Best New Zealand hotspots to visit when the borders open

·6-min read

It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to travel internationally, and many of us have spent months dreaming of getting on a plane overseas. 

Now, when the Trans-Tasman bubble begins on April 19, Australians are finally able to jet over to New Zealand. 

We’re the envy of many; last year New Zealand was the number one international destination that people wanted to visit when travel restrictions were eased, according to travel company, Luxury Escapes.

plane travel australia new zealand
The Australia-New Zealand bubble is close. Photo: Getty

Initial data from Wotif.com also showed immediately following the announcement of the bubble, travel interest for New Zealand spiked by as much as 1770 per cent for some parts of the country, when compared to the week prior.

“At this stage we’re seeing the best value is available in the cities, with 10 – 40% off select accommodation in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington, however there are some great deals available right across New Zealand," Wotif Managing Director, Daniel Finch said

We’ve rounded up some of the best places to visit:

The New Zealand ski fields

From The Remarkables in Queenstown, to Mt Hutt just outside Christchurch, the New Zealand ski fields are known for their incredible terrain and epic views. This year at The Remarkables, you can ride new lift, The Sugar Bowl Express, for the first time, which opens up new trails and makes park laps much quicker. Mt Hutt, which has been voted New Zealand’s Best Ski Resort six years running at the World Ski Awards, is opening the Nor’west Express lift, which will allow visitors easier access to beginner and intermediate runs. COVID protocols are in place, including wearing masks on public transport and scanning QR codes, but otherwise the slopes are able to operate normally.

Ski Queenstown is currently offering deals on multi-day passes.

Mt Hutt, New Zealand August 10, 2014.  A very colorful crowd of skiers on a bright sunny winter's day on Mt Hutt in the South Island of New Zealand. Skiers are organizing themselves out on the ski slopes and getting ready to start skiing, with some skiers on the learners slope in the background.
Skiers on a bright sunny winter's day on Mt Hutt in the South Island of New Zealand. Photo: Getty

Stanley Brook

Head 90 minutes west of Wellington, and you’ll come to Stanley Brook. Nestled in between three national parks, near the Motueka River, and surrounded by mountains, this remote picturesque village is in the Nelson Tasman Region. It’s ideal for walking, biking, trail-riding and generally getting away from it all. While you’re there, treat yourself to some luxury in the wilderness, at Falcon Brae Villa. This five-star property offers off-the-grid suites, private balconies, an outdoor pool and heated spa – as well as a bar and several restaurants onsite.

Luxury Escapes are offering deals on Falcon Brae Villa.

Russell

The small seaside town of Russell was one of the most searched places by New Zealanders last year, as they travelled domestically instead of overseas, according to Booking.com. Full of historic buildings, including New Zealand’s oldest church, restaurants and art galleries, you can also go out on game fishing boats, and catch a day cruise from here to the Bay of Islands. There are large populations of Kiwi which you can spot if you walk around the nearby Orongo Bay. Russell is an hour’s drive from Whangarei, or a 15 minute ferry from Paihia.

Save up to 50% on accommodation in Russell with Luxury Hotel Guides.

Vintage Paihia - Russell Passenger Ferry crossing Bay of Island's on a Summer day. The historic town of Russell and Flagstaff Hill in the background was New Zealand's first capital city.
The historic town of Russell. Photo: Getty

Murchison

Known as the ‘white water capital’ of New Zealand, Murchison on the South Island has seven rivers – and with them come the best rafting, canoeing, kayaking and jetboating in the country. If you prefer to stay on dry land, you can opt for gold panning, fishing, mountain biking or scenic walks. Ninety minutes drive from Nelson, Murchison is also home to New Zealand’s longest swing bridge. Hang out at the Maruia River Retreat, a wellness retreat where you can ‘forest bathe’ in a secluded hot tub in the forest, take yoga classes and enjoy the seclusion.

Luxury Escapes are offering special deals on Maruia River Retreat, with a “buy now book later” feature which allows you to choose travel dates at a later date.

Queenstown

Queenstown remains the most popular destination in New Zealand, according to Wotif.com, with Wellington, the Bay of Islands, and Wanaka coming in second, third and fourth.

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Take a tour

See the North and South Islands with a difference, with an off-grid Contiki tour. A nine-day South Island experience will see you handfeed stingrays in the Marlborough Sounds, learn yoga at world-leading eco-retreat, Camp Glenorchy, and have a ‘Dark Sky’ experience at Lake Tekepo, one of the best places in the world for stargazing. The North Island experience is a seven-day tour of heritage site, surf towns and Maori culture. Starting in Auckland, this takes you through Raglan and Manu Bay before exploring hot springs in Rotorua. All Contiki tours have physical distancing and hygiene measures in place.

Contiki are offering ‘bubble ready’ deals.

Beautiful turquoise Lake Tekapo under blue cloudless summer sky. The famous snow covered Aoraki Mount Cook in the background at the horizon. Lake Tekapo, Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, Caterbury, New Zealand.
The famous snow covered Aoraki Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo. Photo: Getty

Auckland

Savour Auckland’s Food & Wine - Cuisines from all around the world deliciously intersect with locally produced ingredients and wine, creating unbeatable pairings and leaving foodies spoiled for choice.

Diverse Natural Wonders - Go from exploring an expansive urban oasis to vineyards, black sand beaches, and coastal walks in the same day — all are found at the city’s doorstep.

Authentically Auckland Adventures - Dance under the stars at the designated Dark Sky Sanctuary on Great Barrier Island or bask in the pristine white sands of Matakana, a foodie nirvana.

New Zealand, North Island, Auckland
Auckland is still in the top 10 most popular NZ destinations. Photo: Getty

How the trans-tasman travel bubble works

  • Passengers travelling from Australia to New Zealand will be able to book onto a “green zone flight.” These flights have no passengers who have come anywhere apart from Australia or New Zealand, and the crew won’t have flown anywhere else for a certain amount of time.

  • You won’t be allowed to fly if you have cold or flu symptoms. Random temperature checks will be given to those arriving in the country.

  • Masks will be mandatory on the plane.

  • Any passenger arriving in New Zealand will have to download the NZ COVID Tracer App.

  • At the airport, arrivals will be separated from other international passengers who are going in to hotel quarantine.

What do I need to know about NZ flights?

Air New Zealand has dramatically increased their flights between Australia and New Zealand from April 19, from two to around 50 flights a week. 

There are also new direct flights between Sydney and Wellington. Qantas and Jetstar will also restart flights on April 19, and have added two new routes, including Auckland to Cairns and the Gold Coast – the first ever international Qantas flight from the airport. 

They will run 122 flights a week on 15 routes. Virgin have announced they won’t fly between Australia and New Zealand until 31 October.

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