"The world's biggest film set is also the world's must-visit destination for the umpteenth year in a row," gushes the introduction. "No wonder the locals are smiling. They've long known they live in paradise and now everyone else does too." So begins the 13th edition of Lonely Planet New Zealand. The result of 5 writers on the road for 26 weeks, it offers a sometimes harsh but fair judging of all that New Zealand has to offer.
The authors praise New Zealand for it’s spectacular scenery, adrenalin pumping activities, music, wine and clean green image. The main cities fair well - Wellington is considered hip and energetic, Auckland cool, and Christchurch is seen as a thoroughly modern NZ city.
But some of the small towns are dismissed by the authors for being outdoor shopping malls (Cromwell), nondescript service hubs (Alexandra), fairly bleak (Ranfurly) and of little interest (Balclutha). Harsh judgements, I think, having visited many of the places myself. But it will give many of New Zealand’s small towns ‘food for thought’. If they are truly interested in attracting and then holding the attention of overseas visitors, they may need to work on and develop their appeal.
Lonely Planet guides have always been known for their honest appraisal of a place and this edition is no different. This honesty has only enhanced sales of its guidebook series. And the New Zealand editions are among Lonely Planet’s highest selling. It will be interesting to see if this edition maintains that honor.