Lonely Planet names Taranaki one of the world's best regions to visit in 2017
The rest of the world is about to find out what people in Taranaki have always known - the region is one of the best.
Well, the second best, according to Lonely Planet. In the Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2017 the world renowned travel authority has chosen Taranaki as the second best region in the world to visit, and New Zealand as the second best family adventure destination in the world.
Taranaki comes in behind Choquequirao in Peru, but ahead of internationally renowned areas such as the Azores in Portugal, North Wales and South Australia.
The controversial-for-some Len Lye Centre is named as one of two unmissable experiences and is labelled Taranaki's answer to the world famous Guggenheim in New York.
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The other big attraction was the Pouakai Crossing, which the guide says is a fresh alternative to the "overburdened" Tongariro Crossing.
Pukekura Park, which is the "Mayfair" on New Zealand's Monopoly Board, and Surf Coast Highway 45 are also given special mention. As is New Plymouth's "moderately lively" shopping and dining scenes.
Womad, TSB Bank Festival of Lights and Puke Ariki were also highlighted.
Venture Taranaki marketing general manager Vicki Fairley said the accolade was "absolutely brilliant".
"Lonely Planet seek to identify the hottest trends around the globe and the up and coming regions to visit and Taranaki was named second best region in the world, which is pretty outstanding."
She was expecting a major boost to tourism, which was already on the up, she said.
At the end of August visitor numbers were up 9.2 per cent on the previous year.
"So we're on right track and Lonely Planet is just confirming Taranaki is one of the hot places to visit. And we certainly anticipate an increase in numbers. It's a coming of age moment."
Day walks were very on-trend and the Pouakai Crossing was taking advantage of the trend, she said.
"This is saying Taranaki has a whole breadth of different things to do and it's about time you got here and found out for yourself.
"We're awfully excited about this. It's such a cool accolade for all the work everyone has put in.
"Taranaki is coming of age, there is no doubt about it. But we've all know that for a long time," she said.
Lonely Planet repeats the old joke that claims most travellers who reach Taranaki have taken the wrong turn. But says a new motto - a little bit out there - "offsets the region's remote location."
The region's natural assets have long been envied, it says.
South Taranaki mayor Ross Dunlop said the ranking showed the region was on the right track.
"We know Taranaki is a great place, but to have that confirmed by such a reputable organisation it's really gratifying. I'm thrilled for our whole province."
It's a remarkable achievement that will attract a lot more people to Taranaki, he said.
"People take note of what Lonely Planet is suggesting. For some travellers is it is the bible of travel.
"If they recommend somewhere it carries a huge amount of weight I think it will have a significant impact on visitor numbers. That's got to be good."
New Plymouth District councillor Stacey Hitchcock said the ranking was exciting for the region.
"Having the number one travel agency recognise you this way will put the spotlight on Taranaki and will bring lots of people in. We're open for business and you're welcome come to our region."
"To be recognised internationally as a great place to visit is remarkable and I'm sure we'll all benefit from it," said Stratford mayor Neil Volzke.
Taranaki is a people oriented place with a great spirit, he said.
"It's not overpowered by commercialism and there is still a very natural feel about the region, which offers a lot of appeal for people."
Taranaki Regional Council chairman David MacLeod said Taranaki should be proud of what its achieved.
"It's going to gain huge recognition around the world and also in New Zealand. We tend to be off on a little bit of a limb of the tourist track and this recognition will attract visitors to enjoy what we have to offer."
New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom said it looked like the secret was out and the world was about to discover what the people of Taranaki had known all along.
In the last few years, Queenstown, Christchurch, Auckland, Waiheke Island and the West Coast have all found themselves on Lonely Planet's top lists.
Lonely Planet's Top 10 regions to visit in 2017
1. Choquequirao, Peru
2. Taranaki, New Zealand
3. The Azores, Portugal
4. North Wales, UK
5. South Australia
6. Aysen, Chile
7. The Tuamotus, French Polynesia
8. Coastal Georgia, USA
9. Perak, Malaysia
10. The Skellig Ring, Ireland
Some more accolades we snapped up
The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail was listed as one of the world's best "bikepacking" experiences. "From the shapely ankles of New Zealand's highest mountain, mighty Aoraki (Mt Cook), the new 301km Alps 2 Ocean Trail cascades through the foothills of the Southern Alps, sending cyclists past great lakes and along rivers wending across the Canterbury Plains, until it reaches the Pacific Ocean at Oamaru. The final sections of this magical mixed-terrain trail are slated to open in 2017."
New Zealand was named the second-best family adventure destination in the world. "New Zealand's natural beauty and excellent reputation for outdoor pursuits make it a popular destination for families. Hiring a camper van is not only an economical way to explore the country but also gives you the freedom of the open road and the fun of outdoor life without having to put a tent up each night."
Whare Kea Lodge & Chalet in Wanaka was among the top 10 best places to stay. "Located at 1750m a short hop from Mt Aspiring National Park, this chalet has simply spectacular views. For four months a year it's snow-covered; in summer the mountainside is dotted with wildflowers. Guests can go skiing, walking, cycling, canyoning and kayaking in the area."
Taranaki is no stranger to attention
2007: British cricketing authority Wisden names Pukekura Park's cricket ground one of the six best in the world.
2008 - New Plymouth judged world's most liveable city, 20,001-75,000 by the United Kingdom based, United Nations endorsed organisation Livcom.
2010 - Lonely Planet rates Pukekura Park as "superb", Puke Ariki "excellent" and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery "fabulous". Hawera gets a mention as a good place to stop for supplies and Egmont National Park is described as "an absolute beauty".
2011 - Te Wera Wera bridge across the Waiwhakaiho river wins best footbridge (30 to 75 metres) at the international Footbridge Awards in Poland.
2014 - The TSB Bank Festival of Lights judged New Zealand's most outstanding event by the New Zealand Recreation Association (NZRA).
2016 - World's largest online travel booking website Trip Advisor gives New Plymouth's Pukekura Park its highest possible rating.