Stopover options for travelling to New Zealand
Dreaming of a trip to New Zealand? Flights to this remote paradise take upwards of 23 hours, with at least one connection. To break up the journey, why not enjoy a longer stopover on the way? Extend your trip with an Oceana island getaway or a luxurious stay in the Middle East, explore an iconic American city or get a taste of exotic Asia. Here are some of the top stopover options for travelling to New Zealand.
What’s in this New Zealand stopover guide?
The Middle East
To choose the best stopover, consider what time of year you’re travelling to New Zealand and what you want to experience. All the destinations listed here are suitable for quick stops to break up the trip or longer stays if you want to explore in more depth.
The Middle East
The Middle East is located just seven hours from London and offers plenty of onward flights to New Zealand. This massive region covers 17 countries and is filled with rolling deserts, craggy mountain ranges and a meandering coastline. Explore the Middle East’s ancient culture by visiting ornate mosques and the winding lanes of souks. You’ll also find glitzy modern cities that are filled towering skyscrapers, malls and five-star hotels. Get a real taste of luxury with a New Zealand stopover in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
Flight duration: London to Dubai: 7 hours. Dubai to Auckland: 16 hours.
Best time to visit Dubai: it can soar to 40 degrees in the summer, so it’s best to visit between November and March when it’s less humid and temperatures remain in the mid 20s.
What to do: Dubai is a great place for pampering, so check into a chic hotel and indulge in some relaxing spa treatments. If you’re looking for retail therapy, Dubai Mall in the heart of downtown has over 1,200 shops, not to mention an aquarium with a 270-degree, walk-through tunnel. You’ll find high-end fashion at the Mall of the Emirates or visit traditional Arabian souks for alleys brimming with treasures, from perfumes to spices, jewellery and textiles.
Learn about the history of this desert city at the Dubai Museum, housed in Al Fahidi Fort, which was built in 1787. Take a tour of the Jumeriah Mosque and spend some time wandering the Bastakia Quarter, which was built by wealthy Persian merchants in the late 18th century and boasts exquisite Arabian architecture. Longer stopovers will give you a chance to spend some time at the beach or go out into the desert for a camel-riding or jeep adventure.
Suggested stay: JA Palm Tree Court Hotel
Flight duration: London to Abu Dhabi: 7 hours. Abu Dhabi to Auckland: 18 hours connecting flight.
Best time to visit Abu Dhabi: during the cooler period between November and March, when the city is also quieter.
What to do: There’s plenty to do in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, which has an eight-kilometre waterfront known as the Corniche. Stroll along this lively promenade, relax on its pristine beach or see the city from the water with a boat trip. Abu Dhabi’s most extravagant hotels lie on Yas Island, which is home to the Formula One Yas Marina Circuit, as well Ferrari World theme park. Yas Island also has some of the country’s top spas, hotels and beaches.
Tour one of the world’s largest mosques, the 82-domed Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which has capacity for 40,000 worshippers, and see international art at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. The restored Al-Hosn Fort is Abu Dhabi’s oldest building and a former palace established in the 1790s that now houses a museum. Check out the carpet souk for handmade Arabic designs and Souk Al Zafarana for everything from Emirati crafts to clothing. If you have more time, take a trip into the desert to the Liwa Oasis or Empty Quarter, which has some of the world’s biggest sand dunes.
Suggested stay: Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Villas
New Zealand flights often connect in bustling Asian capital cities like Bangkok and Hong Kong, most of which are located less than 13 hours from London. Experience a mix of new and old, with golden temples, street food and giant Buddha statues as well as megamalls and futuristic skylines. Highlights include Bangkok’s Grand Palace, the twin Petronus Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong’s Chinese temples and the architecturally-renowned Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. All of these destinations offer regular onward flights to New Zealand.
Flight duration: London to Bangkok: 11.5 hours. Bangkok to Auckland: 11.5 hours.
Best time to visit Bangkok: between November and February when it’s dry and sunny, with temperatures in the 20s. Avoid the stifling summer and monsoon season from June to October.
What to do: Bangkok is a great introduction to Asia, with tourist-friendly attractions and a combination of eastern and western culture. You’ll find affordable luxury hotels, as well as spas offering traditional Thai massage. Start by visiting the Grand Palace, an 18th century complex that was once home to the Thai Royal Family and houses the sacred Emerald Buddha in Wat Phra Kaew temple. Continue your cultural tour with a stop at Wat Pho’s 46-metre-long reclining Buddha and Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn, which has a mosaic-covered tower.
A cruise on the Chao Phraya River will give you a unique perspective of the city and take you along the narrow canals that give Bangkok its nickname: the Venice of the East. Dine on tasty street food in Chinatown, Rattanakosin and along the tourist mecca, Khao San Road. Other sights include Lumphini Park where you can spot monitor lizards, the historic Jim Thompson House and sprawling Chatuchak weekend market. The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, which lies 90 minutes from the city, makes a good half-day trip.
Suggested stay: Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort
Flight duration: London to Kuala Lumpur: 13 hours. Kuala Lumpur to Auckland: 10.5 hours.
Best time to visit Kuala Lumpur: it’s drier and less humid from May to July, although year-round temperatures average 28 degrees. Monsoon season falls in March, April and between October and January.
What to do: Malaysia’s capital is a blend of Indian, Chinese and Malay culture. This is most visible at the Pasar Seni, Central Market, which has areas selling ethnic street food, souveniers and crafts. Visit Buddhist monasteries, the 19th century Hindu Sri Mahamariamman temple and the Jamek Mosque, built in the early 1900s. You can also hop on a train from Kuala Lumpur to nearby Selangor for the Batu Caves, which are carved into limestone cliffs and hold Hindu shrines.
Find out more about Malaysian culture at the national museum and Istana Negara, a museum housed in a grand palace. Kuala Lumpur also has modern malls like KLCC and Utama Shopping Mall, as well as trendy bars, spas and restaurants in the Golden Triangle area. Head up the twin, 450-metre-tall Petronus Towers for amazing views over the city. If you fancy some peace, visit the serene Butterfly Park or Kuala Lumpur Bird Park, populated with over 3,000 exotic birds.
Suggested stay: Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur
Flight duration: London to Singapore: 13 hours. Singapore to Auckland or Christchurch: 9.5 hours.
Best time to visit Singapore: between February and April when it’s drier and cooler. Avoid the two main monsoon seasons from December to March and June to September.
What to do: stopover in Singapore for world-class architecture, museums and Chinese, Indian, Malay and British colonial influences. Start exploring at Marina Bay, which is surrounded by skyscrapers. You’ll find the Singapore Flyer observation wheel, the ArtScience Museum and boat trips to watch the Wonder Full Light and Water Show at 8pm. The area is also home to Gardens by the Bay, 101 hectares combining nature and technology, with vertical Supertree gardens, a cloud forest and Flower Dome greenhouse.
Singapore’s Chinatown is filled with food vendors, decorative temples, teahouses and shops. For fancy shopping, explore Orchard Row and malls like Paragon for more retail therapy. If you can afford a longer visit, take the cable car to purpose-built Sentosa island, where you can lie back on beaches, play a round of golf or venture up the Tiger Sky Tower. The 82-hectare Singapore Botanic Gardens is another popular site, or you can take a boat from downtown to see the city sights from the water.
Suggested stay: Naumi Hotel Singapore
Flight duration: London to Hong Kong: 11.5 hours. Hong Kong to Auckland or Christchurch: 11 – 11.5 hours.
Best time to visit Hong Kong: it’s sunny and dry between October and December or in March and April, with temperatures in the 20s. Avoid the stormy, hot summer.
What to do: Hong Kong has something for every traveller, from beaches to markets, museums and religious buildings. Landmarks include the Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Art and the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery, which showcases views over the city. The Taoist Man Mo Temple and Chinese Wong Tai Sin Temple are also worth a visit. For shopping, visit the Temple Street Night Market, a street bazaar that offers everything from clothes to art and gadgets. The best nearby beach is white-sand Tai Long Wan.
Hong Kong’s favourite tourist sites can be found along Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, including the Hong Kong Space Museum, Clock Tower and Hong Kong Museum of Art. Take the Star Ferry between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island for skyline views during the nightly light show. Alternatively, the Peak Tram will take you to Hong Kong’s highest point, Victoria Peak, for stellar views. Lantau Island makes an excellent daytrip, with sights including the giant Tian Tan Buddha, Po Lin Monastery and Ngong Ping 360 Skyrail cable car.
Suggested stay: Harbour Grand Kowloon
Stopover on the USA’s top west coast hubs, San Francisco and Los Angeles, for an action-packed city break. The two cities lie less than 12 hours from London and offer direct onward flights to New Zealand. You’ll get the chance to see some of America’s most iconic sites, from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Hollywood Hills sign. Enjoy sunshine, Californian beaches and movie magic in LA, or head to San Francisco to tour notorious Alcatraz, ride cable cars and learn about LGBT history. Both cities have great museums, shopping and thriving food scenes.
Flight duration: London to Los Angeles: 11.5 hours. Los Angeles to Auckland: 13 hours.
Best time to visit Los Angeles: LA is nice in the spring and autumn when it’s sunny, yet cooler than the stuffy summer, which can be smoggy and crowded.
What to do: The City of Angels is filled with movie history. Head to Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame, which is lined with 2,600 brass stars and see a show at the TCL Chinese Theatre. This palace theatre has hosted film premiers since 1927 and is known for immortalising the handprints of stars like John Wayne and the cast of Harry Potter. Take a Star Homes tour in Beverley Hills to see where the rich and famous live and visit Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures or Warner Bros for a behind-the-scenes studio lot tour.
Other LA highlights include the Hollywood Bowl, an outdoor amphitheatre that’s hosted concerts since 1922, the California Science Centre and the Getty Center for art. The art deco observatory in Griffith Park has some of the best views of the Hollywood Hills sign and LA basin, as do the walking tracks in Runyon Canyon Park. Shoppers will love Rodeo Drive and for beaches, visit Venice, Santa Monica, or venture further along the coast to idyllic Malibu. While you’re in LA, don’t forget to take a drive along palm-lined Sunset Boulevard.
Suggested stay: Kimpton Everly Hotel
Flight duration: London to San Francisco: 11 hours. San Francisco to Auckland: 13 hours.
Best time to visit San Francisco: the city is windy and experiences heavy fog in summer, so the best time to visit is from September to November when it’s quieter and temperatures reach the low 20s.
What to do: San Francisco’s top attraction is the Golden Gate Bridge, which you can see from the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point and surrounding parkland, which is covered in scenic trails. Take a cable car, installed in the 1800s, to navigate the city’s signature steep streets and its key sights. For views of San Francisco Bay, go to Fisherman’s Wharf, which is filled with restaurants and basking sea lions at Pier 39. From here you can take a sunset boat tour of the bay or visit Madame Tussauds and the Aquarium.
Sail over to Alcatraz, the maximum-security prison where criminals like Al Capone were incarcerated. You can combine this with a stop at Angel Island, where Chinese immigrants once entered the USA. Scale the 64-metre-tall Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill for views of the city and visit the Castro District for LGBT history and to learn about the city’s famous former mayor, Harvey Milk. If you’re spending more time in San Fran, head to nearby Ocean Beach and the Muir Woods National Monument for trails through giant Redwood forests.
Suggested stay: Kimpton Sir Francis Drake
Combine your trip to New Zealand with an Australian city break or island getaway in the South Pacific. It takes up to 24 hours on a connecting flight to reach Oceana but from there, flights to New Zealand only take around four hours. Stop in Australia’s largest city, Sydney, for sites like the Opera House, or visit Melbourne for laneways and street art. If you prefer to combine your trip to New Zealand with a beach holiday, Fiji and the Cook Islands offer white sands, turquoise water and spectacular diving opportunities.
Flight duration: London to Sydney: 21.5 hour connecting flight. Sydney to Auckland or Christchurch: 3 hours.
Best time to visit Sydney: summer offers the sunniest weather, but late spring and early autumn are quieter and cooler, with temperatures in the 20s.
What to do: Sydney is a must-visit for its iconic natural harbour, which is one of the most beautiful on the planet. Take a tour of the sailboat-shaped Opera House and enjoy a sunset cruise, passing beneath the Harbour Bridge. More adventurous visitors can even scale the 1,149-metre suspension bridge on the Sydney Bridge Climb for incredible views. Spend some time in the nearby Royal Botanic Garden, which covers 74 acres and has themed areas, including an Australian Rainforest Garden.
Sydney cultural sites include the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Australia Museum for natural history. Learn about the country’s convict past at the Hyde Park Barracks Museum and sea-faring history at the Australian National Maritime Museum. Darling Harbour is a popular tourist area, with attractions like the aquarium and IMAX theatre, as well as shopping and restaurants. Spend an afternoon at surfing spots Bondi or Manly beach and drive an hour west to the UNESCO-listed Blue Mountains.
Suggested stay: Harbour Rocks Hotel
Flight duration: London to Melbourne: 21.5 hours connecting flight. Melbourne to Auckland or Christchurch: 3.5 hours.
Best time to visit Melbourne: the city can get chilly in the winter, so summer is one of the best times to visit. The spring and autumn shoulder months also work well.
What to do: Melbourne is known for its laneways filled with coffee shops and bars. Discover world-famous street art located in areas like Hosier Lane, Centre Place and Degraves Lane. These alleys feature ever-changing murals from renowned artists. As Victoria’s capital, Melbourne also has historic sites like the 19th century Flinders Station and the Como House and Gardens, established in 1847. Don’t miss the UNESCO-recognised Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens and for 360-degree views of Melbourne, visit the Eureka Skydeck 88, the Southern Hemisphere’s highest viewing platform.
To get around the heart of Melbourne, ride the free city circle tram, which stops at key slights like the Princess Theatre, Parliament House and Melbourne Museum, home to the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Culture Center. Sports fans can catch a game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which has a 100,000-seat capacity and an interesting sports museum. For the beach, visit the golden sands of St Kilda to catch the sunset parade of Fairy Penguins. If you’re planning a longer stopover, take a road trip on the 243-kilometre Great Ocean Road to see rock formations like the Twelve Apostles.
Suggested stay: The Langham Melbourne
Flight duration: London to Fiji: 25 hour connecting flight. Fiji to Auckland: 3 hours, or 4 hours to Christchurch.
Best time to visit Fiji: avoid the summer cyclone season and visit from May to October, when Fiji is cooled by trade winds and temperatures hover around 26 degrees. For diving, the best visibility is between June and October.
What to do: Fiji is a South Pacific paradise, made up of 330 islands floating between Hawaii and New Zealand. This makes it the ideal beach destination to complement your New Zealand adventure. Some of the best islands to visit include Viti Levu, which features the capital and largest city in the South Pacific, Suva. Take in the city’s fascinating Indo-Fijian culture and go to Navala Village to see over 200 traditional Fijian houses.
Known as a wedding and honeymoon destination, you can expect white, palm-fringed beaches on Fiji and clear waters that are rich with marine life. Snorkel and dive to discover colourful reefs that support diverse marine life such as sharks and sea turtles. When you’re not basking on the beach, head inland for a rainforest hike or cruise around islands. You can also explore the cooler highlands of Namosi or go hiking and bird watching in Bouma National Heritage Park in Taveuni, which is dotted with jungle waterfalls.
Suggested stay: Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay
Flight duration: London to Cook Islands: 29 hour connecting flight. Cook Islands to Auckland: 4.5 hours.
Best time to visit the Cook Islands: between May and October, when it’s drier and less humid, with temperatures in the 20s. The islands have a year-round tropical climate with afternoon storms from December to April in cyclone season.
What to do: The Cook Islands is an archipelago of 15 South Pacific islands that lies just a few hours from New Zealand. Visitors land at the main airport in Rarotonga, the largest hub which boasts Polynesian culture and architecture. A highlight is the Sunday Punanga Nui Market, held on the wharf. As you’d expect, the Cook Islands offer some of the world’s top beaches, as well as sparkling lagoons, one of the favourites is Aitutaki’s lagoon. To spot tropical bird life, head to Atiu Island, which is loved for its eco resorts.
Stay in a luxury over-the-water bungalow or take a cruise around the Cook Islands to explore. The 15 islands are reef-protected and feature some of the world’s richest sea life. Take a diving or snorkelling trip to over 40 spots, some of the best are around Aitutaki’s lagoon, for a glimpse of this underwater wonderland. You can also enjoy a taste of local culture at the Te Vara Nui Night Show and do some jungle trekking to volcanic peaks.
Suggested stay: Pacific Resort Aitutaki