The long-awaited trans-Tasman travel bubble is set to kick off on April 19, giving Australians the chance to vacation overseas for the first time in more than a year.
And as excited holidaymakers get ready to pack their bags, experts at Booking.com have released their top nine hidden New Zealand gems travellers should add to their travel itinerary.
From coastal escapes, mountain trails, to sprawling ski fields, here is a list of stunning towns to explore and sites to see to quench your wanderlust.
Nestled in the Bay of Islands, in the far north of the North Island, Russell boasts a collection of historic sites as the country’s first seaport and European settlement.
1. Russell, in the Bay of Islands, is a historic town that is famous for being New Zealand’s first seaport and European settlement
1. Russell- holidaymakers can also venture to the beautiful nearby islands, such as Urupukapuka island (pictured)
2. Raglan, a coastal town west of Hamilton in the Waikato region, is a surfing mecca known for its beautiful beaches and water sports
Visitors can admire the town’s old buildings, enjoy an array of seaside cafes and restaurants, swim in the bay, or venture to the beautiful nearby islands – Moturua, Urupukapuka and Motuarohia/ Roberton.
Raglan, a coastal town west of Hamilton in the Waikato region, is a surfing mecca known for its beautiful beaches and water sports.
Popular attractions include kayaking, trekking to Bridal Veil Falls, climbing to the top of Mount Karioi, cycling the Pipiwharauroa Trail, or checking out the famous black-sand at Ngarunui Beach.
Further south, on the northern tip of the South Island, Kaiteriteri is known for its turquoise water and golden sand beach, iconic split apple rock, and its closeness to the Abel Tasman National Park.
Guests can relax on the beach, go kayaking or paddleboarding around the bay, or mountain bike or hike local trails.
4. Glenorchy, a small settlement at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu, shows off New Zealand’s impressive countryside
4. Glenorchy – The small settlement is known as the gateway to ‘middle earth’ for its iconic landscapes that featured in the Lord of The Rings franchise
5. Ohope Beach, in the Bay of Plenty, has an 11km stretch of white sand that is popular with surfers and bird watchers
5. Ohope Beach – the beach overlooks the renowned Whale Island and active volcano White Island and the sweeping East Cape
For those looking for a nature getaway, Glenorchy, at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu, shows off New Zealand’s impressive countryside, sitting amongst a native beech forest and towering mountain ranges.
The small settlement is known as the gateway to ‘middle earth’ for its iconic landscapes that featured in the Lord of The Rings franchise, with local activities including hiking through an array of walking trails, jet boating and kayaking on the Lake Wakatipu, and horse riding.
Ohope Beach, in the Bay of Plenty, has an 11km stretch of white sand that is popular with surfers and bird watchers, as large numbers of wading birds flock to the area each year to breed.
Aside for watersports, fishing and golf are activities of choice for visitors, with Ohope Beach looking out to the renowned Whale Island and active volcano White Island and the sweeping East Cape.
6. Omarama – The junction town offers an array of activities, including glider fishing and hot baths overlooking the countryside
6.Omarama, in the southern end of the Mackenzie Basin in the North Island, is surrounded by marvellous clay cliffs
Tucked in the southern end of the Mackenzie Basin, Omarama is surrounded by incredible clay cliffs and offers the perfect stop through for travellers coming from Christchurch via the Alp 2 Ocean cycle trail.
After a long day of cycling, trekking or checking out the Lindis pass, guests can soak in the famous Omarama Hot Tubs and watch the starry night sky, or immerse in the local lifestyle by watching a a live sheep shearing show or glider fishing.
If you prefer winter sports, Whakapapa Village, positioned on Mt Ruapehu’s western slopes, offers the perfect ski holiday with accommodation on site at the heritage Chateau Tongariro Hotel.
Non-skiers can ride the gondola to Knoll Ridge, New Zealand’s highest cafe, or hike on the Taranaki Falls, Meads Wall and Skyline walks, which feature volcanic rock formations and can be trekked all-year-round.
Takaka, located in the southern end of Golden Bay, is a charming town with a vibrant art community and is home to a cluster of trendy cafés, a small museum, a movie theatre, and boutique shops.
7. Whakapapa Village, positioned on Mt Ruapehu’s western slopes, is a skiers paradise in winter and stunning walking trails in summer
7. Whakapapa Village – the Chateau Tongariro Hotel is nestled in the village and offers heritage accommodation to tourists
Like Kaiteriteri, it is conveniently close to the Abel Tasman National Park and other natural wonders such as the Te Waikoropupū Springs, the largest freshwater springs, the Rawhiti Cave, Wainui Falls, and Grove Scenic Reserve.
On the on the West Coast of the South Island between Westport and Greymouth, Punakaiki possesses coastal forest, limestone caves and canyons and pristine rivers.
Vacationers can marvel at the 30-million old Punakaiki pancake rocks and blowholes, engage in adventure sports like rafting, caving, and canoeing or explore the Paparoa Track.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the start date of the bubble on Tuesday, which will allow travellers to fly without needing to quarantine.
The Kiwi leader said her cabinet is now satisfied the conditions needed for quarantine-free travel have been met as both countries continue to enjoy low coronavirus cases.
But she also warned that with the pandemic still wreaking havoc in many other parts of the world the rules could be subject to rapid change if an outbreak occurs in either country.
Australians heading to New Zealand will be kept separate from other international arrivals who are still required to go into mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days.
8.Takaka, located in the southern end of Golden Bay, is a charming town with a vibrant art community and is home to a cluster of trendy cafés, a small museum, a movie theatre, and boutique shops
8. Takaka is conveniently close to the Abel Tasman National Park and other natural wonders such as Wainui Falls (pictured)
9. Punakaiki, on the on the West Coast of the South Island, is known for its 30-million-years old pancake rocks and blowholes (pictured)
Ms Ardern has said there will be no vaccine requirement when travelling in the trans-Tasman bubble, but strict Covid protocols will still be carried out.
Passengers will be required to undergo random temperature checks, wear facemask during the flight and must download New Zealand’s Covid Tracer app.
All travellers on board a ‘green zone flight’ must also have been in Australian for at least 14 days before departure.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the development is the first of many more steps to come as the two countries get back to a normal in the wake of the pandemic.
‘I very much appreciate the arrangement the New Zealand government has come to today, we welcome them back as indeed Kiwis will be welcoming Aussies,’ he said.
‘That means more planes in the air, more jobs on the ground and in the air as well for our airlines.’
The nine hidden New Zealand gems travellers should add to their itinerary