12 amazing places in New Zealand to visit before the border opens

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It hasn’t been the best year for overseas travel, but we all have high hopes that 2022 will see us once again soar to overseas shores.

So what should we check in our own country before that day arrives?

New Zealand is full of exciting possibilities, from lesser-known quirky activities in tiny pockets of hidden gems to big bucket list attractions that people travel all over the world to see.

Here are a few to put on your list for this year’s summer adventures.

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Discover the port of Hokianga by jetski.

Awesome Hokianga Adventures / Supplied

Discover the port of Hokianga by jetski.

Jetski in Hokianga harbor, Northland

The Hokianga region is a very special place for all Ngāpuhi – but also for Maori in general. This is said to be where Kupe first landed in the Matawhaorua canoe. While it is lovely to contemplate the sparkling waters and striking golden dunes of the Opononi shore, it is even better to jump on a jet ski with Lenny Naera of Awesome Adventures Hokianga and see it from the water. Coming here for vacations his whole life, he knows the best places to look for mussels, the best places to go down the sand dunes, how to have fun tearing up the harbor or kneeling down – but can also fascinate you with the ancient stories that make this place so culturally important. aah.nz

Waiheke is a great day trip to complement other urban attractions in Tāmaki Makaurau.

Provided

Waiheke is a great day trip to complement other urban attractions in Tāmaki Makaurau.

A day trip to Waiheke Island, Auckland

If you’ve never been to Waiheke, you should change this situation as soon as humanly possible. How many great cities in the world can boast of having a beautiful island with golden sands and crystal clear waters, with over 30 wineries as well as great restaurants and fun shops just a 40 minute ferry ride from the CBD? Discover the markets, browse arts and crafts stores, stroll the riverbanks – this is a great day trip to complement other city attractions in Tāmaki Makaurau. waiheke.co.nz

A visit to the greater Waitomo area, Waikato

Many North Islanders will have made the essential childhood trip to the original Glowworm Tourist Cave at Waitomo (and if you didn’t as a child, you should do it as a child). (adult as it’s a truly fascinating experience) But don’t stop there – there are plenty of other cave activities to explore, including some great tours organized by Waitomo Adventures – the underground zipline and rappelling in magical caves are experiences you will never forget. Half an hour from the main center is the spectacular Marakopa Falls and if you have time on the way back take a bush walk at Piripiri Cave Walk and make time to stop at the Mangapohue Natural Bridge – a impressive arch in natural stone with stalactites. waitomo.co.nz

Dive into the hot pools of Manupirua.

Brook Sabin / Stuff

Dive into the hot pools of Manupirua.

Kayaking to the natural hot springs of Lake Rotoiti, Rotorua

Not everyone knows that there are hot springs that you can only access by water on the side of Lake Rotoiti. Take a kayak trip to the spectacular hot pools of Manupirua Springs with a River Rats guide who will have a wealth of interesting commentary on the area and the Maori history that surrounds it. When you get there, let yourself be soaked as your guide prepares a classic kiwi barbecue. Relax in bean bags, walk up the hill for panoramic views, and after dinner, enjoy a sunset over the lake with a spectacular stop at a tiny, secret glowworm cave that is bursting with luminescent punch. riverrats.co.nz

Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony, Hawke’s Bay

While we totally approve of spending the majority of your time in Hawke’s Bay exploring its amazing food and wine, don’t miss the Cape Kidnappers gannet colony if you’re there in the summer. It is an unmissable experience on many levels. Although the main attraction is the gannets, the climb is also quite impressive. You’ll pass pristine coastline, working farms, native bush, and be stunned by the views of dramatic cliffs and the rugged Pacific Ocean. When you reach the top of the cape, you’ll get closer than you might imagine to over 20,000 northern gannets in their natural habitat – nesting, preening, diving and participating in all kinds of hilarious argy-bargy. gannetsafaris.co.nz

Te Papa is truly an exceptional experience that every New Zealander should have.

Rosa Woods / Stuff

Te Papa is truly an exceptional experience that every New Zealander should have.

Te Papa, Wellington

It’s not exactly a hidden gem, rather the most famous museum in the country. But Te Papa is truly an exceptional experience that every New Zealander should have. It appeals to all ages and tastes, and you can access it for a quick overview, to see an area in depth, or to lose yourself for hours reading all the fascinating facts and immersing yourself in the myriad of practical activities. If you are an art lover, allow some extra time as there are several inspiring exhibits. And if you haven’t seen the Wētā Workshop Gallipoli exhibit (the story of the battle through the eyes of eight ordinary New Zealanders), be sure to do so. The numbers are 2.4 times the human size and will leave you speechless. tepapa.govt.nz

Why go overseas when you have beaches like this in Tōtaranui in Abel Tasman National Park.

Marion van Dijk / Tips

Why go overseas when you have beaches like this in Tōtaranui in Abel Tasman National Park.

Abel Tasman National Park

Much has been said about the loss of regular vacations to the Pacific Islands that we kiwis have long taken for granted. But after spending time on the beaches of Abel Tasman National Park, you will wonder why you ever needed to go abroad for that clear water and white sand beach action. And here it has the bonus of granite cliffs, rushing streams, natural rock pools, lush bushes and more. It really is a good time to go. With no overseas tourists, this deservedly popular national park will be less crowded than normal, and you can see it on foot, by kayak, or by boat; in Kiwi tramping style or luxury accommodation and in a period ranging from half a day to five days. Whatever you do, do it fast. nelsontasman.nz

Franck Film

Ōamaru – How a city moved forward while retreating.

Ōamaru victorian city

Squint your eyes slightly and you might think you’re back in the Victorian era with the amazing limestone architecture of Ōamaru. This is one of those places in New Zealand that you can’t believe you’ve never visited before. Filled with quirky shops and cafes, it’s perfect for strolling around and soaking up the truly unique atmosphere. And don’t miss Steampunk HQ – a treasure trove of bizarre gadgets and ghostly characters made from scrap metal with all manner of weird and wonderful exhibits Impossible to explain but must see to believe. victorianoamaru.co.nz

Riverside Market has some of the most diverse places to eat in the city.

Things

Riverside Market has some of the most diverse places to eat in the city.

Riverside Market, Christchurch

There is so much to see and do in Christchurch (department stores, fabulous street art, museums, beautiful walks, gorgeous buildings) but if food is your thing, head straight to Riverside Market, an incredible collection of all that is culinary. There are market stalls with local artisan producers, places to grab a bite to eat, and restaurants for longer sit-down lunches and fun dinners with cocktails. With everything from Nepalese dumplings to Malaysian curries to fried chicken, this is one of the most varied places to eat in the city. Don’t miss it if you go to Ōtautahi this summer. riverside.nz

The Dunstan Lake Trail features a series of platforms attached to the cliffs.

BROOK SABIN / Tips

The Dunstan Lake Trail features a series of platforms attached to the cliffs.

Dunstan Lake Bike Path

Opened recently, this ride is worth the hype. Travel all or part of this 55km loop – you can do it on an e-bike if it feels too far on your own. You’ll see stunning views of the lake, historic neighborhoods, vineyards, olive groves, suspension bridges, the famous hydroelectric dam, sheer granite cliffs – there’s even a floating burger restaurant! This is definitely a new bucket list adventure for those who have been there and done it all. centralotagonz.com

Larnach Castle was built in 1871.

Brook Sabin / Stuff

Larnach Castle was built in 1871.

Larnach castle

If you like a good yarn, fascinating historic architecture, stunning views and beautiful gardens, Larnach Castle has it all. Make sure you have a guided or audio tour as the stories of William Larnach and his family would rival a season ending Shortland Street suspense. The care taken by the Barker family in restoring the castle (originally built in 1871) to the interior splendor it must once have radiated, is truly admirable. Make sure to schedule your day to end with their excellent tea in the ballroom. larnachcastle.co.nz

Wonders of nature, Otago Peninsula

It’s a truly unique glimpse into some of the most unspoiled parts of the country, and a chance to meet some of its cutest characters. Get into the back of an Argo eight-wheel-drive all-terrain vehicle and explore the Reid Family Farm at the tip of the Otago Peninsula, stopping for breathtaking views. But it’s not just about the breathtaking views – it is perhaps the closest to the area’s adorable baby seals and little blue penguins. The family has a no-interference policy (no feeding, tagging, handling or any form of testing on wildlife) and this has made the animals feel comfortable around humans. It will be love at first sight when Perry opens the little hatches and you realize that you are in fact surrounded by the beauty of the little blue penguins. natureswonders.co.nz

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