Aoraki Mt Cook looms in the distance: a mountain-meets-lake vista not dissimilar to those found in Canada. Photo / 123RF
With Monday, September 27 marking World Tourism Day, let’s celebrate international globetrotting with three New Zealand destinations that resemble far-flung places from across the world.
One of the best parts of travel is the opportunity to immerse ourselves in other cultures. But with even the transtasman travel bubble on hiatus, our feet are getting itchier by the minute.
The good news? One of the things that makes our country so unique is the rich tapestry of languages, cultures and foods that can be experienced within our borders. If you’ve got a sense of adventure and a bit of imagination, you can still travel the world — and you won’t even need a passport. Here’s how.
Salsa your way to South America in Queenstown
If you squint hard enough, you may just be able to convince yourself that the Remarkables are a reliable stand-in for the Andes – but that’s not where the comparisons end. It’s easy to find a little Latin flavour in the adventure city, you just need to know where to look.
Do: If you’re aching to explore the peaks and crystal lakes of Patagonia, then may we suggest the Routeburn Track? While not as long as Torres del Paine National Park’s famed multi-day circuit, this Great Walk will also reward you with sweeping mountain vistas. Celebrate finishing your tramp with a night out on the town at Lone Star. Every Tuesday from 9pm, the bar is where the thousands-strong Queenstown Salsa community gathers to socialise. You can also practise your moves at Latin Soul Dance in Bannockburn first, which offers private lessons.
Drink: Much like Santiago, you don’t have to travel far from Queenstown to taste the good drop. The surrounding countryside is filled with vineyards, producing award-winning chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot gris. Alpine Luxury Tour’s half and full-day tours will take you to the best of them.
Eat: It’s at the 27-seat Meat Preachers that you’ll really feel the South American heat. Combining traditional South American recipes and techniques with New Zealand ingredients, the Frankton deli-meet-barbecue serves up slow-cooked dishes, such as choripan, a traditional Argentinean chorizo and chimichurri sandwich.
Channel your inner Canadian in Tekapo
More than one Canadian has visited Mackenzie Country and remarked that it looks “just like the Rockies”. With the two places sharing all the best superlatives — namely turquoise blue waters and snow-capped peaks — who are we to argue?
Do: If skiing at nearby Mt Dobson isn’t your speed, you can try out other Canadian sports like ice skating, ice hockey and snow tubing at Tekapo Springs. If the ice and snow has already thawed, don’t worry. Another thing Tekapo has in common with the Canadian Rockies is that both places are home to International Dark Sky Reserves. Tekapo Springs also offers stargazing, but to get a closer look, book in for a nighttime tour of the Mount John Observatory with the Dark Sky Project.
Eat: While true poutine is almost impossible to come by in New Zealand (owing to the lack of the dish’s most critical ingredient: cheese curds), Our Dog Friday tries with its version, which includes onions.
Stay: If you arrive at Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat during the winter months, you’ll discover that it’s home to one of the area’s natural curling rinks. While the sport isn’t Canadian per se (it originated in Scotland), it’s long held the heart of the nation, even inspiring the 2002 romantic comedy, Men With Brooms.
Have a Scottish fling in Dunedin
Dunedin spent much of last year trying to convince us that it was like Bali (except with wetsuits) — but it’s much less of a stretch to pretend you’re in Scotland. After all, it’s known as “Edinburgh of the South” for a reason.
Do: Once you’ve paid your respects to Robbie Burns (his statue presides over the Octagon), head to the Otago Settlers Museum. Here, you’ll learn more about the history of the area’s Scottish immigrants, who first arrived in the mid-1800s seeking gold. If living history is more your speed, book on to a tour with UntamedNZ. Owner Mateo Winter will share the story of his own family, who have called the Otago Peninsula home since 1863.
Eat: You’re liable to find Scottish treats and whisky on menus throughout the city, but the Bracken is Dunedin’s only Scottish restaurant, serving up dishes like haggis ravioli with neep ring and creamy whisky sauce. Self-catering? Stop in at the Scottish Shop on George St to stock up on oatcakes and, yes, even haggis in a can.
Stay: If you can’t get a room at Lanarch Castle (Dunedin’s answer to Edinburgh’s royal residence), book a room at the historic Wains Hotel. Originally built in 1878, the hotel is Dunedin’s oldest, but recently underwent a $3 million renovation. Now, it’s part of the Fable hotel family, with nods to the city’s history, including tartan throw blankets on the beds.
When to go: Plan your visit for March, when Dunedin’s Fringe Festival takes centre stage. The arts festival can be found in cities worldwide, but it’s home is in Scotland. Or time your visit right and you might arrive in time for one of the Haggis Protection Society’s ceilidhs, traditional social events showcasing singing, dancing and storytelling, suitable for all ages.
Check alert level restrictions and Ministry of Health advice before travel. covid19.govt.nz