It's a common expression, but it's true.

There's never been a better time to explore our backyard, particularly given we can't travel overseas.

We've all heard the "see your own country first" argument, and now we're being forced to do just that. Get out of town for a while and experience New Zealand.


It's easy to complain and question the need to support tourism operators who've priced Kiwis out of the market - but why not support them? Because now's your chance to use Covid-19 to your advantage when it comes to a cheaper holiday.

During the Christmas holidays I was tossing up between Queenstown or the Gold Coast. And you know how to goes - the Gold Coast turned out to be significantly cheaper.

But that's all changed, partly because our border is closed.

Last week, I made an effort to explore my "backyard" and drove to Lake Tekapo, a three-hour drive from Christchurch.  It's actually the perfect place to get away for a weekend, even longer, take in nature and get off my cell phone!

Here's a tip - stay overnight during a weekday. It's much better if you're after a private experience as there's less traffic and no humans.

If you've been to the alpine village pre-Covid-19, you'll know it can be crowded, so it was a pretty special experience taking photos of the famous Church of the Good Shepherd with no one around.

I managed to make the long trip further south to Queenstown. I'm not much of a long-distance driver, but the stunning views through central Otago made the drive bearable.

It was busy in Queenstown as you'd expect for a long weekend, and locals were happy to see the town buzzing again. One tourist operator told me she was enjoying the "strange experience" of greeting only New Zealanders.


But sadly the weekdays are dead, she said.  New Zealanders have avoided Queenstown because it can feel overcrowded and let's be honest - it's expensive.

My advice? Visit during a weekday.

Towns like Queenstown and Lake Tekapo need visitors and the reality is the occasional short public holiday weekend isn't enough to keep operators in business.

If you can get out and explore New Zealand, just a little bit, do it; you've got nothing to lose.

And eventually when I do hop on an international flight, I'll be able to provide an honest account of New Zealand tourist towns to potential international visitors, who dare I say it, have probably seen more of New Zealand than many of us, watching commercials promoting this beautiful country.