Best of Australia & New Zealand Tour 2020

A 17 day trip to Australia & New Zealand 
5 out of 5 stars
3 reviews

Experience Australia and New Zealand from every evocative angle with this unique 17-day itinerary. Nature meets with culture; city sights intermingle with desert and beaches, and remarkable wildlife comes alive at every turn. Every day is different on your Australia and New Zealand tour, and every experience showcases why these two countries are on every traveler's bucket list.

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General Information

Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Sydney, Blue Mountains, Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Cairns, Great Barrier Reef, Daintree, Uluru (Ayer's Rock), Kata Tjuta, Melbourne, Great Ocean Road, Queenstown, Rotorua, Milford Sound, Hobbiton, Auckland

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Welcome to Sydney

Australia and New Zealand are tucked into a lost corner of the planet, as immense islands that are marked by contrasts and diversity. Everything here is bigger and more dramatic; mountains, desert, rainforest, reef, and beaches. Reaching such an untamed world isn't easy and it's a long flight from wherever you live.

After landing in Sydney, you'll be met by a private transfer and escorted to your hotel. Relax and admire the city view from your window, before enjoying a leisurely day sampling the local sights. You're in the heart of the city's most illustrious neighborhood with restaurants overlooking the water and dozens of attractions within walking distance to all the central city sights.

What’s Included: transfer, accommodation

Day 2: The Best of Iconic Sydney

Start your day exploring the famous white sails of the Sydney Opera House, discovering the interior of a landmark that dazzles from the outside. Watch the sails drift out of view as you board a lunch cruise through the city. The view is replaced by enchanting neighborhoods and historic monuments, so savor the sumptuous buffet and watch Sydney reveal itself from the deck. It's the archway that most captures the imagination, your boat cruising beneath the epic steel of Sydney Harbour Bridge. After admiring the city from the water, suit up and enjoy it all from above. Slowly walk up the steps, climbing along the Sydney Harbour Bridge's exposed frame until you stand at the peak of the city. Blue river extends to the ocean; forests and suburbs merge in the distance, and the towering commercial center becomes tiny beneath your feet. The boat cruise and bridge climb show Sydney from unique vantage points, and you can spend the evening deciding which most defines the city.

What’s Included: breakfast, Sydney Opera House tour, deluxe lunch cruise, Sydney Harbour Bridge day climb, accommodation

Day 3: Marveling at the Blue Mountains

It doesn't take long before you're out of the city and weaving into the shimmering Blue Mountains. A delightful haze dances through the valley, tinted blue (of course) and gently blending into domineering yellow mountains. A small group tour takes you away from the crowds, zigzagging to secluded lookout points that gaze into the abyss. A fresh green carpet covers the floor, and if you're lucky, a floating mist sails through the iconic remnants of the Three Sisters peaks.

Your Blue Mountains day tour is packed with views and walks, waterfalls and trails. You get a dozen different angles of gushing water, mysterious forest, gaping valleys, and then the inimitable marsupials that patrol the land. Kangaroos, wallabies, koalas; you'll see them all as you return to Sydney via a wildlife park.

What’s Included: breakfast, full day Blue Mountains tour, lunch, accommodation

Day 4: Tropical Retreat in Cairns

It's green and blue that welcomes you to Cairns, and rich rainforest is fringed by the serene ocean in the Northeast of Australia. Trees cling to mountains, encircle bays, and jut out into the water. Then an ocean boardwalk takes you through the calming town center. Cairns feels like a village backwater, a vast change from the lights and action of Sydney. It's a three-hour flight north where you'll be met at the airport and transferred to your delightful hotel. Relax and rest, because the next two days will take you deep into the unadulterated natural world that surrounds Cairns.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfers, accommodation

Day 5: Experiencing the Great Barrier Reef

Not many natural features are visible from space. Over 1,000 miles of living reef line Australia's coastline, a unique barrier that's waiting for your eyes. You'll find thousands of individual reefs here, loosely connected into an inspiring marine world of color and charm. Cruise to the Outer Barrier Reef and dip beneath the surface, tentatively snorkeling into the pristine vivacity. Turtles swim past with effortless ease, funky fish flicker between your feet, and huge groupers come out to play. The luxury catamaran docks beside a permanent wharf in the ocean and there are endless opportunities for exploration.

Snorkeling is included, as is a massive buffet lunch and touring the reef in a semi-submersible. Marine biologists provide the running commentary and marked safety areas support less confident snorkelers. Optional extras include helicopter rides and scuba diving to the bottom of the reef wall. But for all the water adventurers, it's the actual reef that provides the main highlight. Colors compete and mingle, like an artist's palate coming alive in an endless series of provocative shapes. While the Great Barrier Reef may be on an immense scale, it's the macro close-ups and subtle details that make it so special.

What’s Included: breakfast, Outer Barrier Reef cruise, lunch, accommodation

Day 6: Aboriginal Dreaming

Popular culture had made Aboriginal life monotonous, blending 250 languages and some 1,000 tribes into a single image. Today's tour deconstructs the myths, immersing you in the world of one group of Aboriginal people. Wander barefoot across the beach and into the mangroves, a local guide showing you how to hunt with a spear and find dinner in the water. Crabs and tiny treats are boiled up as you eat in a local's house before famous bushtucker is plucked from the forest. Lick a bug to relieve a cold, smoke an insect for a quick snack, rub together leaves for natural soap and pay your respects to the ancestors of the forest. It's a very real experience, wandering through the bush and discovering that every plant and animal has a use. Now retell your Aboriginal story as a deaf local artist shows you how to paint a tale with a bamboo stick and mud paint. Keep your eyes open, be open to their teaching, and delve deep into a very misunderstood culture.

What’s Included: breakfast, Daintree Dreaming Tour with cultural heritage tour, lunch, accommodation

Day 7: The Burning Red Beauty of Uluru

Some people say it's just a rock in the desert. But what a rock! Uluru burns red, towering over a dusty scorched landscape in the heart of Australia. Even from the plane window, the size comes as a shock, as the world's biggest monolith controls the land like a fabled God. Get up close and it's hard to comprehend; stark walls rise almost 1,000 feet from the blazing ground, hidden caves reveal ancient rock paintings, and it takes over 30 minutes to drive around the base. Take a step back as the sun begins to set. Uluru glows a multitude of reds and oranges before a shadow sweeps over this spiritual masterpiece. Even though it's a three-hour plane ride to get here, Uluru isn't just any rock, and within a few minutes, you'll appreciate why it has to be in your itinerary.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfers, Sunset Uluru tour, national park entry, accommodation

Day 8: Desert Exploration and Melbourne City Lights

This morning you wake with a new perspective on the desert. You came for Uluru and the dusty red floor, but the astonishing night sky will have provided a dazzling night of entertainment. The nearest settlement is 300 miles away. The nearest city is thousands of miles from your hotel. So the stars shine fiercely and without inhibition; powerful lights that blend into the hazing beauty of the Milky Way.

Uluru isn't alone in the desert. Some 40 miles away are another 26 rocks, the domes of Kata Tjuta resplendent beneath the rising sun. This spiritual haven adds a new perspective, and many visitors agree that it's more impressive than its illustrious neighbor. You can decide as your tour takes you around and into the domes, just after the sun has risen behind Uluru. An afternoon flight transfers you to Melbourne and the evening is free to soak up the country's cultural heart.

What’s Included: breakfast, sunrise Kata Tjuta tour, transfers, accommodation

Day 9: Kangaroos and Koalas in the Wild

Australia's residents are as unique as the landscape and today's tour gets you up close and personal. Get lost in the endless eucalyptus trees and scan the branches for koalas, the tree-clinging marsupial slowly opening its eyes and considering your presence. From a distance, they're indelibly cute. Some are lounging on the low branches, tufts of hair and charming expression just a couple of feet from your camera. Be quiet, don't move, and watch as they crawl to a new branch. This tour is raw and wild, with every sighting packed with intimacy and authenticity.

Then, head through the bush and gaze into the clearing, spotting a kangaroo mob from a distance. Stop and admire. Then silently walk forward. If the kangaroos rise to attention, you've been too obvious. But if their heads stay down, you can keep creeping forward. Large males rock back to box each other. Amorous females are chased around by aspiring suitors before the alpha male announces his presence and takes control of the mob and its females. Each kangaroo could capture your eye although it’s the mob's interaction that becomes the unforgettable highlight. You'll return to Melbourne by mid-afternoon and have free time to explore this enchanting city. Victorian houses are situated between modern commercial towers; city lights are reflected in the calm river water while side streets showcase the diversity of Australia. Chinatown, opulent shopping centers, tiny English-style pubs, charming restaurants, buskers, and a hundred more delights can be discovered within walking distance of your hotel.

What’s Included: breakfast, kangaroos and koalas in the wild day tour, accommodation

Day 10: Meandering Along the Great Ocean Road

The world's biggest island has a glorious coastline. Head west from Melbourne and the ocean glistens blue, and waves crash down beneath sandstone cliffs. Sandy bays dot the coast, punctuated by rainforest and cute fishing towns. Winding alongside the natural beauty is the Great Ocean Road. Every few minutes brings a new vista, whether that's gazing across at a lonely lighthouse, sweeping through untamed forest creepers, or admiring open beaches that demand your footprints. Keep journeying west and the cliffs separate from the land, the Twelve Apostles standing in the ocean like giant's fingers controlling the waves. Today is a day for taking hundreds of photos, each mile of the Great Ocean Road revealing subtle vibrancy and natural drama.

What’s Included: breakfast, full day Great Ocean Road tour, lunch, accommodation

Day 11: Welcome to New Zealand

There's something indelibly magical to your first glimpses of New Zealand, with the dramatic fjords ringed by snow-capped peaks as the plane carefully swoops between the mountains. A serene lake reflects the landscape, welcoming you to New Zealand's South Island and Queenstown. Queenstown may be the self-proclaimed adrenaline capital of the world, but your first experiences are wonderfully soothing. Smile as you wander along the lake shore, indulge in the opulent beauty your hotel, and quickly lose yourself in the relaxed pace of New Zealand.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfers, accommodation

Day 12: Lost in the Wonder of Milford Sound

Winding through the South Island is like taking a journey through Middle Earth. It's no wonder that movie director Peter Jackson is a huge fan. Every curve brings new visual euphoria and a surreal immersion in unadulterated landscapes. Today, you meander into the wilderness towards arguably the country's most spectacular sight; Milford Sound. It's a memorable journey, so keep the camera ready and enjoy the continual vistas through your coach's transparent ceilings. Snow clings to mountain passes, blue lakes reflect rainforest and fertile valleys, and each corner takes you further into Fiordland National Park.

Contrary to how it sounds, Milford Sound is a fiord and not a sound. Steep cliffs rise vertically from the calm water, standing a mile above your head and gazing down on your luxury cruise ship. Sail out towards the Tasman Sea and rock your head back to appreciate the scale, and then savor the close-ups on offer during this two-hour cruise. This area is New Zealand at its otherworldly best; waterfalls tumble and flicker with spray, dolphins share the water with seals, and pristine reflections fill the water. A mysterious mist often hangs in the fiord, increasing the intrigue of your trip. Visit on a clear day and it's equally hypnotic, a 360-degree panorama greeting you at all times. Your trip to Milford Sound takes the whole day, and the coach will stop at numerous viewpoints along the way. This journey to Milford Sound is one that you'll want to take again and again.

What’s Included: breakfast, Milford Sound day trip with nature cruise, lunch, accommodation

Day 13: Adrenaline Adventure in Queenstown

Many people don’t know that Queenstown was responsible for the world's first bungee jump. This seemingly calm destination continues to offer new ways to get the heart racing and adrenaline pumping. For a thrilling introduction into the local psyche, board a jet boat and skim along a canyon river, a skilled pilot pulling 360-degree spins and accelerating through narrow passageways. It's very safe, even the New Zealand prime minister has been on this Shotover jet trip. Just remember to keep your hands inside the boat.

Bungee jumping is undeniably scary. But if you're going to do in once, it should be in the place that invented the craze. There are three heights and jumps to choose from, as well as two less intimidating bungee swings. You'll need a relaxing couple of hours enjoying the free evening food and drink at the hotel to bring you down to a resting pace.

What’s Included: breakfast, Shotover jet ride, choice of bungee jump or swing, accommodation

Day 14: A Maori Immersion in Rotorua

The breathtakingly untouched feel to New Zealand has a lot to do with the indigenous Maoris. These tribal warriors were quick to confront European explorers trying to dock, meaning that the country wasn't colonized to the same extent as Australia. This evening, you'll get a feel for the power of Maori culture with an authentic invite into a traditional tribal meeting place. Cultural history is widely celebrated and practiced around Rotorua, and the thunderous warrior-like greeting leaves everyone in a stunned silence. Step forward and meet the chief, before settling into an evocation of their ancient practices, including a performance of the world-famous Haka or war dance.

Your dinner has been steaming away in the traditional style, with huge joints of meat buried underground on hot coals. After enjoying the feast, stand beside a natural geyser and enjoy the hypnotic explosion of steaming water jets from beneath the volcanic surface. Rotorua is covered in these bubbling demonstrations of the earth's power, providing the landscape with its pre-historic feel. It provides a fitting introduction to the North Island and it's primitive beauty.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfers, Te Puia evening experience, dinner, accommodation

Day 15: Outdoor Adventure and Natural Beauty in Rotorua

It's in the great outdoors where New Zealand comes alive at its contradictory best. This day of adventure is tailored to your interests and ability, combining the tranquility of the wild with unique methods of exploration. Start in the forest where hundreds of miles of mountain bike trails wind around rivers, ferns, and green enchantment. Switch the pedals for walking boots and meander into the wilderness. Along your journey, you will see lost waterfalls and vibrant birds.

Next, it's time to go paddling. Grab a two-person kayak and negotiate the quiet lake water and head for an uninhabited island. Stand up and listen. Silence. Dip into natural hot springs and gaze out at the scene and observe not a person or manufactured sight in view. So what do you remember most from today? The calm of the wild? The thrill of the ride? Or perhaps the inimitability of New Zealand's natural immersion?

What’s Included: breakfast, full day Rotorua leisure day, lunch, accommodation

Day 16: Lost in the Magical World of Hobbiton and Onwards to Auckland

Some movie sets require a certain degree of imagination. You have to look at the landscape and picture the characters. Hobbiton genuinely feels like you are walking through the world of JRR Tolkien or that you've entered a movie screen. Open the gate and wander past the cute hobbit holes, admiring the untouched attention to detail; dwarf sized gardens, Middle Earth street signs, smoke bellowing from chimneys, tiny rocking chairs. There's no need for imagination. In fact, you're almost surprised when Gandolf doesn't appear in person. Spend a couple of hours indulging in this world-famous scene, then open the door to the Green Dragon Tavern for a hearty lunch and a mug of Hobbit stout. After getting lost in this enchantment, you'll be transferred to Auckland for your final night in New Zealand.

What’s Included: breakfast, Hobbiton full day tour, lunch, transfer, accommodation

Day 17: Departure from New Zealand

After 16 action packed days, your best of Australia and New Zealand experience comes to an end. Enjoy one last sumptuous breakfast, wave goodbye from the plane window, and spend the next month trying to decipher how two nations can offer such diversity.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.