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The Leader in Small Groups on the Road Less Traveled
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2016 Australia & New Zealand: An Adventure Down Under

30 Days from only $9990 including international airfare

Melbourne • Adelaide • Alice Springs • Uluru • Port Douglas • Sydney • Auckland • Rotorua • Queenstown • Fox Glacier • Punakaiki • Wellington

Courtesy of Christophe Hamon, Over The Moon Productions

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

Courtesy of MediaStorm
Inside Tracks

Witness one woman's revelatory journey across the Australian Outback, and into the heart of the photographer assigned to follow her.

Courtesy CNN
Coffee tasting in Melbourne

Join a Melbourne gallery owner and a local chef to find cultural and culinary gems hidden in the city’s alleys and laneways.

©2014 The New York Times
ScienceTake: Five-Legged Kangaroo?

Does the kangaroo have four legs, or five? Learn why scientists are suddenly questioning something that seems so obvious.

Trip Experience

Discover the South Pacific's vast and varied landscapes—from the remote Outback to bustling cosmopolitan cities.

Trip Itinerary

Take a look at the destinations you'll discover in Australia and New Zealand.

Trip Leader

Meet Trip Leader Alan MacDonald who lives in Auckland, New Zealand and has intimate knowledge of the South Pacific.

Trip Leader

Hear Trip Leader Roxanne Garner describe how Australian and New Zealand cultures intermix in the South Pacific.

Trip Extension: Tasmania: Australia's Natural Heritage

Meet Tasmanians who introduce their island’s history, natural beauty, and art on this extension.

Trip Extension: Bay of Islands

On this extension, you'll trace New Zealand's origin story from the site of its founding treaty to Russell, its original capital.

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.

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 Ian Cross
Rainforests of New South Wales

Take in the serene beauty and rushing waters of Australia’s rainforests and learn the story of Protesters Falls.

Courtesy Small World Productions
New Zealand’s North Island

Follow along with Rudy Maxa as he kayaks, hikes, and bikes through New Zealand's North Island.

Courtesy Small World Productions

Follow along with Rudy Maxa as he sails to scenic beaches, treks into the Blue Mountains, and samples the cuisine of Sydney.

Courtesy Travel
Going Local: Sydney

Join correspondent Carmen Roberts as she explores Sydney, which you can see on our post-trip extension.

Courtesy Travel
Dangers in the Outback

Share a traveler's tale of the dangers in the Outback—including fearsome crocs—in this animated short film.

Courtesy CNN
Sydney's cultural melting pot

Explore the Asian and European influences in Sydney's cuisine and hear about Australian beach culture from a champion surfer.

Courtesy CNN
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.

Courtesy Jeffrey Lehmann
Weekend Explorer: Tasmania

Tag along on a journey to Tasmania, from mountaintops to the port city of Hobart, and get a peek at some furry locals.

Courtesy Dylan Thuras
100 Wonders: Ball's Pyramid

Uncover the world’s rarest insect, thought to be extinct for decades—the Lord Howe stick insect.

Courtesy CNN
The pristine beauty of New Zealand

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

©2012 The New York Times
Touring Tolkien in New Zealand

See New Zealand’s pristine landscape transform into Middle Earth as The Hobbit comes to life.

Courtesy of Dan Proud
Reef to Rainforest - Far North Queensland

Dive into Australia’s gorgeous vistas, from the vibrant Great Barrier Reef to lush, sprawling rain forests.

New Year, New Stories

Take a look at the films that inspire filmmaker David Conover—and preview the stories that await this year.

Climate Change & Travel

Travel with David Conover to see how people—from street protesters to Heads of State—respond to a changing climate and ocean.

Produced for CuriosityStream
Big Picture Earth Trailer

David Conover's newest television series takes us from Stonehenge to Petra, from Iceland to the Oracle at Delphi ... and beyond.

Sharing Travel Moments

Hear why visual storytelling helps to build a conversation about the world from filmmaker David Conover.

Solo Traveler Experience

Meet a solo traveler who shares her reasons for exploring the world with Overseas Adventure Travel.

The O.A.T. Experience

See what you can expect when you travel in your small group on the road less traveled with O.A.T.

Travel Protection Plan

Learn about the benefits of O.A.T.'s plan—and how you can protect your entire trip investment.

including international airfare
28 DAYS FROM $8590 Land Adventure Only
Extend Your Trip

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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 visits to a school and a cattle station, will add personal touches to this epic journey down under.

Day-to-Day Itinerary

  • 6 nights from only $1945

    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 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 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. 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.

  • 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.”

  • 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 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.

    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 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.

  • 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, which you can see on our post-trip extension.

    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.

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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 on 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. We have dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

  • 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 Fox Glacier village. 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 then travel over the Haast Pass, which is the only way to see and experience the west coast of New Zealand's South Island. The mountain pass 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 a rugged, isolated, and harsh terrain, with remote farmhouses and sparse settlements tucked into the hillsides.

    After a stop for lunch on your own on the east side of the pass, we continue along the west coast before arriving in Fox Glacier village by late afternoon. We'll have dinner at our hotel with the rest of the evening 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 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 on some October and November 2016 departures, 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.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast at our hotel, we experience rural New Zealand life with a visit to a working sheep station (ranch) in the Southern Alps. Here, we'll see the impressive teamwork of sheepdogs and sheep.

    After an included lunch at the sheep station, we'll travel overland to Christchurch. Christchurch is a departure point for Antarctic expeditions, and we'll have a short visit to the city's Antarctic Centre 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.

  • 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.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    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

    3 nights from only $1495

    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.

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