The Bay of Islands Walking Weekend will be expanded to a walking week next year following the success of the inaugural event.
Organiser Riki Kinnaird, of Russell's Duke of Marlborough Hotel, said the October 4-6 event drew 300 keen walkers from as far away as Australia, most of whom said they would come back for more next year.
"People were blown away by Northland, Northland people and Northland produce," he said.
The weekend featured 20 walks ranging from one-hour strolls focussing on history and culture to the challenging hike from Deep Water Cove to Cape Brett lighthouse. Another walk combined a climb to the pa atop Motuarohia Island and a loop walk taking in four different bays on Moturua Island with yacht transport inbetween.
Mr Kinnaird said 420 walks were sold with 90 per cent of participants from Auckland south. Groups of four booked from Sydney and Canberra.
Some groups were staying another week and competing to see who could complete all 20 walks first.
The Urupukapuka and Moturua island walks were most popular, followed by Cape Brett and Whangamumu. Feedback from customers was that they enjoyed the "unbelievable weather", the quirkiness of the evening prizegiving and the friendly, relaxed atmosphere. They also loved the guides.
"We have great story-tellers in Northland," he said.
He believed the Bay was the best walking destination in New Zealand because of its year-round season and its range of two-to-six-hour walks.
An expo on the Saturday featured the Department of Conservation, Russell Landcare Trust, Scouts, Pompallier House and Russell Museum. That would be expanded next year and would include a food and wine festival. The 2014 event would be spread over seven days culminating in the first weekend in October.
Mr Kinnaird said the aims were to bring business to Northland in the off season while having fun and showcasing the area's attractions. Russell's motels were full and the Four Square did better than in Birdman. One hundred walkers stayed in Paihia so the benefits were not limited to Russell.
A walking weekend photo competition was won by Sue Wallace and Kate Lang. Go to http://boiwalkingweekend.co.nz to see the entries. Mangawhai also runs a walking weekend coming up on March 26-30.