Is there a better way to spend your long weekend than a quick overseas getaway? An international trip may sound like a tall order in a short timeframe, but with so many fantastic destinations within striking distance from home, it’s certainly achievable.
Let’s dive into 10 great options for a long weekend overseas, which we think will cater to the tropical travellers, the food lovers, and the adventure junkies alike.
Tropical destinations for the long weekend
1. Nouméa, New Caledonia
New Caledonia’s capital is a buzzing cultural melting pot in a serene tropical setting. Whether you prefer to cruise its crystalline waters, or to spend big on high-fashion, Noumea is the perfect long weekend escape that will appeal to all tastes. Best of all? It’s just a three-hour flight from New Zealand.
But Noumea’s main drawcard is its natural splendour. The city is poised on a peninsula that juts into the sea, creating scenic bays, white-sand beaches and more than a few hidden gems for the adventurous. The Baie des Citrons is the most popular beach in town and lies just 10 minutes from the city centre. Laze in the gentle surf, soak up the sun and refresh with a sunset cocktail at the scenic MV Lounge. For the snorkellers, nearby Duck Island is suitable for all levels of experience.
There is no visa required for Kiwis staying in New Caledonia for less than three months.
2. Honiara, Solomon Islands
Much like Noumea, the Solomon Islands offer tropical seclusion with cultural attractions to boot. Its capital city, Honiara, is around a seven-hour flight from New Zealand and is renowned for its beauty and historical significance.
For the travellers craving tropical isolation, up-market accommodation like the Coral Sea Resort provide the perfect place to sink into a beachside hammock. For the travellers who also want a dash of culture and history in their tropical cocktail, Honiara also offers humbling WWII tours, including US and Japanese memorials and battle sites. WWII wrecks in the area provide some of the most memorable diving experiences in the world. Just make sure you book any dives with a qualified instructor or hold an open water dive certificate, to ensure you are covered under your TravelCare policy.
You can also visit Melanesian and Polynesian villages, and lose yourself in artisan crafts at the local markets.
3. Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Travellers to the Cook Islands are often baffled that such a small place could boast so many things to do. A four-hour flight from Auckland, Rarotonga is bursting with natural adventure and lively restaurants and bars.
Rarotonga is a haven for keen snorkellers, with sweeping barrier reefs, an abundance of tropical fish, and suitable conditions all year round. For information on snorkelling safety on the island (including avoiding the infamous Stonefish), you can visit the Snorkel Rarotonga website.
For travellers who prefer land over sea, walking tours and rental scooters are a popular way to see the island. If you don’t have a motorbike license and want to hire a scooter, you’ll need to obtain a Cook Island driver’s license from the police station in Avarua. There, you’ll need to present your driver’s license, pay a fee, get your picture taken and take a practical driving test around the block.
Remember that the TravelCare policy only covers motorcycles and mopeds under 200cc, and only when you wear a helmet at all times and carry a valid local licence.
Kiwis should also note that although it’s a short flight, local time in New Zealand is actually 23 hours ahead of Rarotonga.
Foodie destinations for the long weekend
1. Melbourne, Australia
When modern culinary maestro Heston Blumenthal says “Melbourne should be on anyone’s list of cities to dine in”, foodies listen. The city is arguably the front-runner of Australia’s diverse food scene, with everything from cheap and cheerful fare to fine-dining flair.
For travellers with a taste for prestige, try the award-winning Estivo, Ezard, and Matteo restaurants for modern Australian cuisine. If you’re after a more relaxed pub-style dining experience where the burgers are big and the beer is cold, it has to be the 2016 Pub of the Year, the Palace Hotel in South Melbourne.
Melbourne’s countless food festivals throughout the year are a testament to the city’s obsession with the knife and fork. Events like the annual Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and the Meatstock Festival, both held in April, are enough to keep all variety of foodie occupied.
2. Nadi, Fiji
Fiji may be famous for its pristine waters and swaying palms, however the tropical nation has ample attractions for food lovers. And with just a three-hour flight from New Zealand, the country’s capital Nadi is the perfect opportunity to lose yourself in a long weekend of hammocks and kokoda, the Pacific Island’s answer to ceviche.
Kokoda is finely chopped raw mahi-mahi fish (or dolphin fish) served in a thick ‘miti’ dressing, made up of coconut cream, onions, lemon and lime juice, salt and chilli. It’s just one of the several traditional Fijian dishes that delight travelling foodies who have a taste for island culture.
It’s important to note that although stunningly beautiful, Fiji is prone to severe weather events. The cyclone season extends from November to April, so use extra care when visiting in these months. Pickpocketing is common in and around Nadi, and taxi scams can also catch travellers off-guard.
3. Bora Bora, Tahiti
Much like Fijian fare, food in Tahiti is all about freshness, flavour, and fish. However, distinctive French influences can be seen in their superb pastries and more fine-dining restaurants. Traditional foods like Poisson cru (the Tahitian take on Fiji’s kakoda), ahi ma’a (pit-style barbecue with clams, octopus, pork and fish) and po’e (taro root pudding with vanilla and papaya) offer a cultural eating experience with flavour to match.
In Bora Bora, the Bloody Mary’s restaurant is famous for its cooked-to-order seafood and its regular appearances of A-list celebrities. For the quintessential tropical sunset dinner, it’s hard to beat the Bora Bora Yacht Club.
Life in Bora Bora may be a tropical fantasy for visitors, however travellers should remember to abide by local laws and protect against threats to health and safety. French law applies across Tahiti, so it’s important to carry identification at all times. A photocopy of your driver’s license or passport is advisable, while keeping your original stored in the hotel safe. Interestingly, Tahiti enforces a good samaritan law, whereby it’s illegal to fail to assist a person in danger where reasonable. Just be sure not to place your own safety at risk when doing so.
Adventure destinations for the long weekend
1. Byron Bay, Australia
Visit the beachside oasis of Byron Bay on Australia’s east coast and you’ll want to stay forever. In fact, many visitors do just that. With arguably the most beautiful coastline in the country, excellent surf, and an eclectic local community hailing from all corners of the world, it’s little surprise that Byron Bay is revered as one of Australia’s must-visit destinations.
Whether you want to try your hand at surfing with one of the town’s many surf schools, go hiking in the hinterland, or just explore the countless local boutiques along Jonson Street, there is absolutely no shortage of adventure in Byron Bay.
As the most easterly point of the Australian mainland, the waters surrounding Byron Bay are considered a superhighway for all kinds of marine life, including the Great White Shark. A string of recent shark attacks and sightings in Byron Bay and surrounding beaches has placed the local community on high alert. If you intend to go swimming or surfing in Byron Bay, avoid heading into the ocean;
- At dawn and dusk, as these are feeding hours for fish.
- If the water is murky, which can occur after periods of heavy rain.
- If you spot a mass of school fish just off shore, often called a ‘bait ball’.
- If the beach has been closed due to a recent shark sighting.
The Dorsal App for your smartphone provides live updates on recent shark sightings all around the Australian coastline, making it a must for travelling surfers and swimmers.
2. Gold Coast, Australia
If you’re looking for a long weekend adventure for the entire family, the Gold Coast is a sure bet. The theme park capital of Australia hosts attractions like Dreamworld, Movie World and Wet ‘N’ Wild, and Paradise Country, so whether you’re into waterslides or wildlife there’s something for you.
Be warned, the crowds and queues can be substantial, especially in the warmer months and on long weekends. So keep the kids supervised, stay hydrated, and don’t ride the roller coasters straight after a big lunch!
The Gold Coast is just under a three-hour flight from Auckland. Better yet, it’s just a short one-hour drive south to Byron Bay, with many shuttle services available.
3. Apia, Samoa
For a remote island experience, few places can rival Samoa’s volcanic grandeur. From exploring the Piula Cave Pool and hiking Mount Vaea, to strolling hidden beaches or marvelling at cascading waterfalls, travelling through Samoa is a humbling and raw back-to-nature experience.
Apia is the country’s capital and launching pad to some of Samoa’s most stunning adventures. Take Manono Island, a 20-minute boat ride from Apia airport, and home to giant sea turtles, pristine sunsets and even archaeological sites.
If you’re heading out on one of the many tours available around Apia, always ensure you book with a licensed operator and that equipment is up to standard.