Tourism New Zealand chairwoman Kerry Prendergast was particularly impressed with the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail when she passed through the Waitaki District on Wednesday.
The former mayor of Wellington stopped in Oamaru on Wednesday and yesterday on a two-week tour of the South Island.
"The last two years as chair I've done two roadshows around New Zealand talking to the industry about how we should be marketing New Zealand ... and as I went around the South Island it appeared to me, despite the fact I was born in Christchurch, I haven't seen a lot of the South Island," she said.
Meeting with Tourism Waitaki general manager Joel Coatsworth and Waitaki District Mayor Alex Familton, Mrs Prendergast said she rated the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail highly and she would love to return to ride it.
Mrs Prendergast said she had met Mr Coatsworth at a tourism roadshow and he told her the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony was a must-do.
Her two-week South Island tour is a personal holiday, but Mrs Prendergast lives her job.
"Mostly we did it cold, we didn't tell people so it's been quite interesting cold-calling motels and seeing the different South Island experiences," she said.
When she returns home she'll compile a blog of her travels and experiences.
"For Oamaru, I've been here once before and my memories of Oamaru were very much about the heritage.
"So it's really nice to come back and remember some of those wonderful memories," Mrs Prendergast said.
She said it had been nice to meet the people on the ground and understand some of the issues facing the smaller centres, particularly surrounding local government.
She said there was real concern that the Government was talking about local government going back to basics.