NZ from a tourist perspective
IF you want to know the best places to check out when you're visiting a foreign country you're often best advised to ask a tourist rather than a local.
Perhaps it's because familiarity often breeds contempt, or maybe it's just because you figure you can always see the attraction round the corner on another day, but people often seem to find the wider world more interesting than their own country.
When I was working in Britain on my OE I soon found I had seen more of the country than most of the Poms my own age. And I guess there's no reason to assume things are any different back here in NZ.
So when Kiwi Experience - which runs a hop-on, hop-off bus system for backpackers and independent travellers - surveyed its customers on their best experiences I was interested to see the results.
Funnily enough the very first item in the survey revealed that the best place to buy a steak and cheese pie is the Stone Oven Bakery in Devonport. Huh. I could have told them that. But I didn't know that the best place to buy a chicken curry pie is Better Quality Pies in Rotorua.
The best place for a cold beer, according to Kiwi Experience's backpackers, is the Lake Wanaka waterfront in the afternoon sunshine. Hard to argue with that. Though you could also add the Te Kaha pub - setting for that great short film Two Cars, One Night - the marvellously named South Sea Hotel at Half Moon Bay on Stewart Island, the Masonic Hotel in Devonport which is soon to be converted into apartments, the grand old Duke of Marlborough in Russell ... and plenty more.
The best place to eat fish and chips is named as Kaikoura. Fair enough. But I reckon Kaiaua would be hard to beat.
The best place for skinny dipping is Lake Mahinapua. Hmm. It's certainly beautiful but isn't it a bit cold? When I was of an age to go skinny dipping the place to go was Kerosene Creek near Rotorua which had the advantage of getting you into hot water on a cold night.
Other best places include: Skateboard - the Wellington waterfront; dance - World Bar in Queenstown; listen to live music - Monsoon Bar in Franz Joseph; try local cuisine - hangi at the Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua; get close to wildlife - meeting baby seals at Ohaua Stream north of Kaikoura; climb a mountain - Tongariro; bungy jump - Nevis Canyon in Queenstown; sunbathe - Cathedral Cove; surfing - Punakaiki; meet locals - Waitomo; have a picnic - Abel Tasman National Park.
Unfortunately there's one important best they didn't mention which I will kindly supply: best places to meet some local birds - Tiritiri Matangi Island or Miranda Shorebird Centre.