Planning ahead for next summer: what to book. And when!

Space is precious in summer: beach camping on Mount Maunganui. Photo / Included

If you’re too late to plan and missed things you’ve been dying to do this summer, says Ewan McDonald, you should google and book for NY2023 now.

There are two types of travelers. Type A will pack and weigh their baggage six months before departure to ensure it is within the airline’s baggage allowance. Type B inspires everything: “It’s only 8 p.m., of course a bed and a restaurant will be open in this Tuscan village, so what if they celebrate their saint’s day.”

Type A should never travel with Type B, even if they have been together for 25 years. Especially when they’ve been together for 25 years.

Type A knows that planning and booking is vital for getaway hotspots – think Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Queenstown and the like.

Everyone aboard: Holiday favorites like Hawke's Bay will be busy.  Photo / Kirsten Simcox
Everyone aboard: Holiday favorites like Hawke’s Bay will be busy. Photo / Kirsten Simcox

Northland, for example, is home to some of our finest luxury homes. Many have limited capacity and book well in advance for dates like New Year’s Eve. So is Urupukapuka, the only island in the Bay of Those where you can stay overnight. DoC’s three campgrounds there and the 23-berth cabin on the Cape Brett Track, the crazy popular nighttime hike, are quickly filling up for summer break. Keep an eye on the department’s website to see when bookings are open.

Bay of Plenty’s beach lovers know that booking accommodation well in advance is important, especially over Christmas, New Years and long weekends (one love weekend = 20,000 attendees) when multiple events are taking place.

Maunganui Mountain and Beach fills up quickly during summer events.  Photo / Included
Maunganui Mountain and Beach fills up quickly during summer events. Photo / Included

Think of local festivals. Napier is booking out for its Art Deco Festival, so if you’re considering going in 2023 (you read that right), check your options now. After Covid-19 dampened the events of 2021 and 2022, 2023 will be bigger than Gatsby.

Bigger than Gatsby: Napier's art deco events are set to return in 2023, bigger than ever.  Photo / Michael Farr
Bigger than Gatsby: Napier’s art deco events are set to return in 2023, bigger than ever. Photo / Michael Farr

Marlborough is another Mecca where beds get booked early, certainly at must-stay spots like the Bay of Many Coves and other luxury waterfront resorts. Here it is advisable not only to reserve bed and restaurant. If you’re planning a fishing, hunting or diving trip in and around the Sounds, turn to providers like Local Knowledge Charters and bang the plastic away asap.

Luxury waterfront resorts like the Bay of Many Coves are likely to be bought up.  Photo / Included
Luxury waterfront resorts like the Bay of Many Coves are likely to be bought up. Photo / Included

In recent years, it’s not Venice and Barcelona that have been overrun by tourists, but rather Rakiura and Rēkohu. Stewart and Chatham Islands are now popular “overseas” trips, notes Great South Tourism: “Many Kiwis underestimate how busy Stewart Island is and how little accommodation and food options there are. Don’t think you can book accommodation that day. We have had many sad travelers take the ferry home as there was nowhere to stay.” The same goes for the Chathams.

“CYCLING is the new Golf” – probably more popular than club swinging ever was – so get on early for Ngā Haerenga Great Rides.

The Timber Trail is an 85km, 2-day, 4-season blast of purpose-built trails through Pureora Forest Park. But this is the deepest Central North Island, and you should find your unique accommodation, bike rentals, and shuttle providers to make it a breeze.

A family enjoys the Central Otago Rail Trail.  Photo / Photo / Included
A family enjoys the Central Otago Rail Trail. Photo / Photo / Included

The Big Kahuna is the Alps-2-Ocean Bike Trail, 315 km and 4-7 days from Aoraki Mt. Cook to the Pacific (day trips are available). Along this snapshot of New Zealand‘s landscapes and waterways, you can stay in bespoke accommodation, dine in historic pubs or boho cafes, admire crafts and architecture, see penguins, vineyards and more. Get the best deals early on from providers offering pedal and e-bike rentals, luggage transport, shuttles, and guided tours.

Central Otago has every right to be the home of cycling vacations. The original Great Ride, the Otago Central Rail Trail has been in existence for 22 years, followed by Roxburgh Gorge, Clutha Gold and the exciting Lake Dunstan Trail.

The impressive Lake Dunstan Cycle Route.  Photo / Included
The impressive Lake Dunstan Cycle Route. Photo / Included

The popularity has never been higher. Tourism Central Otago suggests that anyone looking to pedal next year should book now. “We are already hearing that some companies have received strong bookings for 2023. We recommend booking with a Central Otago based operator – they have invested in knowledge of each trail and will best tailor it to a client’s ability and desires.

Biking is the New Golf: On Otago's Clutha Gold Trail.  Photo / Included
Biking is the New Golf: On Otago’s Clutha Gold Trail. Photo / Included

“And don’t just stick to cycling—there are plenty of off-trail experiences. Talk to your trail company to see what can be added to your itinerary.” Good advice wherever your rubber meets the road. Or mud.

KIWIS are justifiably proud of access to their wilderness and many will seize any chance to escape into it. Experience Northern Coromandel DoC Campgrounds at Fantail, Fletcher and Stony Bays, Port Jackson. They may sound far away: still, in early October, you’d best hold your index finger over the mouse to get a bunk.

If you fancy venturing to more well-known spots like Taranaki Maunga, ditto. Fancy staying at the Pouākai Hut, curling up with star constellations in the night sky along the North Island coast and waking up in a pristine alpine setting? Or the Piwakawaka hut in Pukeiti, which opened at the end of 2020 and is under the care of the regional council and where you sleep above the treetops? It was a huge hit with locals and visitors alike, the perfect way to get off the grid. Bookings through the websites are essential for both.

A great walk on the water, the Whanganui voyage is one of our memorable experiences: stunning landscapes, steeped in history and cultural significance, a 5-day, 185km voyage from Taumarunui or a 3-day, 88km paddle tour from Whakahoro. Booking is important for remote campsites along the river.

North of Wellington, Kāpiti Island is one of our oldest and most important protected areas. With only one accommodation provider and limited summer opening, the places are usually sold out early.

We gave you the temptations of Marlborough with a wink. So if the 70km, 4-5 day Queen Charlotte Track, with its fern-lined bays, forests, stunning vistas and small lodges, draws you in, you know what we’re about to tell you.

Just along the coast there are a couple of private tracks that should be on a hiker’s to-do list: Kaikōura Coast Track and Island Hills near Hanmer Springs, self-guided, self-serviced, or guided and serviced. Think I know what I would do…

Located in Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, historic Hooker Hut and its resident spirit is a great option for families with young children just 950 meters from the well-maintained Hooker Valley Track. Not too far away is the Müllerhütte, one of our most beautiful hut locations. DOC again.

Just 11 miles from the park, Glentanner Park is the only fully serviced campground/RV park in the area. On your new heli-hike tour, you’ll fly in a helicopter to meet your guide and begin the trek through private land, learning about glaciers, highland farming and how to say “OMG!” while walking. White Horse Hill Camp below Mt. Sefton is an easier option.

Fiordland’s Trips & Tramps, which offers guided walks through parts of three Great Walks in three days, is currently offering early bird deals, while Hollyford Wilderness Experience advises places on their 4-day, 3-day all-inclusive guided tour of the Spectacular Valley to fill up fast.

Top tip: The Hump Ridge Track near Tūātapere, Southland is set to be declared New Zealand’s newest great hike later this year. Tonight, if you want a seat, type humpridgetrack.co.nz into your browser.

NOW you should have received the message that any number of points of contact have already been visited if you don’t get in early. Some to see:
• At the award-winning Ōhakune Top 10 Holiday Park, surrounded by native forests, bushwalks and mountain streams, you’ll find quirky gypsy cottages, self-contained motel units, campgrounds and pet-friendly options. Popular all year round.
• Whakapapa’s Top 10 Holiday Park offers mountain cabins and other sleeping and parking options, a ski area shuttle in winter and hiking trails in summer.
• The Mahia Peninsula between Gisborne and Napier comes alive over the Christmas and New Year period. The holiday park offers beds for all budgets, surfing, safe swimming, fishing, surfcasting, boogie boarding and golf. No extra charge for Rocket Lab launches.
• In Taranaki, book ahead to secure a spot at Ōakura Beach Holiday Park for the ultimate kiwi summer. In New Plymouth, Fitzroy Beach Holiday Park is a desirable destination due to its downtown location and coastal path.
• For something a little more private, bathe outside on the deck in the moonlight and listen to the river flowing at the new Mangorei Heights B&B, nestled under the Maunga, 700 steps from the beautiful Pouākai range.
• Wellington keeps its secrets. Here’s one: Pipinui Point, a private retreat 30 minutes from the capital in the native bush overlooking the ocean; a summer sale.
• We end this with what is surely the ultimate must-book getaway. Ōtamahua Quail Island in Whakaraupō Lyttelton Harbor was an early version of MIQ for animals and humans until the 1980s. Between 1906-25 the island was a leper colony; In today’s 12-berth DoC hut, caretakers cooked food for the affected souls. You can get there by ferry from Lyttelton or by canoe, kayak or private boat and once you get there you can be on your own for as long as you have booked.

Visit newzealand.com/nz for more travel inspiration.

Before travelling, check traffic light settings and advice from the Department of Health at covid19.govt.nz

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