Six quirky off-the-beaten-track destinations in New Zealand

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After enduring months of stifling Covid-19 restrictions, Australians are finally free to travel to New Zealand again without the need to quarantine on arrival, or the return home.

As long as you are double-vaccinated and undergo either a PCR test, or a certified Rapid Antigen Test within 24-48 hours of departure, the doors are now open to our favourite holiday spot.

Halla-bloody-lujah!

The hardest part now is narrowing down where to go.

As transplanted Kiwis now based in Sydney, we’re often asked about where and when to visit.

For skiing fans, we’d suggest heading straight to Queenstown in the South Island anytime from June to the end of August.

For those looking for a more varied, travel-now itinerary with a difference, check out the below six recommendations from Tourism New Zealand.

Evenly split between the North Island and the stunning South, all are easily accessible in your hire car, without having to ever worry about the crowds.

NORTH ISLAND

Taranaki

Small Kiwi holiday homes called baches dominate the Awakino coastline in Taranaki. Photo: Rob Tucker

It attracts some attention due to its place as one of the world’s most symmetrical mountains in the world, but the region is otherwise filled with undiscovered gems. Perhaps best known is the Len Lye Museum, an iconic building in the centre of New Plymouth home to some of the country’s best contemporary art. Pukekura Park is a beautiful, lush park in the heart of the town and home to their Festival of Lights. Featuring music and activities, its main attraction is the dazzling light installations and with new ones each year, you never know what to expect. Don’t miss the award winning Te Rewa Rewa Bridge which frames Mt Taranaki and continue along the promenade for an incredible coastline, dotted with surfers, cyclists, and artwork.

Tairawhiti

Grab your waders and head for the sparkling blue waters as you test your courage feeding stingray at Dive Tatapouri.

Perched on the easternmost outcrop of the country, it’s the first to see the sun and offers more firsts unique to this region. Home to the country’s longest natural rockslide, grab an inflatable water toy or body board and head inland to Rere rockslide, a wild ride in rushing water over perfectly formed rocks. Mt Hikurangi is the best spot to be one of the first in the world to welcome a new day, the highest non-volcanic peak on the island. A sacred place to immerse yourself in the whakairo (carvings) and traditional stories of Māori culture from a local Ngati Porou guide. Grab your waders and head for the sparkling blue waters as you test your courage feeding stingray at Dive Tatapouri, an incredible personal experience with the magical marine life. With an arboretum, heritage trail and tandem bike adventure, not to mention the unofficial chardonnay capital of New Zealand, there is something for everyone.

Hawke’s Bay

Every year the Art Deco Festival celebrates with vintage cars, fashion and music.

It’s the architecture that you’ll notice first, streets of beautifully restored Art Deco buildings that give it the atmosphere of a 1930s film set. Every year the Art Deco Festival celebrates this with vintage cars, fashion and music as the city comes alive with locals and visitors embracing the spirit. Take a vintage car tour and join your Art Deco attired driver for an insightful guided commentary on the city. High on the list of sunshine hours, it offers a temperate climate for cycling around the city, walking to scenic waterfalls like Shine falls or Maraetotara falls or hitting the water at Mohaka rafting. Home to sophisticated wineries, delicious restaurants, bars and cafes and the scenic boardwalk along coastal Marine Parade.

SOUTH ISLAND

Invercargill

At Bill Richardson Transport World discover world class vintage trucks. Photo: Air New Zealand

One of the southernmost cities in the world, Invercargill is enveloped by beautiful, untouched, remote landscapes and is known for doing things its own way. First up would be getting a cheese roll, a delicacy in this region and the perfect snack before hitting Dig This. A unique experience to get out of your comfort zone and get the blood pumping, pick from a wide range of diggers from mini to mega and try your hand at 360 spins, handstands, playing digger basketball or crushing an entire car. At Bill Richardson Transport World discover world class vintage trucks, the largest of its kind, or head to E Hayes Motorworks to learn about local legend Burt Munro and his incredible speed achievements. Make your own chocolate at Seriously Good Chocolate Company before venturing into nature on Tuatapere’s Hump Ridge track and the awe-inspiring landscapes.

Waitaki district

The spectacular Clay Cliffs, a geological wonder of sharp pinnacles and ridges separated by steep and narrow ravines.

Scenic contrasts of windswept beaches with mysterious boulders, look out for Hector’s dolphins and Little Blue penguins or see the carved valleys and deep rivers while gliding from the sky. The Steampunk festival sets the small town of Oamaru abuzz as 19th century Victorian England costumes take over and events, workshops and activities scatter the city. Watch from the beach as Little Blue Penguins adorably waddle into shore to sleep and shelter and if you’re lucky catch a glimpse of some of the smallest dolphins in the world. Further inland, the Whitestone Waitaki Geopark is a landscape to marvel, from Elephant Rocks to Clay Cliffs, the topography is rare and exceptional. Visit the Moeraki Boulders and take a guess at how they got there, in a region with unique formations and events.

Dunedin

Check out New New New for trendy burgers and great beer in a zany setting.

Dunedin is a region with it all – from nature, to award winning food and beverage, from wildlife to culture and castles. With a quirky city vibe including heritage buildings lending itself to a creative hotpot of people. Check out New New New for trendy burgers and great beer in a zany setting or for a locals feel head to Otago Farmers Market in the shadow of the architecturally indulgent Dunedin Railway Station. The heart of the city offers urban style options and creative art covers exposed buildings or head out of town for up, close and personal experiences with wildlife, the Royal Albatross Centre, Yellow Eyed Penguins at Penguin Place or Fur Seals on the picturesque, open coastlines. Pay a trip to Larnach Castle for high tea and enjoy the sweeping views typical of the region, blue sky horizon, and raw, scenic backdrops.