Connect with the Outback, untamed fiords, and fascinating Māori legends as you explore the highlights of Australia and New Zealand - every bit as enchanting as looking up with a sense of awe and wonder at New Zealand's dark night sky.
Welcome to Melbourne
Melbourne’s elegant façades and broad boulevards are your launchpad to an immersive encounter with the highlights of Australia and New Zealand (flights to arrive prior to 12pm). You'll be transferred and welcomed to your hotel on the banks of the city’s own Yarra River before getting to know your Travel Director and fellow travellers over a Welcome Reception at The General Assembly. At this modern pub you’ll feast on a three-course dinner with specialties such as Fisherman’s bend pie, schnitzel, and mac & cheese croquettes, washed down with your choice of beverage from local wines, you’ll find it hard to choose from one of the 15 beers on tap. The General Assembly’s waterfront setting on Yarra River’s South Wharf is a relaxing welcome to this cosmopolitan city.
Uncover Melbourne's Eclectic Laneways
Jump into city life joining your Travel Director on a walking tour admiring Melbourne’s Victorian architecture, arcades, and eclectic little laneways revealing some of the world’s most incredible street art. Encounter the aroma of Melbourne’s coffee culture around every corner. Grab a cup and power on to the grand Federation Square, the events centre and cultural hub of the city filled with shops, galleries, and exhibits. View the neighbouring 19-century neo-gothic cathedral, St Paul's and see the famous Hosier Lane full of street art where you might even spot an artist whipping up a design while you are there. See something you like? The rest of your day is free to take in Melbourne's well-known food and culture or join an Optional Experience such as a trip to Phillip Island to see the famous penguin parade. Wildlife fans won’t want to miss seeing the tiny penguins make their daily trip from the sea to their onshore burrows. It’s a fascinating experience to watch and only happens right here on Phillip Island.
Melbourne, It's All Yours
Enjoy a day exploring stylish Melbourne just the way you like, indulging in world class fare at one of the city's famous eateries and stopping in unique shops. Browse Brunswick Street’s quirky boutiques and pop into one of laneways’ cafes to people watch and refuel on a strong flat white coffee. Or, tick something else off your bucket list and join an Optional Experience to travel the Great Ocean Road - the ultimate road trip along a stunning coastline. You’ll learn how the jagged rocks were formed and stop at the world famous Twelve Apostles. Admire these towering limestone formations rising out of the sea against windswept cliffs. Take advantage of photo ops around every bend and stretch your legs in one of the seaside towns such as Lorne and Apollo Bay. If you prefer to soak up the city life, explore the Queen Victoria Market stopping for nibbles at one of the many stalls of this historic market. Wherever you chose to explore today, Melbourne and its surroundings are yours for the taking.
A Town Called Alice
Experience a complete change of scenery on your Australia and New Zealand tour journeying to the heart of the continent. You’ll fly into Alice Springs over sparce, red sand desert, the McDonnell Ranges looming in the distance, before making your first stop at the School of the Air. Here you’ll meet a Local Specialist and be guided through the school, see teachers in action, and learn how this massive remote school provides educational support to children in the surrounding communities. Your next stop is the birthplace of the Alice Springs township, the historic Telegraph Station. Hear about its origins in 1871 relaying messages between Darwin and Adelaide with a single wire and thus connecting Australia's north and south. Then you’re in for an immersive Outback experience when you Connect With Locals at a Be My Guest dinner under a blanket of stars at the Earth Sanctuary World Nature Centre. Your hosts are the famous Outback Paramedic brothers Tom and Danny Falzon who’ll share stories of ecology, culture, and the realities of life in the outback living working with wind and solar energy. Tour their farmstead, then settle in for your gourmet Australian style BBQ dinner, white tablecloths and all, with red dirt underfoot beneath a sweeping starry sky. The brothers will treat you to a star talk complete with telescopes, and even lead you on a fireside sing-along. A night to remember!
Journey to Spiritual Uluru
The rusty red landscapes of Uluru beckon as we leave Alice Springs for Ayers Rock Resort, near the sacred ancient site of Uluru and your home for the next two days in Aussie’s cultural heartland. You’ll drive past dry salt lakes through red dirt on long roads past Outback Roadhouses to check into before your first of many mesmerizing encounters with ‘The Rock,’ as you MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® through your visit to Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park. As the desert sun begins to set, you’re treated to a classic Uluru sundowner: nibbles and sparkling wine amidst the red dirt and blowing spinifex grasses as the Outback sky ignites in shades of red, yellow, and purple. Gazing at massive Uluru - which at 348 metres high is taller than the Eiffel Tower - you'll experience a kind of magical connection to the land. Relaxed and happy, you’ll make your way to the Desert Gardens Hotel for a Stays With Stories experience. Surrounded by desert trees and distant Uluru, this indigenous-owned hotel showcases the natural beauty of the landscape. Stay in this evening or, after sunset, join an Optional Experience Uluru BBQ Dinner as you watch the changing desert colours and are treated to an informative star talk in one of the best places to view the southern night sky.
Magical Uluru Sunrise and Kata Tjuta
Watch night turn to day as you head to the National Park at dawn - hot cocoa in hand - to witness a magical sunrise as the dawn creeps across the desert and lights up Uluru. Then, day underway, hear stories about the Anangu, caretakers of this remote arid landscape, touring the base of Uluru to discover its ancient rock art with your Travel Director. You’ll be amazed at their deep knowledge and passion for this land through stories that enhance the natural beauty you surely can’t get enough of. Enjoy free time this afternoon relaxing by the pool or checking out the art galleries and Town Square shopping village before grabbing your walking shoes and continuing your journey through the desert plains to Kata Tjuta. Walk amidst its towering, mindboggling domes through Walpa (meaning “wind”) Gorge to a lookout. From sunrise to sunset, tonight you’ll marvel over a magnificent sunset over Kata Tjuta paired with sparkling wine. Without many of the crowds at Uluru, you may have the beauty of this Hidden Gem to yourself.
Head to Tropical Cairns
Rise with the birds on an exclusive visit to the kaleidoscopic Field of Light art installation of artist Bruce Munro. Set against the darkened desert, walk through the lights and watch the changing colours of this innovative art bring the land to life, feeling as if you’re in a field of multi-coloured flowers against the backdrop of a magnificent Uluru sunrise. This eerily silent, soul-stirring start to your morning gives way to yet another exclusive experience on top of a sand dune to watch the desert awaken over Uluru with a hot drink in hand. That’s just the beginning of your day! Next up Dive Into Culture joining your Local Specialist Aboriginal artist for a fun introduction to Western Desert Art at Maruku Arts Dot Art Experience. Indigenous artists share meanings of the dot art before you get hands on crafting your story, painting your own piece of Australian aboriginal art as a memento. Learning from the artists and creating personalized art is a MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience that will leave you enriched and enlightened as head to your next stop in sunny Cairns.
Explore Cairns in Your Own Time
Ease into the laidback lifestyle of Cairns with a full free day to explore this tropical city or take your pick of the many tempting Optional Experiences. There’s something for everyone, no matter what you’re looking for. Take to the skies for a bird’s eye view with a balloon flight over the Atherton Tablelands, the hot air ballooning capital of the southern hemisphere. Or, dive into nature learning traditional hunting and gathering skills as you search for bush tucker of mud crabs, fish, and mussels in the Daintree Rainforest. Taste and share your catch before a guided interpretive walk through the ancient rainforest. Another option is to take a historic rail journey winding across bridges and through tunnels to Kuranda village, nestled in a tropical rainforest to explore its colourful and interesting arts and crafts. Then, return via the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway immersing yourself in this iconic rainforest. You can also choose to pair your trip to Kuranda with a visit to Hartley’s Crocodile for a wetlands cruise through the ecologically significant Melaleuca wetlands, the home of the saltwater crocodile. Top off your day with an Optional Experience dinner at Ochre Restaurant enjoying local fare using native ingredients.
Great Barrier Reef Up-Close
Get ready for a bucket list adventure today as you board a high-speed catamaran and cruise out to the Great Barrier Reef. It’s up to you how you’d like to experience this UNESCO World Heritage Site and underwater wonderland: Don your mask and fins (equipment provided) for an up-close encounter with a kaleidoscope of fishes and reef or stay dry and explore the world’s largest living reef system from the comfort of a semi-submersible craft. Whichever you choose, your local guide enhances your time on board with plenty of insights on the local ecology and the importance of preserving this fragile environment. Before your return to Cairns, you’ll enjoy an onboard tropical lunch under the glorious Aussie sunshine. This evening, celebrate the end of an incredible day at a Regional Dinner on Cairns’ waterfront at Salt House for a regional seafood plucked straight from the ocean highlighting fresh, local ingredients and prepared on their custom-built Argentinian wood fired grill.
We say farewell to Cairn’s flying south to Sydney and spend the rest of the day exploring the beauty of this harbour city. From your centrally located hotel, take a stroll around the waterfront Circular Quay enjoying the peaceful Royal Botanic Garden, visit of one of the city’s many museums viewing aboriginal artefacts, or go local checking out the Paddington and Surry Hills and wander the cute collections of boutique shops and little cafes. Whether you’re called by land or sea, Sydney is walkable and offers something for everybody. Stopping for a bite is its own adventure, wining and dining in the famous Rocks District dating back to before the arrival of British settlers in the late 1700s, visiting Chinatown for some tasty yum cha, popping into one of city’s many craft breweries, or finding the perfect rooftop bar to sit back and take it all in.
Sydney, the Choice is Yours
Enjoy a full free day to explore Sydney or consider joining an Optional Experience to discover even more further afield. Take a day trip to the spectacular Blue Mountains, whose eucalypt haze you’ll see looming in the distance, for fresh mountain air and stunning natural scenery. You’ll see the famous Three Sisters rock formation - each of which stands over 900 metres high - and hear the Aboriginal legend behind these massive structures. Animal lovers will not want to miss a visit to the Sydney Zoo to see some of Australia’s unique native animals including the wombat, Tasmanian devil, and yes, the koala. You can even sign up for a special encounter to get up close to visit with some of the animals. This evening, spend some time getting to know this spectacular city. Keep it close to the hotel and dine overlooking the sparkling harbour, or ask your TD for something else, depending on how you’re craving. Love a good view? Head to SkyFeast at Sydney Tower. On this sky-high dining experience, you’ll indulge in international cuisine while seeing the city from 82-floors up with rotating, 360-degree views.
More to Discover in Sydney
A day of sightseeing around this stunning harbour city awaits! Begin your day with a behind-the-scenes (entering through the stage door!) guided tour of the iconic Sydney Opera House with a Local Specialist, delving into the story of a building 'that changed the image of an entire country' and learning the history of this iconic structure. Continue sightseeing for a Sydney Harbour Lunch Cruise sailing past Sydney’s dazzling harbour sights enjoying million-dollar views and a menu focusing on local food and wine. Back on land, it's off to the beach and wiggle your toes in the sand at breathtaking Bondi, checking out the iconic Bondi Icebergs ocean pools as the surf rolls in. The rest of the day is yours to see the sights or take an optional experience climbing the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. Guided by a professional Climber Leader, you’ll ascend 134 metres above Sydney Harbour for priceless views at the top. Spend your last evening in Australia enjoying a Regional Dinner at Portside Restaurant where, under the sails of the Opera House, you’ll recap your favourite sights in Australia before embarking on tomorrow’s next leg of your travels on your Australia and New Zealand tour.
Hoo Roo Sydney - Kia Ora Auckland
Set your sights on New Zealand as you fly to Auckland, the City of Sails. You’ll see how the city got its nickname as you fly in over the islands and boats in the harbour. In fact, one in four New Zealanders owns a boat! On land, Auckland is known for being built on 53 dormant volcanoes (two of which you have the opportunity to see!) And if you’re seeking a cosmopolitan vibe, Auckland will not disappoint. The city’s melting pot of cultures means there are a variety of restaurants, from the glamorous to the local hot spots, for you to sample both international and New Zealand fare. Enjoy simple and classic Italian fare at Gusto at the Grand this evening joining your Travel Director for an introduction to this colourful city.
Sights of Auckland, City of Sails
Embark on a city sightseeing tour this morning including Mission Bay, Bastion Point and the Michael Joseph Savage Memorial to New Zealand's first Labour Prime Minister. Admire the sunken pool and landscaped gardens as you’re treated to sweeping views of Waitemata Harbour and the North Shore. After getting your bearings, you have the afternoon to explore. Stroll along Queen Street to find the perfect waterfront restaurant in Viaduct Harbour to enjoy water views while enjoying local oysters, crayfish, or New Zealand’s native green lip mussels with a crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Then stretch your legs popping into the many boutique shops. If you are seeking adventure further afield, join an optional experience to Waiheke Island by ferry for a wine and island tour, or - if you have a sweet tooth - join an ice cream experience to visit the Willy Wonka of ice cream at Giapo’s trying one of their inventive creations like the Selfie Cone or Steamed Pudding Cone.
Rotorua, Cultural Capital
Begin your journey to Rotorua through the dramatic scenery and landscapes of Waikato, passing through Cambridge, ‘The Town of Trees and Champions.’ Learn about Cambridge’s claim to fame as the training grounds for thoroughbred racehorses and famous jockeys as you cruise along its tree-lined boulevards. Then arriving in Rotorua, you’ll explore the wonders and crystal-clear mineral springs of Rainbow Springs Nature Park. You’ll tour the National Kiwi Hatchery Aotearoa, a leader in kiwi husbandry, with a Local Specialist spotting shy kiwi amongst the native bush learning about the rarity of New Zealand’s national bird and the work being done to save this iconic animal during this MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience. You’ll be amazed as you see eggs being incubated, the hatching process, and even newly hatched kiwi chicks. This evening, Dive into Culture at a Regional Dinner at the Tamaki Maori Village where you’ll journey into the forest to a time of warriors and ancient traditions. It’s a feast for the senses watching their Poi and Haka dance plus an authentic Hangi (cooked underground) dinner of kumara (Maori for sweet potato), potatoes, carrots, lamb, beef, and steamed pudding, finished with New Zealand’s national dessert, Pavlova.
Take off to Adventure in Queenstown
Step into the land of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies as you spend an unforgettable morning in the charming village of Hobbiton. Your big day begins over breakfast “on set” at Hobbiton before a guided tour where you’ll be mesmerized by the rolling green hills and lush landscape surrounded by the distant Kaimai Range, feeling as if you’re right there in the movies. Get an inside peek at the places and people that made Hobbiton famous as you’re guided through the 12-acre set stopping in the Alexander family sheep farm, past Hobbit Holes, and the Mill. Learn how the movie was made, spot famous locations, admire the sets’ artistic details, and even have your photo taken outside of Frodo’s house. Even if you’ve never seen the films or read the books, you’ll be entranced by the site of a worldwide sensation. After a full day in the countryside, you’ll return to Auckland to board your flight to Queenstown, adventure capital of the world. Settled in Queenstown, speak with your Travel Director about the best dining spots in town.
Cruise on Magical Milford Sound
Journey along the shores of Lake Wakatipu and over the Devil's Staircase to Te Anau. Experience magnificent scenery afforded by the Mirror Lakes, Cleddau Valley and the Chasm. Emerge from the hand-hewn Homer Tunnel towards Mitre Peak and Bowen Falls before reaching Milford Sound. Take to its still waters for a cruise filled with pinch-me moments. Return to Queenstown for a free evening. Speak to your Travel Director about dining recommendations in Queenstown.
Your Choice in Queenstown
The day is yours to explore Queenstown as you like, and good news...you have plenty of options to choose from. Take to the water riding the thrilling Shotover Jet boat through cliffs and gorges. Or explore a slice of Kiwi farming history and soak in the views cruising Lake Wakatipu aboard New Zealand's oldest steamship, the TSS Earnslaw, to Walter Peak High Country Farm where you’ll be treated to gourmet BBQ lunch and sheep shearing demonstration. Tonight, exchange stories of your Queenstown adventures as you join your Travel Director and group for a Regional Dinner at the historic Postmasters Cottage, built in 1907, in nearby Arrowtown. Hear the history of this quaint house that was almost demolished by developers and then saved and purchased by the passionate local community. The community continued to rally together restoring the cottage’s verandas and adding charming gardens and paths. Stroll the grounds before sitting down to dinner with a focus on fresh, local food and wines.
To Turquoise Lake Tekapo
Today you say farewell to Queenstown as you make your way to another beautiful destination, Lake Tekapo. The journey alone will have you falling in love with the South Island as you travel to Cromwell on the banks of Lake Dunstan. On arrival in Tekapo you’ll be greeted by the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd for a photo opportunity of this lakefront stone church. As the sun sets your journey continues with a tour of the night sky at the world-renowned UNESCO Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve with a Local Specialist. Look up in awe as your stargazing guide points out the Southern Cross, Magellanic Cloud, and Milky Way. You even have the chance to take a closer look using a powerful optical telescope. Complement your discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere's sky with your Stays with Stories accommodation on the shores of Lake Tekapo.
Rise early and watch the sunrise over the lake or curl up in bed and Enjoy a leisurely morning before heading north through South Canterbury to Christchurch stopping in the charming village of Geraldine. Enjoy Geraldine’s boutique shops, galleries, and a tasty lunch in one of its many cafes and by the Geraldine Historical Society Museum or their notable vintage car and machinery museum. This farming community is known for its farmers' market, the original Barkers shop showcasing local jams, condiments and sauces, and Talbots Forest Cheese where you’ll want to be sure to pop in for complimentary samples. There's plenty to see and it’s all surrounded by a rich landscape of mountains and an ancient native forest including the totara, kahikatea, and matai trees. After a day in the country, you’ll arrive in Christchurch, a fascinating city rebuilding itself after the devastating 2011 earthquake and coming back to life in a whole new way.
Sights of Creative Christchurch
Start your day in Christchurch with a sightseeing tour including the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch Earthquake Memorial, Bridge of Remembrance, and many streets lined with bars, cafes, and riverside markets. Stop at the Transitional Cathedral in Latimer Square, the temporary home of the Christchurch Cathedral. Admire its colourful stained-glass windows and sustainable cardboard construction giving it the nickname “The Cardboard Cathedral” and a striking example of the city’s revitalizing rebuild. Then it’s off to Connect With Locals at the home of Isabelle and Tim Weston. Sitting down with your hosts for a Be My Guest morning tea, coffee, scones, and cake in their exquisite home that has been restored and transformed from its original "Britten Stables,” horse stables with a rich history. Isabelle will share stories of her late father John Britten who built the Britten V1000 motorcycle, a world-record-setting motorcycle, built right here in the Britten Stables’ garage. All good things must come to an end and you’ll spend your last night with your Travel Director and the group raising a glass to your travels at a three-course Farewell Dinner showcasing food from the Canterbury region.
Bid farewell to your newfound friends as your holiday concludes this morning after breakfast as you're transferred to Christchurch Airport for your onward flight. You’ll surely leave with plenty of stunning photos and, most importantly, memories of this beautiful part of the world (flights anytime).