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Pack your bags! Destination ideas for weekends away

  • 22 March 2018

Whatever your holiday preferences, we’ve got the options covered with our destination inspiration, so you can pack up the car, fill the tank and hit the road. Check out our list of must-see places around New Zealand, whether you’re looking for a family, solo travel or a romantic getaway.  

1. Long Bay Regional Park, Auckland

Named by the AA as one of the top 10 family beaches throughout the country, Long Bay has a long stretch (1km) of sandy beach sitting right next to parkland. There’s also a great playground, safe family swimming, toilets, changing rooms, plus shady picnic and barbeque areas. For curious kids, there are even rock pools at low tide. Best of all, it’s only a 40 minute drive north of Auckland city, making it a good break idea from the city at the last minute.    

2. Waiheke Island, Hauraki Gulf

Wine. Enough said. Plus first class fine dining among the vines. It doesn’t get any better. You can stroll along a soft sandy beach, frolic in waves if you get a warmer day, or marvel at the golden glow of a sunset. The relaxed island ambiance makes for a perfect romantic getaway – the only time you need a watch is to make it to your restaurant table on time and to catch the ferry home again. And there’s always another one, if you miss it...      

3. Wellington

Our windy capital has something to offer for everyone. Not only is it renowned for its cultural, gastronomical, and panoramic wonders – think Te Papa, Weta workshop, Cuba St and the Beehive – it also hosts a plethora of not-to-be-missed events throughout the year. There’s the Wearable World of Arts around September to October, plenty of street and music festivals, as well as large sporting events. There’s never a dull day in Wellie.

4. Hokianga, Northland

It's a great weekend trip from Auckland and one of the most underrated holiday spots in the country. Kids can crane their necks in wonder at the giant kauri trees that line the west coast, including the 1400-year-old Tane Mahuta and 2000-year-old Te Matua Ngahere. Cute little settlements along the coastal road include Opononi, hometown of Opo the dolphin, where you can catch a water taxi to North Head and go sand boarding. Spotting orcas and dolphins is always a possibility, and there are giant boulders to encounter on the beaches at Koutu and Horeke too.  

5. Kaikoura

This friendly coastal town is the perfect place for marine life encounters, coastal and mountain walks or sampling crayfish and other delicious sea fare. It has plenty of cafes, restaurants and shops to explore. Whales, fur seals and dolphins all live in the coastal waters nearby—and can be easily spotted by boat or plane. The best time of year to see sperm whales is from October to August and Orca are generally spotted between December to March.  

6. Queenstown, Otago

This little hub is the most popular visitors’ site in the country, and for good reason. Spectacular scenery—big mountains, majestic vistas, and crystal lakes are some of the sights that greet you. This setting provides a natural playground for all types of adventure, year round. Of course, there’s skiing on your doorstep in winter, but at this time of year it’s still perfect for mountain biking, jet boating, sky diving, bungee jumping, white water rafting…and some of the best South Island wineries are located here to help you recover.  

7. Hokitika, West Coast

It’s New Zealand’s gold and greenstone capital – what could be more appealing to kids than discovering how to hunt for actual treasure? You can take a step back in time and try your luck at panning in Shantytown. It’s also close to lakes and mountains – with the spectacular Franz Josef and Fox glaciers not too far to drive to. You can also visit the Punakaiki (pancake) rocks—kids love the blowholes—and a tree-top walkway through the rainforest close by to Hokitika.    

8. Nelson

Renowned for its creativity, Nelson sits on the doorstep of the Abel Tasman National Park, Golden Bay and Farewell Spit. It's charm lies in a relaxed atmosphere, artsy vibe—there are plenty of craft studios to check out—and eclectic food culture. It’s also one of the sunniest spots in the country. If feeling energetic, don’t miss some of the amazing walkways and coastline views you can easily get to from this area. Each April, there’s even the annual Loop the Lake run.

9. Hawkes Bay

Hawke’s Bay is one of New Zealand’s warmest, driest regions in the country and this makes it a leading producer of wine. There are some stunning locations to sample the local fare and it’s also a popular place for bicycle wine tours. Napier is New Zealand’s Art Deco centre, rebuilt in the 1930’s after a huge earthquake so it’s a great place to wander. You can also escape to the forest trails of the Ruahine and Kaweka Forest Parks, visit Cape Kidnappers gannet colony or unwind on glorious beaches that stretch along the coast.

10. Rotorua

This bustling centre now has so much going on for family adventure that you really need to draw up a list before you go. There are world class biking tracks, natural hot springs, zorbs, luges, bungees, zipline canopy tours, river rafting, mud baths…the list goes on. Allow at least a couple of days to fit as much in as possible!

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