There’s been no place like home for the last year.
But next door’s not too shabby either and, after 13 isolated months, the key’s about to turn on the Transtasman border.
Tomorrow Kiwis can fly quarantine-free to Australia and, for the first time in a year, not just one way.
The travel bubble announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this month sparked action on both sides of the ditch, with Air New Zealand promptly declaring booking staff were “run off our feet” by travel-starved Kiwis.
Eager travellers will soon be, for the most part, air-bound to the usual favourites – Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, to which Flight Centre is offering return flights out of Auckland and Christchurch for $669, $659 and $639 respectively.
Wellingtonians pay a few bucks more.
Jet-setters also have their eyes on other Aussie cities, including Hobart, where Air New Zealand announced last month it will fly again after a 23-year hiatus.
Some travellers will be heading straight to long-awaited family reunions, but for others crossing the ditch is in search of pure adventure.
They’ll find it.
That might be at Brisbane’s four-star The Park Hotel, with Flight Centre offering a $225 per person deal for three nights and a ticket for the XXXX Brewery & Alehouse Tour.
The less keen to be seen might prefer Vogue Holiday Homes, which rents out designer homes over Gold Coast beaches and waterways, some with private swimming pools.
Further north, it’s even more lavish – and secluded.
Sunshine Coast rental home Domic – Dome in Russian – is nestled so deeply into the sand dunes next to Noosa National Park it’s hard to find. It’ll cost you $48,000 for the tempting option of shutting out the world for a week.
You’re even less likely to be found 1600km north, where Executive Retreats for Laid Back Latitude Port Douglas is so exclusive its exact address is listed only as “somewhere in the rainforest”.
“[This is] a destination where movie stars and A-listers hole up in utter seclusion to escape their adoring fans”, a Tourism and Events Queensland spokeswoman said.
“[It’s] a spot where 24-hour-on-call butlers serve caviar dreams, and yogis and private chefs crank up the champagne lifestyle.”
Fans of fictional outback sagas such as The Thorn Birds may instead prefer Mount Mulligan Station, 170km west of Cairns, accessible by helicopter or 4WD and within a 28,000ha working cattle station set below its namesake – a spectacular 18km-long sandstone ridge.
You’ll need a solid stash of cash – rooms range from NZ$1900 to $4000 a night.
Same goes over the border.
Australia’s most populous city is home to a new six-star hotel – Crown Sydney, flush on the city’s famous harbour of which views can be found from rooms, restaurants – it has
14 – pools and even the gym.
A Your Sanctuary package, available to Kiwi bubble-bursters, costs from NZ$1200, which includes a healthy Crown Spa credit, breakfast and a night in a Harbour Bridge King room.
Those seeking a slower pace may prefer the luxury Nimbo Fork Lodge in New South Wales’ Snowy Valleys, 150km west of Canberra, where cottages overlook the river, but those seeking more excitement can take a helicopter tour to local wineries and above the foothills of the Snowy mountains.
And while it might be off the usual tourist trail, Tasmania has its share of high-end options including the adults-only Pumphouse Point, parked on a glacial lake surrounded by myrtle forests in the state’s centre.
Meanwhile, vast Western Australia has plenty of places to get lost, including The Kimberley’s Berkeley River Lodge, accessible only by boat or plane, which offers luxurious rooms with 180-degree panoramas of turquoise Timor Sea and nearby Berkeley River.
And there’s no need to pack only memories for the return journey – at the east Kimberley outback town of Kununurra travellers can step inside Kimberley Fine Diamonds to marvel at exquisite pink and natural diamonds, see the master jewellers at work and find their own gems to take home.
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