Travel guide describes City of Sails as being 'geographically blessed' and with a 'vibrant Polynesian culture'

In the eyes of Lonely Planet, Auckland is No 1 and No 2.

The travel guide released its latest New Zealand edition yesterday, with a list of the country's 20 top experiences.

"It's hard to imagine a more geographically blessed city," the guide says about Auckland.

"Is there another 1.4-million-strong city with access to two oceans and such vibrant Polynesian culture?"


At the top of Lonely Planet's list was Auckland Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf. Second was urban Auckland.

The city was ranked ahead of tourism spots, such as Queenstown, Milford Sound, Waitomo Caves and the Bay of Islands.

"Auckland isn't your average metropolis," the guide says. "It's regularly rated one of the world's most liveable cities, and while it's never going to challenge NYC or London in the excitement stakes, it's blessed with good beaches, flanked by wine regions and has a large enough population to support a thriving dining, drinking and live-music scene.

"Cultural festivals are celebrated with gusto in this ethnically diverse city, which has the distinction of having the world's largest Pacific Island population."

The guide even recommends a two-week itinerary to its readers based entirely in the city (Auckland Encounter), though it suggests options for activities "within easy reach of the big smoke", such as surfing at Raglan.

When told that Auckland had taken the top two places, leaving his town third, Rotorua Mayor Kevin Winters said: "Wow, that's amazing."

His exclamation was not Auckland's high ranking, but that his town was right up there with it.

"It's hard for us to compete with Auckland. Auckland is going to beat us hands down with international visitors because of the airport."

The Bay of Plenty district had recently refocused its tourism strategy - and it was surprising the efforts had been so quickly recognised.

But Lonely Planet had still got Rotorua's placing wrong, he said.

"Number one, mate. But I'm biased."

The travel guide noted that Auckland Council was trying to clean up the "mess" that is Auckland's public transport system.

Lonely Planet's NZ experiences

1) Auckland Harbour, Hauraki Gulf
2) Urban Auckland
3) Geothermal Rotorua
4) Wellington
5) Kaikoura
6) Franz Josef, Fox Glaciers
7) Waitomo Caves
8) Bay of Islands
9) Tongariro Alpine Crossing
10) Rugby
11) Abel Tasman National Park
12) Maori culture
13) Otago Peninsula
14) Heaphy Track
15) Central Otago
16) Skiing and snowboarding
17) Queenstown
18) Milford Sound
19) TranzAlpine
20) Akaroa and Banks Peninsula