Natural World Heritage Sites of New Zealand & Australia Tour

A 18 day trip to Australia & New Zealand 
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Journey to New Zealand and Australia to explore some great icons of our planet; whale sharks and rumbling volcanoes, glowing deserts and snowy wonderlands are all found in these World Heritage sites. Landscapes are dominated by nature's drama, every angle one of surreal primitive beauty. Covering nine national parks and eight UNESCO sites, this unique tour envelops you in the wild wonders of New Zealand and Australia to connect the alpine to the marine with everything in between. 

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General Information

Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Taupo, Tongariro National Park, Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, Milford Sound, Fox Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier, Fjordland National Park, Aorangi Mount Cook National Park, Greymouth, Christchurch, Sydney, Sydney Opera House, Blue Mountains, Fraser Island, Cairns, Daintree Rainforest, Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Perth, Ningaloo Reef

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Taupo – Relaxed Volcanic Welcomes in New Zealand

Volcanoes circle New Zealand, hundreds of them crumble and explode as they cross the landscape; some stand with elegant cones that seem ready to erupt once more. Others are in decay, slowly fading into the lakes that fill the land. Tongariro provides an indelible impression of New Zealand's volcanic subtleties, the mountains evoking the wild appeal of the country. Fly to Taupo via Auckland, where the view from your hotel balcony is dappled with peaks, many of them reflected in the serenity of Lake Taupo. Today is left free to give you time to relax and recuperate after the flight. There is plenty to do if you are feeling adventurous; kayaks take you onto the lake while easy walking trails offer the views of volcanic legend.

What's Included: accommodation, airport transfer

Day 2: Taupo – Maori History in Tongariro National Park

To the Maori, the mountains of Tongariro are more than aesthetics. They are deeply spiritual places, each with their own ancestral tales and scent of the past. Tongariro is the world's fourth oldest national park, inscribed on the World Heritage list for its cultural and natural splendor. A Maori guide takes you on a journey across the alpine landscape to narrate the traditions and legends associated with each of the volcanoes. The peaks rise beside small emerald lakes to imbue a strong sense of an old land carved over millions of years. See the sacred peaks that were once gods and warriors, and the female mountain that caused peaks to battle and cry tears that created the Whanganui River. Today's full-day tour is completed with an invitation to a Maori community and a traditional hangi meal.

What's Included: accommodation, tours, all meals.

Day 3: Queenstown – The Charms of Te Wahipounamu

Much of southwestern New Zealand is marked as a national park. Fjords congregate along the Tasman Sea, each slice of water overlooks sheer precipitous cliffs. Snow clings to peaks throughout the year with whitened reflections found in beautiful alpine lakes. Ice formations sculpt across the mountain slopes, ethereal creations that contrast the scale of expansive glaciers. This whole area is also inscribed as a World Heritage site and includes four national parks. You'll spend several days here and start with a night along Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown. Fly from Taupo to Queenstown via Auckland and transfer to a five-star lodge with beautiful views over the lake and the surrounding Remarkables Mountain Range.

What's Included: accommodation, domestic flight, airport transfers, breakfast

Day 4: Milford Sound – Lost in the Fjords

Milford Sound will defy your imagination, the narrowest and grandest of the fjords that line the far southwestern coast. Cliffs rise some 3,500 feet; their summits often lost beneath the swirling layers of mist. 1,000-foot waterfalls crash out and then fade into insignificance, such is the scale of the cliff face. Drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound and meander along the narrow lanes that cross the white wonderland. A luxury cruise takes you further with a slow traverse of the cliff walls to offer intimate views of playful seals and swimming dolphins. This afternoon is about exploring with a journey through the fjord and its intricacies. The evening is about enchantment, your boat laying anchor in the heart of Milford Sound and nature's realm swirls through the night. Dinner will be served to the distant sound of the fur seals, and there's a wonderful feeling of being at one with the Fjordlands.

What's Included: accommodation, cruise, transfer, all meals

Day 5: Franz Josef Glacier – Beneath the Southern Stars

Only from the air can the enormity of Te Wahipounamu be revealed. A helicopter journey brings you north; the fjords radiate beneath the propellers as you cross alongside the highest of New Zealand's peaks. Southern slopes glisten white while the northern escarpments tumble with faded volcanic colors. Land on an alpine plateau inaccessible by road, surrounded by peaks and the enormity of the wild. Then continue to swoop past Mount Cook and land beside Franz Josef Glacier, where the village with the same name provides charming lodge accommodation. There is no road between Milford Sound and Fox Glacier, so the aerial route also saves an eight-hour drive back via Queenstown. Tonight's unique tour reveals the skies above Aorangi Mount Cook. On the tentative UNESCO list to become the planet's first starlight heritage site, the clarity and sublimity of the sky in incredible. A qualified astronomer is your guide to narrate the night's sky, but also the annual changes that make Aorangi so important to the world.

What's Included: accommodation, helicopter charter, tour, breakfast

Day 6: Franz Josef Glacier – Walking Across the White Wonderland

Ice tunnels curl like a surfer's dream wave; phantasmal sculptures drip down from cliffs, and unique ice carvings defy creation. Some are a few centimeters in length, others stretch for ten meters to join a troop of other ice sculptures. Your eyes draw away from the macro detail to focus on the panorama; miles of glacier that stretches between the cliffs. Arrive via helicopter ride to cross the steep terminal face, and you explore with ice axes and crampons. A two-hour hike takes you between icefalls through ice tunnels, and across the whitened paradise. Accompanied by an expert guide with specialist warm clothing provided, you will return to the village for an afternoon at your leisure with a sublime array of hiking trails leading to vistas of rainforest, sapphire lakes, and glacier.

What's Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast, lunch

Day 7: Greymouth to Christchurch – New Zealand's Spectacular TranzAlpine Train

The Te Wahipounamu landscape radiates drama, every angle an assortment of volcanoes, peaks, lakes, fjords, and more. Today's train journey provides a calm and enchanting way to take it all in. Weave through the national parks for four hours on the TranzAlpine train, a tourist-focused service that offers uninterrupted views of deep gorges and the ice-fed Waimakariri River. Be transferred by road to Greymouth, a two-hour journey past pebbled beaches and an awning of forest. Relax and have lunch in town before your afternoon departure across the Southern Alps. Arrive in Christchurch for transfer to a central hotel and an evening in the city.

What's Included: accommodation, transfer, tickets, breakfast, lunch

Day 8: Sydney – A Performance at Sydney Opera House

Sydney's famous sails define the city's center as they glisten white and reflect neatly in the Parramatta River. Across the water, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is the iconic archway that's equally resplendent as you arrive in Australia. After your flight from Christchurch, enjoy a leisurely afternoon in the city to take in the sights that roll along the riverfront. The Opera House is a World Heritage site, and there's no denying the architectural ingenuity. Be engrossed in its drama as you go under the sails and feel the atmosphere build in the main theater room. Many people forget that this is not just an icon to admire, it's a living breathing space, a place where the most revered of Australia's theatrical productions are performed. Enjoy an evening at the Opera House with prime seats amongst the orchestral resonance.

What's Included: accommodation, airport transfers, performance, breakfast

Day 9: Sydney – Exploring the Blue Mountains

Sandstone pinnacles are alive with Aboriginal tales in the Blue Mountains, narratives from the Katoomba tribe of three sisters, three brothers, and witchdoctor. This dreamtime story is one of many across this land; various peaks come with further myth and legend. Beneath the mountains is a eucalyptus forest, miles of lush green landscape hide koalas in the trees. Between the pinnacles and forest is the strange blue mist that gives this land its name, a subtle yet clearly visible azure that never looks real. It feels like a photographer's trick, an element added to a panorama, yet it never quite comes out when you take a photo. Witness the mystique of this World Heritage site and spend the day in the national park to visit a series of viewpoints and take an easy hike down to the valley. Return to Sydney by road and then public boat, a chance to follow the Parramatta River back to the city and beneath the archway of the famous bridge.

What's Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast, lunch

Days 10 – 11: Fraser Island – The World's Largest Sand Island

On Fraser Island, it's often hard to know where the beach starts and where the desert begins. Sand stretches for over 75 miles, dunes rise and then drop into the sweet-water lakes and flourish in the mangrove forest. Some dunes reach 850 feet above the ocean, yet the sense of desert is betrayed by the tropical rainforest that grows directly from the sand. Fraser is the world's largest sand island, a fact that makes the presence of forest and 100 freshwater lakes seem even more fictitious. Fly here from Sydney to be picked up in a four-wheel drive for an adventurous tour across the island. Move across white dunes to tiny lakes, follow a creek past a creeping forest and journey out to vast beaches of untouched sand.

All meals are provided as you spend the night at a temporary luxury camp that's been erected many miles from any road. Waves ripple onto shore, stars glimmer ahead, and there's a wonderful sense of exclusivity. Next day, continue the adventure and cross back to Fraser Island and a night in a decadent coastal lodge. Even here, in the island's town, it's easy to enjoy a sense of wilderness. Just wander onto the beach and the landscape fulfills all its World Heritage promise.

What's Included: accommodation, airport transfers, tours, all meals

Days 12 – 13: Cairns – Immersed in the Great Barrier Reef

Superlatives have always accompanied the scale of the Great Barrier Reef, a natural phenomenon visible from space. Undoubtedly, its inclusion as a World Heritage site is centered on its sheer size. Spend two days in the marine world of the Great Barrier Reef; a collection of 3,000 different coral reefs plus 750 tiny islands. Land in time to take an afternoon excursion to an untouched inner reef, an easy to access coral that introduces you to all the vivid tropical colors. Turtles cruise with famed elegance; giant groupers bump their heads against the reef while an assortment of strange life swims beneath your mask. With the warm waters and soft currents, snorkeling is easy here, especially with a local guide assisting your journey.

Next day, you will venture further out with a 90-minute boat journey to a collection of smaller outer reefs. The cliff walls drop down further here, and it's impossible to know what pelagic species will come up from the depths. These reefs present the eclecticism of marine life at this World Heritage site, something that's explored by snorkeling or scuba diving into the underwater world. Cairns provides a gentle base throughout these two days, a relaxed coastal town that's filled with the excited ambiance created by those who have discovered the Great Barrier Reef.

What's Included: accommodation, airport transfers, reef cruises, breakfast, lunch

Day 14: Uluru – Sunset at the Iconic Rock

Uluru often baffles those who have yet to visit. Why travel so far into the desert for just a rock? But what a rock! And what a color! When sunset arrives at Uluru, it cascades through the tones to unveil layer after layer of mystique. It’s not merely aesthetics that bring you to this World Heritage site; Uluru has always been a sacred place for Aboriginal communities, and your guided tour will showcase the ancient culture associated with the world's largest monolith. Stories are etched into the walls while overhangs reveal where locals would meet. Uluru is not a rock to be conquered, despite the line of “white ants” (tourists) that climb to Uluru's summit. It's a place to connect with, one that dances with both cultural and natural significance. There's a direct flight from Cairns to Uluru, and you arrive with time to take the in-depth afternoon journey to the rock.

What's Included: accommodation, airport transfers, tour, breakfast

Day 15: Uluru to Perth – The Flaming Rocks of Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta burns in the morning light, each of the 36 domes stands resplendent as the sun rises across the desert. Some rise higher than Uluru, while others rumble above a valley of flaming rock. This lesser-known site is another sacred place for local Aboriginal communities, and 90% of it has been respectfully preserved so no non-Aborigines can visit. Watch the sunrise across the desert, then venture down a walking trail through the red valley to immerse yourself in the sheer scale of these rocks in the heart of nowhere. For many visitors, Kata Tjuta is the highlight of Central Australia. From Uluru, fly to Perth and spend a night in the city in a beachfront lodge to gaze out onto the Indian Ocean.

What's Included: accommodation, tour, airport transfers, breakfast

Day 16 – 17: Ningaloo – The Whales Sharks of the West Coast

Ningaloo Reef is the final World Heritage site on this luxury tour, a meeting point for many of the world's greatest marine species. Waters swirl and the giants come to spawn, huge gatherings of whale sharks cruise serenely through the waters. After the flight from Perth to Learmonth, spend the afternoon on the ocean and jump into the waters to swim alongside the world's largest fish. Dugongs dapple the water, peculiar characters that contrast with the smooth elegance of the dolphin pods. Seasonal humpbacks are another highlight, and it's hard to spend two days at Ningaloo without a sighting of manta rays.

While the coral reef is on the UNESCO list for its diversity, its the access to many endangered species that can be seen on snorkeling excursions that make it amazing.  A scuba qualification is not required to witness the marine show, so you will enjoy a full day on the boat with a stop to swim in the iconic waters that house some 700 species of fish. Turtles gracefully swoop through the ocean, while an array dolphin species glide alongside the boat. Even from your beachfront hotel, you can see the fins of the dolphins passing you by.

What's Included: accommodation, tours, breakfast, lunch

Day 18: Learmonth to Perth – Departure

Depart Australia via Perth, with a domestic flight to the western city, and then your connection for international departure.

What's Included: airport transfer, breakfast


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.