Prepare the bubble! New Zealand travel, recommended by Kiwis

As Australians and New Zealanders anticipate the long-awaited ‘travel bubble’, eight Kiwi locals tell us where to go when the Covid curtain lifts

As would-be travellers in Australia hold their breath for details of the long-awaited “travel bubble” with New Zealand, seven Kiwi creatives – and Dunedin’s young mayor – share their inside tips for where to walk, eat, shop and enjoy life once the borders come down.

From rambles with “epic views” of Otago harbour to “the deepest greens you’ve ever seen” at Lake Kaniere, and the South Island’s “un-funkiest” small town sometimes it takes a local to know where to go.

Karen Walker, fashion designer


In Queenstown I love any of the many walks around Lake Wakatipu; on Great Barrier Island it’s Medlands beach; in Auckland Te Henga (Bethells beach) has the most astonishing beachscape I can name.

Local business

In Auckland The French Café for those truly special meals you don’t have a hope of making at home. Orphans Kitchen is my local brunch spot – the crumpets with their own roof honey! Azabu presents a really interesting take on Japanese. In Wellington, my favourites are Loretta for any meal/any day and Wellington Chocolate Company for morning hot chocolate – the best there is.

Wellington Chocolate Factory’s hot chocolate.
Wellington Chocolate Factory’s hot chocolate. Photograph: Wellington Chocolate Factory

Benee (Stella Rose Bennett), musician


I love the Waitomo caves, it’s so beautiful. I went black water rafting there a few years ago with my family and it was the coolest thing ever. We got to look at underground waterfalls and floated around underground on tubes. I highly recommend going, it was crazy fun, I had never done anything like it before.

Local business

There are so many good local businesses in Auckland. I used to work at both Cotto and Epolito’s Pizzeria and I still love them both. Cotto has the best gnocchi ever and Epolito’s pizzas are so yummy!

Glow worms in Waitomo caves on New Zealand’s North Island.
Glow worms in Waitomo caves on New Zealand’s North Island. Photograph: robertharding/Alamy

Shayne P Carter, musician and author


One of my favourite spots in the world is the outlet to the Clutha (Mata-au) river from Lake Wanaka, where glacial waters form New Zealand’s mightiest river. The water is a brilliant turquoise colour and there’s a flat piece of grass about 100 metres downstream where you can sit virtually on a level with the river as it swirls and surges by. Regenerative and eternal.

Local business

The Hospice Charity Shop in Milton – one of New Zealand’s un-funkiest, and perhaps bleakest small towns – because they specialise in tweed jackets and 100% wool clothing that possibly belonged to recently deceased farmers. Stylish, professorial wear in long forgotten cuts that goes for a couple of dollars.

Aaron Hawkins, Dunedin mayor


I love catching a ferry to Kamau Taurua (Quarantine Island) or staying overnight in the caretaker’s cottage. Between Port Chalmers and Portobello, your ramblings offer epic views up and down Otago harbour.

Its social history is equally significant. The restored Married Quarters dates back to the quarantining of colonial settlers, while the small modernist chapel was built to serve the St Martins community there in the late 1950s. The pacifist nature of that community is reflected in the memorial to five New Zealand soldiers executed for desertion in WWI.

Sourdough on display at the Side-on cafe in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Sourdough on display at the Side-on cafe in Dunedin, New Zealand. Photograph: Side on

Local business

During the day, Side-on is a spot you can bank on. The food, the music and the coffee are all great. They also bake all their own bread which you can buy by the loaf.

When it closes, go round the corner to Woof! for something more social. Their combo of cocktail class and culinary kitsch is a winner and if you stay long enough you’ll get acquainted with the finest bathrooms in town.

Hollie Fullbrook (Tiny Ruins), musician


I love taking my two dogs for a big long run at Kakamatua Inlet, an off-leash dog beach near where I live. It’s a doggy heaven, with long grasses and a river estuary and a huge expanse of sand for them to run, play and meet other dogs. I go to clear my head and feel the wind, rain, sun and sky. In the summer it’s a great swimming spot.

Bush walks are off limits in the Waitākere ranges where I live at the moment due to a rāhui imposed by our local iwi concerning kauri dieback (a disease affecting our beautiful trees). It’s important to remember to clean our boots every time we go to any other nature spot.

Karekare Falls in the Waitakere ranges on New Zealand’s North Island.
Karekare Falls in the Waitakere ranges on New Zealand’s North Island. Photograph: Joana Kruse/Alamy

Local business

Soy & Ginger is a popular sushi place that lures me in on a weekly basis. It’s a calm space to park up with my thoughts and always hits the spot, whether it’s a delicious bao bun, their legit wasabi and ginger or – my favourite – the “awesome kimchi” sushi roll. There’s lots of love in their presentation and ingredients, and the packaging is eco-friendly.

Marlon Williams, musician


The South Island’s west coast is my favourite place in the world. It’s always been a repository of precious things for Maori and Pakeha alike, be it gold, coal, pounamu or just the glory of the landscape itself. Lake Kaniere, about half an hour inland from Hokitika, is one of the coast’s crowning jewels. Birdsong and cool moistness and the deepest greens you’ve ever seen.

Local business

The London Street Bookshop has recently reopened in Lyttelton. This humble but rich bookshop has been keeping me in the know for 20 plus years. As a kid, mum and I lived above their old shop and I’d go in every few days to see if they had any new Goosebumps books or Tintin comics. Twenty years later and they’re still providing me with new treasures.

New Zealand’s Lake Kaniere at dawn.
New Zealand’s Lake Kaniere at dawn. Photograph: simonbradfield/Getty Images

Julia Parnell, film-maker


Sometimes I wake up in my Auckland city house and feel Dunedin calling me. To the southern edge of Dunedin’s harbour is the Otago peninsula. The weather and topography here create such rich emotional backdrops for taking time out of everyday life. And if you’re lucky you might see a royal albatross! My favourite walk is Lovers Leap and The Chasm, taking you through the special forest made famous by The Chills’ video, Pink Frost, and on to spectacular cliffs, sand dunes and Sandfly beach.

Local business

If, like me, getting away also means buying clothes, my must go shop in Dunedin is fashion boutique Slick Willy’s. They have a beautiful curation of fashion from Aotearoa, Australia and the world. I dare you to not buy something, I always do!

Clothing store Slick Willy’s in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Clothing store Slick Willy’s in Dunedin, New Zealand. Photograph: Slick Willys

Rose Carlyle, author


Milford Sound captures much of what I love about New Zealand. It’s the end point of the famous Milford Track and a wonderful place to make landfall after sailing in the Tasman Sea. It’s both touristy and remote – busy during the day but with a tiny population overnight. Best of all, thanks to Fiordland’s heavy rainfall, the top few metres of water in the inner fiords is free of salt. It’s the only place I’ve been where you can swim in the sea in freshwater.

Local business

The Monterey Cinema in Takapuna has become a favourite destination. I love being able to walk to the movies and it’s one of the few things that teens still want to do with their parents – my movie-mad children, at least. The Monterey is showing some classics I missed the first time round; guaranteed great films.


Kate Hennessy

The GuardianTramp

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