Travel writers and friends wax lyrical on why we love travelling close to home.

I'm often asked what's the best place to which I've travelled. The answer, for a Kiwi travel editor who gets around a fair bit (current status: I'm writing this from a hipster apartment in Berlin), is pretty dull. It's the South Island, people!

Every couple of years, we take a family holiday at Castle Hill, a quiet, shopless smudge of a settlement in the Canterbury foothills of the Southern Alps.

We hike, we bike, we wander around aimlessly in the bush. The stunning, vast landscape and the ease with which you find yourself in utter seclusion are things of wonder.
The South Island is full of spots like this. Pack a lunch, park the car and walk for 45 minutes and you'll find yourself in another world. This place is like nowhere else — forget the Middle-earth nonsense, it could only be Te Wai Pounamu.
— Winston Aldworth


For the past three summer holidays, we cast adrift and sailed into the Hauraki Gulf.
Relatively speaking, we didn't go far — amateur sailors, the furthest we dared was Kawau Island — but the freedom a boat affords made me feel like a pioneering explorer heading into the unknown. The Gulf, to me, is one of the most beautiful places on Earth — all the islands and bays and hidden coves, the marine life and clear waters; phosphorescence at night-time sparkling like the Milky Way. Waking up in the morning and jumping from the back of the boat into sun-warmed waters is a feeling that surely can't be beaten. This summer, hopefully the winds will take us to the Bay of Islands, or perhaps Great Barrier Island, or the Coromandel. We're spoilt for choice — New Zealand is our playground and we really couldn't ask for anything more.
— Stephanie Holmes

My favourite place in New Zealand is Wainui Beach, just out of Gisborne, a city still well off the tourist trail. Wainui's a 4km stretch of white sand and a Pacific Ocean swell magnet. On small swell days with a warm northwesterly it's a great family swimming beach, incredibly pretty but never prissy. In a howling southeasterly in the middle of winter it's wild but still beautiful.

Grant Bradley and Estelle Sarney in Wainui, Gisborne.
Grant Bradley and Estelle Sarney in Wainui, Gisborne.

There's a fairly sizeable settlement with many nice beachside homes but, apart from a few takeaway food stores, not much commerce. It's where my father once headed a tiny school (that has grown large) and on a small part of the beach I got married nearly 25 years ago. For Estelle and I, it will always be our spot.
— Grant Bradley

It was our first Christmas together, alone. On the blended family holiday roster, 2015 was our turn to go it alone. So we headed to Stony Bay DoC campsite in northern Coromandel with fishing rods, snorkel gear and a kayak. We got there before everyone else on December 23, and found a campsite under a tree where the creek rushed past, and the ducklings navigated the rapids. We slow-cooked a ham on the camp-fire barbecue, drank champagne and toasted the serenity and our solitude. The dramatic views, the ocean, and the sense of space — all just a short drive from Auckland — is glorious. And he asked me to marry him, and I said, yes.
— Sarah Daniell

Any opportunity to escape Auckland is a good thing, and you don't have to travel too far for peace of mind. Whether out to the bush, a beach or a small town, there's plenty of amazing pockets of the country to explore. I enjoy travelling abroad, but one of the most inspiring places I have ever been is only a short flight away — Queenstown. Yes, it's a tourist mecca, but there's something special about the place, and I am always speechless every time I'm down there at the sheer beauty of it.

Dan Ahwa and Zoe Walker Ahwa in Glenorchy.
Dan Ahwa and Zoe Walker Ahwa in Glenorchy.

I never leave without visiting a vineyard or trying something I normally wouldn't do — like jumping out of a plane for a skydiving session — if only for the most magical views of the region. There's no place like home.
— Dan Ahwa
The road rolls and we roll with it ...
This is a line I wrote in a story years ago about taking a road trip around the East Cape. It was off-season and we had this remote part of the world to ourselves — apart from the locals we met along the way. "What are you fellas doing around here?" was often the first question. Quickly followed by "Come and meet us at the pub tonight" or "We've got too many crayfish — you want some?"

"Where are you going next? You should catch up with so-and-so. He lives in the old harbourmaster's house. Just tell him I sent you."

And that's how we rolled.
— Amanda Linnell


The perfect balance of beach and farmland, Hahei speaks so much about New Zealand as a country; an idyllic spot to experience nature, soak up the sun and get the much-needed downtime you so longingly crave. While more discreet in the winter months, this quaint little town lets its personality shine, come summer, welcoming all walks of life — from millennials looking to camp and explore, tourists searching for "Narnia" or the retired population seeking a permanent paradise, Hahei undoubtedly seals a well-earned place in the hearts of those it has touched.
— Grace Mitchell

Exit 477. You crest the Bombays and you're bombing downhill at 95-99 km/h. You get glimpses of the glory of the green Waikato ahead of you. You're not yet on holiday. You see a slip road ahead and the sign "Razorback Rd / Helenslee Rd". You're still not on holiday. It's only seconds before you reach the sign "Rotorua via Matamata" and then "Coromandel Peninsula / Tauranga". To your left is dense bush; to your right the endless sprawl of Auckland. You're not quite on holiday. The road splits, you ease left, off the motorway and around the corner at the recommended 75km/h on to a rural highway.
You're on holiday.
— Greg Bruce

While superyachting in the Bay of Islands and heli-skiing in the Southern Alps have their appeal, it's simply not New Zealand.
The best thing about travel in Aotearoa is the DoC campsite. The scout's honour system that expects you to deposit your fee, cash, in an honesty box. And you do. It doesn't matter how thin-skinned a camper you are. Even if you find yourself shivering in your sleeping bag, packing up and driving the five hours back to Auckland. You never feel short-changed. You've made a donation that builds bridges and breeds kākāpō.
— Thomas Bywater

Because I live in Central Otago, whenever I travel I get to fly in and out of Queenstown airport which, for the drama of the flight alone — over the Southern Alps and through the Kawarau Gorge — is always exciting. But it's Airspresso, the cafe/bar at the airport looking out over the tarmac to the mountains, that makes me a happy traveller. A good coffee and a scone in the morning, a fresh salad for lunch, or a glass of Central Otago's finest and a bowl of fries in the afternoon means I am always fit to fly ... no airport lounge required.
— Jo Elwin