UPDATED: This article was originally published in September 2017
There’s no denying that the coronavirus has pressed pause on many people’s travel plans so far in 2020. But as restrictions begin to ease in certain parts of the world and people are starting to dream about getting out and exploring again, we thought it was time to start providing you with a little bit of travel inspiration for later in the year.
For the next few months, we’re going to approach our popular month-by-month travel guides a little differently. Normally, we’d help you choose your next destination for an international adventure, without having to trawl through endless travel mags and guidebooks for answers. As soon as it’s safe to travel overseas again, we will resume our usual programming and bring you our ultimate recommendations of places to visit, things to experience, and amazing weather to chase around the world. But for now, we’re celebrating our brand new range of local experiences and encouraging people all around the world to travel a little closer to home right now.
Calling all New Zealanders: here are our recommendations for your close-to-home adventures this November.
There’s a reason Queenstown is a favourite destination of ours – it’s known as the ‘adventure capital of the world’, which suits our Intrepid spirit perfectly. Known for a vast range of activities that adrenaline junkies will love (such as bungee jumping, zip-lining or a variety of water sports), what people may not know about Queenstown is how picturesque it is. The Remarkables Mountain Ranges and nearby Lake Wakatipu are both stunning backdrops for this cosmopolitan town. So, if sitting admiring the views with an excellent glass of New Zealand wine in your hand is more your pace than watching the landscape whizz past you as you jump out of a plane, then Queenstown has your back. On that note, you might also like to spend time exploring the surrounding Central Otago wine region.
Or, if you’re up for an overnighter from Queenstown, we’d highly recommend making your way to Piopiotahi (Milford Sound), where you can take a boat cruise to experience the unforgettable sights of the fiords, waterfalls, icy peaks and lush rainforests… and if you’re lucky maybe even a friendly bottlenose dolphin or two!
2. The Catlins
The Catlins are some of the wildest terrain that New Zealand has on offer. The perfect stop for nature-lovers (although let’s face it, where in New Zealand isn’t?), thanks to the hidden waterfalls, dense forests and rugged cliffs that are just waiting to be explored. If you’re up for a unique adventure on foot, head to the vast Cathedral Caves, which can only be accessed via a specific beach at low tide. Keep an eye out for sea lions who can often be spotted lazily sunbathing on the sand. Your local leader will be sure to get you in and out at the right time of day, so all you’ll need to do is enjoy the wonders of the caves.
It might sound strange, but Rotorua in New Zealand’s North Island is known for its vibrant colours. Rotorua is a lakes district and two of the biggest, Lake Tikitapu and Lake Rotokakahi, take their names from the bright green and blue colours of their waters. These lakes are the perfect place to stretch your legs on a bike ride, with many routes that show off the natural beauty of the region. Lake Rotokakahi is a sacred site for the local Maori people, with the island of Motutawa serving as a burial ground. In fact, the whole region is rich with Maori culture, with many visitors choosing to spend time at a marae – a communal and sacred meeting ground, where the First Nations people connect with each other and their ancestors, sharing their customs with travellers who pass through.
If you’re seeking interesting history, good food and drinks and breathtaking landscapes, it’s pretty hard to go past a trip to Wanaka. Head to Arrowtown, a fascinating village that experienced a gold-rush boom in the 19th century and is now home to heritage listed buildings and relics from the period. We’d also highly recommend you visit the nearby Cardona Valley, home to some of the region’s best food and drinks, including the Cardona whiskey distillery. Given that the landscape in the valley could be mistaken for the Scottish Highlands in parts, it’s not surprising that you can get a quality tipple in the area! If you’re ready to stretch your legs after a whiskey tasting, it would be worth taking a stroll up Mt Iron, where you’ll be treated to 360-degree views of the Pisa range, Upper Clutha Basin, Lake Wanaka and Ka Tiritiri o te Moana (the Southern Alps). Absolute bliss.
5. The Central Otago Rail Trail
A cycling trip along the famed Central Otago Rail Trail could be just what the doctor ordered after months of staying close to home. 2020 has been a challenging year to say the least, so why not cap it off by challenging yourself to a 4-day bike ride (with plenty of time for eating, drinking and sightseeing thrown in!). Your trip will take you past pretty vineyards, quaint villages, stunning farmlands and even snow-capped mountains. There’ll be lots of opportunities to stop along the way, with visits to unique local attractions like an old engineering works, one of the original mines from the gold rush era and the Hyde Railway Disaster Memorial, which commemorates the fatal 1943 derailment of a passenger train.
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