We've all had some time in lockdown this year and it has made us realise just how important getting outside, moving our bodies and connecting with our beautiful environment is.
If you've got more suggestions, we'd love to hear them. Simply comment below!
Here is our list of favourite places to visit that are right in your backyard (in no particular order);
The Brook Waimārama Sanctuary (near Whakatū/Nelson)
The Brook Waimārama Sanctuary is the largest fenced Sanctuary for endangered plants and creatures in the South Island.
It's so easy to forget what we have so close to us and take it for granted - the other day I decided to go on an adventure. I simply grabbed my Google Maps app on my phone, selected a green part on the map and received directions on how to drive there. Whether or not you're near Nelson, we are blessed with a plethora of natural reserves and parks that you may never have experienced. So instead of planning your next overseas trip for the future, why not explore somewhere new, a little closer to home?
Awa Awa Reserve (90 min drive from Ōtautahi/Christchurch)
With gorgeous walking tracks, picnic spots and all round delightful surroundings, the Awa Awa Reserve isn't a long drive but well worth it. The perfect place for families and people who may not be super confident hikers but want a little bit of a walking challenge. Even if you just want to gaze at the mountains and relax, this is a great spot that's not very well known.
Dunedin Public Art Gallery (Dunedin City Centre)
Most of us know of Te Papa in Wellington but the Dunedin Public Art Gallery is well worth a visit if you're in the area. It's extraordinary welcoming for an Art Gallery and seems to lack the pretensions that might keep many of us away from such places.
The beauty of art is how you experience a piece of art is unique to you and you don't have to know anything about art or art history in order to enjoy it.
So I implore you to step inside your local Art Gallery and see what you think. They normally have a collection of work that the gallery owns and shifts around but imported collections come in from overseas and other New Zealand Art Galleries so there's always something new to inspire and make you think.
P.S If you feel a bit intimidated by Art Galleries, I recommend you head to a bigger one. The small ones can feel like you're being watched by the attendants whereas the big ones feel a little more anonymous and freeing.
Arrowtown (20 min drive from Queenstown)
Whether you like golf, skiing or enjoying a hot cup of coffee in a beautiful place (ding, ding ding!), Arrowtown is a charming place to explore. Back in the day this was a little gold-mining town (which you can still partake in if it floats your boat) so it has quite a few activities. Although my favourite part is just meandering around the little streets and soaking it all in, there is something for everyone here.
Waitomo Caves (56 min drive from Hamilton)
You may have heard about it but have actually experienced the Waitomo Caves yet? I went through on foot (budget-friendly option) but you can have guided boat or even a black water rafting trip through these incredible caves. Not only is it really educational (to all ages) but I will never forget the many galaxies of glow-worms appearing before my eyes and I'm sure neither will you.
Cathedral Cove (approx. 2 1/2 hours drive from Tauranga)
This one is on my bucket list for sure. The majestic limestone caves paired with the white sandy beach and clear blue waters is must-see before overseas tourists rediscover it again. Take it easy or book a snorkel, kayak or boat tour to discover the area in more depth.
Auckland Zoo (Auckland)
I know it sounds silly but if you haven't been to the Auckland Zoo yet, you are missing out. I'm not a personal fan of most zoos (cages etc.) but this one has been so well designed that there are new discoveries around every corner. It's also one of the only zoos I've been to that doesn't feel overcrowded with people or animals. The recreation of the African Savannah in particular is a really magical way to visit animals in a habitat that feels really natural.