Kirsty Wynn is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Super City folk are beginning to spread their wings and splash out more on mini-breaks as domestic air travel becomes cheaper

Bay of Islands. Photo / MangoPR
Bay of Islands. Photo / MangoPR

This weekend thousands of Aucklanders are braving the frustrating stop-start drag along the motorway, the expensive pit-stops for treats and the continuous shouts of "are we there yet" from the back seat.

We know when we do eventually get there New Zealand comes to the party and provides some of the best Instagram backdrops and fish 'n' chips available.

As we soak up the long weekend, a new survey from the Automobile Association and Fresh Info has revealed New Zealanders are becoming more adventurous with domestic travel.

Mini-breaks to Queenstown, cycling trips around the South Island and wine trails in Martinborough have become more accessible with improved costs and availability of air travel.

Grant Lilly from the Automobile Association said Aucklanders travelled a few times a year and the preferred destination was within three hours of home - mainly because about 85 per cent of travel was by car.

Last year Aucklanders made up 61 per cent of all visitor nights in Northland and 56.6 per cent of all visitor nights in Coromandel.

"It is obvious that Northland and the Coromandel are the most popular destinations, especially for long weekends," Mr Lilly said.

"We have or rent holiday houses, go camping or hire a cabin and we do that a couple of times a year."

Weekend trips to Hot Water Beach, Cathedral Cove and Whitianga were popular but so was walking in the bush, Mr Lilly said.

On short trips, New Zealand families are frugal and spend about $120 a day. International visitors spend more than twice that.

"We put petrol in the car, stay somewhere inexpensive and eat fish and chips on the beach," he said.

Shorter trips within an hour or two of home, such as Matakana, Whangaparaoa Peninsula and the Awhitu Peninsula were also becoming more popular for camping holidays.

For special occasions Aucklanders were most likely to hop on a plane to Queenstown.

Last year Queenstown recorded close to 500,000 visitor nights from Aucklanders with Cantabrians following closely behind.

Queenstown was the place Aucklanders loosened the purse strings and behaved more like they were overseas tourists.

"We jump on a plane, book something nice as far as a bed and breakfast or hotel and splash out at restaurants," Lilly said.

"We tend to treat it as more of a special occasion."

Data showed big attractions such as jet boating, white-water rafting and scenic flights were more popular with overseas tourists than locals.

The AA is trying to change that with their Great Spots Campaign aiming to tap into the domestic dollar by encouraging business operators to provide local prices during the winter months.

Tourism is worth about $30 billion to the New Zealand economy and more than 60 per cent of that - $18 billion - is domestic.

However, at the moment the top level tourist attractions are priced for the international market.

"We have asked [tourism operators] to give a special deal to New Zealanders, to AA members, and provide some great rates," Mr Lilly said.

"It doesn't need to be summer in order to experience the best that New Zealand has to offer."

- NZ Herald

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