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Ask the experts: Regional tourism's rising stars

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There's no better time to plan a Kiwi holiday than when you're returning to work from your most recent one. But where to go? We've asked some rising stars of the New Zealand tourism industry for their regional recommendations.

TAUPŌJo Saville, Huka Honey Hive

What is your favourite thing to see, do, or visit in the Taupō region?

Huka Falls is still one of my favourite things to visit. The raw power of the thundering falls coupled with the serene calmness of gentle mist floating in the air is truly magical. I love watching it from the different vantage points, like from the amazing walks along the edges of the Waikato or by jetboat or cruise where you can soak it in from below.

Mark and Jo Saville, owners of Taupo's Huka Honey Hive. Photo / Supplied
Mark and Jo Saville, owners of Taupo's Huka Honey Hive. Photo / Supplied

What is unique about Taupō?

The great lake itself. It's Mother Nature at her best. More Kiwis should get out on the water to tiki-tour around the pristine bays, splash under the waterfall at Otupoto Falls, marvel at the Māori rock carvings and enjoy some great trout fishing.

Why should Kiwis visit?

Not only is it so central, with mountains, lakes, skiing, hiking, shopping and the best year-round climate for all our amazing activities, where else would you rather be?

hukahoneyhive.com

TARANAKITama Blackburn, owner and director of Nau Mai New Plymouth Tours and New Zealand Surfing Adventures

What is your favourite thing to see, do, or visit in Taranaki?

I am Ngāti Maniapoto and raised in Waitara, so my fave things to do are enjoying the scenery and landscapes from the northern gateway. I might stop in at the Mokau museum to see the latest exhibitions and visit the local cafe for a whitebait fritter. Then on the way home, stop in to see the whānau in Tongapōrutu at the new Three Sisters Coffee & Ice cream Shop before checking on the Three Sisters formation changes.

Tama Blackburn, owner and director of Nau Mai New Plymouth Tours and New Zealand Surfing Adventures, with wife Gina. Photo / Supplied
Tama Blackburn, owner and director of Nau Mai New Plymouth Tours and New Zealand Surfing Adventures, with wife Gina. Photo / Supplied

What is unique about Taranaki?

More than 200 surf breaks wrapping 180 degrees around a perfect maunga.

Why should Kiwis visit?

You cannot just 'Do' Taranaki. Our mountain actually extends past the national park boundary right to the coast and is our grandfather, and like most grandfathers he shares a different story and experience with you every time you visit. Taranaki is the perfect midpoint destination in a loop from Waitomo to Tongariro/Rotorua, or passing through to Whanganui/Wellington.

naumaitours.co.nz; nzsurfingadventures.com

Daniel Fleming, general manager and co-owner of King & Queen Hotel Suites, New Plymouth

Taranaki's landscapes change dramatically. Photo / Getty Images
Taranaki's landscapes change dramatically. Photo / Getty Images

What is your favourite thing to see, do, or visit in New Plymouth?

Biking, running or walking along the coastal walkway is a must-do. You can watch the surfers and paddleboarders; stop off for a coffee at the Kiosk or Paris Plage; and even link up with the Te Henui walkway for a fix of greenery and gardens.

What is unique about Taranaki?

We are so lucky to have a bustling city nestled between a spectacular mountain and a beautiful coastline. You can surf and ski in the same day!

Why should Kiwis visit?

Taranaki is the perfect mix of outdoor adventure and beauty; mixed with a vibrant art, coffee and foodie culture. Real people and authentic experiences in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

kingandqueen.co.nz

HAWKE'S BAY

Kate Nimon, general manager of Nimon Luxury Passenger Transport

What is your favourite thing to see, do, or visit in Hawke's Bay?

I love going to events in the Bay. It's an awesome way to keep things interesting because we have so many events, and they're all different. Whether it's a market, a light show, a concert, or a wine and food festival, there is always something in the calendar, and we tend to attract the best.

Napier, New Zealand, is world famous for its art deco architecture. Photo / 123RF
Napier, New Zealand, is world famous for its art deco architecture. Photo / 123RF

What is unique about Hawke's Bay?

Our Art Deco architecture. I live in an Art Deco house and I just love being a part of that history. The landscape, the people, our events, and our style, is all part of the 1931 Earthquake story. It's an incredible time-stamp of who we are. You can't beat a jam-packed Art Deco Weekend either.

Why should Kiwis visit?

We have everything here in one place – why wouldn't you visit? Hawke's Bay is the perfect sampler. Wine, cheese, produce, rivers, beaches, mountains, lakes, architecture, craft beer, shopping, amazing cafes/bars/bistros/restaurants (with new ones popping up every day), hot springs, bush walks, farms; oh, and did I mention events?

nimons.co.nz

WAIRARAPA

Becky Bateman, Under the Stars

What is your favourite thing to see, do, or visit in Wairarapa?

I am a real foodie, I love going out for brunch, dinner, pudding, I need no excuse. I love finding new places to eat and drink. My favourite at the moment is the Clareville Bakery. My family and I all love their cronuts.

Becky Bateman, from Wairarapa's Under the Stars. Photo / Supplied
Becky Bateman, from Wairarapa's Under the Stars. Photo / Supplied

What is unique about Wairarapa?

Considering my chosen career, the dark sky. We all know about Tekapo, but you can enjoy darkness everywhere in the Wairarapa, even in the main towns it is still dark enough to see galaxies with the naked eye. You feel like you can just reach up and touch them.

Why should Kiwis visit?

I think the Wairarapa has a fabulous mix of everything. Rural and urban, beaches and bush, dark sky and fresh produce. A real chance to unwind and reconnect with nature.

underthestars.co.nz

WELLINGTON

Dave Woulfe, director of Wildfinder

What is your favourite thing to see, do, or visit in Wellington?

Experiencing the South Coast in all its moods and from all angles. Following a pod of dolphins along the coast at Pencarrow by bike; freediving with humpbacks and surfing with orca around the Wild Coast (exact locations will remain a secret!); magnificent views of the Kaikoura from Baring Head; the South Coast's just about my favourite place in the world.

Dave Woulfe is the director of Wildfinder, a tourism business in Wellington. Photo / Supplied
Dave Woulfe is the director of Wildfinder, a tourism business in Wellington. Photo / Supplied

What is unique about Wellington?

The Remutaka Cycle Trail. NZ's most varied cycle trail, in three days you move from a suburban landscape, to a river valley, historic rail trail, rolling farmland and the Wild Coast. There's nothing else like it in the country.

Why should Kiwis visit?

Outdoor adventure! Everyone knows about Wellington's thriving nightlife and hospo scene, but its outdoors is massively underrated. Mountain bike parks and cycle trails, incredible coastal and bush walks, even white water rafting - Wellington's outdoor scene is untapped, uncrowded, and just waiting to be discovered.

wildfinder.co.nz

NELSON TASMAN

Lee-Anne & Todd Jago, Waka Abel Tasman

What is your favourite thing to see, do, or visit in the Nelson Tasman region?

We often like to get on the water, even on our days off or after trips, and hit the Motueka Sunday Market, visit Te puna o Riuwaka (Riuwaka Resurgence), have some freshwater fun on Te awa o Motueka (Motueka River) or just take the kids to the beach - everything we need is close by.

"Ko te wai te ora o ngā mea katoa"
Water is the giver of all things

Lee-Anne and Todd Jago from Nelson Tasman's Waka Abel Tasman. Photo / Supplied
Lee-Anne and Todd Jago from Nelson Tasman's Waka Abel Tasman. Photo / Supplied

What is unique about Nelson Tasman?

We are often told by visitors that there is a very nice positive wairua (unseen energy) about our region. We both felt this when we arrived here many years ago and still feel it now. We have a great community in our region with people out and about enjoying the taiao (environment). We have amazing sunrises and sunsets with beautiful colours. The coastline of Te tai o Aorere (Abel Tasman National Park) is stunning, with untouched native bush coming right down to the golden granite beaches and wildlife in and around the moana. We are surrounded by water and have mountains all around.

Why should Kiwis visit?

Come to feel at peace without the need to race around but relax and enjoy what we have to offer, relax on the beach at Kaiteriteri, head into the Abel Tasman National Park or experience the great wine, fresh fruits and food of the region. Make sure you allow as much time as you can, as you will not want to leave.

"Haere mai, ka rongo i te pūngao"
Come and feel the Wairua!

wakaabeltasman.nz

MARLBOROUGH

Karen Walshe, Explore Marlborough

What is your favourite thing to see, do, or visit in Marlborough?

On a working day in the summer, an early morning walk up in the Wither Hills is magical. The Wither Hills farm park is easily accessible from town and has a multitude of walks. For visitors it is ideal as there are a variety of walks and it is very hard to get lost, as town and the valley floor are pretty much always in view. The views of the mountains and the coast are stunning. Lunch and a glass of sauvignon blanc at one of the many wineries is also a quintessential Marlborough experience

Karen Walshe from Explore Marlborough. Photo / Supplied
Karen Walshe from Explore Marlborough. Photo / Supplied

What is unique about Marlborough?

The variety of experiences on offer. You can have an amazing day biking around the valley floor visiting the wineries and taking in the mountain views and the next day be in the Marlborough Sounds surrounded by bush-clad hills, visiting stunning bays, heading out on a boat or walking the Queen Charlotte Track or the Link pathway. Two totally different experiences and only 30 mins apart.

Why should Kiwis visit?

Because we are one of NZ's hidden gems. Many New Zealanders have driven past us, flown over us or caught the ferry into Picton but once people take the time to stop and experience our beautiful region we almost always see them back again within months bringing friends to share the experience with. We have stunning scenery, accessible outdoor experiences. Great food, NZ's best wine and friendly locals.

exploremarlborough.co.nz

HURUNUI

Tim Loughnan, owner of Energy Jet

What is your favourite thing to see, do, or visit in Hurunui?

It may sound biased as I have managed to build a business around something I love so much, but jetboating on the Hurunui River is my favourite thing to do! Cruising up this amazing waterway to a secluded beach and pulling out the barbecue for a feed is a hard thing to top! Getting the fishing rod out or going for a swim just adds to the experience, especially with a good group of mates.

Tim Loughnan, the owner of Hurunui's Energy Jet. Photo / Supplied
Tim Loughnan, the owner of Hurunui's Energy Jet. Photo / Supplied

What is unique about Hurunui?

The number of hidden beaches along the east coast. Swimming, surfing, fishing and tramping are all easily available. You can be surfing in the morning and then skiing in the afternoon. Being able to go to from civilisation to somewhere that feels so remote in a matter of minutes is a grounding experience. There are some really fascinating hidden gems in terms of Māori and European history that also make it really cool. Nape Nape beach and the Blythe River mouth are culturally significant areas for Māori and Port Robinson is interesting in its shaping of early European settlement in the area.

Why should Kiwis visit?

It has everything on offer in terms of natural landscapes, waterways and activities. The rolling farmlands, ski fields, rivers and beaches offer amazing variety in scenery. But I think the best thing about the Hurunui is the quality of the people. There are some really genuine businesses that care hugely about the consumer. Post-Covid, I think the emphasis has shifted more towards how much value are you getting for your dollar, not necessarily just a discounted price. This is where I think the Hurunui can lead the way as people can find great value for money in places that are traditionally thought of as "off the beaten track".

energyjet.co.nz

KAIKŌURA

Aaron Peacock, pilot, Kaikoura Helicopters

What is your favourite thing to see, do, or visit in Kaikoura?

Explore the mountains that we have at our back door. Kaikoura is not overly well known for its alpine environment but we have some of the most incredible terrain and breathtaking views out behind our township. It makes for amazing picnics.

Aaron Peacock is a pilot with Kaikoura Helicopters. Photo / Supplied
Aaron Peacock is a pilot with Kaikoura Helicopters. Photo / Supplied

What is unique about Kaikoura?

The abundance of marine life so close to shore. Kaikoura is known for our resident sperm whales but we also see various other species of whale and dolphins pass through our waters throughout the year – from the more common orca and humpback whales to the rarer visits from the southern right, fin and the blue whale – the largest animal on the planet!

Mountains, sea and wildlife are what make Kaikoura so special. Photo / 123RF
Mountains, sea and wildlife are what make Kaikoura so special. Photo / 123RF

Why should Kiwis visit?

Kaikoura has something for everyone – great hunting and fishing, walking/tramping tracks, mountain bike trails, amazing surf breaks, seal and dolphin swimming and, of course, whale-watching.

kaikourahelicopters.com

SOUTHLAND

Nate Smith, Gravity Fishing Experience

What is your favourite thing to see, do or visit in Southland?

Stewart Island. My favourite things to do there are free diving, harvesting kaimoana, and just being submerged in Rakiura's beautiful surroundings.

Rakiura Stewart Island, the third largest island in the country. Photo / 123RF
Rakiura Stewart Island, the third largest island in the country. Photo / 123RF

What is unique about Southland?

There is a diverse range of things to do: bushwalks, beachcombing, fishing, diving, sightseeing/history, and just being in nature in general is a massive part of Southland. It is so vast, yet unique in so many ways. For example, one hour's drive to the east of Invercargill and you are in the Catlins. Beautiful wild uncrowded beaches and walks to explore. And one hour's drive to the west you find yourself on the rugged west coast at the foothills of Fiordland, with untouched mountain views.

gravityfishing.co.nz

For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newfinder.co.nz and newzealand.com