Lucky enough to be out of lock-down this summer? Check out our list of the top 20 Australian and New Zealand summer holiday activities.
We love summer. Well, let’s be honest, everyone loves summer. But we really love summer. Those beautiful sunny days. Those amazing trips to the beach. Those incredible family moments around the barbie or playing a game of backyard footy.
There’s nothing quite like that three- to four-month period when the sun’s high in the sky – especially after a year when we’ve all spent so much time indoors. So we’ve written a quick guide to our top 20 summer activities in Australia and New Zealand to help you maximise your summer awesomeness. Keep reading, and enjoy!
1. Swim with dolphins.
If you’ve never gone for a dip with these adorable, friendly mammals, you’re definitely missing out.
There’s no better time than summer to book for a dolphin swim – sure, you’ll need to get in early to reserve a spot, but the beautiful water temperature and postcard-perfect weather is just perfect for memory-making.
2. Hike through mountains that are normally snowy.
What’s that? You don’t enjoy being red-faced and dripping with sweat? Well, don’t stress – you can still hike in summer without all the grossness.
Instead of picking popular trails, go alpine and check out places that are snow-covered over winter. Even when it’s getting hot, the high altitude of mountain hikes makes them perfect for a half-day excursion.
Dinner Plain in Victoria and Wanaka in New Zealand are both great summer hiking destinations. If you’re trapped in another state, find a walk with some water at the end – nothing beats cooling off with a dip in a lake.
3. Go kayaking.
Don’t want to ruin your fake tan with too much swimming? Go kayaking instead! It’s a great form of exercise and the perfect summer activity. If you’re in New Zealand, check out places like Milford Sound, Lake Taupo and the Bay of Islands. For the ultimate Aussie kayaking experience, visit places like Rottnest Island, Sydney Harbour or Hobart’s waterfront.
4. Hire a yacht.
Sure, you can hire a yacht whenever, but who wants to hit the ocean in the middle of winter? Learn how to master the art of sailing when the sun’s out and the water’s warm – after all, that deck was made for sunbathing, and you know there’s nothing better than a swim, a bottle of champers and a spot of stargazing to cap off a day on the water.
5. Hit the beach.
Summer wouldn’t be summer without at least one visit to the beach. Spray-tan? Applied. Sun-screen? Slapped. Bikini bod? Ready. Go get ’em.
6. Go surfing.
If you can surf, keep reading (you already know how much fun this one is). If you’re a newbie to words like ‘board-wax’, ‘barrel’ and ‘gnarly’, then listen up – it’s summer, which means it’s time to learn a new skill!
Yeah, we just made that up, but so what? Surfing is totally awesome, and there’s heaps of great schools which can teach you to start hitting the waves in no time.
Places like the Gold Coast, Torquay and the Sunshine Coast are famous for their swells; jump across the Tasman Sea, and check out areas like Whangarei, the Coromandel Peninsula and Great Barrier Island.
7. Get your tan on.
Is a getting a tan healthy? Not really. Are you going to do it anyway? Probably.
If you feel the urge to stretch out on a towel and just bask in all that beautiful sunshine, make sure you put on some sunscreen. For those wanting to get that bronzed summer bod the safe way, invest in some good-quality fake tan instead.
8. Eat ice cream and not feel guilty.
We get it. One look at a tub of ice cream, and your brain and stomach start having the old ‘calories versus cravings’ argument.
Good news – the arrival of summer means you need to find a way to cool down, which, in turn, means it’s totally okay to stuff your face with as much ice cream and gelato as you like.
Australia has plenty of amazing ice creameries, but this is one category where New Zealand takes the cake – nothing beats those incredible North Island flavours.
9. Go snorkelling.
Yes, okay, stuffing a tube in your mouth and pretending to be a fish for a few hours sounds kinda weird, but snorkelling is actually super fun!
Pick a good spot, and you’ll get to say g’day to heaps of cool underwater animals. The Great Barrier Reef is undoubtedly the best place in the world for a snorkelling sesh, but Ningaloo Reef, Lord Howe Island, Cathedral Cove and the Bay of Islands are great alternatives.
10. Go heli-hiking.
This isn’t really your standard, run-of-the-mill holiday activity, but heli-hiking is one of those things you definitely want to try at least once in your lifetime.
The Franz Josef Glacier is one of the best places in both countries to catch a chopper ride – you’ll want to take a camera (or that iPhone 11) because the scenery is absolutely amazing. A cardi is probably a good idea too, because, even in the middle of summer, the ice is still perfectly intact and very, very cold.
11. Enjoy seasonal cuisine.
Love a good nibble? Yup, we do too. Nothing tastes better than dishes prepped with farm-fresh ingredients, either, which is why it’s a great idea to hit up restaurants that offer seasonal dishes. You’ll get to experience locally produced flavours made with love and enjoy all the nutritional goodness of food that hasn’t been cold-stored for nine months.
12. Sample summer wines.
What’s a ‘summer wine’? Hey, if you’re asking, you’re clearly not committed to the #winelife. Serious answer: any wine variety that’s crisp and light enough to be consumed with love over those stinkin’ hot summer months! Whites are always an excellent choice, but dry rosès and moscatos can be amazing too, so get creative.
13. Explore shopping malls.
Why is summer the perfect time to go shopping? Because shopping malls generally have awesome air con, which makes them a great way to escape Australia’s brutal summers.
If it’s one of those unbearably humid days – we’re looking at you, Queensland – then it’s time to have a retail therapy sesh (although you might want to leave the kids with your partner and head off on your own).
Shopping is also a great way to explore a city, so, if you’re holidaying somewhere new during summer, be adventurous and check out where the locals go browsing.
Stuck in somewhere with COVID? Skip the crowds and start splurging online instead – we think browsing hundreds of your favourite e-commerce stores from the comfort of your air-conditioned hotel room is even better than doing it in person.
14. Go skydiving.
Okay, don’t give us that look. This is a holiday activity listicle, so skydiving kinda sorta has to be on here somewhere. Even if being strapped to your tandem instructor gets a bit hot and sticky.
The good news is, as soon as you fall out of the plane, you’ll be plummeting towards the ground so fast that you’ll completely forget about how hot you were thirty seconds ago.
15. Go on waterfall hikes.
Hiking in summer? Hard pass.
Hiking in summer with a waterfall/lagoon at the end of the end of the trail? Yes please!
Nothing beats trekking through kilometres of bushland and then being able to cool off in the pristine waters of a completely natural pool. If you’re visiting somewhere with a waterfall, even better – see how long you can stand underneath it (safely, of course), or get a #picoftheday to post on your ’gram.
16. Have a BBQ.
Have you tried Australia’s national dish? No? It’s pretty easy to make.
Just get something – steaks, sausages, kebabs, vegetables, and so on – and put it on an outdoor grill. Keep flipping until both sides are crispy.
Serve with an unhealthy amount of tomato or BBQ sauce. Goes well with VB or XXXX Gold.
17. Get your pub crawl on.
Summer is a great time to do a pub crawl, mostly because you won’t freeze as you and your friends stumble towards your next drinking destination. It also happens to be a great way to explore a new area and make friends with the locals (particularly helpful if you’re doing the whole ‘solo traveller’ thing).
Keep things classy with yummy cocktails and craft beers – if the places you’re visiting offer locally-brewed varieties, try them instead!
Oh, it’s okay, we didn’t forget about the restrictions. If you’re somewhere with cases of coronavirus, do the right thing and make your crawl a virtual one – get a group call going, and cheer your friends on as you work through bottles of whatever you bought at Dan Murphy’s. The best part? You don’t have to worry about an Uber – you’re already home!
18. White-water rafting.
Can you do white-water rafting in winter? Yes. Will you be freezing? Also yes.
Tumbling down a roaring river and getting soaked to the bone is one of those things that’s a lot more fun when you’re doing it in summer temperatures. Get adventurous and feel like you’ve accomplished something when you stumble shaky-legged from your inflatable onto dry land.
Check out Kawarau River, Rangitata Gorge and Kaituna River in New Zealand, or float down the Mitta Mitta River, Barron River and Franklin River in Australia.
19. Go Jet Skiing.
Jet Skiing. It’s like riding a motorbike – on the water.
And, like riding an extremely loud motorbike, you’ll probably annoy some beachgoers when you zoom past in a blur of fibreglass and foam, but, if you’re okay with being loathed by the locals, it’s actually extremely fun!
You get all the perks of being out on a boat combined with total freedom. What’s not to love?
20. Relax at your Wyndham resort.
There are a lot of summer activities in this article, but we saved the most important one for last – that blissful ‘me time’ that you’ve been craving for the past six months but haven’t had time to make happen.
Got kids? Hand ’em off to your partner.
Travelling with your better half? Toss them your credit card and direct them towards their favourite shops.
Then it’s all about you – sunbathe by the resort pool, get a soothing massage at a day spa, or just lounge in your luxe bedroom and do a solo Netflix-and-chill sesh.
Feel like we missed an Australian or New Zealand summer activity? Got an awesome holiday experience you think should be on here? Let us know on our Facebook or Instagram!