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 visits to a school and a cattle station, will add personal touches to this epic journey down under.
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 OAT 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 explorations of Melbourne’s highlights. Our first stop is the eerie corridors and dark cells of the Old Melbourne Gaol. Here, we’ll enjoy an exclusive tour uniquely structured for our small group.
We’ll explore the narrow hallways and cramped cells, some which contain the death masks of the 135 unfortunate convicts who were hanged here, including the infamous bushranger (a bandit or criminal who hid in the bush and led a predatory life) Ned Kelly—Australia’s most notorious criminal. Many researchers and visitors also believe this site to be haunted by the troubled souls who were jailed here, so watch out for any unusual occurrences!
We 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. We then have the option of walking in the city’s fine Botanic Gardens, a splendid example of 19th-century English landscaping.
At the end of the tour, you may have the opportunity to visit the Queen Victoria Market (if open) or return back to the hotel. This leaves you free for the afternoon to eat lunch where you choose and 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 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 hanging from 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.
Enjoy Adelaide at your leisure today.
Or, join us for a full-day optional tour to Hahndorf & Barossa Valley. In Hahndorf, you’ll have free time to explore this charming German colonial town, brimming with restaurants, art galleries, and shops. As we make our way through the Adelaide Hills to Barossa Valley, we’ll stop at two local wineries, where we’ll enjoy complimentary wine tastings and a lunch of local Barossa meats and cheeses. Our final destination will be Rusden’s Winery, a family-owned operation that has been producing fine wine in the heart of the Barossa Valley for generations. Along with a tasting, we’ll learn about the traditional wine-making process from the vintner.
Dinner is on your own tonight in Adelaide.
After breakfast, we fly from Adelaide to Alice Springs, arriving before noon. After checking in to our hotel, we enjoy a tour of "the Alice." 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 Darwin and Adelaide.
Tonight, enjoy a casual dinner of Australian cuisine with “bush tucker” influences in Alice Springs. It’s an opportunity to taste some unique regional dishes of the “Land Down Under.”
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 experience parts of the Outback not normally seen by tourists. 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 meet teachers and students at the Yipirinya School (when in session), sponsored in part by Grand Circle Foundation. The school provides approximately 200 students with two-way (bilingual and bicultural) education, teaching literacy and numeracy while also incorporating indigenous culture and languages.
Later, we 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 for a talk about the life on an authentic Outback cattle station 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. Afterwards, you may take an optional scenic helicopter flight over Uluru and the Kata Tjuta.
We transfer to the airport for our flight to Cairns. Lunch is on your own. We arrive in Cairns in the early evening and transfer to Port Douglas. After checking into our hotel, dinner is 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 glass-bottom boat, 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 a glass-bottom boat. 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. 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 nature cruise to observe the natural world found in the waters and along the banks of Coopers Creek, followed by an included lunch.
This natural treasure has been protected as part of the 3,000-square-mile Wet Tropics World Heritage Area since 1988. Surrounded by the unmistakable air of primeval and sensual beauty, make sure to take a moment to reflect on the agelessness of Daintree and the efforts made to keep it that way.
Tonight, enjoy dinner at the hotel.
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.
Dinner is on your own tonight and you have the evening at leisure.
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.
Later, we board our watercraft and sail 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 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.
You have a full day at leisure. You can relax, visit local shops, or return to the seashore to visit any of the several beaches that are accessible by public transportation.
Tonight, we’ll say goodbye to Australia over a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.
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 a Host Tribe Native Walk—a walking tour led by a Maori guide. During this fascinating tour, we’ll learn about the early settlement of New Zealand, ancient tribal traditions, and controversial issues confronting modern-day Maoris.We return to our hotel by mid-afternoon. Enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure.
You can 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. Auckland also has many beautiful parks, trendy restaurants, and a revitalized waterfront area that contains America's Cup Village for visitors to enjoy.
Dinner is on your own tonight.
After breakfast, we drive to Rotorua. Our journey takes us through lush green pasturelands in the center of the North Island.
We stop at a local farm to enjoy a Home-Hosted Lunch and visit with our hosts.
We continue on to Rotorua, arriving before dinner. Rotorua is still a center for the Maori culture. It’s believed that New Zealand’s Maori people settled on 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.
Relax this evening over 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.
This afternoon, we’ll experience A Day in the Life of a Murupara community—many of whom are of Maori heritage. We’ll begin by sharing a Home-Hosted Lunch with a local family, where we’ll learn about daily life. Then, we’ll visit with teachers and students at a school supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation (when in session). The men in our group can learn the "Haka" war dance with the boys, while the women will learn about traditional girls' activities from the younger girls. After leaving the school, we'll stroll the town’s main street, where our Trip Leader will provide insight into the struggles faced by those living in the town, which range from the damaging effects of drugs and alcohol to widespread unemployment. (Please note: If the school is not in session, we’ll instead be welcomed at a Marae—a Maori meeting place—as we learn about community activities such as cooking and basket-weaving, and even participate in a traditional Maori dance.)
Afterward, if the weather is favorable, we will be taken to a location off the beaten path to view rare Maori rock art.
Your evening is at leisure and dinner is on your own.
Today, we fly to Queenstown. Depending on your departure time (which is subject to change) you may have a chance to explore more of Rotorua before heading to the airport.
Via Christchurch, you'll arrive in Queenstown where you'll be transferred to your hotel. Dinner is included tonight.
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 along the shores of Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy, a frontier town at the base of the Southern Alps. Here we switch to 4x4 vehicles 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. We head upstream on the Dart River and enjoy spectacular views in an area so remote that few ever get a chance to experience it. The historic Dart River Valley has fascinated and drawn human explorers for many centuries. 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 Arrowtown. This evening, you are free to explore its quaint streets and discover a local eatery on your own.
We start the day with breakfast at our hotel and then depart Arrowtown. En route, we’ll stop to discover some of New Zealand’s famous wines and learn about the country’s fine vineyards. We then travel over the Haast Pass to the village of Fox Glacier. This trip is the only way to see and experience the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. The Haast Pass takes its name from the geologist Sir Julius Von Haast, who incredibly explored the region on foot. The pass takes you across the longest single-lane bridge in New Zealand and on across the Southern Alps from Wanaka District to Haast on the west coast. This remains a rugged, isolated, and harsh terrain, with remote farmhouses and lonely settlements tucked into the hillsides.
After a stop for lunch, we continue along the west coast before arriving at our hotel by late afternoon. We have dinner at the hotel with the rest of the evening is at leisure.
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 Glacier.
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 Franz Josef Glacier 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 before heading back down-valley again. The glacier has advanced to the point where the glistening ice can be seen from the rooftops of Franz Josef township. 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.
After departing Franz Josef, we stop at Ross, a pretty west coast town, surrounded by rain forest and sandwiched between the Southern Alps and the beautiful windswept beaches of the Tasman Sea. There will be time for an independent lunch and a leisurely stroll.
After lunch, we depart for Greymouth, with a stop along the way at Hokitika, a small farming community with a rich history. It boomed in the 1860s with the gold rush, and was, at that time, the busiest port in the country. A sandbar at the mouth of the Hokitika River proved a dangerous impediment, claiming many ships and lives, but still the port bustled and was a major port of entry during the gold rushes of the 1860s and 1870s. The West Coast Historical Museum on Tancred Street offers a look into this bygone era.
We arrive in Greymouth, the major town on New Zealand’s west coast, in time for dinner at our hotel. You are at your leisure this evening.
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 even enjoy morning tea as miners once did, in a slab hut.
We leave Reefton after lunch and travel through the dramatic gorge of the Buller River and to the scenic west coast. We continue to Tauranga Bay to observe the fur seals, which flourish along the rocky shore. The fur seal is the most common species of seal found in New Zealand, thousands being found on the miles of exposed, rocky coastlines. The colony here is one of the most accessible in the country.
Next, we visit the Punakaiki Blowholes and Pancake Rocks. If Franz Josef Glacier is an example of geologic sculpture in progress, then the Punakaiki Blowholes and Pancake Rocks are remarkable finished products.
Stacked at the end of Paparoa National Park's Dolomite Point on the northwest side of New Zealand's South Island, the bizarre formation known as Pancake Rocks represents 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 be exposed now to 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.
We arrive back in Greymouth in the evening. Dinner tonight is on your own.
After breakfast at our hotel, we experience another colorful element of New Zealand life with a visit to Flock Hill, a working sheep station (ranch) in the Southern Alps. Here, we’ll see the impressive teamwork of sheepdogs and sheep, and enjoy a hearty farm lunch. Afterward, we’ll travel overland to Christchurch, a departure point for Antarctic expeditions. Later in the day, we’ll fly from to Wellington, New Zealand’s cosmopolitan capital. Enjoy an evening at leisure and 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 Botanical Gardens, where the exhibits of flora and fauna span 67 acres; visit the Museum of City & Sea (free of charge); or take a relaxing stroll along the waterfront. Dinner is on your own this evening.
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.
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.