Feeling lacklustre about the prospect of another long-haul stopover in Dubai or Singapore? With a little blue sky thinking, a stopover can become so much more than a mere pitstop, adding a whole new dimension to your holiday.

Beyond the obvious hotspots, there are all kinds of places to break up the journey to Australia or New Zealand. Take a leisurely scroll through these alternative stopovers to Australia and New Zealand. Each one promises to put the pizzazz back into your stopover, so prepare to be inspired.

Visit Osaka Castle surrounded by cherry blossom | Travel Nation

1. Shanghai

In a snapshot: a mind-boggling mix of old and new worlds

Already spent a stopover in Hong Kong? Shake off the jetlag in Shanghai instead. Fascinating, futuristic and full to bursting-point with incredible food, Shanghai is a seriously underrated stopover destination. With one foot firmly in the future and the other rooted in the past, this is a city of contrasts and, after the recent introduction of the free 144-hour visa to China, it couldn’t be easier to arrange a stay.

Visit the ancient Watertowns near Shanghai | Travel Nation

Wander around the historic French Concession, stroll along the Bund, go window-shopping in Tianzifang and take a day-trip to one of the nostalgic nearby Watertowns. If you’re in Shanghai on the weekend, head for People’s Park for a peek at the weekly Marriage Market, where parents of unmarried children gather to find their kids the perfect match.

Airlines: Virgin Atlantic flies from London to Shanghai and its partner airline, Air New Zealand, flies direct from Shanghai to Auckland

Discover the futuristic skyline of Shanghai

2. Manila

In a snapshot: Quirky sights and quick-fire island-hopping

Once famed for its mean streets, Manila has cleaned up its act and blossomed into a brilliant fusion city. Today, it makes for a really interesting Asian stopover. Take a wander around the Walled City of Intramuros, where Spanish and South East Asian influences meet. Filipino food has landed in a big way recently, making Manila a great place to join a local food tour or cookery class. More time to spare? Head to the Mall of Asia for a taste of the bizarre Dessert Museum, perfect for sweet-toothed Instagram addicts.

Explore the Spanish colonial heart of Manila in Intramuros | Travel Nation

If you factor in a few full days for your Philippines stopover, it’s easy to get out to the islands for some tropical time out. Hop on a short domestic flight to dreamy Palawan and you’ll find yourself in a postcard-perfect paradise of azure waters, limestone islands and soft sands. Kick off your shoes, grab a hammock, order a cold beer and relax in South East Asian style before continuing your journey.

Airlines: Philippine Airlines flies from London to Manila and operates direct flights from Manila to Sydney

Swing in a hammock on El Nido in the Philippines | Travel Nation

3. Osaka

In a snapshot: friendly locals, bowl food and fairy tale castles

Tokyo may be more talked about, but Osaka is an equally fascinating option for a stopover in Japan. Take a boat trip along the canal of Dotonburi, Osaka’s entertainment district, flanked by endless neon signs that lend the area a real sci-fi feel. Then, for something completely different, head to Osaka Castle, surrounded by 106 hectares of gorgeous gardens filled with cherry blossoms.

Get lost on the bright lights of Dotonburi | Travel Nation

Osaka is obsessed with food, making it perfect for a gourmet getaway. This is somewhere to embrace the idea of ‘kuidaore’ – a Japanese expression that means to eat until you drop or run out of money – whichever comes first. For added value, make a day trip to nearby Kyoto, just 30 minutes away by train.

From Osaka, you’ll need to hop over to Tokyo for a direct flight to Australia, so why not build the bullet train into your trip?

Airlines: British Airways flies from London to Osaka and its partner airlines operate direct flights from Tokyo to Sydney

Enjoy some tasty street food in Osaka

4. Taipei

In a snapshot: temples, teahouses and nature trails

Taiwan tends to fall under the radar when it comes to stopover escapes, so it’s something of a hidden treasure. Ideal for mixing culture with nature, Taipei boasts several scenic beauty spots very near the centre, making it more than a city break. If you’re looking for somewhere different to break up your journey, it’s a peach.

Visit traditional teahouses on the hillsides of Jiufen, Taipei | Travel Nation

Like many Asian capitals, Taipei is a heady combination of old and new, with skyscrapers rubbing up against cobbled lantern-lined streets. Wander between temples and teahouses, get lost in the night markets and make your way to the top of Taipei 101. Then, take a day trip to the charming mountain town of Jiufen, soak in the hot springs of the Thermal Valley and hike in Yangmingshan National Park.

Airlines: EVA Air flies direct from London to Brisbane via Taipei.

Soak up the evening atmosphere in Jiufen, Taipei | Travel Nation

5. Colombo

In a snapshot: scenic trains, tea plantations and tuk-tuks

In itself, Colombo is a chaotic and colourful city that can feel quite overwhelming to first-time visitors. However, if you make an extended stopover in Sri Lanka, it’s easy to explore beyond the capital in a short timeframe, travelling from tropical beaches to tea plantations and ancient temples. With a bit of careful planning, you can even spot elephants before setting off on your journey Down Under.

Take the train through the tea plantations to Nuwara Eliya

From Colombo, you can explore the cultural capital of Kandy, take a beautiful train ride through the hills to the tea plantations of Ella, see all kinds of exotic wildlife in Yala National Park and relax on the sandy beaches of Negombo. Along the way, you can try local cooking classes, explore ancient temples and get a taste of true Sri Lankan culture.

Airlines: SriLankan Airlines flies from London to Colombo and operates direct flights from Colombo to Melbourne

Elephants, Kandy, Sri Lanka

6. Ho Chi Minh

In a snapshot: scooters, coffee and street culture

A non-stop city with a compelling and tragic past, Ho Chi Minh is the perfect stopover destination for history buffs. Here, you can visit the moving War Remnants Museum, see the French colonial landmarks and take a day trip to the incredible Cu Chi Tunnels. Between sightseeing trips, stop for a famous Vietnamese coffee or pull up a curb-side stool for a local beer. ​

Explore the Mekong Delta from Ho Chi Minh City | Travel Nation

Light and zingy, Vietnamese food is fantastic, so be sure to fill up on traditional Pho and goi cuon, fresh spring rolls. For something a little different, hop on a vintage scooter for a street food tour of Ho Chi Minh’s hole-in-the-wall eateries and, if you have time, take an overnight trip to the Mekong Delta.

Already been to Ho Chi Minh? Try Hanoi instead. You can fly direct from London to Hanoi with Vietnam Airlines and, from there, non-stop from Hanoi to Sydney.

Airlines: Vietnam Airlines flies from London to Ho Chi Minh and operates direct flights from Ho Chi Minh to Melbourne and Sydney

7. Houston

In a snapshot: astronauts, artisan beer and BBQ

Mixing space with cowboys, Houston offers a Stateside stopover with a twist. Great for families, foodies and science fanatics, it’s a compact city with loads of surprises in store. Home to NASA’s astronaut training academy and flight control complex, Houston’s Space Center is THE place to geek out on a galactic scale and there’s a further glut of science museums to explore Downtown.

See the Apollo 11 Command Module at the Houston Space Center | Travel Nation

After a day of educational outings, tuck into tacos, tackle a tower of ribs or try a typical Texan chicken-fried steak. For nightlife, head over to eclectic Montrose and hop between Houston’s cocktail bars.

Air New Zealand now offers direct flights from Auckland to Houston, making it easy to break up your journey with some serious BBQ. From Houston, you can fly non-stop all the way back to Manchester, so if you live up North, the journey is a cinch.

Airlines: Air New Zealand flies direct from Auckland to Houston and its partner, Singapore Airlines, flies non-stop from Houston to Manchester

Try a real Texan BBQ in Houston | Travel Nation

8. Johannesburg

In a snapshot: lions, giraffes and elephants

It may seem like a stretch, but there’s nothing stopping you from planning a safari stopover. If you’re in the market for an epic wildlife experience on your way to Australia, Johannesburg is the gateway to the Big Five. Within a few hours of Jo’burg by road, you can reach several private game reserves that offer top-notch safari experiences, including Pilanesberg, Madikwe and Mabula.

See the Big Five on a safari in South Africa | Travel Nation

From Johannesburg, you can fly directly to Sydney, making the journey a bit of a breeze. If you’ve got more time to spare, fly into Cape Town, make your way along South Africa's Garden Route and travel up to Johannesburg before continuing to Australia. Even better, you can opt to make a stop in Asia on your way back, supersizing your stopover potential. Think big. In fact, think Big Five.

Airlines: British Airways flies direct from London to Johannesburg and its partner, Qantas, flies non-stop from Johannesburg to Sydney

9. Honolulu

In a snapshot: great waves and grass skirts

Slip off your shoes and embrace the ‘aloha spirit’ in Hawaii, where the locals are friendly, the weather is wonderful and the waves are HUGE. Hawaii is brilliant for a bit of barefoot beach glamour and exotic R&R. Watch surfers ride the waves on Waikiki Beach, explore hidden sandy bays and spot whales breaching in the ocean.

Soak up the beautiful scenery in Oahu | Travel Nation

If sunbathing isn’t your bag, Hawaii can still tick all of the boxes. Beyond the beaches, Hawaii is a natural wonderland of volcanoes, wildflower-flanked hills and waterfalls, making it an unbeatable choice for walkers of all ages. Add to this the amazing Polynesian hospitality and you’ve got a stopover that really stands out from the crowds.

From Honolulu, you’ll need to take a quick flight to Los Angeles and fly home with New Zealand Airlines from there. There are plenty of flights that leave daily from Honolulu to LA, so you won’t be stuck for options. If you have time, why not stick around for a taste of the Hollywood high life.  

Airlines: Air New Zealand flies directly from Auckland to Honolulu and then from Los Angeles to London. Many airlines offer direct flights from Honolulu to Los Angeles.

10. Mauritius

In a snapshot: an island full of sunshine and surprises

Newsflash! Mauritius isn’t just for honeymooners. If you’re after the ultimate sun-worshipping stopover on your way to Western Australia, Mauritius is your man. An intoxicating mixture of pure white beaches, lush mountains and cascading waterfalls, it’s a wonderful place to soak up the sunshine before heading Down Under.

A beautiful beach in Mauritius

Sitting in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius fuses Indian, South African and French influences, making the culture and cuisine utterly unique. During your stay, be sure to visit Chamarel, known as the Land of the Seven Coloured Earths, where you’ll find layers of rainbow sands. From here, you can fly direct to Perth, making it perfect for a sun-drenched stopover.

Airlines: Air Mauritius flies from London to Mauritius and operates direct flights from Mauritius to Perth

Visit the Seven Coloured Earths in Mauritius | Travel Nation

11. Vancouver

In a snapshot: grizzly bears, whales and untouched wilderness

Caught between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver is a city on the edge of the wilderness. With soaring scenery and incredible wildlife, it’s a stand-out stopover destination for nature lovers. From here, you can head out into remote British Columbia to spot grizzly bears in the wild, take whale-watching tours and explore the Rockies by train or car.

Lake Louise is stunning in September | Travel Nation

Vancouver is a stellar starting point for a Canada road trip, so if you budget extra time for your stopover, you can cover some serious ground. To travel on one flight ticket, you’ll need to make your way down to San Francisco, providing the perfect excuse for an epic self-drive, stopping in Seattle and Oregon on the way.

Airlines: Air New Zealand flies direct from Auckland to Vancouver and, on the same ticket, you can non-stop from San Francisco or Los Angeles to London.

12. French Polynesia

In a snapshot: the ultimate pinch-me paradise

If you’re going as far as Australia or New Zealand, why not go one step further with a trip to French Polynesia? More of an add-on than a stopover, several airlines allow you to tag French Polynesia onto a ticket to Australasia. Basically, there’s every reason in the world to treat yourself to a tropical paradise. 

Soak up the beauty of Bora Bora | Travel Nation

With THAT iconic lagoon, Bora Bora is on everybody’s bucket list, but there’s far more to French Polynesia than its main headliner. Clusters of tiny, flower-filled islands sit in bright blue waters, each one offering an experience all of its own. Head for dreamy Huahine, escape to Ta’haa or escape the crowds on Rangiroa. Can’t decide? Take a boutique cruise that visits a handful of idyllic islands in a few short days.

Airlines: Air New Zealand and Qantas codeshares both offer French Polynesia add-ons to flight tickets from London.

Supersize your stopovers

Why stop at one stopover when you can have two? Many airlines and airline alliances offer multi-stop tickets that allow you to mix and match stopovers, giving you the chance to explore two different destinations either side of your stay in Australia and New Zealand. Often, these tickets cost only a little more and pack loads of extra holiday punch.

We are experts in organising complex multi-stop flights, multi-destination holidays and round the world trips. To start planning your next adventure, call our travel experts on +44 1273320580 or get in touch by email. No challenge is too big!

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