New Zealand travel bubble: 10 attractions that have opened since COVID-19 outbreak

Hey Australians, welcome back!

With New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing the travel bubble between the two countries will open on the evening of April 18, it's time to fill you in on what you've been missing since you've been banned from visiting. After all, you've been booking up holiday homes in our fair isles en masse.

Holiday rental provider Bachcare New Zealand has already seen a surge in bookings.

They're up a whopping 117 per cent on the month prior, which spokesperson Zaina Razzaq put down to your "desire to beat the rush ahead of the peak season".

So, despite what you often say, we know you love us really. The old trans-Tasman rivalry may still be alive and well, but that's never stopped us enjoying breaks in each other's backyards.

To prove we Kiwis are genuinely happy to have you back shortly, all going well, we've put together a handy guide to some of the new attractions that have popped up since the pandemic stopped you coming across to say g'day.

Central Otago Touring Route

See old-school New Zealand on the 341km road trip between Queenstown and Dunedin.

See old-school New Zealand on the 341km road trip between Queenstown and Dunedin. Photo: Brook Sabin/Stuff

The lazy person's alternative to the Central Otago Rail Trail incorporates even more of the region's famously good-looking scenery, stretching from the Southern Alps all the way to the Pacific.

Winding its way for 341 glorious kilometres between Queenstown and Dunedin via Cromwell, Alexandra, Ranfurly and Middlemarch, this newly signposted touring route is easily one of the country's most epic.

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Highlights en route include Larnach Castle, the wildlife of the Otago Peninsula, Victorian-style Middlemarch, curling capital Naseby, the tiny old Gold Rush town of St Bathans and the wineries around Cromwell. Give yourself at least three to five days, but there's plenty to entice you to linger for longer.

Pipinui Point retreat, Wellington

Pipinui Point retreat, Wellington. The outdoor baths overlooking the ocean are a definite highlight.

The outdoor baths overlooking the ocean are a definite highlight.

Kiwis who've crossed the ditch often make us miserable by boasting of their higher salaries, so we're guessing some of you may have the cash to splash on luxury digs such as Pipinui Point. Set on acres of coastal farmland high above the Cook Strait, this new luxury retreat boasts views that are the beachy antithesis of those in places like the Gold and Sunshine coasts. Think waves battering against craggy cliffs covered in thick native bush.

This being Welly, there is sometimes wind, but no matter when you've got an outdoor hot tub to climb into after your clifftop stroll, and a cosy woodburner to curl up beside.

Just half an hour's drive from the capital, the two-bedroom house is super-easy to get to and there's a kitchen so you can cook your own meals. Not into cooking? No worries. Let the head chef at nearby Boomrock Lodge prepare you a gourmet feast.

Wellington Chocolate Factory tours

Wellington Chocolate Factory makes organic bars of the sweet brown stuff with a Kiwi twist.

Wellington Chocolate Factory makes organic bars of the sweet brown stuff with a Kiwi twist. Photo: SIOBHAN DOWNES/STUFF

I know you love your Tim Tams and Violet Crumble, but wait until you get a gob full of organic, ethically sourced craft chocolate from Wellington Chocolate Factory. There'll be no going back to mass-produced brands from any nation.

Luckily for you (and us), Wellington Chocolate Factory has relaunched their public tours on Saturdays. With a generous tasting session at the end. You'll learn all about the bean-to-bar chocolate making process before getting to tuck in. And take home your favourite bar.

Go with tried-and-true flavours such as salted caramel, coffee, raspberry or coconut milk, or opt for something a little more out there like cinnamon and raisin. In the spirit of our nations reuniting, the award-winning ANZAC bar would also be a good choice. Originally commissioned for the Great War Museum, the vegan bar is basically a crunchy ANZAC biscuit coated in creamy coconut milk chocolate.

Next-level off-roading and jet boating, Queenstown

Queenstown: Making visitors scream (with joy) since forever ago.

Queenstown: Making visitors scream (with joy) since forever ago. Photo: OXBOW ADVENTURES CO

The adventure capital of New Zealand is an old hand at revving visitors up and getting the feel-good hormones going, and this new kid on the block is taking things to the next level.

Oxbow Adventure Co's custom-built, four-wheel-drive off-roaders take on terrain you wouldn't think even a supposedly all-terrain vehicle could. Or should. Rock climbing, cliff dropping and drifting through steep gullies are all in a day's work for the professional drivers who lead the tours.

Other options include flying across water in a custom-built jet sprint boat capable of going from zero to 100kmh in 2.5 seconds, and clay bird shooting at its sprawling Gibbston region adventure park. Handily close to the area's famous wineries and Queenstown.

Scenic flight and cruise combo, Queenstown

Walter Peak from the air.

Walter Peak from the air.

Can't decide whether to see Queenstown from the air or on a cruise across glacier-carved Lake Wakatipu? Stop dithering and do both.

Air Milford and Real Journeys have teamed up to combine a 20-minute scenic flight to Walter Peak high country station with a farm tour and cruise aboard the only passenger-carrying, coal-fired steamship in both of our fair island nations: the iconic TSS Earnslaw.

You can BYO picnic and enjoy it in Walter Peak's gorgeous lakeside gardens, or sign up for the gourmet barbecue lunch. We can't promise they'll throw a shrimp on the barbie, but you can expect some top-quality locally-sourced meat.

Weta Workshop Unleashed, Auckland

Weta Workshop Unleashed was built by Wellington’s award-winning design and effects company, Weta Workshop.

Weta Workshop Unleashed was built by Wellington's award-winning design and effects company, Weta Workshop. Photo: JASON DORDAY/STUFF

Welly's world-famous special effects studio has a new outpost in the City of Sails – and we promise you it's quite the trip.

Guests are guided through a "reimagined" version of the Wellington workshop but, unlike in Welly, you'll get an all-access pass. You'll see how the talented team create props and set pieces for horror, fantasy and sci-fi flicks – and special effects that blur the boundary between real and surreal.

Expect to encounter some pretty colourful characters along the way. Giants, monsters and robots are just the start.

All Blacks Experience, Auckland

The Wallabies might be wise to check out the All Blacks Experience for a few tips.

The Wallabies might be wise to check out the All Blacks Experience for a few tips.

Know thy enemy. Or get reacquainted with the team you've been missing. Some eight years in the making, this guided tour uses state-of-the-art technology to take you through New Zealand's rugby history and some of our most sensational successes.

You'll experience what it feels like to emerge from the changing rooms to a packed-out stadium and watch an All Black haka up close, plus put your own rugby skills to the test.

Paparoa Track, West Coast

The Pororari River near Punakaiki runs along part of the Paparoa Track Great Walk.

The Pororari River near Punakaiki runs along part of the Paparoa Track Great Walk.

New Zealand's newest Great Walk is a stunner, taking in subtropical rainforest, alpine tops, a dramatic limestone gorge and relics from the Gold Rush era.

It's the first of our 10 Great Walks to be built for both trampers and mountain bikes, so you can tackle it on two wheels if you prefer. Walkers will need to spend at least two nights in Department of Conservation huts (the romantic-sounding Moonlight Tops Hut and Pororari Hut) to complete the walk, and you can stay in Ces Clarke Hut on the third if you'd prefer to take it slow.

DOC warns that the track is not to be underestimated as Paparoa National Park is notorious for its high rainfall and storms, but if you're sure you can hack it, you should. This is New Zealand at its rawest best.

Surrealist Garden, Hamilton Gardens

The Surrealist Garden at Hamilton Gardens is an Instagrammer's dream.

The Surrealist Garden at Hamilton Gardens is an Instagrammer's dream.

Channelling Alice in Wonderland, Salvador Dali and Edward Scissorhands, the latest space at the inimitable Hamilton Garden is arguably its best yet.

Follow a black-and-white-tiled passage into a forest of ivy-covered "trons" with moving finger-like tendrils before a lawn dotted with all manner of weird and wonderful things. Think a giant white door, oversized gardening tools, and a dozen white noses (no, I didn't mean roses) dotted throughout thick tropical foliage. It's an Instagrammer's dream.

Hui E! Kai E!, Tamaki Māori Village, Rotorua

Tuck into fried bread burgers before touring Tamaki Māori Village in Rotorua.

Tuck into fried bread burgers before touring Tamaki Māori Village in Rotorua.

Keen to try some traditional Kiwi tucker? Help whip up a Māori-style feast at Tamaki Māori Village and learn more about Māori culture in the process.

After the welcome whakatau ceremony, guests are treated as whanau and invited to help prepare fried bread burgers infused with Māori flavours, along with sides and salads.

Wash it all down with a kawakawa brew while enjoying a kōrero with your hosts and settling in for a storytelling session. Pukus full, you'll enjoy a tour of the village.

Stuff.co.nz

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