Three brand-new Māori tourism ventures have propelled Northland into Time magazine's list of the world's top 100 destinations of 2021.
When the influential US current affairs magazine, circulation 1.6 million, released its list of the World's Greatest Places 2021 this week, two New Zealand destinations made the cut.
Christchurch was chosen on the strength of the city's post-earthquake rebuild while Northland earned its spot thanks to three innovative new attractions — Manea Footprints of Kupe Centre in South Hokianga, Te Ahurea in Kerikeri, and the revamped Ngāwhā Springs hot pools near Kaikohe — plus one natural wonder, Rikoriko Cave at the Poor Knights Islands.
While New Zealand's closed borders mean Northland is unlikely to see any immediate benefits from Time's top 100 list, in the long run it is likely to boost the region's profile as a cultural tourism destination.
It's also a great shot in the arm for the three Māori tourism ventures singled out by name, none of which is more than seven months old.
Manea Footprints of Kupe, which opened in Ōpononi in December 2020, is a guided exhibition telling the story of the great explorer Kupe's discovery of Aotearoa through live performance, film and large-scale artworks.
Managing director Shane Lloyd it was great recognition not just for the centre but for a story of worldwide significance.
''It's exciting for us, we've only been open going on seven months. It just goes to show the experience is unique in New Zealand, there's nothing else like it that tells the story of an actual event — in this case, it's New Zealand's first story.''
Lloyd said Time's top 100 list raised the centre's profile and recognised the people behind it.
It also demonstrated the story's global significance because New Zealand was the last major landmass to be discovered and settled by humans.
Manea, which is operated by Te Hua o Te Kawariki Trust, was planned for many years but had the bad luck to open during a pandemic. It has survived by switching focus to school groups and domestic tourism.
Te Ahurea, which is owned by hapū Ngāti Rēhia, opened in February this year on the site of Rewa's Village, built at Kerikeri Basin in the 1970s as a replica fishing village.
It aims to be a living showcase of Māori culture, with workshops in weaving and carving, and will eventually also offer waka tours.
A waka is currently being carved with the hull on display in the new whare waka across the river from the Stone Store.
Ngāwhā Springs, a natural hot spring complex east of Kaikohe, reopened in April after being refurbished by the Parahirahi Ngāwhā Waiariki Trust.
The upgrade included new changing rooms, a cafe, ticket office, shop, rooms for health practitioners and a flood protection wall.
Manager Teremoana Jones said the list affirmed what locals and the trust had always known — that the hot pools were unique and had international value.
All three ventures received significant funding from the coalition government's Provincial Growth Fund.
The only other attraction mentioned by name is Rikoriko Cave in the Poor Knights, about 25km off the Tutukaka Coast.
Rikoriko is said to be the world's largest sea cave, while the protected waters around the islands offer some of the world's best diving.
The list's editors said few industries had been as badly affected by the pandemic as travel, tourism and hospitality.
''In many ways, our third annual list of the World's Greatest Places is a tribute to the people and businesses at the forefront of those industries who, amid extraordinary circumstances, found ways to adapt, build and innovate. It shines a light on ingenuity, creativity, revitalisation and reopenings in destinations across the world,'' they said.
The magazine compiled the list by asking its international network of correspondents and contributors to nominate places — including towns, cities, regions and entire countries — offering new and exciting experiences.
■ Go to time.com/collection/worlds-greatest-places-2021 to check out the full list.