The COVID-19 pandemic has put a real spanner in the works for most of 2020, however, let’s not forget that the year got off to a really great start with a stunning summer here in New Zealand. Long sunny days saw many of us enjoying some well-deserved R&R on beaches up and down the country.

As we head towards the end of 2020, it is already starting to feel as if summer is just around the corner and for many of us, there is still lots to look forward to despite the impact of COVID-19 still looming around the world.

Whilst we may not be welcoming visitors from around the world this summer, it won’t stop Kiwis getting out and exploring their own backyard. This is the year to really get out there and visit places you have never been before, discover new experiences, and enjoy the New Zealand summer to the full extent.

Whilst travel may be possible to Australia and the Pacific Islands this summer, the likelihood is that more of us will be holidaying right here in New Zealand, so what have we got to look forward to?

What are the summer months in New Zealand?

First up, let’s just clear up a little argument that constantly rumbles about when exactly summer starts here in New Zealand. Some people say it’s December whilst others argue that it’s January, so we did the one thing that is guaranteed to give us the answer – we Googled it.

Without needing to click on a website, Google immediately advises us that the New Zealand summer in 2020 will be:

Monday 21 December 2020 to Saturday 20 March 2021

So, there you have it. Conclusive evidence brought to you by Google.

Seriously though, it does make sense. 21 December is officially the longest day in the Southern Hemisphere, known as the summer solstice. Seems to make sense that it would mark the start of the summer and three long months of sunshine, sand, and sharing great times with family and friends. Sign us up.

Find out more about the seasons of New Zealand in one of our other posts.

Where to go in New Zealand – summer 2020/21 edition

Within our Explore blog, you will find hundreds of posts giving you some amazing tips and ideas on places to visit here in New Zealand. From Cape Reinga to Stewart Island, we’ve covered all the bases in blogs, trip itineraries and location guides.

This post, however, is slightly different. It’s our summer 2020/21 edition and it’s all about post-COVID holidaying here in New Zealand – supporting local businesses who are really going to rely on our help this summer to cope with the drop off in international visitors. It’s almost your duty to go on holiday this summer and explore our beautiful country.

So, what are our top tips for places to visit this summer? Here is our top 10 which contains a mix of popular hotspots and local recommendations. Let’s do this.

1.      Mt Maunganui – Bay of Plenty


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Let’s kick things off with an absolute banger. The Mount is the place to be during the summer months and is a popular hotspot for people living up and down the North Island as well as visitors flying in from the South Island.

From the beach to the boardwalk, the Mount has a bit of something for everyone. The stunning beach stretches on for miles and sits in the shadow of Mt Maunganui which provides a spectacular backdrop to this seaside town.

With great shopping, great dining, and a positively summer vibe, add the Mount to your list of places to visit this summer, especially if you’ve never been before.

2.      Kekerengu – Canterbury


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Located between Kaikoura and Blenheim at the top of the South Island is the tiny seaside town of Kekerengu. After you get past the pronunciation issues (keke-ren-engu), enjoy the drive up from Christchurch which will take you around 3.5 hours up the stunning Kaikoura coastline.

Once there, you will be blown away by the majestic beaches, turquoise waters, and rugged charm. If you are looking for places to stay, look no further than Canopy Camping and their beautiful Camp Kekerengu glamping site.

Enjoy the stunning countryside, mountain views and coastal attractions including whale watching and the close by seal colony or take day trips to explore nearby destinations including Kaikoura and Blenheim.

Kekerengu is a true New Zealand hidden gem.

If you are flying into Christchurch, make sure you check out our great deals on car rental in Christchurch.

3.      Paihia – Northland


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Back on the popular destinations trail and a list of summer destinations would not be complete if it didn’t include Paihia. Located in the beautiful Bay of Islands, Paihia is the most popular destinations for travellers looking to explore the Bay of Islands.

With a great range of bars and restaurants and easy access to nearby attractions, you can see why Paihia is a popular destination. Other options in the area include Kerikeri and Russell but for us, Paihia always takes top spot.

Paihia is the starting destination for all of the cruises that will take you out to explore the Bay of Islands including the famous Hole in the Rock cruise. Whilst out cruising, you also have a great chance of spotting a variety of marine life including dolphins and at certain times of the year, Orca.

Northland typically enjoys long summers with the warm weather coming earlier than most parts of the country and lasting a little bit longer so add Paihia to your list this summer.

4.      Waiparo Bay – Gisborne


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Another off-the-beaten-track recommendation is Waiparo Bay located about 2 hours north of Gisborne on the road less travelled between Whakatane and Gisborne – SH35.

This small township has everything you will need for a simple summer getaway. With a campsite that sites directly on the beach, there are few better places to relax and unwind. If you are looking for some activity on your summer getaway, there is great fishing and snorkelling at Waiparo Bay as well as surfing opportunities.

The beauty of this town is the remoteness. Leave your troubles far behind and soak up the sun this summer in Waiparo Bay.

5.      Queenstown – Otago


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Is it even a list of things to do in New Zealand if it doesn’t mention Queenstown?

Yes, we know we go on about Queenstown a lot on here, but that’s because it’s flipping brilliant. We are so lucky to have such a fantastic destination in our country that we love to celebrate it whenever we can!

With so many tourism operators located in Queenstown, they really do need your help so they can make it through the summer months with no international visitors. Queenstown is the place to try things you have never done before – bungy, skydiving, jet boating – they’ve got it all down there.

It’s also a great place to base yourself for exploring other popular South Island destinations including Wanaka, Dunedin, and Milford Sound.

If you are planning a trip to Queenstown this summer, make sure you check out our great deals on car hire in Queenstown.

6.      Moeraki Beach – Otago


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Whilst we’re down here talking about the South Island, why not take peek at Moeraki Beach whilst you’re at it.

Famous for the Moeraki boulders, there is actually a lot more to this town than simply filling up your Instagram feed with pictures of you posing with the giant boulders on the beach. Whilst for many, it’s a stop, snap and go destination, for those who choose to stick around a bit longer, you will discover a magical little seaside town.

The Moeraki village has everything you could possibly need for a relaxing summer holiday, especially if you like to get off the beaten track and away from the crowds.

Check it out and don’t be that person who clicks and runs!

7.      New Plymouth – Taranaki


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Taranaki was perhaps once considered a bit of a hidden gem here in New Zealand. It wasn’t a popular hotspot for tourist travelling through New Zealand who would more often take the east coast route through Napier rather than heading west.

That all changed, certainly for international visitors, when Lonely Planet named Taranaki as one of the best places to visit in the world in 2017. Suddenly, Taranaki was on the map and it took off as a tourist destination.

New Plymouth is a great place to base yourself. Whether you are here for the amazing art scene or you want to explore Mt Taranaki and the Egmont National Park, New Plymouth is a cool city to hang out this summer.

8.      Rangitikei Valley – Manawatu-Whanganui


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We know that the summer holidays are about more than just going to the beach. For some people, a big part of their summer holiday is actually escaping the beach and trying something different.

Rangitikei Valley definitely ticks the boxes when it comes to off-the-beaten-track adventure. Located in the Manawatu-Whanganui region, the Rangitikei Valley is home to River Valley, New Zealand’s original adventure lodge established in 1982.

If you are looking for a week of adventure activities, book yourself in. From horse riding to white water rafting, there are so many amazing things you can try here. The steep gorges and rolling hills provide a stunning backdrop to any activity you want to enjoy down here.

Adventure-seekers be sure to add Rangitikei Valley to your list.

9.      Abel Tasman National Park – Tasman


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The Abel Tasman National Park is another of New Zealand’s most popular summer destinations and it’s not hard to see why. As one of the sunniest destinations in the country, a summer trip to the Abel Tasman almost guarantees you some peachy weather which is a massive tick.

Couple that with the fact that there are so many things to do within the National Park, and it’s easy to see why this is such a popular destination with locals and tourists alike. Kaiteriteri or Marahau are perhaps the best places to base yourself for exploring the Abel Tasman National Park.

From either of these small towns, you can access the park by water taxi or cruise, taking you to the heart of the park from where you can access stunning walking tracks and remote, golden sandy beaches.

If you want to explore the wider region, you can also base yourself in Nelson or Picton from where you can access the Abel Tasman but also other popular spots at the top of the South Island including Blenheim and the Queen Charlotte Sounds.

10.  Otama Beach – Coromandel


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Whilst the Coromandel Peninsula definitely falls into the bracket of popular destinations, most people will choose to stay in towns like Hahei or Whitianga. Both of these destinations are superb places to base yourself for exploring the Coromandel, however, if you are looking for something a bit different, head further north up the Peninsula until you hit Otama Beach.

This is a town made up of a handful of houses and a few Airbnbs, making it the perfect spot to avoid the crowds this summer.

Otama Beach stretches across 2kms and is well protected by a natural sand dune. With soft white sand, crystals clear waters and a view that stretches on forever, what’s not to like. Whilst New Chums beach often takes all the plaudits as one of the best hidden beaches in the country, give Otama Beach a whirl this summer – you won’t be disappointed.


So, there you have it, ten of our top recommendations for the summer this year here in New Zealand.  We know there are literally hundreds of places we have missed and we would love to get your thoughts on our list as well as finding out your top tips – let your fellow Kiwis know where the hidden gems are for them to explore this summer and we will share as many as we can.

Cheers to a long summer – enjoy everyone!