What’s your idea of the perfect summer escape? Chances are New Zealand has a destination to match. From exquisite gourmet food and wine regions to cultural hotspots and areas of extraordinary natural beauty, the possibilities for a summer sojourn are endless…
As a summer short break destination, New Zealand has it all.
From top to toe, the North and South Islands are packed with amazing holiday options that will leave you feeling refreshed, revitalised and ready to take on the new year. And if you happen to be travelling from Oz, it’s all just a three-hour flight from the east coast. Here are six amazing New Zealand short break ideas for this summer, and just a taste of what you can expect at each.
1. Enjoy the city of Auckland
Anytime is a good time to visit Auckland but the watery landscape around the city is especially captivating in spring and summer. There are awesome beaches in literally every direction — including Maraetai Beach, which is just under an hour’s drive east of the city on the Pohutukawa Coast. Alternatively, head west to the black sands of Piha Beach and perhaps book in for a surf lesson at the Piha Surf Academy.
Back in town, you can get to know the waterfront during a guided bike tour with Adventure Capital. You’ll make plenty of stops to hear snippets of the city’s history and soak up the sensational harbour vistas. If you are feeling especially energetic, you might like to trek the 16-kilometre Coast to Coast Walkway, which connects Waitemata Harbour to Manukau Harbour.
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2. Hawke’s Bay: Magnificent wineries and beaches
Located about halfway down the east coast of the North Island, New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay region makes a great summer short break destination and is easily accessible by air from Auckland or Wellington. Once you arrive, pick up a hire car and set off to explore this famous wine-producing region, renowned for its cabernets, merlots, chardonnays and pinot noirs. Wine tours of Hawke’s Bay are understandably popular. Check out Wines and Vines Tours which offers a number of half day itineraries.
With its fabulous Art Deco architecture and beach culture, the main regional town of Napier is a great spot to base yourself. Hang ten close to the city or head out to secluded gems like Ocean Beach and gorgeous Waipatiki Beach.
Cycling is another popular way to explore the region and Hawke’s Bay Trails features around 200 kilometres of reasonably flat cycling paths between Napier and Hastings. A self-guided, pedal-powered wine tour makes a great day out.
3. The iconic city of Wellington
Summer festival fun doesn’t get any better than Wellington’s three-month party that kicks off from New Year’s Eve. The Summer City festival is made up of lots of different events, but it’s the Gardens Magic series of live concerts that takes place in the Botanic Gardens throughout January that really pulls the crowds.
Summer is also a great time to explore Wellington’s dynamic culinary scene and dine al fresco! Fun options for chowing down outdoors include the street seating at retro Beach Babylon on Oriental Bay, the quirky courtyard at Fidel’s in Cuba Street, and Olive’s secret garden retreat. If you want to style it up a notch, try Hummingbird Eatery and Bar, uber-cool Noble Rot Wine Bar, and Foxglove Bar and Kitchen on the glistening waterfront.
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4. Nelson: The scenic fishing town
Served by direct flights of just 40 minutes duration from Wellington, the arty enclave of Nelson on the northern tip of the South Island makes for a fabulous short break option. It’s a destination that culture vultures in particular will adore, and is home to a large community of artists and creatives working in a range of disciplines including the fine arts, ceramics, photography, sculpture, textiles, and many more.
Given the spectacular natural setting, it’s not hard to work out why an artist looking for inspiration would want to set up shop here. There’s a plethora of boutique galleries to explore and Wine, Art and Wilderness offers an art tour that can be customised to take in the galleries and studios that best match your interests. Nelson was the birthplace of the internationally renowned World of Wearable Art fashion event, and a visit to the World of Wearable Art & Classic Car Museum is a must.
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5. Welcome to Paradise: Blenheim and Kaikoura
Located over on the east coast of the South Island, the town of Kaikoura is just under two hours’ drive from Blenheim, and once you get there, welcome to paradise! The region is a haven for wildlife and offers some of the best marine and sea life viewing opportunities anywhere in the country. Whale watching is massively popular here and unlike whale watching hotspots that rely on annual migration patterns, sperm whales can be spotted off the coast of Kaikoura all year round.
The region is also home to the effervescent dusky dolphin, along with fur seals and nesting albatross. Get amongst the furry locals on a seal kayaking tour with Kaikoura Kayaks or head off on foot along the coastal Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway to spot seals and their pups, along with a variety of seabirds.
Blenheim itself is no slouch as a New Zealand short break destination. The city is the gateway to the fabulous Marlborough wine region, and according to New Zealand Tourism, is one of the sunniest towns in the country (with an average of just under 2,500 hours of sunshine each year). Now, that bodes well for a great summer break!
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6. Explore English Heritage at Christchurch
With direct flights from Australia and all major New Zealand hubs, Christchurch is easily accessible as a short break destination and makes the perfect base for exploring many of the South Island’s iconic natural landscapes. It’s possible to visit Kaikoura in a day, but closer options include the incredibly picturesque town of Akaroa on Banks Peninsula, and the Waipara wine region.
Spend some time exploring Akaroa and acquainting yourself with its unique history as New Zealand’s only French settlement. At just under an hour’s drive from Christchurch, the Waipara Valley is home to a plethora of boutique wineries. Join Canterbury Leisure Tours on a half day wine tour to four superb wineries for tastings, including Waipara Springs and Greystone Wines.
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About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.
Cover image courtesy of Nelson Tasman Tourism
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