Equal parts adventure, stunning landscape and age-old culture, Australia and New Zealand are one big bucket list. Stretch your legs on shores of The Kimberley or stretch your eyes and drink in the awe inspiring Milford, Dusky and Doubtful Sounds. The sheer size of the region means there is something for everyone – from New Zealand’s Sub-Antarctic Islands to the urban hype of Sydney, there’s a world waiting for you beneath the equator.
Day 1: Auckland, New Zealand
Known as the ‘City of Sails’, its two harbours will tempt you with waterfront walks, and the chance to breathe fresh sea air deep into your lungs while absorbing spectacular views of Auckland’s grand harbour bridge’s span. Take in the true scale of Auckland’s magnificent cityscape by ascending 192 metres to the Sky Tower, and looking out over the city’s gleaming silver towers, which reflect on the abundant waters below. Immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of the area at Auckland Art Gallery, Toi o Tāmaki. Set beside tranquil fountains and handsomely landscaped flowerbeds of Albert Park, the French-Renaissance building houses New Zealand’s most extensive art collection, and exhibits works from Māori and Pacific artists. New Zealand is world-renowned for its captivating natural scenery, and day trips across the sparkling bays, to nearby islands like Waiheke, Tiritiri Matangi, and Rangitoto, are always tempting. Discover lava caves, grape-laden vineyards and flourishing wildlife in the Hauraki Gulf’s islands. You’ll also find an exceptional 360-degree panorama over the city, to the horizon beyond, from the heights of ancient Mount Eden.
Day 2: Tauranga (Bay of Plenty), New Zealand
An entry point to the vast indent of the Bay of Plenty, the volcanic peak of Mount Maunganui is a fittingly dramatic welcome. Brooding, geothermal energy creates spectacular natural attractions across this region, while plunging waterfalls, and fascinating Maori culture ensures that the Bay of Plenty has a lot to offer visitors. Said to receive New Zealand’s highest amount of sunshine, the hanging kiwi, citrus fruit and avocados add an exotic touch to the area’s landscape – especially around Te Puke. Vibrant teal and orange colours await at the stunning geothermal area of Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve, where mud pools bubble and steam rises from the earth. There are more hot pools, and some of the country’s best scenery, at Lake Rotoiti – where you can kayak across the smooth surface and enter a cave that glows gentle blue, with its darkened roof illuminated by glittering glow worms. Enter New Zealand’s fantasy world, with a visit to some of the country’s celebrated filming spots – which have featured as doubles for JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth’s fantasy settings.
Day 3: Day At Sea
Day 4: Wellington, New Zealand
Sprawling around a hook-shaped peninsula, Wellington is a vibrant and energetic seaside capital. A compact, well-stocked city of buzzing bars and chatting cafes, New Zealand’s capital is a bright and breezy place with an infectious, easy-going atmosphere. Known as the creative hub of the South Pacific, there are shows to see, art installations to enjoy, and rich flavours to savour here. The sounds of rare and beautiful birdlife fill the hills around the city, and the bush of the green belt provides easy-to-access sanctuary, strolls and cycle rides. The Botanical Gardens break up the buildings, even more, while an iconic, cherry-red cable car rumbles up Wellington’s slope to the city’s best viewpoint, looking out over the city’s scenic harbour from above. Zealandia has provided an urban home for rare and endangered birdlife, bringing many species back from the brink. Varied museums cover everything from Maori traditions to earthquake simulations and even the real-life Kraken – a displayed colossal squid.
Day 5: Picton, New Zealand
Pretty Picton is a beautiful harbour town, lying on the cusp of the mighty scenery of the Marlborough Sounds Maritime Park, and providing an attractive link between New Zealand’s two main islands. You could easily spend days here browsing art studios and galleries, nursing freshly ground coffees, and watching the undulations of the bay’s waters from Picton’s waterfront eateries. Enjoy the coastal location and sea views while wandering Picton Memorial Park, among palm trees, bright flowers and benches that sit before sweeping views of the Sound. There’s a lot to explore beyond Picton’s limits, too, with mighty flayed inlets and glorious sweeping bays enticing you out into the sumptuous panoramas. The Marlborough Sounds are 1,500 km of eye-rubbingly beautiful scenery, formed by submerged valleys cascading down to the sea’s waters. With its multitude of bays, coves and islands, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to get out onto the calm water and push through the gentle waves in kayaks. Sit back and enjoy weaving through the scenery from the comfort of a sailboat, looking out for abundant wildlife like penguins, dolphins and seals. Vineyards coat the sheltered land between the mountains and ocean – generating the perfect climate for cultivation. Sample a glass of the renowned Sauvignon Blanc, from the Blenheim wine region nearby for a taste of the fruitful produce.
Day 6: Lyttelton (Christchurch), New Zealand
Christchurch has an unmistakable English flavour to it, and serves as the gateway to southern New Zealand’s natural wonders. The rebuild of the country’s oldest city continues apace – following the earthquakes that devastated it in 2011. Colourful street art adds an edge to the city, while shiny new bars and restaurants contribute to the sense of revitalisation and renewal. Visit museums, and take tours to learn more of the reconstruction, which has made incredible progress in recent years. The old-time charm of a punt on the River Avon is still a quintessential Christchurch experience. Sail amid weeping willows drooping to the water, as you drift through a blur of colours in the botanical gardens. Surrounded by extinct volcanoes, soaring lakes, and the rolling farmlands of the Canterbury Plains, spectacular scenery sprawls around the city. Pay a visit to the Southern Alps’ snow-covered peaks, the stunning hot pools and rushing streams of Hanmer Springs, or the Hector’s dolphins who swim at Akaroa
Day 7: Timaru, New Zealand
Nestled neatly between New Zealand’s South Island cities of Dunedin and Christchurch, and aptly named by the Maoris as Te Maru (‘Place of Shelter’) – you’re guaranteed a warm and refreshing welcome here. many, but with charming Edwardian architecture, a lively port, and prime fishing opportunities – there is Beachside charm awaits at Caroline Bay, while birds tweet and chatter in the botanical gardens, where pink and purple petalled flowers unfold. The diverse museum exhibits everything from aviation history to hunting wares and whaling tusks – and the town boasts the third biggest art gallery in all of New Zealand – which is adorned with colour and creativity. Caroline Bay’s beaches are also home to a colony of blue penguins, who return to the shelter of their sandy burrows as the sun dips. If you choose to venture inland, you can witness the rise of mighty Mount Cook, and the glorious glaciers that spill down from its icy heights. Head to the glowing turquoise Lake Pukaki for some of the best of New Zealand’s cinematic fantasy landscapes, and to immerse yourself in the mystical settings where scenes from The Hobbit films were shot. Hike the lake – surrounded by the majesty of the Southern Alps – or cycle pathways alongside scenic, salmon-filled waterways.
Day 8: Stewart, Island
Within touching distance of the South Island’s southern tip, the majority of New Zealand’s third-largest island is handed over to a beautiful sprawl of National Park. Taking its name from the Māori word ‘Rakiura’ which means ‘land of the glowing skies’ this is an island sanctuary of radiant beauty. Sunsets and sunrise are magical, but it’s the swirling patterns of lights that dance across the heavens above that enchant above all else – as the southern hemisphere’s version of the northern lights dazzles overhead. Slow the pace, on this island of leisurely fishing villages and swirling Maori legend. The majority of Stewart Island has been claimed by dense forests, which conceal wonderful wildlife watching opportunities, and reveal isolated coves and dramatic cliffs. Bring your hiking boots, as with only 15 miles of road, the best way to see the rugged beauty is by crunching along seaside trails. Coastal hikes along sweeping bays lead to viewpoints like Ackers Point, or you can take to the sea’s waves to undulate gently offshore, admiring the island’s coastline from the turquoise waters. Pleasure cruises along the scenic Paterson Inlet will take you out to islands teeming with life and animal activity. Stewart Island, and its scattered skerries, provide the perfect sanctuary for crowds of brilliant birdlife. Encounter everything from blue penguins to albatross and New Zealand’s national icon – wild kiwis.
Day 9: Cruising Doubtful Sound & Milford Sound
New Zealand fiord country along with Fiordland National Park is one of New Zealand’s premier attractions. Incredibly beautiful, wild and remote, the region is an intriguing combination of rugged mountain ranges, dense rainforest, solitary alpine lakes, sparkling rivers and splashing waterfalls. Much of Fiordland is virtually unexplored wilderness and still the habitat of rare birds. As the ship cruises the beautiful Doubtful, Dusky and Milford Sounds, experience the majestic fiordland of South Island’s western coast. Captain James Cook sailed along this coast in 1770 and again in 1773, when he anchored at Dusky Sound for a rest and ship repair. Doubtful Sound is one of the region’s most majestic fiords. It is ten times larger than Milford Sound. As the ship cruises into Hall Arm, gaze at vertical cliffs and mighty waterfalls plunging over sheer rock faces. In fine weather, mountains and greenery are reflected in the protected waters of the fiord. Farther north lies Milford Sound. Far from any populated area, Milford Sound is famous for its grandeur and spectacular beauty.
Days 10 & 11: At Sea
Day 12: Burnie, Australia
Nearby Cradle Mountain once registered some of the world’s purest air – and the breezes here are purified by miles of uninterrupted ocean, stretching south to Antarctica. Tasmania itself is a place of sweeping National Parks, soaring granite mountain ranges and lakes reflecting spectacular scenery in glass-smooth surfaces. With dense eucalyptus forests coating the hills, and hikes rewarding with deserted sandy beaches, it’s no surprise that Burnie life revolves around getting outdoors and exploring the natural splendour of this shield-shaped island state of Australia. If mountain hikes sound a little strenuous, spend some time getting to know the island’s adorable wildlife. Visit Fern Glade Reserve to see the spade-like beaks of platypuses gliding through the waters, or the Little Penguin Observation Centre. West Beach’s golden sand is also close by, perfect for lying back and soaking up some sun, or for watching on as surfers skip across the curling waves. Burnie has always been a place where things get made – in the past this came with a tinge of grey industry, but the city has now reinvented itself as a hotspot for all things creative. View the island’s most revered works, learn how to fold your own paper creations in workshops, and marvel at skilled local creators working hard in their studios at the Maker’s Workshop. Great food is also on this maker’s city’s agenda – feast on freshly shucked oysters, and award-winning cheeses. Later, you can toast the artisan spirit of Burnie with a glass of cool climate wine, or by swirling a nightcap of single malt – some of the world’s best whiskeys are produced here.
Days 13 & 14: Melbourne, Australia
Consistently rated among the “world’s most livable cities” in quality-of-life surveys, Melbourne is built on a coastal plain at the top of the giant horseshoe of Port Phillip Bay. The city center is an orderly grid of streets where the state parliament, banks, multinational corporations, and splendid Victorian buildings that sprang up in the wake of the gold rush now stand. This is Melbourne’s heart, which you can explore at a leisurely pace in a couple of days.In Southbank, one of the newer precincts south of the city center, the Southgate development of bars, restaurants, and shops has refocused Melbourne’s vision on the Yarra River. Once a blighted stretch of factories and run-down warehouses, the southern bank of the river is now a vibrant, exciting part of the city, and the river itself is finally taking its rightful place in Melbourne’s psyche. Just a hop away, Federation Square—with its host of galleries—has become a civic landmark for Melburnians. Stroll along the Esplanade in the suburb of St. Kilda, amble past the elegant houses of East Melbourne, enjoy the shops and cafés in Fitzroy or Carlton, rub shoulders with locals at the Victoria Market, nip into the Windsor for afternoon tea, or rent a canoe at Studley Park to paddle along one of the prettiest stretches of the Yarra—and you may discover Melbourne’s soul as well as its heart.
Day 15: At Sea
Day 16: Eden, Australia
Known for the migrating whales that cruise through its waters between May and November, Eden sits in New South Wales’ scenic Twofold Bay. While the whales are now protected and cherished here, the town was initially founded as a whaling centre and has many fascinating stories to tell. Namely, a unique symbiotic relationship with the killer whales. Rewarded with the tongues from freshly caught whales, the orcas would help to round up baleen whales in the bay, making it easy for humans to land them. This mutually beneficial exchange came to be known as The Law of the Tongue. Find out more about it, and the area’s whaling past, at Eden Killer Whale Museum – where you can see the skeleton of the most famous orca accomplice, Old Tom. Initially devised as a lighthouse, Boyd’s tower would later be used as a lookout to spot whales breaching the bay’s waters, and to see Old Tom splashing his tail to alert the whalers.
Day 17: Sydney, Australia
Creative and curious, discover the world-class cuisine, indigenous culture, and irresistible beach life that make Sydney one of the world’s most dynamic, exciting destinations. Overlooked by the metallic curves of the masterpiece of an Opera House is Sydney’s sparkling harbor. Take it all in from the water, and admire the iconic landmarks, which are set before the city’s gleaming skyline backdrop. If you’re feeling adventurous, take the legendary climb up the smooth curve of the bridge – nicknamed the Coathanger – to soak in the shining city’s spread from a unique perspective. Spread out to tan on one of the world’s most famous stretches of sand – Bondi Beach. Swim in spectacular salty ocean pools, or wander the beautiful Bondi to Coogee coastal walk for more of this sun-gorged stretch of prime coastline. Leaving the thrills of Australia’s largest city behind is surprisingly simple – take to the skies to be flown above skyscrapers and rippling ribbons of waves, out to majestic peaks, sheer cliffs and iconic rock formations – like the Three Sisters of the Blue Mountains. Or, drop in on wildlife sanctuaries caring for the country’s animals – from hopping kangaroos to adorably cute, cuddly koalas.
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