Australians will be able to fly return to New Zealand for as little as $479 when the long-awaited travel bubble between the two nations opens up on April 19.
On Tuesday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed the highly anticipated date for scrapping the quarantine requirement for Australian travellers.
Jetstar is offering return flights between Sydney and Auckland departing on April 20 for just $479, while passengers will be set back $658 if they fly Qantas over the same period.
Return flights between the two cities pre-travel bubble were as much as $1173 when the flying kangaroo only operated a handful of routes.
As excited holidaymakers get ready to pack their bags and head across the ditch, experts at Booking.com have released hidden New Zealand gems travellers should add to their travel itinerary.
The Australian and NZ borders have been shut to almost all non-citizens since March last year, with both countries requiring arrivals to spend a fortnight in quarantine
Glenorchy, a small settlement at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu, shows off New Zealand’s impressive countryside
Omarama, in the southern end of the Mackenzie Basin in the North Island, is surrounded by marvellous clay cliffs
Raglan, a coastal town west of Hamilton in the Waikato region, is a surfing mecca known for its beautiful beaches and water sports.
Popular attractions include kayaking, trekking to Bridal Veil Falls, climbing to the top of Mount Karioi, cycling the Pipiwharauroa Trail, or checking out the famous black sand at Ngarunui Beach.
Further south, on the northern tip of the South Island, Kiteriteri is known for its turquoise water and golden sand beach, iconic split apple rock, and its closeness to the Abel Tasman National Park.
Tourists can relax on the beach, go kayaking or paddleboarding around the bay, or mountain bike or hike local trails.
Takaka, located in the southern end of Golden Bay, is a charming town with a vibrant art community and is home to a cluster of trendy cafés, a small museum, a movie theatre, and boutique shops
Punakaiki, on the on the West Coast of the South Island, is known for its 30-million-years old pancake rocks and blowholes (pictured)
For those looking for a nature getaway, Glenorchy – at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu – shows off New Zealand’s impressive countryside, sitting among a native beech forest and towering mountain ranges.
The small settlement is known as the gateway to ‘middle earth’ for its iconic landscapes that featured in The Lord of The Rings franchise.
Local activities include hiking through walking trails, horse riding, and jet boating and kayaking on the Lake Wakatipu.
Ohope Beach, in the Bay of Plenty, has an 11km stretch of white sand that is popular with surfers and bird watchers, as large numbers of wading birds flock to the area each year to breed.
Tucked in the southern end of the Mackenzie Basin, Omarama is surrounded by incredible clay cliffs and offers the perfect stop through for travellers coming from Christchurch via the Alp 2 Ocean cycle trail.
After a long day of cycling, trekking or checking out the Lindis pass, guests can soak in the famous Omarama Hot Tubs and watch the starry night sky, or immerse in the local lifestyle by watching a a live sheep shearing show or glider fishing.
If you prefer winter sports, Whakapapa Village, positioned on Mt Ruapehu’s western slopes, offers the perfect ski holiday with accommodation on site at the heritage Chateau Tongariro Hotel.
Whakapapa Village, positioned on Mt Ruapehu’s western slopes, is a skiers paradise in winter and stunning walking trails in summer
Russell – holidaymakers can also venture to the beautiful nearby islands, such as Urupukapuka island (pictured)
Flight prices between Australia and NZ
A return flight from Brisbane to Christchurch on Qantas in late April can be found from $764, while depending on dates Melbourne to Auckland can be booked for $781.
Melbourne to Christchurch on Jetstar can be snapped up for $683 return and Brisbane to Auckland for $629.
Air New Zealand said it was ramping up flights between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown and eight of its Australian ports now quarantine-free travel has become a reality.
Most services will start on April 19 except flights between Auckland and Adelaide which will begin in May and Auckland and Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast services from June.
The airline is yet to announce a start date for flights between Auckland and Hobart.
The New Zealand flag carrier is offering flights for about $580 return from Sydney to Auckland, a route they will operate up to five times a day.
A return flight between Brisbane and Wellington in late April is going for $666, Melbourne to Christchurch is $531 and Sydney to Queenstown is $662.
Ms Ardern said the trans-Tasman bubble represents the ‘start of a new chapter in our COVID response and recovery’.
As most Australian states have already ditched quarantine for visiting Kiwis, the decision creates the bubble for the first time since it was agreed last May.
Ms Ardern defended her government’s tardiness in opening up, saying this was ‘exactly the right time’ to do so.
‘We are now able to take this next step and it is a world first,’ Ms Ardern said.
The decision will delight hundreds of thousands of families separated by the pandemic.
It’s also a shot in the arm for New Zealand’s ailing tourism industry.
Australia provides more visitors than any other country to New Zealand, and the announcement is expected to start a stampede across the Tasman.
Ms Ardern and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison first agreed the goal after the Kiwi leader’s virtual attendance at a National Cabinet meeting in May.
Mr Morrison welcomed the bubble.
‘It’s something we have been talking about for some time (and) the first of many more steps to come, I believe, as we get back to a more normal position,’ he said.
‘All in time for Anzac Day which is tremendous to see that occur in the true Anzac spirit of our nations coming together again.’
The New Zealand leader acknowledged those who had suffered due to the necessary border arrangements.
‘One sacrifice that has been particularly hard for many to bear over the past year has been the separation from friends and family who live in Australia,’ she said.
‘Today’s announcement will be a great relief for many.
‘Like everyone else … I have family and friends in distressing situations because we have had this border in place.’
Omarama – The junction town offers an array of activities, including glider fishing and hot baths overlooking the countryside
New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern (pictured) announced quarantine free travel between New Zealand and Australia on Tuesday
The Australian and NZ borders have been shut to almost all non-citizens since March last year, with both countries requiring arrivals to spend a fortnight in quarantine before entering the community.
Ms Ardern also announced a new traffic light-themed system to guide Kiwis while travelling overseas, saying they may be subjected to prolonged stays in Australia or be required to quarantine on return in the event of outbreaks.
‘Quarantine-free travel will not be what it was pre-COVID-19, and those undertaking travel will do so under the guidance of ‘flyer beware’,’ she said.
‘People will need to plan for the possibility of having travel disrupted if there is an outbreak.’
Travellers will not be required to produce a negative test before jetting off, though the government may add that requirement in the case of outbreaks.
Ms Ardern said she spoke to Mr Morrison on Monday night and premiers Gladys Berejiklian and Annastacia Palaszczuk about NZ’s decision on Tuesday.
What the airlines say:
Qantas and Jetstar:
‘To help more Australians and New Zealanders reunite after a year apart, Qantas and Jetstar will restart flying to all pre-Covid destinations in New Zealand when the two-way trans-Tasman bubble opens later this month.
‘The national carrier will also launch two new routes direct from Auckland to Cairns and the Gold Coast, providing travellers with more options for holidays in Queensland and New Zealand.
‘From April 19, 2021, Qantas and Jetstar will initially operate up to 122 return flights per week across the Tasman on 15 routes, offering more than 52,000 seats each week.’
Air New Zealand:
‘From April 19, 2021, Air New Zealand will be ramping up flights between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown and eight of its Australian ports.’
‘While the airline remains committed to trans-Tasman flying when the market fully recovers, we are mindful of evolving border requirements which add complexity to our business as we push ahead with plans to grow our core domestic Australia operations.
‘For this reason, we have suspended the sale of most New Zealand services until October 31, 2021. A limited schedule for flights to and from Queenstown will remain available for booking from September 18, 2021.’