Spotlight Adventures & Destinations for 2022 & Beyond: after unprecedented lockdowns and at-home pastiming, open-air adventures have never looked so good! And like Canada, nature and outdoor beauty define our next pick.
Destination: New Zealand
By Deborah Sanborn | Outpost Travel Media
(feature photo: highluxphoto/iStock)
New Zealand did exceptionally well during the height of the COVID pandemic crisis — yes, you can argue it’s a small country tucked away at the bottom of the planet. But it feels unfair to give geography and size all the credit. The smarter truth is that the government, health authorities and people in the know took swift and decisive action when the highly-infectious virus started whipping around the world and had a (mostly) cooperative population.
“Go hard, go early” was famously New Zealand’s early guiding principle — though having said this, it is true the country later experienced an outbreak of COVID Delta cases, and as of this writing in April 2022, is experiencing another COVID wave and arguably its worse outbreak since the pandemic was first declared more than two years ago. It’s also true there’s concern that too-large a percentage of the indigenous Māori, Pacific Islanders and certain marginalized groups in New Zealand are under-vaccinated and still at risk.
It’s our great hope that these specific groups are prioritized with the same urgency and determination shown in the country’s original response. Full immunization for all people is the only way to finally, and fairly, defeat this disease.
Yet for such a small country, it’s also true that tourism is vital to New Zealand. “Before COVID-19, tourism was New Zealand’s largest export industry and delivered $40.9 billion to the country,” Tourism New Zealand reported in May 2020. By November 2021, the government had announced plans for a gradual, tiered reopening of its borders in 2022 to fully immunized travellers — with (as of this writing) May 1, 2022 the date when vaccinated international travellers from “visa waiver countries”(Canada is one) can go to New Zealand just for an adventure.
While there’s a part of us that thinks the country should be rewarded with the return of travellers — and like most countries, the tourism sector is desperate for them — honestly, New Zealand hardly requires selling as a destination. Its geography and topography are legendary — spectacular mountains, glaciers and glacial lakes, rolling hills and expansive valleys, plateaus and endless grassy plains, subtropical forests and fjords, geysers and geothermal areas.
It’s mostly comprised of two large islands (North Island and South Island, but there are hundreds of islands off the mainland) and is entirely encased by breathtaking South Pacific coastline. It has about five million people, and above its stunning wide-open spaces — which you might just longing for! — it has several thriving cities, from Auckland to Christchurch to Wellington.
So, though there has been a change in the public health situation since Outpost first picked it as a destination for 2022 and beyond, we still think all of this and more make New Zealand a great choice, if not for next year, then at some point in your lifetime. (Here’s hoping its high vaccination rate of about 95 percent, which greatly affect how serious COVID impacts both individuals and communities, and its experience with managing community transmission, will help the country regain ground and recover.)
Overall, the country has a solid and well-regarded tourism infrastructure, and so many adventure options it’s almost impossible to list here — but here’s a few: trekking in all rates of difficulty, mountaineering, wild camping, all modes of adventure cycling, on- and off-road road tripping (lots of backcountry routes that are vehicle accessible), scuba-diving and wildlife viewing, kayaking, rafting, canyoning, and caving.
“The Big Tiki” by Contiki Holidays is indeedy, a biggie of a Kiwi experience: 17 days (19 days with flights) will see you traverse the country from the time you land in Auckland on the North Island to the time you end in Queenstown on the South — Rotorua, Lake Taupo, Mount Ruapehu, Wellington, Christchurch, Franz Josef Glacier and Milford Sound are all on the itinerary.
New Zealand is renowned for its giant Kauri trees — more than a thousand, possibly 2,000 years old—which you get to see when you explore Parry Kauri Park.
This trip has a few versions, including summer and winter options, where the itinerary and type of adventure can vary—Contiki claims there are more than 65 optional activities to choose from, from heli-hiking to quad-biking. (Also from Contiki: “If New Zealand doesn’t impress you, best check your pulse.”) A spokesperson for Contiki, Jenni Berg, tells Outpost that the company is now seeing more interest in trips that focus only on a single country as opposed to multiple, which were “very popular” in the past. We assume that’s one of the travel legacies of this dreadful pandemic — but here’s hoping better times are ahead.
Details on The Big Tiki and other New Zealand options by Contiki Holidays can be found at www.contiki.com. But of course, there are lots of tour operators and travel companies with options for adventures in New Zealand, and you can travel and explore there independently. For more information on travelling to and planning an adventure in New Zealand, here’s a great place to start: www.newzealand.com/ca. ♦