While many Auckland families seem to have given up on heading away these school holidays, those in other parts of the country are even more eager than they were this time last year to get away.
Figures from holiday home rental site Bachcare show bookings in destinations typically popular with Aucklanders are well down on the 2020 spring holidays.
Bookings in Northland are down 55 per cent year on year, while the Coromandel and Queenstown have also been impacted, with bookings down 40 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.
Bachcare spokesperson Matthew Clews said Aucklanders made 51 per cent fewer bookings in the first three weeks of September than they did during the first three weeks of July.
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“This data is showing us that Aucklanders are uncertain they will have a family break during these school holidays and have instead put their resources into booking accommodation for January.”
But as Aucklanders wait to find out whether their city will move to alert level 2, families in other parts of the country have been booking trips away.
Bookings from Wellington and Christchurch residents are about 24 per cent higher than they were during the 2020 spring school holidays, the data showed.
Hanmer Springs is almost at full capacity over weekends, with some 87 per cent of properties booked out, while bookings per property in Rotorua and Marlborough are 33 per cent higher than the same school holiday period last year. Hawke’s Bay is also proving popular, with bookings up 27 per cent.
With many tourism operators still struggling as a result of the lack of international tourists, there are bargains to be had up and down the country. Whether you’re an Aucklander with fingers crossed you’ll be able to get away these school holidays, or a level 2er who’s left things to the last minute, here are just a few ideas.
Go skydiving – Queenstown
If you’ve spawned a daredevil, now could be the perfect time to share what might just be the ultimate adrenaline rush.
New Zealand’s first tandem skydive operator NZONE Skydive has a half-price deal for kids until October 17. The catch: An adult has to take the plunge with them.
You and your kid will embark on a scenic flight which will see you ascend to 9000 feet before attaching yourselves to your qualified “jumpmasters” and free-falling over one of the most stunning landscapes in the country.
A comparatively relaxing parachute ride will see you float back down to earth, with serious bragging rights. The kids will be itching to get back to school just so they can show their mates the pics!
Deal: Each full-paying adult can take one child at half price. Children must be aged six or over, weigh at least 30kg and be at least 1.2 metres tall. The 9000-feet tandem skydive usually costs $299 per adult, but is on sale for $279 until November 30.
Explore Hokitika Gorge – West Coast
With water so blue it looks like it was created by a camera phone filter, Hokitika Gorge is one of the West Coast’s star attractions.
A short, wheelchair-accessible walk through rimu and podacarp forest will take you to a viewing platform from which to admire the gorge, where glacier-ground ‘rock flour’ lends the water its intense hue.
From there you can continue over a swing bridge to a viewpoint with equally epic views of the Hokitika River as it snakes its way through the gorge.
The gorge is free to visit, but go with Explore West Coast, which has a ‘kids go free’ deal until December 20, and you’ll also get to check out the West Coast Treetop Walk – arguably one of the best short walks in Aotearoa.
You’ll follow a 20-metre-high, wheelchair-friendly platform through the canopy of giant rimu and kamahi to the tune of native birdsong. A spiral staircase up ‘Hokitika Tower’ leads to a 40-metre-high viewing platform, from which you can see all the way to Aoraki/Mount Cook on a clear day. The 45-minute walk also includes a bouncing platform extending out to Lake Mahinapua.
If time allows, you’ll also get to check out a pounamu (greenstone) factory on your return to Hokitika.
Deal: One child aged 14 or under goes free with a paying adult until December 20. The five-hour tour costs $190 per adult. Kids usually pay $85.
Float through a famous glowworm cave – Waitomo
Many a Kiwi has fond memories of visiting the Waitomo Glowworm cave as a kid, and it’s just as magical an experience as an adult.
These school holidays, one child goes free with a paying adult, saving you at least $25.
The guided Glowworm Cave tour will see you check out the sculpture-like stalactites and stalagmites of the well-named Cathedral cavern before boarding a boat that will return you to the visitor centre through what looks like a galaxy of glowworms.
Deal: One child goes free with a paying adult from October 1-17 when you use the code ‘KGFOCT21.
Explore an island bird mecca – Wellington
One of New Zealand’s oldest nature reserves, predator-free Kāpiti Island is a sanctuary for an astonishing array of birds, including rare little spotted kiwi, kākā and takahē.
Keep your eyes peeled for seals, dolphins and orca on the ferry ride to either Rangatira or the North End. From Rangatira, you can climb to the highest point on the island at 521 metres, Tuteremoana, while the North End offers gentler walks to viewpoints and around a lagoon.
The Kāpiti Island Nature Tours whānau first arrived at the island in 1820 and have been welcoming visitors for generations.
Their day trip package, on sale for $39.90 for weekdays and $49.90 for weekends, includes ferry tickets, an introductory talk and a Department of Conservation (DOC) permit. Pay $89.90 for a weekday tour or $99.90 for a weekend day tour and you’ll also get a one-hour guided walk taking in the island’s birdlife, seal colony, and history. Plus a cooked buffet lunch.
Deal: Save between 39 and 51 per cent on Kāpiti Island Nature Tours day trips and tours with GrabOne until December 19.
Cruise to Milford Sound – Fiordland
Famously dubbed “the eighth wonder of the world” by The Jungle Book author Rudyard Kipling, Milford Sound blows the minds of visitors of all ages.
Standing on the rooftop deck of the Milford Haven, you’ll be treated to up-close views of iconic Mitre Peak, gushing Stirling and Lady Bowen falls, and glacier-carved cliffs more than a millennium in the making. If you’re lucky, dolphins, seals and – in season – rare Fiordland crested penguins will put in an appearance.
Deal: One child aged 5-15 goes free with a fare-paying adult from October 2-17. Adults pay $79 and kids ages 4 and under are always free.
Find your way through a maze – Rotorua
Deceptively difficult, the 1.4km hedge maze at aMAZEme could keep you and the kids occupied for far longer than you expect.
If you’re up for a family challenge, you could turn it into your own version of the amazing race, the winner being the one who discovers what lies at the centre first.
Giant board games, giant Jenga and swing ball sets, stilts, and a Peter Rabbit-style garden with a small animal enclosure, butterfly house and beds full of fruit, veggies and flowers add to the old-fashioned fun. You’re welcome to bring a picnic too.
Deal: Get a family pass for two adults and two children for $50. Additional adults are $17 each, and additional children $12.
Be a prince or princess for the day – Dunedin
Step into a fairytale kingdom at New Zealand’s only castle.
Sitting pretty on a hill overlooking the Otago Peninsular, Larnach Castle is filled with antique furnishings that will have the kids feeling like Kiwi versions of Prince George or Princess Charlotte.
The spiral staircase to the turret is a highlight, as are the gardens, which have been designated a Garden of International Significance.
Deal: Kids 14 and under go free when accompanied by a paying adult from October 1-18. The adult fee is $37 and there is no limit on the number of children they can bring (you pay $37 whether you’re bringing one kid or four).
See dolphins – Akaroa
Spot one of the world’s smallest and rarest dolphins in the water-filled extinct volcanic crater that is Akaroa Harbour.
Sightings of Hector’s dolphins are so common on Black Cat cruises, you can cruise again for free if you don’t see any.
Deal: Two kids aged 5-15 cruise for free with a paying adult in the October school holidays. Adults pay $95 and kids four and under always cruise for free.