the region eighth in the globe.

It also picked Antarctica as one of the world's top 10 countries and Auckland as the 10th best city. Queenstown made the list of best honeymoon locations for 2014.

HONEYMOON SPOT: Adrenaline-pumped Queenstown is a newlywed favourite.
Tim Clayton
HONEYMOON SPOT: Adrenaline-pumped Queenstown is a newlywed favourite.

"Adrenaline is as important for bonding as the love drug oxytocin and there's no better place to get it pumping than New Zealand's South Island," the guide said.

"If all the activity becomes too much, there are helicopter rides over the Southern Alps to stunning Milford Sound, as well as a sophisticated food and wine scene."

On the West Coast, the book said: "Here's your chance to venture into untamed territory normally well beyond your limits, such as the icy faces of Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, or beyond them into the midst of the Southern Alps on a scenic flight."

"Raft down the wild white waters of the Buller River or kayak across New Zealand's largest natural lagoon and up into narrow channels overhung with strange plants and enriched with birdlife."

It also highlighted new cycleways, redevelopments on the Heaphy Track, a new rainforest canopy walkway near Hokitika, Franz Josef's kiwi hatchery and even fake moa sightings.

''Those who think they've seen it all should prepare for some enlivening surprises,'' the book said.

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn welcomed the news.

''That's why we live here. We know it's one of the best places in the world and we encourage people to visit here,'' he said.

''They're telling us nothing new, but now it's out of the bag.''

One of the West Coast's prime attractions was its incredible natural beauty, which was very accessible to tourists, he said.

''It's mother nature's playground. Mother nature still controls the West Coast, from our boiling seas to our mountain ranges, lagoons, lakes, rivers and rainforests,'' he said.

Tourist West Coast also applauded Lonely Planet's choice, noting it had previously ranked the Great Coast Road to Westport as one of the world's 10 best coastal drives.

''This is a huge marketing opportunity for the Coast and will give our operators a great boost for the busy season,'' chief executive Jim Little said.

Each year, Lonely Planet's travel guide picked the top 10 regions, cities and countries, basing its recommendations on hundreds of ideas submitted by its staff, authors and community of travellers, bloggers and tweeters. 

Their suggestions were then refined by a panel of in-house travel experts, based on scores for topicality, excitement, and that special X-factor. 

Next year's top region was Sikkim, a small landlocked Indian state in the Himalayan mountains.

The continent of Antarctica claimed second place in the top 10 countries to visit next year for an ''adventure of a lifetime''.

Lonely Planet's guide highlighted historic huts in the Ross Dependency, which were in New Zealand's Antarctic claim region, along with other ''life-changing experiences'' on offer on the world's coldest continent.

''Visiting Antarctica in 2014 is a chance to take life on and follow in the path of intrepid explorers but with cushier amenities.''

The book said travellers often overlooked Auckland in their hunt for southern alpine and lake landscapes but food, art and exploring its coastal hinterland were prime reasons to stay in the country's largest city.

The top 10 cities were nominated by more than 500 Lonely Planet authors and staff.

The top 10 cities, in order, are: Paris, Trinidad (Cuba), Cape Town, Riga (Latvia), Zurich, Shanghai, Vancouver, Chicago, Adelaide and Auckland.


The Press