Get ready for adventure with the travel bubble with New Zealand to open at 11.59pm on Sunday April 18, allowing unrestricted travel between Australian and New Zealand borders.

From spotting yellow-eyed penguins on the Catlins Coast, to trekking on the

Routeburn Track or kayaking on the famous Lake Wanaka, here are 10 must do experiences in New Zealand.

WANAKA

Wanaka is the South Island's perfect retreat, located just an hour from Queenstown, the Maldivian like blue waters and stunning mountain landscape are a must see.

In the winter you can duck off to the surrounding snow tipped mountains for a ski or in summer explore the numerous hikes or visit the famous Lake Wanaka tree via kayak.

Rippon vineyards on Lake Wanaka, Otago, New Zealand credit: Eckhard Supp / Alamy Stock
Rippon vineyards on Lake Wanaka, Otago, New Zealand credit: Eckhard Supp / Alamy Stock

But perhaps the best view is while falling from 12,000 feet in the air with Skydive Wanaka where you get a scenic plane trip on the way up and an experience you'll never forget on the way down.

Once your adrenaline drops down to reasonable levels (it may take some time) you can enjoy the town's fish and chips, pubs and quirky markets.

DUNEDIN

Never seen an albatross? Head to rocky Taiaroa Head on Dunedin's windswept Otago Peninsula and the majestic royal albatross will put on an aeronautical display that will have you gasping with wonder.

The South Island city built on the sea and seafaring offers stunning scenery and wildlife (there's a blue penguin rookery too), as well as a vibrant CBD filled with street art, trendy cafes - and of course, the city's culinary claim to fame, the cheese roll.

For something a little fancy, try high tea at Lanarch Castle before wandering the 14ha of immaculate gardens and climbing a narrow, spiral staircase for a bird's eye view of the harbour and undulating hills.

Views towards Dunedin from the lookout at the Centennial Memorial on Signal Hill Dunedin Otago South Island New Zealand Picture: iStock
Views towards Dunedin from the lookout at the Centennial Memorial on Signal Hill Dunedin Otago South Island New Zealand Picture: iStock

 

Just 15 minutes' drive from the CBD is St Clair Beach, with its heated salt water pools right on the edge of the ocean, or Tunnel Beach, a place of rugged sandstone cliffs and a hand-hewed tunnel that takes you to a secluded beach.

Pack your stamina: it's a steep walk back up.

MARTINBOROUGH

Raise a glass or two with some of New Zealand's best winemakers for Toast Martinborugh.

On the third Sunday of November about 10 of the town's 20 cellar doors offer wine-tasting, food and music for this one-day event. With its colonial-era buildings and gorgeous vineyards - this is a pub crawl for wine lovers who are able to stroll between each site (or for those less able there's a shuttle bus).

Cycling through the vines in Martinborough, New Zealand. Picture: Mike Heydon/JET Productions
Cycling through the vines in Martinborough, New Zealand. Picture: Mike Heydon/JET Productions


But if you can't wait til November, Martinborough and surrounds, has cellar doors open all year and the region boasts some of the country's best pinot noir. If you have time explore the rest of the Wairarapa region; further north near Masterton is the Pukaha National Wildlife Centre and east to the coast you can spot a fur seal while taking a dip at Castlepoint beach and visit one of the last manned lighthouses to be built in New Zealand. Toast Martinborough November 21, 2021, tickets, $85, toastmartinborough.co.nz

CATLINS COAST

The Catlins coast in the very south of the South Island, is home to caves, waterfalls, fossils, forests, lighthouses and shipwrecks.

It is here you can trek out on your own to spot yellow-eyed penguins emerging from the sea at dusk to reach their nests in the forests.

Yellow Eyed Penguins are in the wild. Picture: iStock
Yellow Eyed Penguins are in the wild. Picture: iStock


The excitement of spotting that one little wild penguin emerging from the deep blue leaves any zoo experience for dead.

You can also find elephant seals, fur seals, sea lions and dolphins along the coast.

If you are keen to see more wildlife, drive an hour to the chilly town of Bluff and take a trip to Stewart Island to enjoy some kiwi bird spotting.

If going in winter, be warned to rug up against the winds off the Southern Ocean.

ROUTEBURN TRACK

One of NZ's many great treks, the Routeburn track is a 33km one-way hike through stunning mountain territory in Fiordland National Park in the southwest of NZ's South Island.

Routeburn Track, Fiordland National Park, Otago. Picture: Stewart Nimmo
Routeburn Track, Fiordland National Park, Otago. Picture: Stewart Nimmo


Avoid the crowds and launch off on an alpine adventure in the off-peak season in May.

Effort here is rewarded with stunning views of snow-capped mountain peaks piercing the clouds.

Beautiful turquoise creek on Routeburn Track, New Zealand Picture: iStock
Beautiful turquoise creek on Routeburn Track, New Zealand Picture: iStock

The small cabins dotted along the way are neat and clean and provide a surprisingly warm bed for the night.

Hiking in the off-peak season is recommended for fit, experienced trekkers only.

The trek takes two to four days, depending on your pace.

ADVENTURE

The pretty, historic town of Clyde in the South Island's Central Otago region is the launch point for the Otago Central Rail Trail, a 152km cycling route over shingle trails that were once railway tracks.

You don't need to do the whole trail, just half-day rides from different sections of the trail are possible, but you really should do it.

The scenery is magnificent: this is big sky country filled with rugged gorges, historic railway bridges and plenty of little villages to explore along the way.

Central Otago Rail Trail, New Zealand.
Central Otago Rail Trail, New Zealand.


The 300km Alps 2 Ocean Cycle trail - or part of - is another option, running from Mt Cook to the Pacific Ocean town of Oamuru, and taking you past crystal clear blue lakes and snow-capped mountains.

Roughly halfway along the trail is the town of Omarama, renowned as a world-class place for gliding. Ditch the bike and take to the air in a whisper-quiet glider and marvel at the magnificent landscape below.

OAMARU

A stay in this South Island town an hour-and-a-half's drive north from Dunedin is a trip back to pre-industrial times, where ancient skills bind its inhabitants to a village life that existed centuries earlier.

Oamaru, Otago, New Zealand, illuminated at twilight. The main subject is the Criterion Hotel. Picture: Alamy
Oamaru, Otago, New Zealand, illuminated at twilight. The main subject is the Criterion Hotel. Picture: Alamy


You can stay at the quaint Bookbinder's Retreat, run by an actual bookbinder and brewer who eschews the trappings of modern life wherever possible.

During a walk of the Victorian precinct, loved for its Victorian architecture and streetscapes, you can find traditional craftworkers, from limestone sculptors to sourdough bakers and a woman making ornate ceramic tiles.

Some older women are giving a Highland fling a go in the nearby hall.

There's also a steampunk gallery and a blue penguin colony nearby (the world's smallest penguin).

If heading further south, it's worth a stop at foodie-favourite restaurant Fleur's Place.

Built upon an old whaling station in the sleepy fishing village on the Otago Coast in Moeraki, it's worth a visit if not for its great food, then just to see its postcard-worthy building made from collectables and demolition materials gathered from across New Zealand.

HOKITIKA GORGE

A tiny town on the west coast of the South Island is rich with history … literally.

At the height of the gold rush, Hokitika was New Zealand's second largest port.

The trendy little beach town, 40km south of Greymouth has a short walking track which opens up to breathtaking views of turquoise water.

Hokitika Gorge West Coast NZ. Picture: Fraser Clements
Hokitika Gorge West Coast NZ. Picture: Fraser Clements


It is a view you expect to see out of a picture book and makes for postcard worthy photos. Just a half an hour drive from the main town, the gorge is easily accessible and opens to a long swing bridge where travellers can walk above the water for the best view.

Be sure to visit when the weather is nice, sometimes after heavy the water loses its vibrancy temporarily.

QUEENSTOWN

Endowed with an almost obscene excess of gorgeous natural features, Queenstown rejects modesty and lays on thick. If it wasn't enough to have the town hug the massive, clear 80km-long Lake Wakatipu, it's surrounded by a snaggle-toothed yawn of snow-capped mountains.

Add in a plethora of splendid wineries in the surrounding Central Otago countryside, where pinot noir is the dominant grape, several ski-fields an hour or less away (Coronet Peak, the Remarkables and Cardrona), plenty of hikes, spas with hot tubs, and adventure activities aplenty, and it's easy to see why tourists flock here.

Queenstown in New Zealand.
Queenstown in New Zealand.


Helicopter trips, jetboating, bungy jumping are all on the menu or dial it back with a visit to nearby picturesque Arrowtown, a former goldmining village with cafes, cute shops and tree-lined streets.

EAT AND DRINK

Ten years after the devastating Christchurch earthquake and tourism in the city is thriving.

There's so much to do and see in Christchurch itself, with some fabulous restaurants and wine bars.

Get out of town to Governors Bay if you can - the drive is beautiful, and there's plenty of lovely little pubs for a tipple. Further down the South Island, located just outside Queenstown, Amisfield Winery is a dream for lovers of wine and good food.

Aimsfield Winery offer fine wines and great food.
Aimsfield Winery offer fine wines and great food.


Lunch or dinner is a degustation exploration of the season's best local produce at the winery that won the Riedel Organic Winery of the Year in 2020.

There's also a cellar door and small-plate menu. Pinot noir and pinto gris are the picks at the single-estate vineyard.

For information and bookings visit newzealand.com/au

Originally published as Where to go in NZ when the travel bubble opens



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