Snow, Desert and Beach: A Remarkable Tour of the South Pacific

A 16 day trip to Australia & New Zealand 
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The landscapes of the South Pacific blur distinctions of the surreal. The brilliant red desert seems to stretch for eternity, the scorched land punctuated by monolithic rocks. Snow covers huge mountain chains, tumbling down into fjords and glaciers. Then there's exotic beaches, white, untouched, and rolling with tropical promise. This unique tour combines the three natural paradigms, a journey to Australia's red center, Queenstown ski slopes, and the Cook Island beaches. 

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General Information

Mitre Peak at Milford Sound.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Sydney, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Parramatta Bridge, Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Melbourne, Queenstown, The Remarkables Mountain Range, Milford Sound, Fjordland National Park, Cook Islands, Aitutaki

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Sydney – Australia's Famous City

Nature always dominates in the South Pacific, even when you're in its oldest European settlement. A blue curve slices through Sydney, the Parramatta River connecting sun-kissed beaches with the mountains that rise languidly to the west. An aerial vista confirms how the city is enveloped by nature, suburbs spreading beneath distant peaks and besides Pacific waves. After being greeted at the airport, you have some leisurely time to relax and recuperate from the flight. Climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge provides a wonderful introduction to the city landscape. Skyscrapers reflect in shimmering waters as you ascend the iconic steel archway, their shapes contrasting with the sails of Sydney Opera House. But look beyond the urban development and you'll see the rich promise of Australia's wilderness. Your hotel is situated in The Rocks, making Sydney an easy city to explore on foot.

What's Included: accommodation, airport transfer

Day 2: Sydney – Cruising Along the Parramatta River

Spend a leisurely day in the city, a chance to sleep in and rearrange your body clock after the long flight. Victorian architecture is found across the central streets while chic restaurants offer harbor views and languid hours on an al fresco terrace. Sydney is surprisingly small, and you can connect many of the famous sights in a leisurely day. Most of the icons line up along the Parramatta River and an evening dinner cruise provides an intimate look at the architecture that has made Sydney so famous. Cruise under the bridge at sunset, watching the sails glow red before you travel out towards the ocean with a three-course banquet. Returning to the city offers another angle, Sydney's lights bouncing off the waters of Darling Harbour.

What's Included: accommodation, guided tour, breakfast

Day 3: Uluru – The Great Red Australian Desert

Fly west, into an infinite landscape of rustic tones. Colors dance beneath the wingtips and the sense of scale defies the imagination. It's a four-hour direct flight from Sydney to Uluru, and there's nothing but red to see from the window. But what red! A vibrant yet subtle hue that blurs from burning orange to glimmering ruby, then into flushed claret and the flaming red of the sunset. Land at Uluru and you're over a thousand miles to the nearest city. You're surrounded by desert, the colors cascading across every angle. After checking in to your hotel, you make the short journey to Uluru, the mystical monolith that towers above the desert. Aboriginal rock art is etched into its base while a journey around its base takes almost 45 minutes by car. As the sun begins to dip, you enjoy the quintessential Uluru experience; sitting back with a drink and watching the rock face travel through the color palate.

What's Included: accommodation, domestic flight, airport transfer, guided tour, breakfast

Day 4: Uluru – The Mystical Rocks of Kata Tjuta

Most visit Uluru for the famous rock, unaware that there are far more sandstone peaks in the vicinity. Some 36 domes make up the sacred site of Kata Tjuta, a resplendent collection that spills shadows across the desert. For most visitors, this site is far more inspiring than Uluru itself, with a walkway taking you through a valley of rich and vivid hues. A sunrise tour takes you into the vibrant colors. The desert bakes through the afternoon, so rest at the hotel and enjoy views out towards the rocks. Boomerang and didgeridoo lessons satisfy inquisitive souls while it's also possible to journey into the desert by camel. The day's second highlight comes at sundown when the Milky Way casts a sublime facade across the sky. An astronomer is your guide, connecting the constellations and revealing the planets that glimmer above. Staying at Uluru provides a rare chance to be in the heart of a huge desert, without compromising on luxury. The nearest town is 500 miles away; to reach a city you'd have to travel over 1000 miles. There's no interruption to the night sky and no way of counting of how many stars are above.

What's Included: accommodation, guided tour, breakfast

Day 5: Melbourne – Uluru at Sunrise and Exploring Australia's Cultural City

A final morning in the desert, another chance to watch the colors emerge on the landscape. A quiet viewing platform can be found 20 minutes drive from the hotel, a place to stand and gawp as the sun rises mystically between Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Later this morning, you fly direct to Melbourne for an afternoon at leisure in Australia's cultural hub. Colonial architecture ripples through the streets while art galleries stand beside the Yarra River. Wander through the city without a map and there's always a surprise, like when you turn corners into a vibrant Chinatown or a maze of boutique shops. Like Sydney, central Melbourne is easy to explore and half a day can still give you a solid feel for the city.

What's Included: accommodation, airport transfer, guided tour, breakfast

Day 6: Queenstown – Surrounded by Mountains and Fjords

Descending into Queenstown is a special experience, the pilot navigating through a narrow gap in an expansive landscape of fjords and rugged mountain chains. Many of the peaks are permanently white, with the snow slipping down into the coastal rainforest and crashing waves. From June to October, most of the slopes are white, endless miles of fresh powder creating an iconic ski and snowboard season. Touch down in Queenstown and the white summits reflect in Lake Wakatipu, pristine images that can be enjoyed from your five-star boutique hotel in the town. Much like the desert radiates a surreal silence, the surrounding landscape of mountains and lakes provides a serenity that contrasts natural drama.

What's Included: accommodation, airport transfer, breakfast

Days 7 – 9: Queenstown – Skiing the Slopes of New Zealand

Two days ago you were in the desert. Today you're skiing or snowboarding across the slopes around Coronet Peak, a mountain range of rollercoaster terrain and a full range of trails. These three days are tailored towards your ski and snowboard ability, with equipment hire, lift passes, and transfers out to Queenstown's different ski areas. A local guide accompanies you throughout, helping navigate the best runs through the mountains. Coronet Peak makes an ideal introduction, the slopes embracing every level of skier, giving you a chance to brush on your skills. Absolute beginners may prefer to spend this first day at the Remarkables Mountain Range, where the genial slopes are ideal for first timers. Coronet Peak could keep you occupied for all three days, but intermediate and experienced skiers can tour the region's other expansive snow areas.

Treble Cone is the natural progression, its legendary off-piste terrain offering long winding and uncrowded slopes. A sense of wilderness accompanies the ride, the slopes taking you to the summit of the Southern Alps and then down two shimmering basins. It's a place of permanently fresh powder, the kind that swallows you almost waist deep when you fall. Undulating runs drop off down fun gullies, and wide empty faces enable you to carve at any angle. The following day allows you to push out to the limits of backcountry skiing, choosing either the huge untouched slopes of Invincible or a heliskiing experience. Revel in the untamed atmosphere, just a handful of people descending the glistening slopes of New Zealand's South Island. But this is just a suggestion. Your guide will help customize the slopes dependent on your interests and ability.

What's Included: accommodation, ski pass, guided tour, transfer, breakfast

Day 10: Queenstown – Through the Wilderness to Milford Sound

Southeast New Zealand is an enormous World Heritage Site, a huge expanse of national park that stretches for over 1.2 million hectares. Over the last three days, you've been gazing across this landscape, watching it unfold from the summit of ski slopes. Today you journey through its base, weaving into the mountains and standing beneath the inspiring peaks. Alpine lakes are revealed, hiding behind a blanket of white. A private tour takes you past them before descending towards the mist of Milford Sound. The floating layer occasionally breaks, revealing the precipitous walls of the fjord. Now you continue by boat, cruising out towards the Tasman Sea, towards playful dolphin pods and the squawking of seals. 1500-foot waterfalls tumble down the rocks but they appear insignificant, such is the scale of the surrounding cliffs.

You return to Queenstown by helicopter, a thrilling aerial journey that leads you across countless fjords and glaciers. Touch down half way, besides a glacier that's only accessible by flight. All around you are intriguing ice formations, nature's sculptures dancing with primitive beauty. A 360-degree panorama of peaks continues the white wonderland impression, leading the eyes on a journey through the shapes of the snow. Taking back to the air, you continue the journey across the mountains, above the lakes and down into the quaint streets of Queenstown. The evening is at your leisure.

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

Day 11: Auckland to the Cook Islands – First Impressions of Exotic Sand

The Cook Islands delight in their exotic promise, a series of remote sandbanks rippling in the remote Pacific. Today, you fly north via Auckland, touching down on the main island of Rarotonga, before a light aircraft takes you further away from the world. Touch down on Aitutaki, a revered island getaway that delivers all the famed tones of the Pacific. There're the white beaches, empty and unspoiled by human footprints. A broad lagoon shimmers with a rainbow of blue color while the iconic palms add the dreamy snippets of green. Intimate and exclusive, your resort is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World and is the Cook Islands' most indulgent getaway.

What's Included: accommodation, airport transfer, domestic flight, breakfast, dinner

Days 12 – 15: Cook Islands – White Beaches, Spas, and Tropical Indulgence

Waves ripple softly onto the beach, an elegant sound that wafts into your decadent lodge room. Walk barefoot onto the sand and leave your toes in the turquoise waters, enjoying how the shallows stretch out for almost a mile. For these escapist four days, there's nothing to interrupt the beach and the slumbering. At Aitutaki, there's no sense of time, and there's just a handful of people sharing an isolated island outpost. All meals are included in your stay as are a variety of activities along the shore. Gallop across the sand on horseback, snorkel through lush reefs and wander into a forest of solitude. A salubrious spa is on site to continue the tranquil tones.

What's Included: accommodation, all meals

Day 16: Cook Islands – Departure

Complete the boomerang journey back across the Pacific, taking the weekly direct flight from Rarotonga to Los Angeles. After breakfast, you'll fly away from Aitutaki Island, landing on Rarotonga for the international departure.

What's Included: accommodation, 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.