Taranaki named top tourist destination

ISOBEL EWING
Last updated 05:00 05/03/2014
Juan Carlos Valenzuela
ROBERT CHARLES/FAIRFAX NZ

TARANAKI FAN: Surf tourist Juan Carlos Valenzuela, of Chile, agrees with survey results which put Taranaki at the top of a list of best New Zealand destinations.

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Taranaki's famed surf breaks, lush paddocks and rugged coastline have beaten the Coromandel and Milford Sound to take top spot on a list of New Zealand's best destinations.

More than 2000 people responded to the survey sent out by travel experience provider Experience Oz and NZ.

Runner up to Taranaki was the Coromandel, followed by Queenstown, Nelson, Bay of Islands, Milford Sound, Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, Ruapehu and the West Coast.

The criteria included whether the location had natural highlights, unique geographical or architectural features, culture, history, plenty to see and do, if it was over-commercialised and if most people would consider it beautiful.

"The results took us by surprise to be honest," the company's business development manager Michelle Woodroff said.

But Chilean surf tourist Juan Carlos Valenzuela, staying at Ariki Backpackers, thought the region was well-deserving of the title. "I'm really in love with this city."

Woodroff said the poll aimed to get an idea of which New Zealand locations appealed across a range of markets.

It was put out through social media channels and emailed to the company's database of about 50,000 customers, about 600 of whom were from New Zealand and the rest from all over Australia.

She said Taranaki might have won on its appeal as an "off-the-beaten-track" destination.

"Travellers are looking at Taranaki like a best-kept secret."

Mr Valenzuela, 23, is staying in New Plymouth for two months doing an English course at Witt.

A fellow surfer friend back home told him about New Zealand's unofficial boardriding capital. "He told me, ‘mate you gotta go to Taranaki'."

Valenzuela owns a surf tourism and travel company called Pacific Sherpas which offers expeditions to surfers wanting to explore Chile's uncrowded waves and wild landscapes.

He had been surfing at Fitzroy because he didn't have a car to get down the coast, but was happy with the waves there.

New Plymouth surf instructor Daisy Day said she had seen an influx of tourists to the region, especially for surfing.

"It's been people wanting to learn to surf no matter the weather."

She said there seemed to be lots of groups of German tourists and as the survey results would suggest, a few visitors from across the ditch.

"I've also noticed a lot of Australians."

It wasn't just young people visiting either, Day had given surf lessons to several over 60-year-olds over the summer.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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