From the cosmopolitan hubs and desert oases of Australia to the glacial wonders and geothermal sites in New Zealand, the South Pacific boasts a fantastic display of geographic contrasts. This treasure chest of natural gems is a result of the countries’ locations on the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates.
In Australia, wonders abound on land and underwater. Uluru (Ayers Rock), a sacred monolith, is not only visually spectacular—especially during sunrise and sunset when the rock’s colors seemingly change from hues of red to tints of purple—but also holds spiritual significance to the Aboriginal people. The Daintree Rainforest is ecologically magnificent as it is the only place on Earth that retains the same natural splendor that it did 100 million years ago. But the Great Barrier Reef may be Australia’s crown jewel—from diverse wildlife to colorful coral.
In New Zealand, an array of climates and topographies come together to form the North and South Islands. The South Island boasts Franz Josef Glacier Valley—the location of the famous, fast-moving Franz Josef Glacier—and Milford Sound—a site whose towering cliffs and roaring waterfalls are so spectacular, that it has been labelled the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Then on the North Island is Rotorua’s Waimangu Volcanic Valley where bubbling mud pools, spouting geysers, the world’s largest hot spring, and pink silica terraces will transport you to a geothermal wonderland.
Equally as incredible as the Australian and New Zealand landscapes are the natives who call these countries home. In Australia, the Aboriginal people inhabited the land far before being colonized by European explorers. Similarly, the Maoris—descendants of Polynesian settlers—arrived in an uninhabited New Zealand in the 14th century before British explorers claimed the land as their own. Today, the mix and mingle of people and cultures keeps old traditions alive and weaves a beautiful fabric of life that makes the South Pacific such a unique place to visit.