Top 10 summer staycations in New Zealand
Local adventures in Aotearoa
Snow-capped mountains, pristine beaches, lively cities and winding hiking trails - we Kiwis are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to adventures in our own backyard.
In fact, you might be asking yourself why you should bother with the summer holiday crowds of international airports when there’s so much to see right here at home.
From budget-friendly family trips to indulgent luxury retreats and everything in between, here are 10 of the best New Zealand summer staycation ideas to explore.
1. Cycle underground through Spooners Tunnel
Constructed in 1891 as an intended link between Nelson and the West Coast, Spooners Tunnel is the longest decommissioned rail tunnel in the Southern Hemisphere. Today, the serene site is open to cyclists and hikers, who can traverse its 1.4km long hand-dug depths as part of the Great Taste Trail.
Nelson is home to some of New Zealand’s most picturesque cycling routes, with the Great Taste Trail passing by rivers, valleys, orchards and vineyards and dramatic coastal scenery. You can, of course, tackle the Trail in sections, but if you’re a keen cyclist the entire 200km route should be on your bucket list.
2. Stargaze at Aoraki Mackenzie
Nothing puts things into perspective quite like beholding an endless tapestry of stars in the night sky. If you’re a passionate stargazer, you’re in luck because New Zealand is home to the world’s largest and highest-rated International Dark Sky Reserve, the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve.
International Dark Sky Reserves are actively protected against light pollution, which is the presence of artificial light in a nighttime environment and a problem that has caused starry skies around the globe to dim or disappear completely. Thankfully, the South Island’s Mackenzie region remains home to some of the world’s clearest and most awe-inspiring night skies.
3. Eat your way around Wellington
Wellington’s culinary credentials are no secret. Home to a slew of award-winning restaurants and attracting foodies from around the world, our country’s capital is a must-visit for anyone who likes to spend their summer with a spoon in hand.
For an unforgettable local fine dining experience, it’s hard to look past the female-led Hiakai (a Māori word translating to hunger). Founded in devotion to the development of Māori cooking techniques and ingredients, Hiakai has received international recognition as a beacon of Aotearoa dining. You’ll find their menus featuring traditional Māori ingredients like muttonbird, red matipo and mamaku.
4. Take a hike to see the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes at Punakaiki
Another South Island treasure, the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes of Punakaiki are the most popular natural attraction on the West Coast.
Walk the roughly 30-minute trail at high tide to see the blowholes in full force and keep your eyes peeled for local dolphins frolicking close to shore. Once passing a natural limestone bridge and the Surge Pool, you’ll reach the famous Pancake Rocks formed of layers of limestone that resemble a generous breakfast.
5. Unwind in luxury at Ahuriri Valley
Nestled in a remote valley between Christchurch and Queenstown lies a luxury lodge that will have any architecture fan drooling. The Lindis in Ahuriri Valley was designed to resemble the sweeping valley it inhabits, with soft rolling edges that marry perfectly with its stunning surroundings.
Inside, the spectacular design continues, with a series of immaculately furnished guest rooms and eco pods fitted with breathtaking floor-to-ceiling windows. Beyond architecture, the Ahuriri Valley offers travellers hiking, horse riding and fly fishing.
6. Pack the van for a roadtrip to Raglan
Famous for its world-class pointbreak waves, Waikato’s Raglan has been a mecca for local and travelling surfers for decades. However, the lively coastal community has equally as much to offer to the non-wave riding folk among us.
With sweeping volcanic-sand beaches, glowworm canyoning, rock climbing courses, mountain bike trails and kayak tours along postcard-perfect limestone coasts, it’s easy to see why a road trip to Raglan has been a rite of passage for so many Kiwis.
With the eagerly awaited Lord of the Rings TV series, The Rings of Power, having just launched, there’s no better time than these summer holidays to get into the spirit of Middle-earth with a tour of Hobbiton in Waikato.
The two-hour Hobbiton movie set tour will have you strolling the enchanting streets of The Shire, complete with Hobbit Holes, the Mill and the Green Dragon Inn. Best yet, children under eight go free!
North Island family getaways don’t get much more iconic than a trip to the Coromandel Peninsula. With its inviting coastline, cosy towns and collection of scenic highlights like Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach, it’s easy to see why the Coromandel is an enduring family favourite.
It’s also easy to imagine that summer on the Coromandel can be bustling with visitors loading up their chilly bins for a long day at the beach. Head to the Peninsula’s lesser-known spots, like the relaxed Opito Bay, if you want to beat the Christmas holiday crowds.
9. Sample New Zealand’s wines at Cable Bay Vineyards
Did you know that it’s New Zealand’s high levels of UV light and low air pollution that make our white wines prized by connoisseurs the world over? Or that our country has highly distinctive growing regions with unique soil compositions and climate conditions?
After a stay at the Cable Bay Vineyards on Waiheke Island, you’ll leave with a deeper appreciation for what makes the wines of Aoteora special. Enjoy luxury accommodation, with sweeping ocean views, local cuisine and of course, the vineyard’s Cellar Door.
10. Wear out the kids at Butterfly Creek Zoo in Auckland
With animal exhibits, animal encounters, a butterfly house, a dinosaur kingdom, an aquarium, playgrounds and more, Butterfly Creek is a worthy addition to your summer trip to Auckland that the kids will love.
Butterfly Creek is just two minutes from Auckland Airport, making it a no-brainer if you’re visiting the city with the family. There’s even a free shuttle to get you to and from the terminal.
Why you should consider domestic travel insurance
Domestic travel insurance might sound unnecessary for your trip within New Zealand, given that you may be covered for medical emergencies by ACC. Unfortunately, there’s a lot that can go wrong while travelling and you could find yourself needing to cancel expensive non-refundable bookings.
Just ask one of our unlucky travellers who needed to cancel their Fiordland cruise. Thankfully, they protected themselves with our domestic travel insurance and were able to make a successful claim for $16,274 worth of cancellations.