New ZealandOceania

5 New Zealand Travel Alternatives for Your Cancelled Overseas Trip

Have you recently had a trip, or plans for a trip, scuppered by a certain virus? You’re not alone. We had to pull the pin on our four-month Europe and Middle East trip to stay put in New Zealand for the foreseeable future. You’re probably thinking these trip cancellations are a bad thing, but then you remember that we live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth and most of us haven’t come close to seeing it all.

Below are five trip alternatives that you can have in New Zealand instead of wherever else you’d planned to go. I’ll try and cover some popular bases, from boozy island hopping trips in Thailand to trekking in South America.

Island Hopping in Thailand

You’d planned an island-hopping trip around Thailand, eating cheap food and laying about on some of the best beaches in the world. You’ll probably drink way more than you’d planned and spent most of your days metres from the ocean. Highlights of your trip might include island hopping trips, big nights with fellow tourists and seeing some historic ruins and temples.

Where Can You Do That in New Zealand?

There are a few different styles of Thai beach getaways, from party trips to beach solitude.

Drink + Food + Beaches: I’d go for either Waiheke Island, the Bay of Islands, Raglan or Mount Maunganui. These places all have great beaches and are generally lively enough for a good night out. I’m sure they’re quieter than normal in these strange times but you take the good with the bad.

Paradise Beaches, Free from Crowds: If your style is more empty beaches far from civilization (Think Islands like Koh Kood, which has a far different vibe from the more “lively places” like Koh Phi Phi and Phuket) you’d be best served visiting Abel Tasman National Park or doing a road trip around the beaches of the far north. These two places are home to the best beaches in New Zealand and you’ll often have them all to yourself (especially as we’re coming into winter).

Exploring the Tutukaka Coast, New Zealand

Abel Tasman National Park requires walking or water taxis to get around, while Northland can be explored by road (check out Matapouri Bay, Kai Iwi Lakes and Cape Reinga). Both offer up different experiences, so find a route which suits (or get some more suggestions from me) and plan it! It’d be a huge boost to the local economy if you choose to use that allotted holiday time to see something in New Zealand.

READ MORE: 28 of the Best New Zealand Beaches

Eating your way through Europe (with plenty of sightseeing)

You’d planned to explore old towns throughout Europe, maybe do a few hikes, see some of the coastline and eat and drink on cobblestone streets.

Sighisoara, a must see during a week in Transylvania

Where Can You Do That in New Zealand?

If you’re into historic towns and cities, great food and drink (craft beer, cheese, chocolates etc) and plenty of beautiful scenery, you can’t go past Otago. Fly into Dunedin and out of Queenstown. Spend a few days in Dunedin, walk the historic city streets and dine on the footpaths of the Octagon and explore its beaches and hiking trails. As far as cities in New Zealand go, the scenery doesn’t get better. There are dozens of stunning viewpoints, many of which you drive straight to.

READ MORE: The Ultimate Two-Week New Zealand Itinerary

Cap of your sightseeing at the Octagon, which comes alive at night with its line of eating and drinking establishments running most of the way down Stuart Street to the beautifully lit train station. It doesn’t get much more European (for New Zealand at least) than that! From there head north to Oamaru. The scenic route could take you all day (heaps of great hikes, viewpoints, beaches and the famous Moeraki Boulders) or you could be there in 90 minutes.

Oamaru is easily New Zealand’s most picturesque old town. Harbour Street is lined with old buildings, formally warehouses, converted into shops, cafes and galleries. Squint your eyes a bit and you could easily be walking down a photogenic old street in Europe!

From there you can head through the Waitaki Valley, passing through a few old towns with interesting churches, ancient Maori cave paintings, dams and some lovely scenery (especially on the Benmore Peninsula Track – a very underrated hike). If you haven’t been to Mount Cook before (or even if you have – I bet you haven’t done all the hikes there) it’s a quick detour from the Waitaki Valley, otherwise head through the Lindis Pass to Cromwell. You can visit Bendigo Historic Reserve, home to two old gold mining towns, and then check out the old part of Cromwell, which another picturesque historic spot. From there drive to Arrowtown and spend the night in a hotel in the old town, which arguably the nicest old town in New Zealand after Oamaru.

That’s a pretty awesome little itinerary there that you could easily stretch out over a week if you wanted. Include some time in Queenstown and Wanaka, and maybe Fiordland National Park and you’ve got the makings of a memorable two-week trip.

A Few Days in the Pacific Islands

Even though New Zealanders can still travel to the Pacific Islands, I wouldn’t blame you for not wanting to plan a trip there at the moment. That trip would have likely involved a nice resort on a quiet beach, lots of cocktails, lots of food and maybe a day trip or two. I haven’t actually been to the Pacific Islands (the photo below was taken in Indonesia) but I thought I’d talk about it here as it’s such a popular destination for New Zealanders.

Where Can You Do That in New Zealand?

For a resort experience in New Zealand your best bet is the Marlborough Sounds. Resorts there are mostly accessed by boat and are located in picturesque bays. I haven’t stayed there, but I did have a look around Punga Cove and it looked awesome. As you can see the beauty of the area can’t be questioned, and it really does seem to offer a very relaxing getaway from the demands of city life.

Punga Cove is accessed by road, so if you’re after day trips you’re only a drive away from heaps of cool stuff, including the drive to Titirangi Bay (some great views along the way) and French Pass and Bulwer (even better views along the way) or you could hike a section of the Queen Charlotte Track, visit wineries, hang out in Picton or do a boat trip through the Marlborough Sounds – so many options and I reckon you could have just as fun of a trip as you’d have on a tropical island.

Trekking in South America

You’d planned to head to South America to do some trekking among giant snow-capped mountains and glaciers. You’d also try some new food and get to know the cultures of places like Chile, Peru and Bolivia.

Where can you do that in New Zealand?

The Southern Alps stretch for most of the length of the South Island, meaning you’re not short of options when it comes to trekking. Queenstown is the obvious place to start, with its wide variety of tracks catering to all fitness levels. You can do some of the best day hikes in New Zealand and be back at your comfortable hotel the same night. Or, if it’s allowed in the near future, you could tackle one of the multi-day hikes in the area.

There are lots of South Americans working in Queenstown too, so it kinda works in that regard too. Nearby Wanaka is just as good for hiking and then you’ve got places like Mount Cook National Park, Nelson Lakes National Park and the West Coast where you’ll find day hikes, short walks and multi-day hikes.

Cruising the Fiords of Scandinavia, Patagonia or Alaska

You’d planned to cruise through the fiords, channels and coastal waters of Scandinavia, Alaska or Patagonia. You’d see plenty of snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, glaciers and maybe even the Northern Lights (not in Patagonia obviously).

Where Can You Do That in New Zealand?

Fiordland National Park is the place to visit if you’re after some truly incredible scenery in New Zealand. Milford Sound is the most iconic place to visit, but there is so much else to see. Rent a car and drive the road to Milford Sound, stopping off at one of about a dozen interesting places along the way. Take a detour to Lake Marian, hike up to Key Summit or relax by the Mirror Lakes.

Doubtful Sound is perhaps even nicer than Milford Sound – I highly recommend the Doubtful Sound cruise, which includes a cruise across Lake Manapouri, an extremely scenic bus ride and a cruise through Doubtful Sound.

The best base for exploring Fiordland National Park is Te Anau. It’s a small tourist town full of restaurants, cafes, bars and tour companies. Most places of interest are driveable from there and you can also explore places like Queenstown and Wanaka on day trips. An added bonus, just to make it even more like travelling in Scandinavia, is the fact you can see the Southern Lights in this area (and a lot of other areas in NZ). I haven’t seen the Northern Lights in person, so I can’t really compare, but the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) is an amazing thing to see.

Have you travel plans been cancelled? What do you think of these New Zealand travel alternatives? Let me know in the comments below, and also let me know if you had a trip cancelled to another destination which you’d like me to cover!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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