Day by Day Itinerary

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.

Melbourne Wellington Expand All
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    Fly from the U.S. to Melbourne, Australia.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    After a discussion this morning on issues the Aboriginal and indigenous people of Australia face today, the rest of the day will be spent at leisure to explore Adelaide on your own. Tonight, dinner is on your own to enjoy at one of the many fabulous restaurants in town.

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    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."

    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 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.”

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    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 visit the School of 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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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 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. 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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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 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 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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    This morning, we’ll embark on a Tamaki Hikoi—a walking tour led by a Maori guide from the Ngati Whatua tribe, who provides a unique 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 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 the America's Cup Village for visitors to enjoy. Dinner is on your own tonight.

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    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 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.

    Relax this evening over an included dinner at our hotel.

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    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 witness local fauna, like glow worms lighting the night.

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    Today we fly to Queenstown and travel to Arrowtown, where the main street has been faithfully reconstructed with wooden buildings that evoke a bygone era. The town today is charming and picturesque with some of the best shops in the country—selling popular products like jewelry, gold nuggets, jade, and woolen goods.

    Dinner this evening is included at a local restaurant.

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    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.

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    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.

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    We start the day with breakfast at our hotel and then depart Queenstown. 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.

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    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.

    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.

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    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.

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    After breakfast at our hotel, we experience rural 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.

    Afterward, we'll travel overland to Christchurch with a stop for lunch en route. Christchurch is a departure point for Antarctic expeditions, and we'll have a short visit to the city's Antarctic Center to view fascinating exhibits about the white continent. Later in the day, we fly to Wellington, New Zealand’s cosmopolitan capital, where we have the evening at leisure and you get dinner on your own.

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    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 will be on your own tonight.

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    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.

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    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.


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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.  Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

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What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect


  • 12 locations in 28 days with two 1-night stays
  • International flights from Los Angeles to Melbourne depart around midnight, losing one day en route as you cross the International Date Line, regained on the return trip
  • Airport transfers in Melbourne and Wellington take approximately 1 hour

Physical requirements

  • Not appropriate for travelers using wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids; agility required for embarking boats
  • You must be able to walk 2-3 miles unassisted and participate in 4-6 hours of physical activities each day
  • Some walks may be in areas of high heat and humidity in Australia and snow and cool temperatures in New Zealand during winter


  • Daytime temperatures range from 40-100°F
  • The tropical regions in northern Australia are warm and humid and in the Outback, temperatures can exceed 100°F during the day, and drop dramatically at night
  • New Zealand’s climate is temperate and weather conditions change quickly


  • We’ll travel over city streets on foot, with occasional uphill walks along uneven glacial and rocky mountain terrain, sandy beaches, and rugged Outback trails


  • Travel by 19-passenger minibus (no toilet onboard) and 20-350 passenger boats
  • 1 overland drive 7 hours long in Australia
  • 4 overland drives 5-7 hours long in New Zealand, with several stops for on-foot exploration, 3 cruises of 1.5-3 hours, one 7-hour cruise to the Reef, 7 internal flights (up to 3 hours long)

Accommodations & Facilities

  • Hotel rooms are smaller than U.S. and offer simple amenities and feature private baths

Travel Documents


Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary:

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.


U.S. citizens will need a visa (or visas) for this trip. In addition, there may be other entry requirements that also need to be met. For your convenience, we’ve included a quick reference list, organized by country:

  • Australia: Visa required.
  • New Zealand: No visa required, but travelers making their own international air arrangements will need to send us their flight ticket numbers. The form to do this will be mailed with the Australian visa application.

Travelers who are booked on this adventure will be sent a complete Visa Packet— with instructions, applications, and a list of visa fees—approximately 100 days prior to their departure. (Because many countries limit the validity of their visa from the date it is issued, or have a specific time window for when you can apply, we do not recommend applying too early.)

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your adventure, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we offer have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Trip Leaders and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips


Main Trip

  • Radisson Hotel

    Melbourne, Australia | Rating: Superior First Class

    A former Victorian-era police headquarters, the ten-story Radisson Hotel in Melbourne sits across from Flagstaff Gardens and is a short stroll away from Queen Victoria’s Market. Each room offers a telephone, satellite TV, safe, minibar, and private bath with hair dryer. Amenities include a fitness center with spa and hot tub, and a contemporary restaurant.

  • Doubletree Alice Springs

    Alice Springs, Australia

    Granting lovely views of the MacDonnell Ranges, this environmentally friendly hotel is within walking distance from downtown Alice Springs. Each of the 243 air-conditioned rooms has a balcony, refrigerator, minibar, and private bath. Amenities include a 24-hour fitness center, pool, sauna, tennis court, and three on-site eateries.

  • Hotel Grand Chancellor Adelaide

    Adelaide, Australia

    Located in Adelaide's West End, the city's cultural and arts district, the Hotel Grand Chancellor Adelaide is near the Art Gallery of South Australia and the Botanic Gardens. Hotel facilities include an on-site restaurant and bar, a gym, an outdoor swimming pool, and a sauna. Each of the 180 air-conditioned rooms features cable TV, telephone, coffee- and tea-making facilities, minibar, iron and ironing board, and a private bath with hair dryer.

  • Outback Pioneer Hotel

    Yulara, Australia

    We spend one night at this 167-room hotel in the small town of Yulara, just a few miles down the road from Uluru National Park. This accommodation reflects sensitivity toward the environment with its landscaped desert setting and offers a swimming pool, restaurant, and bar. Though rooms are small, each features a private bath, air-conditioning, and a minibar.

  • Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple Resort & Spa

    Port Douglas, Australia

    The central feature of this contemporary coastal resort is a large, lagoon-style outdoor pool. Other amenities include a full-service day spa, fitness center, restaurant, poolside bar, and 18-hole golf course. Each of its 194 air-conditioned rooms features a minibar, balcony, safe, and private bath with Jacuzzi.

  • Vibe Hotel Sydney

    Sydney, Australia

    This stylish hotel is a short stroll from the city’s bustling Darling Harbour and entertainment districts. If you can resist the call of the city, you’ll find a rooftop pool and trendy bar and restaurant on-site. The hotel’s 190 air-conditioned rooms feature private bath and hair dryer, TV, minibar, telephone, and coffee- and tea-making facilities.

  • CityLife Auckland Hotel

    Auckland, New Zealand

    The CityLife Auckland Hotel is conveniently located in Auckland's CBD (Central Business District), close to the city’s best restaurants, bars, and attractions including the Sky Tower and Ferry Terminal. The hotel features an on-site restaurant and bar and an indoor swimming pool. Each of the air-conditioned rooms features Internet access, telephone, minibar, coffee- and tea-making facilities, iron and ironing board, and a private bath with hair dryer.

  • Rydges Rotorua

    Rotorua, New Zealand

    Offering panoramic views of Lake Rotorua and Mokoia Island, Rydges Rotorua is located within walking distance of downtown. Guests have access to on-site amenities including a gymnasium, thermally heated rooftop pool and sauna, and laundry. The hotel features 135 rooms, each with a private balcony, refrigerator, and hair dryer.

  • Millbrook Resort

    Queenstown, New Zealand

    The contemporary Millbrook Resort is set on a beautiful golf course designed by famous New Zealand golfer Bob Charles. The resort offers three restaurants, a health spa, and indoor pool. Set amidst pretty country gardens, the 170 quaint and cozy rooms feature a TV, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath.

  • Distinction Hotel Fox Glacier

    Fox Glacier, New Zealand

    Located in the small township of Fox Glacier, the Distinction Hotel Fox Glacier offers fine mountain views. Hotel facilities include a lounge with a fireplace. Each of the 20 rooms also has its own balcony, plus a TV, CD player, telephone, Internet access, coffee- and tea-making facilities, iron and ironing board, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Ashley Hotel

    Greymouth, New Zealand

    Situated in the heart of the South Island’s scenic west coast, the Ashley Hotel is just a few minutes’ walk from the Tasman Sea. There is a restaurant on the premises, an indoor heated pool complex, and 60 rooms with a TV, refrigerator, coffee- and tea-making facilities and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Amora Hotel

    Wellington, New Zealand | Rating: Superior First Class

    Close to the beach, this hotel is situated in downtown Wellington for easy access to the city’s offerings. The nine-story hotel has 192 rooms, each with a telephone, satellite TV, safe, minibar, and private bath with shower and hair dryer. Hotel amenities include an onsite restaurant and bar, as well as a fitness center.

  • James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor

    Wellington, New Zealand | Rating: Superior First Class

    This sleek, modern high-rise towers above the bustling business and entertainment district downtown, just a few minutes from the Cable Car. Its amenities include a fitness club and spa onsite, along with a restaurant and cocktail bar. Its 228 rooms offer satellite TV, a refrigerator, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Heritage Queenstown

    Queenstown, New Zealand

    Located just outside Queenstown’s busting center, Heritage Queenstown offers sweeping views of the Remarkables mountain range rising from Lake Wakatipu. Each of the hotel’s rooms feature a private bath, minibar, iron, hair dryer, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and TV. On-site amenities include a heated indoor/outdoor swimming pool, spa, gym, restaurant, and lodge-style bar.


  • Best Western Hobart

    Hobart, Tasmania

    The Best Western Hobart is conveniently located in the city center, offering easy access to the main shopping area, Battery Point, Salamanca Place, and the Hobart waterfront.  Each of the hotel’s 140 guest rooms features a private bath with hair dryer, direct-dial phone, coffee- and tea-making facilities, iron and ironing board, and TV. The hotel also has an on-site restaurant and fitness center.

  • Best Western Plus Launceston

    Launceston, Tasmania

    The Best Western Plus Launceston is located in the city center—a very short walk to the main shopping area and near local attractions like James Boag’s Brewery, Launceston Seaport, Cataract Gorge, and Aurora Stadium. Each of the 116 guest rooms features a private bath with hair dryer, coffee- and tea-making facilities, direct-dial phone, iron and ironing board, and TV. The hotel also has an on-site restaurant and bar.

  • Paihia Pacific Resort

    Bay of Islands, New Zealand

    The tranquil, boutique-style Paihia Pacific Resort is just a short stroll to the ocean and a five-minute walk to Paihia’s town center. Facilities include a restaurant and bar, swimming pool, spa, and sauna. Each of the 35 rooms features a direct-dial phone, TV, refrigerator, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Jet Park Airport Hotel

    Auckland, New Zealand | Rating: First Class

    Jet Park Airport Hotel is comfortable, modern, and features South African art on the walls. Each of the 167 rooms is air-conditioned, and amenities include a mini-bar fridge, hair dryer, and ironing board. Hotel facilities include a swimming pool, fitness center, and gift shop.

Flight Information

Your Flight Options

Whether you choose to take just a base trip or add an optional pre- and post-trip extension, you have many options when it comes to personalizing your air—and creating the OAT adventure that’s right for you:

Purchase Flights with OAT

  • Work with our expert Air Travel Consultants to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Customize your trip by staying overnight in a connecting city, arriving at your destination a few days early, or spending additional time in a nearby city on your own
  • Combine your choice of OAT adventures to maximize your value

Make Your Own Arrangements

  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline
  • Purchase optional airport transfers to and from your hotel
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent flyer miles

OR, leave your air routing up to us and your airfare (as well as airport transfers) will be included in your final trip cost.

Estimated Flight Times

We understand that international travel has unique challenges including fewer airline choices and limited flight schedules. The chart below provides estimated travel times and the typical number of connections from popular departure cities to help you plan for your trip.

Please note that traveling to Melbourne, and from Wellington, will require multiple connections, and these flight rigors should be taken into consideration.

Private Adventures—New for 2015

How do you arrange a Private Adventure?

It’s simple: You choose the people you travel with. You choose the departure date. You choose the size of your group. OAT does the rest.

Your lifelong memories are only a phone call away: Call us toll-free at

Group Size Additional Cost
4-6 $4100 per person
7-9 $1900 per person

Now you can reserve an EXCLUSIVE departure of Australia & New Zealand: An Adventure Down Under with just 8 travelers. Enjoy a truly special adventure—starting from only $1900 per person more than our published trip price.

The benefits of your Private Adventure …

  • Travel in an exclusive group of friends or family members
  • Work with your Trip Leader to create unique experiences and special memories
  • Tailor the pacing of activities—spending more time doing what interests your group most at the speed that fits your comfort level
  • Enjoy the security of knowing we have regional offices nearby

This program is available on new reservations in 2015 only, and cannot be combined with any offer within 60 days to departure or with our Group Travel program. The additional cost of a Private Departure is per person, on top of the departure price and varies by trip. Private Departures do not include any changes or additions to our standard itineraries. Age restrictions may apply to some itineraries and must be at least 13 years old to travel with Overseas Adventure Travel. Ask your Group Sales Team for details. Additional taxes and fees will apply. Standard Terms & Conditions apply. Every effort has been made to present this information accurately. We reserve the right to correct errors.

The Great Barrier Reef

A closer look at the world’s largest living thing

by Pavi Kulatunga

In 2000, an outbreak of predatory starfish descended upon the reef and decimated a large population of coral.

Stretching an astounding 1,600 miles, the Great Barrier Reef is not only the largest coral reef in the world, but it’s also the planet’s largest collective organism—and the only living thing on Earth that is visible from space. Renowned for its beauty as much as for the diversity of marine life it supports, the reef’s truly massive size belies an incredibly delicate ecosystem that is increasingly at risk from predators, pollution, sediments, and severe weather. 

Coral reefs, such as those found along the Great Barrier Reef, are composed of millions of soft-bodied invertebrate animals called coral polyps. The polyps, which stick together with energy-rich algae (called zooxanthellae), protect themselves by producing rigid shells of lime. The vibrant pigmentations of the algae lend the shells their stunning hues.

As the polyps die, their shells, or “skeletons,” remain. New polyps then attach themselves to the remnants and continue the cycle. The resulting labyrinth of structures becomes a harbor of marine life, hosting more animal species than any other marine ecosystem in the world. More than 1,500 different species of fish alone can be spotted living in and around the coral of the Great Barrier Reef. Likewise, more than 400 different species of coral polyps exist in the Great Barrier Reef—a number that is nearly ten times the amount found in the entire Atlantic Ocean.

Polyp procreation

The reproduction methods of polyps vary greatly from species to species. Some are hermaphrodites, and produce both sperm and eggs. Other corals are gonochoric, meaning they produce single-sex colonies where all of the polyps in one colony produce only sperm, and all of the polyps in another colony produce only eggs.

But perhaps the grandest method of reproduction takes place during coral spawning—a synchronized ejecting of large quantities of eggs and sperm into the surrounding water. During such events, it’s not uncommon for trillions of eggs and sperm to be released on the same night.

Location, location, location

Owing much to its location, the Great Barrier Reef resides in the Coral Sea just off the coast of Queensland, Australia, on the eastern edge of the continental shelf. This unique location, more than any other factor, is the reason the reef has thrived. Here, an abundant supply of shallow, clear water allows sunlight to easily penetrate and keep water temperatures at a constant 68–90° Fahrenheit. These conditions are especially ideal for the algae, which need sunlight to make the coral’s main diet of sugary nutrients.

A sinking feeling...

Many fish species feed on coral, including the parrotfish, butterfly fish, and tangs, as well as certain marine snails and marine slugs. However, coral’s most dangerous predator is the crown-of-thorns starfish. In 2000, an outbreak of the starfish descended upon the reef and decimated a large population of coral. It was estimated that over 60% of the reef’s living polyps were lost during this feeding frenzy.

A far more dangerous threat facing the Great Barrier Reef is the ever increasing temperatures of the Coral Sea. Since the mid-1980s, increased water temperatures have bleached large portions of coral in the Great Barrier Reef. This bleaching puts severe stress on the coral and, in many cases, leads to coral death, greatly impacting the ecosystem.

Oceanographers and environmental scientists are deeply concerned about the bleaching occurring at the reef. Recently, in an effort to reverse the steady advance towards extinction, scientists have turned to cryogenics—freezing sizeable quantities of coral polyp eggs and sperm—in the event that the reef can’t be saved.

It is difficult to imagine something so large vanishing, but like a sunken constellation whose stars are burning out, the Great Barrier Reef is facing some difficult days ahead. For now, at least, the colorful majesty of the world’s largest living thing is available to all who venture to see it.

Photos From Our Travelers

On location in South Pacific

Here’s how OAT travelers have captured moments of discovery, beauty, friendship, and fun on previous departures of our Australia & New Zealand: An Adventure Down Under adventure. We hope these will evoke special travel memories and inspire you to submit your own favorite OAT trip photos.


“These rocks are a truly unique formation with tunnels, blow-holes, and many levels to explore,” says photographer Charles Haeussner, 6-time traveler from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, about the Pancake Rocks in New Zealand’s Paparoa National Park. “Here, limestone formed in many thin layers that were eaten away by waves of the Tasman Sea, creating many whimsical rock formations that looked like people or animals.”

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How to submit your photos:

Please submit individual photos in jpeg format to:

Please be sure to include the name of your OAT adventure, along with the travel dates. Tell us where you took the photo and, if you’d like, tell us why. And don’t forget to include your name and contact information.

Please note: By submitting a photo, you (i) represent and warrant that the photo is your original work created solely by yourself and does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any party; (ii) grant to Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, in any and all related media whether now known or hereafter devised, in perpetuity, anywhere in the world, with the right to make any and all commercial or other uses thereof, including without limitation, reproducing, editing, modifying, adapting, publishing, displaying publicly, creating derivative works from, incorporating into other works or modifying the photo and (iii) hereby release and discharge Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates, officers and employees from and against any and all claims, liabilities, costs, damages and expenses of any kind arising out of or relating to the use by Grand Circle LLC of any photo submitted.

Partner since: 2015

Supporting a World Classroom: Central Australia

By seeing how children are educated all over the world, we gain a rare understanding of different cultural values—as well as the common values that unite us all. That’s why Grand Circle Foundation supports Nyangatjatjara College in Central Australia.

Nyangatjatjara College

Partner since: 2015

Located in Central Australia, Nyangatjatjara College is the only community-based school south of Alice Springs. Its focus on extracurricular activities serves to enhance students' skills and confidence, and engage them in practical learning. Grand Circle Foundation has partnered with faculty to help support the woodworking program, wherein students learn the craft inside and out—from collecting wood and operating lathes, to turning and finishing polished pieces. In this region, woodworking is a marketable skill: punus—or decorated woodworks, like animal carvings—are highly sought-after items.

School in session:

January 27-April 10, April 27-July 3, July 20-September 25, October 12-December 17; closed periodically throughout the year for national holidays

Gifts to bring if you're visiting:

  • A book for the school library
  • A book for the science lab
  • Postcards from your home city
  • Sports equipment

Alan and Harriet Lewis founded Grand Circle Foundation in 1992 as a means of giving back to the world we travel. Because they donate an annually determined amount of revenue from our trips, we consider each one of our travelers as a partner in the Foundation’s work around the world. To date, the Foundation has pledged or donated more than $97 million in support of 300 different organizations—including 60 villages and nearly 100 schools that lie in the paths of our journeys.

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