Soak up the atmosphere chomping whitebait pizza on the Hokitika beach; cook paua on a camp oven at Tapoutupotu by Cape Reinga or tramp through dense bush up into alpine meadows to the snow-capped peaks above Kaikoura.
These are among the best things to do and the top places to see around New Zealand.
Today Word of Mouth Media NZ released its annual Best of the Best travel awards:
Best camping ground trip: Tapotupotu, Cape Reinga. Don’t take paua illegally.
Best toilets: The quirky Hundertwasser designer-toilets in Kawakawa (designed by famous artist Freidrich Hundertwasser who recycled the community’s old glass bottles and reclaimed bricks to create the only thing he has built in the southern hemisphere.
Best luxury lodge: Kauri Cliffs, Matauri Bay Northland. Try their day spa in the bush.
Best backpacker spot: Napier’s ex-prison lodge is the best nights in the slammer anywhere in the world. As New Zealand’s oldest prison, the Napier jail used to house convicts including mass murderers, drug barons, gang members and the criminally insane.
Best pizza: Fat Pipi’s whitebait pizza – eat it on the beach at Hokitika. This is real New Zealand food. Cooked by Kiwis for Kiwis.
Best architecture: Post-February 1931 art deco heaven in Napier or the refined Victorian and Edwardian buildings of come-again Oamaru.
Best in the air: Hot air ballooning from Carterton’s Ballooning New Zealand base.
Best boutique hotel: Eichardt’s Queenstown. Big fluffy fur rugs on big beds.
Biggest weekend: Auckland Anniversary Day’s 168 year old harbour regatta.
Best walking track: Rakiura, Stewart Island. Hear and see muttonbirds, mollymawks, cape pigeons, bellbirds, tuis, fantails and wood pigeons, grey warblers, kaka and fantail.
Best hot pools: Hanmer Springs north of Christchurch or the brilliant new Glacier Hot pools next to the Eco-Resort at Franz Josef.
Best farmers market: Matakana Village - organic fruit and produce, pickles and chutneys, fruit cheeses, free range eggs, freshly baked breads, pastries, other foody delights and close to some wineries!
Best railway station: Dunedin and its 750,000 Minton mosaic floor tiles; and its Royal Doulton porcelain frieze. Priceless. And top spot for their annual fashion parade.
Best five-star eco resort retreat: Scenic Group’s Te Waonui, Franz Josef. They need to move the helicopter base a little out of the centre of town: choppers and pristine rainforest peace don’t fit.
Best flea market: Otara. New Zealand’s largest street market with up to 5000 people every Saturday morning. Pacific Island, Maori, Indian, Chinese and Pakeha stallholders gather each week, creating a fantastic Kiwi experience. Try the rewana bread. Mmmm.
Best cafe: Procope in Christchurch. Best coffee. Cheeky staff. Great spot – off-street parking!
Best sea trip: To White Island - New Zealand’s only live marine volcano with steaming cracks, bubbling pools and roaring gas vents.
Best events: Marlborough wine festival – all class; and the Wellington rugby sevens: party, party, party.
Best surfing: Whangamata in the Coromandel. The legendary Whanga bar produces long peeling breaks but of their day try the Meatworks, Kaikoura; and Ahipara’s Shipwreck near Kaitaia.
Best recession-proof shopping: The Salvation Army second-hand shop in Queenstown (but don’t tell everyone!).
Best ocean adventure: Watching whales off Kaikoura: whale heaven, with a 95% success rate of seeing a sperm whale, humpback, blue whale or tiny Hector’s dolphin.
Best city walk: New Plymouth. Seven times-award-winning walkway for walkers, runners, cyclists and skaters.
Best hill tramp: The 18km walk through dense valley bush up into alpine meadows to the 5000m snow-capped peaks of Kaikoura: Stay at the Shearwater Lodge.
Best concerts: Rhythm & Vines Concert with over 30 bands in 24 hours for the younger ones in Gisborne; or the Mission Estate concert for more sedates types in - Hawke's Bay.
Best sailing spots: Bay of Islands or take the helm of an ex America's Cup yacht on the Waitemata Harbour. Evan’s Bay Wellington for windsurfing.
Best stargazing: The Mt John Observatory above Tekapo is one of the best places in the world to see the stars. They are applying for world heritage park night sky status.
Best river trip: Up the Whanganui River on the 120 year old Waimarie, New Zealand’s last coal-fired paddle steamer. For more adrenalin: The Shotover near Queenstown.
Best national park walk: Nelson’s Abel Tasman is a paradise of golden sands, lush bush, and sheltered lagoons and coves, for walking, kayaking or both.
Best environmental shop: Eco store in Ponsonby.
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