Life Travel How to make the most of the New Zealand travel bubble
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How to make the most of the New Zealand travel bubble

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Whether it’s hobbits, ski fields or stunning views, Australians are itching to visit New Zealand’s attractions under the soon-to-be travel bubble arrangement.

From April 19, quarantine-free travel will be allowed in both directions, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed on Tuesday.

Like a pair of close siblings, quips about the countries’ long-standing rivalry have already begun.

In a cheeky celebration of the trans-Tasman travel bubble opening, Air New Zealand’s Greg Foran sent Qantas boss Alan Joyce a Pavlova as a “heartfelt Kiwiana gift”.

“It’s been a while since we spotted a kangaroo flying over Aotearoa!” the note read.

In the same way both countries claim actor Russell Crowe, Australia and New Zealand have long argued over the nationality of the pavlova.

But that tongue-in-cheek delivery wasn’t the only jab from Air New Zealand this week.

On Wednesday, the airline ran a full-page ad in the Sydney Morning Herald asking, “Are you tired of Australians?”

“After a year of closed borders, we wouldn’t blame you,” the advertisement read.

“Luckily for us all, the trans-Tasman bubble is about to open. So come on over. We’ve missed you lot.”

Jokes aside, data shows Australians have jumped at the chance to travel across the ditch.

Immediately after learning the trans-Tasman bubble would open within weeks, travel interest for NZ spiked by 1770 per cent – compared to the previous week – according to hotel reservation site Wotif.com.

Trending destinations included Queenstown, Wanaka, Taranaki, Gisborne, Otago, Auckland, Christchurch, Northland, The Coromandel and Wellington.

Internal data from rental company Airbnb shows online searches for New Zealand getaways nearly tripled on the day leading up to the announcement, compared to the same day last week.

After a year of snap lockdowns and border closures, it’s no wonder Australians with the travel bug are eager to fly abroad.

So, what is it about NZ that has gotten so many of us excited?

A journey to Middle Earth

Most people know New Zealand as an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, home to singer Lorde, the haka and manuka honey.

But to Lord of the Rings fans, the far-flung country is better known as Middle Earth.

That’s because the popular trilogy, featuring elves, hobbits, orcs and trolls, was filmed in New Zealand.

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The Lord of the Rings trilogy has amassed an enormous international following. Photo: Twitter

More than 150 stunning locations across the North and South Islands were used to create JRR Tolkien’s world, depicting the towering Mount Doom in Mordor (known to locals as Mount Ruapehu) to dreamy Hobbiton in the Shire.

One of the most popular film locations is around the Waikato town of Matamata on the North Island, which was used to portray the enchanting Shire region.

The village of Hobbiton was created here, and was later rebuilt for the filming of The Hobbit, before becoming a permanent tourist attraction. 

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on a tour of Hobbiton. Photo: Getty

Bungy jumping

If you didn’t clip on a harness and throw yourself off a bridge, did you really go to New Zealand?

To many tourists visiting the Land of the Long White Cloud, bungy jumping is a rite of passage.

It all started in the 1980s, when young Kiwis AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch set up the country’s first commercial bungy jumping operation, with a leap from the historic Kawarau Bridge near Queenstown.

AJ Hackett bungy jumping from the Kawarau suspension bridge in Queenstown, which is now 110 years old. Photo: Getty

Since then, NZ has become the home of bungy and adventure tourism.

All over the country you can leap from bridges, climbs, rail viaducts, specially made platforms perched on the edge of cliffs, and stadium roofs.

Skiing and snowboarding

The best time to experience NZ’s magical alpine region is from June to October, when the mountains are blanketed with snow.

And unlike previous ski seasons, you won’t have to manoeuvre around crowds of international tourists dominating the slopes.

This season, the ski fields will be for Kiwis and Aussies only.

Coronet Peak and The Remarkables are the two major ski resorts near Queenstown, on the South Island.

Fresh slopes at Coronet Peak, a 20-minute drive from Queenstown. Photo: Instagram (@coronetpeak)
Each resort has its own atmosphere.

The Remarkables is more family-friendly and offers plenty of space for beginners, though it also has a terrain park for advanced skiers and boarders to practise their moves.

Coronet Peak is the more advanced mountain, as it has more challenging trails and good backcountry.

Get up close to a natural wonder

Marvel at one of NZ’s geysers, a rare pressurised hot spring that shoots water and steam into the air.

There are only about 1000 of them worldwide, 58 of which are in NZ.

Although the pools might look tempting, you must never get in a geyser – not unless you want to be blasted into the sky or have your body dissolved like acid.

Look but don’t touch.

To get a taste of Māori culture at the same time, visit Te Puia in Rotorua’s Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley.

It’s home to the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere, Pōhutu Geyser, as well as the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute.

The Pōhutu Geyser erupts at least once every hour and is entirely natural. Photo: New Zealand Tourism

There, you can sample an authentic “steambox” meal prepared using ancient geothermal cooking techniques, as well as experience a Māori welcome ceremony and traditional performance.

If you want to relax in a non-lethal hot spring, however, there are plenty of options in Rotorua, like the Polynesian Spa and Kerosene Creek.

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