Where is it?

Bay of Islands, New Zealand.

Why do you go there?

It is a stunning part of the world, like Scotland on steroids and the weather is better. I love the New Zealand people: they have their heads screwed on. I find the Kiwis humane, laidback and right-on in a way that isn’t offensive.

How did you discover it?

I first went in the 1970s when I was in the merchant navy. I was blown away by New Zealand. It got under my skin. I was there quite a lot between 1976 and 1981, although I never got up to Bay of Islands – the nearest was Auckland.

The next time I visited was two years ago when I was filming Paul and Nick’s Big Food Trip, the TV series with Paul Rankin. My wife Julia knew New Zealand as she had spent a gap year there and has friends in Auckland.

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We had a holiday before filming began and drove up to Bay of Islands. Paul came with us as a sort of third wheel, which sounds slightly odd, but he’s my best mate and I’ve known him for 25 years.

We stayed in the seaside town of Paihia and caught the ferry to Russell, a beautiful, old-fashioned place. Unbeknown to everyone, prior to flying out, I had gone to the jewellers and bought a ring.

What’s your favourite memory?

When we arrived in Russell, Paul headed off for a swim as Jules and I sauntered down to the beach, where the sun was shimmering off the crystal-clear waters. I got down on bended knee and asked Jules to marry me. She said yes.

It was all very romantic, then suddenly Paul appeared and said: “Right, Nairn. You should get in the water. I can show you some exercises. It will be good for your back.” I replied: “Err, Paul, I’m kind of in the middle of something …” He stopped and asked: “Oh, is that a ring?”

Jules and I had our engagement lunch in a restaurant on the beach – with Paul, of course – then afterwards toured Bay of Islands.

We spent the next six weeks filming all over the North Island and South Island. We loved the Craggy Range Winery near Napier – it is like Glen Coe with sun.

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An amazing thing about New Zealand is you can drive 20 miles and the landscape changes. There are plains, mountains, oceans and massive agriculture with soft fruit, avocados and kiwis.

Sum it up in five words.

Stimulating. Laidback. Warm. Welcoming. Extraordinary.

What travel spot is on your post-lockdown wish list?

We love city breaks. We were meant to visit Palma, Majorca, but had to cancel. Barcelona is next on our list as soon as we feel safe to travel.

Nick Nairn and Dougie Vipond present The Great Food Guys, BBC Scotland, Thursdays, 8pm. His restaurant Nick’s on Henderson Street in Bridge of Allan reopens on August 7. Call 01786 831616 or visit