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The Leader in Small Groups on the Road Less Traveled
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2018 Australia & New Zealand: An Adventure Down Under

Australia: Melbourne, Adelaide, Alice Springs, Uluru, Port Douglas, Sydney • New Zealand: Auckland, Rotorua, Queenstown, Fox Glacier, Punakaiki, Wellington

83% Traveler Excellence Rating Read reviews

30 Days from only $9490 including international airfare

View details

Activity Level:

1 2 3 4 5


Courtesy of Christophe Hamon, Over The Moon Productions

Immerse yourself in a journey through New Zealand’s myriad breathtaking landscapes.

Courtesy Ian Cross
Sydney Mini Walk

Take a virtual walking tour of Sydney, Australia, featuring stops at the Opera House and glittering Darling Harbour.

Courtesy of Alexander Berg
New Zealand From Above

See New Zealand from above as you pass mountains dusted with snow and lakes surrounded by lush forests.

Courtesy CNN
The pristine beauty of New Zealand

Explore New Zealand like a Kiwi—from a winding, downhill bike trail to a local vineyard.

Courtesy Small World Productions
New Zealand’s South Island

Join Rudy Maxa as he reveals the scenic gems and deep-rooted Maori traditions of New Zealand's South Island.

including international airfare
28 DAYS FROM $8290 Small Group Adventure Only
Extend Your Trip

Save $1000 per person
on January-May 2018 departures
Reserve by 10/6/17 >>


This trip features long flights and/or multiple connections.
Learn More »


See why almost half of our
travelers take our optional
Tasmania extension >>

Find the Adventure That’s Right for You

Our Activity Level rating system ranks adventures on a scale of 1 to 5 to help you determine if a trip is right for you. See the descriptions below for more information about the physical requirements associated with each rating.

Activity Level 1:

1 2 3 4 5


Travelers should be able to climb 25 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 1-2 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last at least 1-2 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 2:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 40 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 2-3 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for at least 2-3 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 3:

1 2 3 4 5


Travelers should be able to climb 60 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 3 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 3 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet.

Activity Level 4:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 80 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 4 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.

Activity Level 5:

1 2 3 4 5


Travelers should be able to climb 100 or more stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 8 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 10,000 feet or more.

Itinerary Overview

Travel to Australia and New Zealand and visit modern cities from Sydney to Wellington, remote landscapes sacred to Aboriginal and Maori peoples, and rain forests giving way to glaciers. Australia and New Zealand offer the opportunity to experience myriad worlds in one adventure, including traversing volcanic landscapes and the Great Barrier Reef. And the chance to meet local people in two Home-Hosted meals, plus a visit to a local school, will add personal touches to this epic journey down under.

Make It Your Adventure

Personalize your trip to meet your individual needs, from preferred flights and air routing, to “breaking away” to spend more time in a destination.

  • Did you know that you have control over the way you want to fly with us? O.A.T’s team of Adventure Specialists makes every effort to provide you with non-stop flights and acceptable connection times to and from your destination. You also have several other ways you can personalize your air itinerary, which include:

    • Choose your departure city and airline: We list the most popular gateway cities on our website, but not all of them. If you don’t see yours listed, or there’s one that better suits your needs, let us know. You can also tell us if you have an airline preference and we will try to accommodation your request.
    • Depart from one city and return from another: Just because your flight leaves from one city doesn’t mean you have to return there. Maybe you flew out of Boston and wish to visit friends in Los Angeles after your trip is over. Tell us where you want to go and we’ll do our best to get you there.
    • Upgrade your seat: We’ll gladly arrange a flight upgrade to business or premium economy class if it’s available. 
    • Fly the way you want to: When you fly economy class, we’ll do our best to see that you get your choice of seating preference or even add a special meal request if you have dietary restrictions or needs.
  • You can extend your time abroad and "break away" anywhere you'd like to do more exploring on your own. Stay for a day, a week, or even a month in a favorite locale. Start your adventures early in Sydney, Australia or stopover in Los Angeles for a night to break up a lengthy flight. Our Adventure Specialists can provide you with information on the accommodations we will use at the beginning of your trip so that you can make your own arrangements. That way, you'll know that you will be exactly where you need to be to meet your group.

  • Many of our travelers choose to take another trip directly after their first one ends. Think about it: If you’re already overseas, why not see more of the region and avoid the expense and length of another international flight? Many of our travelers take Australia & New Zealand: An Adventure Down Under, which already combines the best of Pure New Zealand and Ultimate Australia.

  • Many O.A.T. travelers simply don’t want their trips to end. With an array of pre- and post-trip extensions to choose from, you have the chance to experience more of the places you’ve traveled so far to see including Tasmania: Australia's Natural Heritage and New Zealand's Bay of Islands. Plus, you lower your average per-day costs because you’re taking advantage of your already included international airfare.

Day-to-Day Itinerary

  • 6 nights from only $2095

    One hundred and fifty miles off the southeastern coast of mainland Australia sits Tasmania—a land of pristine natural beauty with a history that is equally well-preserved. Begin your travel in Australia with an exploration of the continent's only island state.

    View Extension Itinerary
Melbourne Wellington Expand All
  • Fly from the U.S. to Melbourne, Australia.

  • You continue your flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne, losing one day en route as you cross the International Date Line. You regain this day when you fly back to the U.S. at the end of the trip.

  • An O.A.T. representative greets you at the Melbourne airport and transfers with you to our hotel. After an orientation walk with your Trip Leader and travelers who chose to take our Tasmania: Australia's Natural Heritage pre-trip extension, you’ll have the afternoon free here in enticing Melbourne, the capital of Australia’s “Garden State” of Victoria. You can relax, visit local shops, or find your own ways to interact with the locals, who are not known for being shy.

    Tonight’s Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant is a great chance for you to mingle with your travel companions.

  • We have breakfast at the hotel and then begin our exploration of Melbourne's highlights. We’ll start our city tour at the Royal Botanic Gardens where an aboriginal guide will lead us through the 19th-century English garden of more than 8,500 flora species, including cacti, roses, and a variety of herbs.  Then we’ll get a more emotional glimpse of the city when we head to the Shrine of Remembrance, which serves as a memorial for the thousands of soldiers who died fighting in World War I. Here, we’ll also learn about Australia’s resilience as we dive into the story behind the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps during their brave battle on Gallipoli in 1915.

    Then we’ll tour central Melbourne to feel the pulse of the city. We pass by the State Houses of Parliament, which served as the Australian national seat of government for a time. Nearby, we see St. Patrick's Cathedral, one of the city's most imposing churches.

    Following the conclusion of our tour, we'll enjoy an included lunch, after which you are free to explore the city further on your own. Melbourne is a lovely city of broad boulevards, green parks, and Victorian architecture, whose growth in the late 19th century was fueled by a gold rush. Public trams running on rails criss-cross the city, as distinctive a symbol of Melbourne as cable cars are of San Francisco. If you do decide to ride the trams, please remember to use caution when getting on and off the cars. They are a fantastic, romantic way to see the city, but mind the steps!

    Take a boat ride on the Yarra River from Princes Walk, or hop on a tram to the suburb of Fitzroy and stroll along lively Brunswick Street with local artists and musicians. Cross the Yarra to Southbank to shop and dine. Stroll more of Melbourne's magnificent parks, like Flagstaff Gardens, Carlton Gardens, and the King's Domain, or simply relax if you wish.

    This evening, dinner is on your own.

  • Today, you are free to explore Melbourne at your leisure. Relax at your hotel or in one of the area's green parks, stroll the charming local shops that line the broad boulevards, or sample the area's culinary delights. You can explore more of Melbourne by hopping on the public tram.

    Or, join us on an optional Kangaroos & Koalas in the Wild tour. Accompanied by an experienced nature guide, we'll visit a national park in the nearby Western Plains outside Melbourne to study Australia's famous marsupials in their natural habitats. We'll witness throngs of eastern gray kangaroos bounding by and encounter koalas lounging in trees. And as we get to know the wildlife, we'll also have the chance to help remove boneseed, a weed that impedes koala movement throughout the bush. A picnic lunch is included.

    Dinner tonight is on your own.

  • Enjoy an early breakfast and then transfer to the Melbourne airport for the flight to Adelaide. We arrive in Adelaide mid-morning and enjoy some sightseeing, followed by an included lunch.

    Adelaide, the capital of the state of South Australia, is in a great location sandwiched between the Lofty Mountains and the Southern Ocean. After arrival, we visit Cleland Wildlife Park, where we have the opportunity to see endangered species and encounter some of Australia's most noted wildlife, including kangaroos, koalas, and friendly wallabies.

    From there, we embark on a tour of Adelaide, a city of wonderful views enhanced by its setting between green hills and the waters of the Gulf of St. Vincent. Named for Queen Adelaide, the wife of the British King William IV, the city was settled around 1836 by free people and not by convicts—as was so much of Australia. Adelaide was one of the first planned cities of the time, designed by Colonel William Light in a neat grid pattern interspersed with town squares. That grid pattern still holds, making the streets of Adelaide's central district well-defined and easy to navigate.

    We have a lovely view of Adelaide from Light's Vision, the site of a statue erected in honor of Colonel William Light, the city's designer. Then it is on to North Terrace, a cultural center with galleries, museums, and the Botanic Gardens.

    Tonight we'll experience genuine Aussie hospitality during a Home-Hosted Dinner with a local family.

  • After breakfast at our hotel, we'll be joined by a local expert who will lead a discussion on the region's Aboriginal past and present. When voyageur James Cook declared that Australia's land belonged to no one in the 18th century, despite the 750,000 native inhabitants of the land, Australia was invaded and colonized by European settlers. It wasn't until the 1970s that Aboriginals gained rights to the land under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, which you'll learn more about if you join us on our optional Desert Park Aboriginal Culture tour and when we visit Uluru. 

    Afterward, we'll get the chance to ask any questions we may have. Then the day and evening are yours to discover more of Adelaide on your own. Perhaps you'll take advantage of the city's vintage tram from the 1920s. Hop off at Moseley Square to enjoy the local restaurants and shops, and then take a walk down to Glenelg Beach. Here, you can bike or hike along coastal trails, lounge on the beach, or set off on dolphin-sighting tour on Holdfast Bay.

  • After breakfast, we fly from Adelaide to Alice Springs, arriving before noon. Today, we'll enjoy a tour of "the Alice."

    First we pay a visit to the Royal Flying Doctor Service, a uniquely Outback entity that uses aircraft to provide medical care to settlements scattered hundreds of miles apart. Then we'll visit the old Telegraph Station, which marks the European settlement of Alice Springs at the inception of the Overland Telegraph Line, which was established in 1872 to relay messages between Adelaide and Darwin.

    Tonight, enjoy a casual dinner in Alice Springs. 

  • Today, relax over breakfast at the hotel and enjoy a morning at leisure. Or, perhaps you'll join us for an optional half-day tour to enrich your experiences in the Outback. On guided walks of Alice Springs Desert Park, we'll explore an array of native plant, animal, and bird species, and discover the deep spiritual and cultural connection the Aboriginal people have to the land.

    This afternoon, we'll visit the School of the Air, a unique educational group that teaches about 140 children living in remote Outback communities. This service provides vital interaction and tutoring for the children of Central Australia, primarily through computer, video, phone, and fax.

    The remainder of your afternoon is free for you to explore Alice Springs.

  • This morning we rise to enjoy breakfast before departing for our journey to Uluru. Early European settlers named it Ayers Rock, but it is called Uluru by the Anangu Aboriginal people who serve as its spiritual caretakers. We stop for lunch and visit Curtin Springs Station where we'll learn how locals use the land, more specifically native grasses, to create handmade paper before we arrive at Uluru in the late afternoon. After a brief stop at our hotel, we proceed directly to the rock itself.

    In spite of—perhaps even in defiance of—the negative effects of European settlement, some 50,000 years of Australian Aboriginal culture and spirit have strongly endured in art, dance, and music. Uluru is the most fitting symbol of that endurance.

    Watching the sun as it sets on Uluru, it's vividly clear just why the local Anangu people attach paramount spiritual significance to it. As the Outback sun descends on the monolith (whose red/orange hue shifts fluidly throughout the day) the rock seems to glow eerily, as if lit from within. It's almost impossible not to feel the ancient spirit of Uluru. A mystical life force? Perhaps. But the Anangu also consider the Uluru a literal giver of life, attracting animals in abundance to its waterhole and providing shelter and firewood to visitors. All in a rugged place one might freely describe as "the middle of nowhere."

    During our stay, we'll get a more personal view of Aboriginal life and culture past and present as we explore the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Center. After our two days in the Northern Territory, we'll surely have a more profound appreciation for a heritage that runs deep in this land and all of Australia. Much of the area around Uluru is open for public visitation, but parts of this site are still so powerfully sacred to the Anangu that they remain off-limits.

    At sunset, we'll gather for a traditional toast as the last daylight paints the massive monolith of Uluru into a kaleidoscope of colors. Dinner will be on your own this evening.

  • If you wish, you can rise early this morning to revisit Uluru in the light of dawn, which is also dramatic at sunset but seen by far fewer travelers. As we walk near the base of the massive sandstone monolith, we can see the effects of millions of years of erosion by rain and wind. Uluru is the centerpiece of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which also includes the spectacular rock formations nearby called the Kata Tjuta.

    This afternoon, we'll meet teachers and students at Nyangatjatjara College (when in session), sponsored in part by Grand Circle Foundation. It is the only community-based school south of Alice Springs, and its focus on extracurricular activities serves to enhance students' skills and confidence, and engage them in practical learning.

    Then we'll transfer to the airport for our flight to Cairns. Lunch will be on your own.

    We'll arrive in Cairns in the early evening and transfer to Port Douglas. After checking into our hotel, dinner will be on your own.

  • Following breakfast, we make a full-day excursion to the Great Barrier Reef. We board our catamaran and sail to the Outer Reef, where all the natural magnificence of the Reef is yours to explore. We linger for most of the day, having lunch onboard.

    Possibly the best description of the Great Barrier Reef we've ever heard comes down to five simple words: “the world's largest living thing.” Its nomination for World Heritage status stated, “The Reef supports the most diverse ecosystem known to man ... an ecosystem which has evolved over millions of years.”

    But even facts like these can only hint at the sheer immensity and awesome beauty of the Reef. Our first peek, through diving masks or a semi-submersible vessel, will bring into view its otherworldly character. It's a true sensory explosion, an azure scene of non-stop activity. We'll witness brilliant tropical fish darting about amid sea fans and anemones swaying with the waves. You may well feel as if you've dropped into a scene from the animated movie Finding Nemo. But no computer could generate such a spectacle. And it's all mere inches from the water's surface.

    There's no one “right” way to explore the Reef, so we'll be given a choice. You can swim or snorkel among the fish and wide array of corals, as the boat moors at a pontoon that is surrounded by reef. Or, if you wish to observe this spectacular underwater world without submerging yourself, you can view parts of the reef from our semi-submersible vessel. An experienced guide will point out the astonishing tropical fish and giant clams here. There is also an underwater viewing platform under the pontoon that gives you a unique view of this astounding landscape under the sea. You may also choose to experience the Great Barrier Reef from above during an optional helicopter flight later today. However you do it, you are in a prime spot to experience the nature of the largest coral reef in the world.

    After sailing back to shore, we return to our hotel in Port Douglas for an included dinner.

  • After breakfast, we depart our hotel and set out to explore another Australian natural wonder—Daintree Rainforest.

    We tend to think of the Amazon as the granddaddy of all rain forests. But at a mere ten million years old, the Amazon is really a grandchild to the Daintree Rainforest. This Australian national park is a unique ecological gem—it is the only place on Earth where the forests are much as they were 100 million years ago. In a riot of moist greenery much like this, the very first species of flowering plants bloomed while dinosaurs were still alive.

    Daintree is like a botanical Jurassic Park, hosting plant species so primitive they scarcely differ from their prehistoric ancestors. And while these forests were the point of origin for the world's flowering plants, many species here appear no place else.

    The lush, dense landscape is but one component of the Wet Tropics World Heritage area of Australia. This region comprises just one-thousandth of the continent's land, yet hosts an impressive range of Australia's native species. A full 40 percent of its plant species can be found here, as well as a quarter of its reptiles, a fifth of its birds, and a third of its marsupials and frogs.

    Taking this into account, one can understand the commitment of the activists (or "greenies") who waged a campaign in the 1980s to prevent the construction of an access road here. Their efforts resulted in the area being granted a protected status.

    We experience Daintree Rainforest from several perspectives while we're here. First, we take a guided walk through a dazzling rain forest inhabited by snakes, cassowaries, goanna lizards, and some of the most unusual vegetation on the planet. Then we board a boat for an hour-long wildlife cruise, during which we may get the chance to spot elusive estuarine crocodiles. This will be followed by an included lunch.

    Tonight, we'll enjoy dinner at the hotel.

  • Going Local: Sydney

    Join correspondent Carmen Roberts as she explores Sydney.

    We rise early for breakfast before we make our way to the Cairns airport for our flight to Sydney. We arrive in Sydney in the early evening and transfer to our hotel, where we will enjoy an orientation walk, followed by dinner at a local restaurant.

  • This morning we drive through Sydney's eastern suburbs, a modern fashion center boasting 19th-century architecture and interesting sightseeing, including the famous Mrs. Macquarie's Chair and Bondi Beach. We then get a magnificent view of Sydney Harbour Bridge from Circular Quay, home to one of Australia's most famous icons, the Opera House.

    Your Trip Leader will then take you on a walking tour of the historic Rocks District. "The Rocks" boasts some of the oldest buildings in Sydney. Some of the original European settlers camped here amidst the rocks of the sandstone ridges, giving rise to the area's name. Because many of the first Europeans to arrive were exiled convicts, part of this area's history was (to put it mildly) unusually colorful. Imagine a Wild West-like collection of bars and houses of ill repute where drunken brawls were common! Today, this is a safe place that invites visitors to stroll its cobblestone lanes and take refreshment in its tea rooms. We'll have lunch after our walk.

    Later, we board our watercraft and cruise around Sydney Harbour, taking in striking views of the city skyline as we blend into the perpetual bustle of water-borne activity.

    We continue our discoveries with a guided tour of the Sydney Opera House, whose distinctive architecture has made it the city's signature attraction. This architectural masterpiece was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, and you'll see firsthand why it deserves this title. This visually spectacular performance facility boasts four auditoriums that host symphony concerts and theater as well as opera.

    This evening you are free for relaxation or further independent exploration of Sydney's many facets. Ask your Trip Leader for suggestions or discover for yourself an interesting spot for dinner on your own this evening. Perhaps you'll be brave enough to try pan-fried kangaroo or savor a traditional meat pie.  

  • You have a full day at leisure. You can relax, visit local shops, return to the seashore to visit any of the several beaches that are accessible by public transportation, or you may choose to take a tour of Sydney Tower, an enormous structure that stands at around 1,000 feet, to take in panoramic views of the city.

    Tonight, we'll say goodbye to Australia over a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.

  • New Zealand's Beach Culture

    Discover how Auckland is "all about coastline" as Kiwi beach lover Karen Walker takes you to two of her favorite spots.

    After breakfast, fly from Sydney to Auckland, arriving in the late afternoon and transferring to our hotel. This evening we enjoy a New Zealand Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.

  • This morning, we'll embark on an orientation walk with our Trip Leader. Later, enjoy an included lunch before we set off on a Tamaki Hikoi—a walking tour led by a Maori guide from the Ngati Whatua tribe, who will provide us with a uniquely Maori perspective. During this fascinating tour, we'll learn about the early settlement of New Zealand, ancient tribal traditions, and controversial issues confronting modern-day Maori.

    The afternoon is yours to make your own discoveries. Perhaps you'll visit the War Memorial Museum, which houses the largest collection of Polynesian artifacts in the world, and a volcano exhibit that explores these wondrous landscapes that have existed for more than 250,000 years. Additionally, Auckland also has many beautiful parks, trendy restaurants, and a revitalized waterfront area that contains the America's Cup Village for visitors to enjoy.

    Dinner is on your own this evening, and your Trip Leader will be able to provide plenty of restaurant recommendations.

  • After breakfast, we drive to Rotorua. Our journey takes us through lush green pasturelands in the center of the North Island.

    Along the way, we'll stop near the town of Cambridge to join a local family for a Home-Hosted Lunch. This is a great opportunity to ask our hosts about what it's like to live in the "town of trees and champions" (the champs being thoroughbred horses).

    We continue on to Rotorua, arriving before dinner. Rotorua is still a center for Maori culture. It's believed that New Zealand's Maori people settled on the North Island about a thousand years ago, and they have held on firmly to their identity and traditions. Nearly a quarter of a million indigenous Maori still maintain their unique lifestyle and culture, adding to the rich heritage of New Zealand.

    We'll get the chance to relax this evening with an included dinner at our hotel.

  • Rotorua is often called a thermal wonderland because of its volcanic activity. The region is replete with bubbling mud pools, geothermal geysers, and steam vents—a place where it's not at all unusual to spot the occasional small vapor stream rising from a crack in the pavement. Here, on the Volcanic Plateau, it simply comes with the territory.

    After breakfast, we transfer overland to the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. This relatively young geothermal site was created by nearby Mount Tarawera's last eruption in 1886. We take a leisurely hike, descending into the lush valley of green vegetation, pink silica terraces, and blue waters. We'll discover the Inferno Crater, filled with brilliant turquoise water, and Frying Pan Lake, the world's largest hot spring. We'll also embark on a cruise of Lake Rotomahana, where our captain explains more about the history of Rotorua and shows us more geothermal sites that aren't accessible by land.

    Early this afternoon we’ll return to our hotel, enjoying lunch en route. Upon arrival, you may choose to relax or set off to do some exploring, and dinner will be on your own.

    Or, you may join our optional Maori Cultural Experience. Understanding Maori culture is essential to knowing New Zealand, and this enlightening tour will take place in the Maori village of Mitai. Upon arrival, we'll be greeted by a welcome ceremony and the unveiling of a hangi, a traditional Maori feast that's cooked underground. Next we'll be seated for a lively cultural performance that will showcase Maori heritage, and then we'll get to sample the hangi for ourselves. Afterward, we’ll take a guided walk in the bush where we'll see local fauna, like glow worms lighting the night.

  • Today we fly to Queenstown on New Zealand's South Island. One of the first things you may notice is that its scenery is spectacular—from the town's tranquil shoreline of Lake Wakatipu, to the majestic mountains in the distance which are aptly named The Remarkables. Queenstown has gained notoriety for being the "adventure capital of the world," attracting skiers, white-water rafters, and other thrill-seekers who are drawn to its rapids and peaks. Yet it can also be seen as a rejuvenating retreat for those in need of some fresh mountain air.

    This evening, dinner is included at a local restaurant.

  • We rise early this morning for a full day of adventure. Today we travel to Milford Sound—dubbed the "Eighth Wonder of the World" by Rudyard Kipling—situated in the heart of Fiordland National Park.

    Dense forests, shimmering Lake Te Anau, and the Homer Tunnel, a 1.2-kilometer engineering wonder drilled through pure rock, mark our route. In the early afternoon, we'll board our tour ship for an unforgettable cruise of Milford Sound. We'll marvel at towering cliffs and the stunning perfect cone of Mitre Peak, and view thundering waterfalls, impressive beech forests, and unique flora and fauna as we cruise along the sound's famous fjords. A picnic lunch is included onboard.

    We end our cruise in the late afternoon and return to our hotel, where we'll enjoy dinner on our own.

  • Spend today at leisure, or join a half-day optional tour for a jet-boat ride on the Dart River. We begin by traveling overland along the shores of Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy, a frontier town at the base of the Southern Alps. Here we board a mini-coach for a journey through forests with huge snow-capped mountain backdrops made internationally famous by movies such as The Lord of the Rings. When the road comes to an end, we take a short walk through the forest and board our jet-boat. The Dart River wends within a historic valley that has fascinated explorers for centuries, and as we head upstream, we’ll enjoy spectacular views in an area so remote that few ever get a chance to experience it. On the downriver journey, our driver will demonstrate the maneuverability of the New Zealand-designed jet-boat and show you how this unique craft can spin and turn.

    After returning to Glenorchy we ride back to Queenstown. This evening, you are free to explore its quaint streets and discover a local eatery on your own.

  • After breakfast at our hotel, we'll set off for New Zealand's west coast. Along the way, we'll stop to discover some of New Zealand's famous wines and learn about the country's fine vineyards. We'll have an included lunch as we travel today.

    Our route takes us over Haast Pass, which takes its name from the geologist Sir Julius Von Haast, who—incredibly—explored the region on foot. The pass will take us along the longest single-lane bridge in New Zealand, taking us across the Southern Alps from the Wanaka District to Haast on the west coast. This remains rugged, isolated, and harsh terrain, with remote farmhouses and sparse settlements tucked into the hillsides. By late afternoon we arrive in the area of the Westland Tai Poutini National Park, home to both the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. En route, we travel through deep valleys where glaciers dramatically end in the temperate rain forest. We'll have dinner at our hotel, with the rest of the evening at leisure. Please note: The hotel for some departures is in Fox Glacier Village, while for others we stay in the town of Franz Josef Glacier. The order of activities will vary slightly depending on the hotel's location.

  • This morning, if weather permits, you may choose to take in the region from a unique vantage point—the air—on an optional helicopter flight excursion. You'll enjoy a bird's-eye view of the Mount Cook region, with its pristine alpine scenery and the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers.

    We don't usually think of glacial movement as something we can watch “in action.” In general, a snail's pace is considered faster. But then, most of us have never had the chance to experience the Mario Andretti of glaciers—Franz Josef Glacier. This fast-moving mass of ice is the centerpiece of Westland National Park, a section of the UNESCO World Heritage Park on New Zealand's South Island.

    Today, after breakfast, we journey to neighboring Franz Josef Glacier Valley and take a tour of the valley with an expert naturalist guide. Located about 75 miles north of Haast, Franz Josef, as the locals refer to the glacier, is a world-famous site made all the more interesting by its recent history. After steadily advancing down the valley since 1982—at the astonishing rate of about 17 feet per week—the Franz Josef Glacier reversed course in 2003 and is now in a slow retreat. As you tour near the glacier, look back toward the ocean where several lines of low hills stand between the glacier and the water, moraines left by previous advances of the glacier.

    And because glaciers are among the planet's key indicators of global warming, it's no wonder scientists pay special attention to the action of Franz Josef. For climatologists and geologists (and visitors like us) this glacier is a marvel to study and learn about. We'll view the glacier from ground level and learn about its geology and history from a knowledgeable guide.

    Afterward, we'll make our way to Punakaiki, a picturesque coastal community. It's situated on the edge of Paparoa National Park, which we'll get the chance to explore tomorrow.

    Please note: Depending on whether you stay at the Punakaiki Resort or at a hotel in Greymouth or Hokitika, the order of activities on Days 25 and 26 will vary from what is shown here. Although the order in which they take place will differ, all included features of the trip remain the same.

    Tonight, we'll gather for dinner at our hotel.

  • In the morning, we have breakfast and then depart for a scenic drive to Reefton. On August 4, 1888, Reefton was the first town in the Southern Hemisphere to have a public supply of electricity.

    In Reefton, we take the "Historic Reefton" guided tour. It provides a good snapshot of this town full of historic buildings such as the courthouse, Masonic Lodge, School of Mines, and the Blacks Point Museum. Reefton was named for its quartz reefs, and was once a focal point for both gold and coal exploration. Today, relics of gold and coal mining are found throughout the area. 

    We leave Reefton after lunch and travel through the dramatic gorge of the Buller River and to the scenic west coast. Next, we visit Paparoa National Park where we'll witness its highlights: the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. If Franz Josef Glacier is an example of geologic sculpture in progress, then the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes are remarkable finished products.

    Stacked at the end of Dolomite Point on the northwest side of New Zealand's South Island, the bizarre formations known as Pancake Rocks represent more than 30 million years of geological history. When a considerable portion of New Zealand was still underwater, sediment from seashell beds formed hard Ogliocene limestone. Through a fairly common process known as stylobedding, the limestone and softer mudstone were deposited in alternating layers over millions of years, creating an underwater land mass.

    Then the real action began. Following a period of dramatic uplifting caused by the shifting of tectonic plates, these masses were thrust above the ocean's surface to encounter wind, waves, and weather. Over time, the elements have disproportionately eroded the softer mudstone to leave behind the "pancake stacks" we see today. This strange sight of a pile of rocks that appears to be petrified pancakes is really a series of stratified limestone formations eroded over thousands of years into shapes that resemble a neat stack. These same forces also carved out the undersea caverns and blowholes that, at high tide or during westerly storms, create a breathtaking and unforgettable spectacle of dazzling seaspray. Take a short and easy walk from the main road to see these geologic wonders up-close.

    Dinner will be on your own this evening. And should you wish to keep exploring the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes at your leisure, they're conveniently just steps from our hotel.

  • After breakfast at our hotel, we’ll travel to Rubicon Valley via Arthur’s Pass. This exciting landscape is brimming with natural beauty, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for roaring waterfalls and tranquil waterbeds. Then we’ll experience rural New Zealand life with a visit to Rubicon Valley's working farm located in the Southern Alps. Home to more than 3,000 sheep, we’ll have the opportunity to see the impressive teamwork of sheepdogs and sheep.

    After an included lunch at the sheep station, we'll travel overland to Christchurch Airport where we’ll fly to Wellington, New Zealand. Once we arrive in the cosmopolitan capital, we’ll have the evening at leisure and you get dinner on your own.

  • After breakfast we'll embark on a half-day city tour of Wellington. This bustling capital city, which locals affectionately call “Welly,” is situated at the crossroads of the two islands, on North Island just across the Cook Strait from South Island. Wellington offers an energetic, big-city feel and a beautiful harbor surrounded by steep hills. A true walking city, downtown Wellington packs a lot into a small area. It is divided into four quarters. Willis Street and Lambton Quay are the main business and commercial districts. Courtenay Place and Cuba Quarter are the hubs for entertainment and nightlife, where we'll find a dynamic cultural scene and a variety of bars and restaurants.

    After lunch on your own, the remainder of the day is free for you to make your own discoveries. You can take a cable car to the Botanic Gardens, where the exhibits of flora and fauna span 67 acres; visit the Wellington Museum (free of charge); or take a relaxing stroll along the waterfront. Dinner will be on your own tonight.

  • After breakfast, we’ll walk to Te Papa Tongarewa, the National Museum of New Zealand, where we’ll enjoy a guided tour. This innovative museum offers a variety of exhibits on the country’s art, history, natural environment, and Maori culture. We’ll also learn how this museum focuses on education about community development and cross-cultural interaction.

    Enjoy an afternoon at leisure to further explore Wellington. Perhaps you’ll visit bohemian Cuba Street and browse eclectic shops and art galleries. Or take part in Wellington’s popular café culture by relaxing and people-watching at one of the many coffee shops. We’ll enjoy a Farewell Dinner together tonight.

    • Meals included:

    Later this morning, we have breakfast and then check out of the hotel. We then transfer to the airport for your flight home, or, if you are taking our New Zealand's Bay of Islands post-trip extension, you'll fly to Auckland and then transfer to Paihia.

    New Zealand's Bay of Islands

    4 nights from only $1645

    After your travel in Australia, discover New Zealand's exotic Bay of Islands—a historical crossroads of European and Maori cultures and a unique subtropical ecosystem. In this  archipelago of nearly 150 islands, revel in the pristine natural environment and stunning coastal scenery as we cruise along crystal-clear turquoise waters, keeping watch for whales, dolphins, marlins, and penguins.

    View Extension Itinerary

Click below to read our Travel Planning Guide on Australia & New Zealand: An Adventure Down Under

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